Troubleshooting Your RV Water Heater

This post may contain affiliate links.
A person troubleshooting their RV water heater

There are few things worse than running out of hot water in the middle of a shower. However, if your RV water heater isn’t working, you have a major problem on your hands.

If you want to get back to enjoying a relaxing shower or doing dishes, you’ll need to fix it.

Today, we’ll share everything you need to know regarding RV water heater troubleshooting so you can get back to enjoying your RV.

Let’s get started!

What Is an RV Water Heater?

An RV water heater generates hot water for an RV’s plumbing system. This water is typically used for washing your hands, doing dishes, and showering in an RV.

Most RV water heaters can use propane and electricity as a source to heat the water. You’ll want to know the specifics about your RV’s water heater and when you should and shouldn’t use it.

A sink in an RV that isn't working yet, requiring troubleshooting for a water heater

What Types of RV Water Heaters Are There?

There are two types of RV water heaters, tankless and those with a tank. Some modern RVs have tankless water heaters, which provide an RV with a nearly infinite hot water supply.

However, it’s more common for RVs to have an RV water heater with a tank, which stores heated water.

Unlike tankless instant water heaters, an RV water heater with a tank will have a limited hot water supply. These tanks typically are anywhere from 6 gallons to 12 gallons depending on the size and type of the RV.

The tank continues to fill with water as it depletes but requires time to reach the designated temperature. 

Why Is My RV Water Heater Not Working?

It’s easy to know when your RV water heater isn’t working because you won’t have hot water. However, diagnosing an RV water heater can be challenging.

A few common reasons for an RV heater not working could be that you don’t have power running to it, you’re out of propane, or there could be a fault in one of the components in the heater.

It’s best to start with the most obvious issues before moving on down the list to diagnosing faulty components. It could be your propane not being turned or your bypass valves being in the wrong position.

If you’re not mechanically inclined, you may want to check the basic items and then call in a professional to help troubleshoot your RV water heater.

How Do I Troubleshoot My RV Water Heater?

If you’re having issues with your RV water heater, don’t panic. There’s a good chance there’s something wrong with it that you’ll be able to repair yourself.

If your RV is relatively new, there’s likely plenty of life left in your water heater. However, you’ll want to check a few things to start troubleshooting and identifying the problem. Let’s look at a few places you can start.

Check Your Bypass Valve

Part of fully winterizing an RV is to bypass the water heater. It will take tremendous RV antifreeze to fill your water heater, so we recommend bypassing it.

As long as you drain it completely, you won’t have to worry about any issues throughout the winter. 

However, if you forget to move these bypass valves back into their normal positions, no water will go into your water heater’s tank. The water will go straight from the freshwater tank to the faucets and toilets in your rig.

Turn on Interior and Exterior Switches

Some RV water heaters will have multiple switches that need to be in the on position to function correctly. You could have accidentally bumped the exterior switch while working on or winterizing your RV.

Check to ensure that the interior and exterior switches are in the “on” position. If not, you may have easily discovered why you’re not getting any hot water in your RV.

When troubleshooting an RV water heater, checking on the water heater switches first may fix the problem

Make Sure Your Propane Is On

If you have a water heater that requires propane, you’ll want to make sure the propane is on. Head out to your propane tanks and inspect the knobs on top of the tank.

Make sure they’re in the on position so propane can flow from the tank to the various propane appliances in your RV. 

If they are in the on position already, turn them to the off position and disconnect them from the RV. If you can lift them with minimal effort, there’s a good chance you’re out of propane.

A typical RV uses 20-pound or 30-pound propane tanks, weighing anywhere from 29 pounds to 55 pounds when full. If your tanks are empty, find the nearest propane fill station and have them fill the tanks. 

We recommend only opening one tank at a time if your rig has multiple propane tanks, as it lets you know when a tank is empty. You can turn on the other tank and take the empty one to a fill station as soon as possible.

This helps reduce the chances of finding yourself with no propane in your tanks.

Keep in Mind: Do you really need an RV Propane Detector? The answer is yes and these are the best out there!

Keep Your Outdoor Shower Knobs Off

Some RVs come with outdoor showers that are incredibly convenient to wash out and avoid getting nature and other gunk inside your RV.

However, leaving one of these shower knobs in the “on” position can cause you to receive cooler water when using the main shower.

It’s a good idea to check to ensure that these knobs are always in the “off” position.

Even if you rarely use your outdoor shower, check these knobs occasionally, especially if you’re not getting the water temperatures you desire in your main shower.

How Do I Reset My RV Water Heater?

Because RV water heaters can be different depending on their age, make, and model, we recommend checking the documentation that came with your RV for specific instructions.

However, in general, RV water heaters typically have reset valves located behind the vent cover on the water heater. 

If your water heater isn’t working, simply press the two rubber reset valves that will likely pop out. Pushing them in will reset them and hopefully return your water heater to good working order.

These valves are an emergency shutoff for your water heater to protect it from overheating. If these valves pop too often, you’ll need to replace them.

Keep in Mind: Do you turn off your RV Water Heater When Not in Use? Should you? Click the link to find out!

What Causes a Water Heater Reset Button to Trip?

There are multiple common issues that could cause your water heater reset button to trip.

Some of the most common issues are a faulty thermostat, loose wiring, corrosion in the tank, grounding issues, or other faulty switches in your water heater’s system.

Much like the fuse box in your home, a water heater reset button isn’t likely to trip for no reason. If you’re regularly pressing the reset button on your water heater, you should discontinue using it.

You could be putting yourself, your family, and your RV at risk.

A common issue when trying to troubleshoot an RV water heater is checking on a faulty thermostat first

Is RV Water Heater Troubleshooting Worth It? 

Working on the various components of an RV isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think. Many used in an RV are much less complex than you might think.

Another tremendous advantage is you have access to the internet. If you’re experiencing a particular issue, there’s a good chance you’re not the first to experience it. 

Start searching the symptoms of your problem in large Facebook groups for RV owners and on YouTube.

You might just find a video or other resource to help you diagnose your issue and walk you through how to fix it. Trust us; you’re much more capable of working on an RV than you might realize.

However, don’t get in over your head or bite off more than you can chew. Know when it’s time to call in a professional.

If you can avoid replacing your water heater and getting a few more seasons of use out of it, it’s money well spent!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous Article
View of needles eye tunnel

Can You Drive an RV Through Needles Eye Tunnel?

Next Article
A group of friends dancing at burning man where an RV rental was damaged

RV Rental Trashed After It Was Returned From Burning Man