How to Change Your RV Water Heater

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Changing your water heater in your motor home or camper can be a relatively easy task.
Being able to do this yourself will save you time and money and give you a feeling of pride that you have accomplished something important to your RV on your own.
There will be no need of taking your RV (recreation Vehicle) into a repair facility and you will save a couple hundred dollars on labor.
You will also gain a new perspective on your RV's electrical and water system if you should have a problem in the near future.
The tools you will need are few to complete this task and you will be able to finish this project within an hour.
You will need a wrench, pliers, cordless drill, square bit, Phillips bit, knife scraper, pen, paper and also you will need sealant tape to reseal the outside exterior door from water leakage after you have installed the new water heater.
The first task is to make sure that you have disconnected all power to your RV unit.
Once you have disconnected the power supply to the RV unit you can begin to make sure your water lines and water heater have been drained from all previous water.
You can do this by taking your adjustable wrench and finding the drain valve located outside behind your water heater door.
If you have available some hardware stores will sell a drain plug wrench that will make removal much easier.
This plug is usually a 3/4 plug or 3/8 and is located on the bottom of the heater and can be removed by turning clockwise until you see the water begin to drain.
Draining usually takes about 10 minutes for all the water to flow out and your lines to become empty.
Some heaters will have a drain cock valve built into the water plug drain.
You can turn the valve counter clockwise and the water will drain out from the heater.
After draining the heater the next task will be to find the access panel inside your RV to gain access to the back of the heater.
The access panel will be directly behind the exterior door when facing the heater from outside.
This panel is usually a thin piece of plywood covering an access hole that allows you to perform maintenance to your heater.
Sometimes the location will be underneath a cabinet located in your kitchen area.
You will need your drill and possibly your square head bit to remove the four screws holding the panel door.
Once removing this panel you will see the two water lines connecting to the back of the heater.
These lines are usually clear white lines representing your inlet line and outgoing hot water line.
If you have an automatic ignition model or electric heating element, these wires are also visible behind the access panel.
You will need to make sure your gas has been turned off to the heater.
This is very important factor so that you can remove the gas line safely.
You can do this by removing your LP tank cover on the front of your RV or if it is a motor home you will have an access panel to your LP tanks under the coach from outside.
Turn your valve counter clockwise and this will ensure that your gas is off.
You can drain your gas line by turning your stove on and lighting the pilot until all gas has bleed out of the lines and your flame is out.
After doing this simple process you can now begin to take your adjustable wrench and remove the gas line valve connected to the heater.
This line is located in the front of the heater and is usually 3/4 size.
Once you have removed the line, you will need to pull the line back away from the heater by accessing this from inside the access panel.
It is very important making sure to not kink or bend the line in anyway.
After this process give your RV adequate time to allow any gas that has accumulated to slowly dissipate away.
Now you will begin to remove both water lines connected to the back of the heater.
You will have an inlet and an outlet and this will be easily to identify because both lines are different lengths.
Some lines are marked with blue and red markings representing hot and cold.
The inlet line will be cold and outlet will be hot.
The inlet line will connect to the bottom of the heater with the outlet coming out the top.
When disconnecting the lines its a good idea to have a towel and catch some of the leakage left in the lines.
This will be minimum, and it keeps the floor clean and stops any mold issues that may occur.
You can use your pliers to easily grab hold of the water lines and turn counter clockwise slowly unscrewing the waterline attachments.
Once disconnected, make sure the lines are easily moved to the side for further working room and protection of the lines.
The next step will be to disconnect any wires that may be connected to your heater.
This process is very important to take your time as you will make note of all color wires and to what wire they are connected to.
If you have a manual unit you will not have wires, these wires are only if you have an automatic ignition system and electric heater.
Most automatic units will come with three wires along with a white wire 110V for an electric heating element.
Take a pen and paper and write down the exact color wires and to the color they are connected to.
Make sure your RV unit is not plugged to any power and begin to unscrew the wire nuts that connect each wire together.
The color wires will represent the 12v power supply from your battery power system.
These wires will allow the gas to be automatically ignited and also to turn off the gas system.
You will rewire exactly the same when replacing the unit with the exact replacement model.
The final step to removing your heater is to remove the screws from around the exterior flashing that holds the heater in its location.
Your water heater will come in two separate parts.
The heating unit is one part with the exterior flashing that covers the hole is the second.
Also this depends on the model that you have.
Some heating units will come as one piece with the exterior flashing being a large lip that is bigger that the insert hole.
This flashing also keeps the heating unit secured in its place.
You will need to take your cordless drill and remove all screws around the exterior trim.
There will be around twenty screws holding the heater in place.
Once these screws are removed you will be able to gently pull the unit from the exterior hole with your knife scraper.
Working your knife scraper in a clockwise motion and little by little prying the flashing forward from the sealant.
It is critical that you do not pull to strongly as the sealant tape is holding the flashing to the exterior wall.
Pulling to strongly can cause damage to the exterior wall.
Slowly working your way around the flashing and gently prying the unit from the Sealant tape will allow for a clean removal.
Once this has been done the heater should slowly slide out from the hole and you are now ready to insert the new heater back into its existing location.
After the sealant has been removed and you are ready to extract the heating unit, make sure that all wires and lines are safely removed away from the unit.
This will ensure that when you are pulling the unit out from the hole you are not pulling any important wires or water lines apart.
Also make sure the gas line has been pushed safely to the side without kinking the line.
Before inserting the new heater you will need to clean the old sealant tape from the exterior wall and replace with new tape.
Replace the new tape in the same place as the old.
You can take your knife scraper and gently peel the tape away.
This will allow for a clean and leak free installation.
Also make sure that the floor of the heater hole is clear and clean of any debris and water left behind.
When replacing the new unit you will have a better installation if there is no debris in the way.
You can now install your new heater by repeating these steps in reverse.
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