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Troubleshooting RV Hot Water Heater

Having a functional hot water heater in your RV is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable camping experience.

However, like any other appliance, RV hot water heaters can sometimes encounter issues that require troubleshooting.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore common problems that may arise with your RV hot water heater and provide expert tips and solutions to resolve them.

Whether you’re a seasoned RV enthusiast or new to the world of recreational vehicles, this article will help you understand and overcome the challenges associated with troubleshooting your RV hot water heater.

Understanding the Basics of an RV Hot Water Heater

Before delving into troubleshooting, let’s start by understanding the basics of an RV hot water heater.

An RV hot water heater, also known as a water heater or boiler, is responsible for heating the water used for showering, washing dishes, and other daily activities in your recreational vehicle. It typically operates using either propane gas, electricity, or a combination of both.

RV hot water heaters come in different sizes and configurations, but the most common types are tankless and tank-style heaters. Tankless heaters provide hot water on demand, while tank-style heaters store a certain amount of heated water for immediate use.

To ensure the optimal functioning of your RV hot water heater, regular maintenance and troubleshooting are crucial.

Let’s explore some of the common problems you may encounter and their respective solutions.

Common Problems and Troubleshooting Solutions

No Hot Water

Issue: You turn on the hot water faucet, but no hot water comes out.

Solution: Several factors could contribute to this issue.

Start by checking if the RV’s water heater bypass valve is in the correct position.

If it’s set to bypass, hot water will not flow into the system.

Additionally, check the propane supply or electrical connections to ensure they are functioning correctly.

If using propane, make sure the propane tank has an adequate supply.

If using electricity, check the circuit breaker and ensure the heating element is not burnt out.

Insufficient Hot Water

Issue: Your RV hot water heater produces some hot water, but it’s not enough for your needs.

Solution: Insufficient hot water can be caused by a variety of reasons.

First, check the temperature setting on the water heater thermostat.

It may be set too low. Adjust it to a higher temperature and test the hot water again.

Another potential cause is a buildup of sediment or mineral deposits in the water heater tank.

Flushing the tank regularly can help alleviate this issue.

If these steps don’t resolve the problem, consider upgrading to a larger capacity hot water heater.

Water Leaks

Issue: Water is leaking from your RV hot water heater.

Solution: Water leaks can lead to significant damage if not addressed promptly.

Start by inspecting the connections between the water heater and the water supply lines.

Ensure they are tight and free of any cracks or damage.

If you notice a leak, you may need to replace the damaged fitting or gasket.

Additionally, check the pressure relief valve for any signs of leakage.

If the valve is faulty, it should be replaced immediately.

Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit

Issue: The pilot light on your RV hot water heater keeps going out.

Solution: If the pilot light won’t stay lit, it’s likely due to a faulty thermocouple.

The thermocouple is a safety device that senses the presence of the pilot flame.

If it fails, the gas supply to the pilot light will be shut off.

Replacing the thermocouple should resolve this issue.

It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions or seek professional assistance when replacing this component.

Strange Noises

Issue: Your RV hot water heater is making unusual noises during operation.

Solution: Unusual noises coming from the water heater can indicate underlying problems.

One common cause is the buildup of sediment or mineral deposits in the tank.

Flushing the tank regularly can help prevent this issue.

Additionally, check the heating element or burner assembly for any signs of damage or malfunction.

If the noises persist, it’s advisable to consult a professional to diagnose and resolve the problem.

Hot Water Smells or Tastes Strange

Issue: The hot water from your RV hot water heater has a strange odor or taste.

Solution: A foul odor or unpleasant taste in hot water is often caused by bacteria growth in the tank.

To address this issue, flush the water heater tank and sanitize it using a mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide.

Let the solution sit for a few hours before flushing it out.

This process should eliminate any bacteria and improve the quality of your hot water.

Inconsistent Water Temperature

Issue: The water temperature from your RV hot water heater fluctuates unexpectedly.

Solution: Inconsistent water temperature can be frustrating and uncomfortable.

One possible cause is a faulty thermostat or heating element.

Ensure the thermostat is set to the desired temperature and functioning correctly.

If the problem persists, inspect the heating element for any signs of damage or malfunction.

Replacing the faulty component should restore consistent water temperature.

Other Issues

While the above troubleshooting solutions cover common problems, it’s important to note that there may be other issues specific to your RV hot water heater.

If you encounter a problem not mentioned here or the solutions provided don’t resolve the issue, it’s advisable to consult a professional RV technician or the manufacturer for further assistance.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I flush my RV hot water heater?

Flushing your RV hot water heater is recommended at least once a year or as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Regular flushing helps remove sediment and mineral buildup, ensuring optimal performance and prolonging the lifespan of the water heater.

Can I replace the RV hot water heater myself?

While it’s possible to replace an RV hot water heater yourself, it’s a complex task that requires a certain level of expertise. It’s advisable to consult the manufacturer’s instructions or seek professional assistance to ensure proper installation and avoid any potential safety risks.

What size hot water heater do I need for my RV?

The size of the hot water heater you need for your RV depends on factors such as the number of people using the RV, your hot water usage habits, and the available space for installation. It’s recommended to refer to your RV’s specifications or consult with a professional to determine the appropriate size for your specific needs.

Why does my RV hot water smell like rotten eggs?

A foul odor resembling rotten eggs in your RV hot water is usually caused by the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas. This gas is a byproduct of bacteria breaking down organic matter in the water. Flushing the water heater tank and sanitizing it can help eliminate the bacteria and remove the unpleasant odor.

How can I winterize my RV hot water heater?

Winterizing your RV hot water heater is crucial to protect it from freezing temperatures. Start by draining the water heater tank and all water lines. Use compressed air or RV antifreeze to flush the system and ensure all water is removed. Consult your RV’s user manual or seek professional guidance for detailed winterization instructions.

Why is my RV hot water heater not igniting?

If your RV hot water heater is not igniting, it could be due to several reasons. Check the propane supply or electrical connections, depending on the type of heater you have. Ensure there is an adequate supply of propane gas or that the electrical connections are secure. If the issue persists, consult the manufacturer’s instructions or contact a professional for assistance.


Troubleshooting your RV hot water heater doesn’t have to be a daunting task.

By understanding the common problems and following the expert tips provided in this article, you can effectively resolve most issues that may arise.

Remember to perform regular maintenance, such as flushing the tank and inspecting the components, to prevent problems before they occur.

However, if you encounter complex issues or require professional assistance, don’t hesitate to seek the help of an experienced RV technician.

With a properly functioning hot water heater, you can enjoy a comfortable and relaxing camping experience every time.