RV Hot Water Heater Troubleshooting: How to Diagnose RV Water Heater Problems

How to troubleshoot your RV’s hot water heater.

Having a water heater in your RV allows you to stay warm and comfortable in the colder months. Because of this, it can be highly inconvenient if your heater suddenly stops working in the middle of a trip. While you can continue without hot water, there’s no denying that a warm shower is a great way to start the day, especially on those chilly mornings.

It helps to familiarize yourself with RV water heater troubleshooting basics. You don’t necessarily need to be an expert on all the parts and systems, but you should know what to do and identify your heater’s problems. Then, you’ll know when you need to call a professional for mobile RV repairs.

Continue reading to learn more about RV water heater troubleshooting. Below, you’ll find more information on common heater problems and what you can do if you encounter them in your RV.

RV Hot Water Heater Troubleshooting Tips

There are many potential reasons why your heater is acting up. To help you figure out what the problem may be, here are some RV water heater troubleshooting tips.

No Hot Water

If you aren’t getting any hot water, start by ensuring you’ve filled up your water tank. Then, check the bypass valves to see if you forgot to turn them on. If you have a full tank and your valves are on, but you’re still getting cold water, the next step will be to check your heater’s power supply based on what type you’re using:

  • Propane Burner: Check your tank to see if you have an adequate gas supply. If it’s low on propane, fill up the tank, and your heater should be good to go.
  • Electric Heater: There should be voltage going through the heating element if you have an electric water heater. It can be trickier to do this since you likely need to check different parts like the thermostat or limit switch. So, if you’re unfamiliar with your RV’s wiring connections, it’ll be best to call an RV electrician to help you.

Loud “Roaring” Noise

If you hear a loud “roaring” noise from your propane burner, there may be an imbalance in the propellant supply from the heater versus the oxygen in the air. An excellent way to gauge whether this is the issue is to check the color of the burner’s flame, which should ideally be blue.

If the flame is yellow, there’s too much or too little oxygen. In these cases, you’d need to adjust the airflow in your heater to balance out the system. However, since this can be complicated to do on your own, consider calling a professional for RV hot water repair for this problem.

Foul Odors

At times, you might find that the hot water in your RV has a foul odor, usually described as a rotten egg smell. This problem is also known as sulfur water, which occurs when your water is exposed to hydrogen and sulfur, causing bacteria to develop.

If you experience this problem, one solution will be to drain and flush your water heater tank. First, sanitize your tank with household bleach, 3% hydrogen peroxide, or a 2:1 vinegar and water solution. Allow the liquid to sit for a while, and then flush it out until the smell is gone before filling the tank back up.

Pilot Light Outage

Another common problem with RV water heaters is a pilot light outage. If the light doesn’t turn on or stay lit, it’s often because of the thermocouple.

For example, there could be some built-up dirt, or the device might be bent away from the pilot light’s flame. In this case, you can clean or reposition the thermocouple to adjust it to the right angle. However, other times the problem may stem from a weak thermocouple, in which case you’ll need to replace the device.

If you find that there’s nothing wrong with the thermocouple, here are other RV water heater troubleshooting tips to address the pilot light outage:

  • Get rid of blockages in the U-tube if there are any obstructions.
  • Clean or replace the orifice if you have a weak pilot flame.
  • Check your gas pressure reading to ensure it’s compliant with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Check if the air adjustment is correct to align with the main burner.

Soot Buildup

Remember to check your RV’s exhaust area for possible sooting from time to time. If you notice a soot buildup, check out all main heater components. First, ensure the exhaust grille, U-tube, and the main burner have no obstructions. Next, the gas valve, air shutter, and primary burner alignment should be adjusted accordingly, and you should have an adequate gas supply.

Generally, regular maintenance should help you avoid getting soot in your exhaust area. So, if you can’t figure out where it’s coming from, you may need an expert to help you inspect your heater and perform the necessary repairs.

Leaking Relief Valve

Don’t be alarmed if you notice water dripping from your pressure relief valve. It is expected since the valve opens to release excess pressure when water expands from getting heated. However, if you find that the dripping occurs quite often, you can have a professional check out your heater to suggest what can be done.

Call Professionals for Mobile RV Hot Water Heater Troubleshooting and Repair

As you can see, RV water heater troubleshooting can be tricky to understand at first. However, you should maintain your RV heater regularly like any other system or appliance. You’ll need to be familiar with different components and how they work.

If you ever run into trouble while troubleshooting your RV heater, AA Mobile RV Repair is always ready to assist you. Even if you’re on the road, we’ll gladly come to you and conduct mobile RV inspections or mobile RV repairs in Tampa and Pinellas. Call us at (727) 310-4662 and let us know what you need.