RV Water Heater Maintenance Guide


RV Water Heater Maintenance Guide

A Job Well Done in 30 Minutes or Less

As we said in our article entitled RV Repair and Maintenance “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, well this holds especially true for maintaining your hot water heater.  Hot water is often both a luxury and a necessity for everyday activities like showering, dishwashing, and keeping yourself and your RV sanitary, so we here at Campers & Gear believe that knowing how to maintain your hot water heater is a valuable thing.

So here is what you need to know and do:

First the hot water heater’s two most important parts are the tank itself and the anode or as they are sometimes called the “sacrificial” anode.  In almost all cases the tanks are made of steel with a protective lining (often glass) which over time will crack and lead to the tank corroding.  To slow down this process the anode rod was invented.  An anode rod has a steel core and either an aluminum or magnesium coating.  They are suspended in the tank and over time “sacrifice” their own lives through an electrochemical reaction that causes them to corrode thereby preventing corrosion of the tank and allowing it to live to fight another day so to speak.  So now you know why it is important to inspect and replace your anode rods on a regular basis along with doing the other necessary maintenance to your hot water tank.

Note: If you have a hot water heater with an aluminum tank it will not have an anode rod!

The following hot water tank maintenance procedure should take you 30 minutes or less.
Before starting gather the following tools and supplies:

  • A 1-1/16” socket
  • A 3/8” ratchet with a 3” extension
  • Teflon tape
  • New anode rod
  • And of course the owner’s manual to your hot water heater if you have it
  • Q tips
  • Hose with pressure nozzle (hooked up to water)

Step 1. Turn off your water supply and water pump
Step 2. Open all of the hot and cold faucets in your RV to relieve pressure and to prevent the anode rod from ejecting itself at high speed***
Step 3. Locate the anode rod (often at the bottom of the tank). If rusted spray with WD- 40 or other type of rust spray and let sit for a minute or so
Step 4. Using your tools loosen and remove the anode rod and let the water drain out
Step 5. Run your Q tip around the inside of the anode rod hole and remove rust particles which are what is left of your used anode rod
Step 6. Rinse out the tank through the anode rod hole for at least 15 minutes. Repeat the process of filling the tank with the hose and letting it empty until there are no visible signs of debris
Step 7. Wrap threads of new anode rod with Teflon tape and hand tighten it back into place
Step 8. Finish tightening anode rod with your tools but be careful not to overtighten
Step 9. After making sure the pressure relief valve is open, close all of your faucets
Step 10. Turn your water supply back on (you will hear a hissing sound as the water heater fills up and pushes out air)
Step 11. Once water flows out of the pressure relief valve without any hesitation, close the pressure relief valve
Step 12. Dry area around anode rod to check for leaks. If a leak is detected adjust the anode rod until it goes away
Step 13. Visually inspect hot water heater for loose connections, animal or insect intrusion, corrosion, or other issues. If you find a problem with electrical or propane connections have it serviced by a professional

Now for a final thought:

Prevent those rust particles that you rinsed out of your tank from entering your water supply that your drink from or bathe with by installing a water filter. You’ll be happy that you did!

Lastly be sure to check out our articles on How to Winterize your RV and How to De-Winterize your RV!

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