How to Remove a RV Water Heater

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Most water heaters in recreational vehicles need replacing after they've spent time in winter conditions and the tank has burst from expanded ice, or maybe it's full of alkali from visiting hot deserts. Well, any way it happens, it can be replaced. Most commonly, you'll be looking at replacing your tank with a 6-gallon water heater. Although some larger RV's have a 10-gallon tank to pull and replace. Replacement time is about an hour to an hour and a half.

Things You'll Need

  • Drill/Screwdriver
  • Flat head screwdriver bit
  • Socket bits
  • Pliers
  • Yellow Teflon tape
  • Flashlight
  • 1 water heater

Removing a Hot Water Heater from an RV

  • Locate your exterior access points to the water heater. The hot water tank on the outside of the RV is likely near the rear, behind a hinged hatch. Water heater locations vary, as do some replacement instructions, but the basics are the same.

  • Shut off everything flowing into the water heater. Turn the water connection off, and make sure your propane tank is shut off at the tank source. Avoid having any open flame near you.

  • Locate the rear access to the water heater from inside the trailer or motor home. The rear access is likely beneath your kitchen sink.

  • Remove the screws that hold down the cover to the rear access. A screwdriver may be easier than getting a drill under your sink, as space is tight in RV's.

  • Go outside and disconnect the propane intake from the tank. It's the tiny copper tubing entering the unit. Be careful with the soft copper tubing. It bends easily.

  • Remove the door cover for the water heater and remove the 16 or so screws that hold the unit in place. After removing the screws, let the hot water heater unit rest in the cutout. This will give you a little more light to work on the water connections inside.

  • Remove the water intake and outtake hoses by accessing them from the rear port. They may turn by hand, or they may require pliers to loosen them. You may use a washrag or any piece of fabric to go between the connections so you do not damage the plastic parts, which are pretty soft. You'll likely need a flashlight to see what you're doing. Water will empty out of the unit.

  • With the propane connection and water connections disconnected, remove the water heater via the exterior. Pull it straight out. The weight will be between 19 pounds (when it's empty) and 68.5 pounds (when it's full.) The majority of the water should have drained out when removing the water connections, so it should closer to 20 pounds.

Tips & Warnings

  • Propane is explosive.
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