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RV Water Heater Troubleshooting – Simple Maintenance Will Save You Money!

There are things we can do with our RV’s to keep them working properly, and therefore save money on service calls!  And, RV water heater troubleshooting is one thing you can easily do when you want to keep your water flowing hot!

 

So, where should you start?  Getting the cover off your water heater, located on the outside of your curb-side or street-side sidewall, is any easy thing.  It is just a turn-able tab that secures the cover.  Once you have located the cover and opened it up, you want to be sure that mud daubers have not made themselves a home in your water heater.  They love the environment that this space offers!

 

You can prevent this from happening by purchasing screens that are specifically designed to cover the vent areas for both Suburban and Atwood water heaters.  This will prevent them from building nests in and around the burner tube of your gas fired heater.  If you are using the electric element most of the time, you may not notice a decrease in efficiency until at some point you don’t have electric available, and you find the heater won’t ignite.

 

The following method will work well on most six and twelve gallon Atwood and Suburban RV water heaters.

 

RV Water Heater Troubleshooting Steps

 

Pam and I use electric most of the time on our two twelve gallon water heaters.  But, when servicing them last spring I noticed a build up around the burner tubes.  I was changing out the anode rods in my Suburban water heaters, and that’s when I noticed the build up.

 

When you work on your water heater be sure to turn off both the gas and electric switches inside, and allow the unit to cool off before working on the it.  If you want to speed up the process, with the heater off, turn your faucet on in the hot water position till you have run about ten gallons through. That should be enough to cool it off so you can work on it.

 

rv water heater troubleshooting


While I was servicing the water heaters, I took the opportunity to remove the air burner tube and use compressed air and a flexible wire brush to blow out the inside of the tube, and all around the inside of the water heater compartment.  We had been out west for awhile and I am still blowing out the dust and dirt from New Mexico!

 

rv water heater troubleshooting

 

If the burner assembly is operating properly you will hear a “roaring sound,” and there should be a blue flame visible from the chamber, not a yellowish flame which could indicate some debris has gotten in the burner tube.

 

rv water heater troubleshooting


If you have removed the burner tube, put the burner assembly back together, and once the rest of your simple RV water heater troubleshooting is completed, fire up the water heater using the gas and verify the roaring sound and the blue color of the burner chamber flame. Now that this is completed you can address step two of my RV water heater troubleshooting method.

 

The next major problem you can have with an RV water heater is sediment build up in the tank.  Hard water can create calcium and mineral deposits that sit on the bottom of the tank.  This can cause the water heater to fail before its time!

 

The next step is to drain the water heater by removing the drain plug. Atwood water heaters have just a drain plug while the Suburban water heater’s drain plug is actually an anode rod.  Because they are steel tanks the anode rod serves to protect the steel tank from rusting.  Because Atwood tanks are aluminum, they do not require an anode rod.

 

So, depending on which one you have, remove the plug with the appropriate size socket wrench, with an extension, to make it easier to turn it out.  Again, as long as you have properly cooled the water in the tank you should not be scalded by the the water that will come out of the it!  Also, before removing the drain plug be sure that you have turned the water off to the RV, as well as relieved pressure in the system by turning on a faucet inside for a moment.

 

rv water heater troubleshooting

RV Water Heater Flushing Wand


Let the water drain out.  Once it is empty you want to use a flushing wand to stick inside the tank and remove the sediment that will have accumulated in the bottom of it.  Let the water pressure from the hose attachment allow you to force the chunks of calcium and minerals out of the tank.  Do this till the water coming out is clear.

 

rv water heater troubleshooting


If you have a Suburban water heater, inspect the anode rod.  If it is more than half gone you should replace it!  They are relatively cheap.  And since they are designed to save your tank from rusting out, you want to check it at least once a year, more if you are a full timer like Pam and I.

 

At this point replace your tank plug, or anode rod using a little plumbers putty (makes it easier to remove next time), and turn your water on to the RV.  The tank will refill and you are back in business.  Don’t switch the unit on inside until the tank is full.  Here’s a little side note about the air pocket inside the tank:

 

rv water heater troubleshooting

 

I hope this helps you to improve the efficiency and life of your RV water heater.  This RV water heater troubleshooting method is easy to do and will ensure you get years of trouble-free use from the unit!

 

As always, we are here to help you have years of trouble-free RV experiences.  Please leave a comment below if you found this information useful, you have a question, or would just like to say hello!

 

Blessings,
Howard and Pam

213 comments

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    • Valerie on September 2, 2019 at 9:24 PM
    • Reply

    Hi there!

    We recently purchased a 2003 Pioneer travel trailer with a gas hot water heater (no electric). We ran out of propane and refilled the tank. Now the hot water heater will not turn on again. The pilot light is working. It clicks but the hot water heater doesn’t turn on. It was working just fine until we ran out of propane. Do you know what the problem could be and how I can fix it? Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Valerie!

      Try this! Turn on your cooktop stove for 5 minutes or so. Once all burners are ignited and running with a consistent flame, try the water heater again. My bet is you now have some air in the lines and running the cooktop stove that is not so finicky will fill the lines with propane again and hopefully solve your problem.

        • Valerie on September 2, 2019 at 9:33 PM
        • Reply

        Thank you so much for such a fast response! I’ll give it a try.

        1. Let us know if that worked!

    • Kathy Landenberger on July 24, 2019 at 1:15 PM
    • Reply

    We have an 1999 Four Winds motorhome with an Atwood water heater G6A-8E Electronic starter. I turn it on, the light comes on it will flicker once and the light stays on and will not egnite.

    1. Hi Kathy!

      Check out this link: https://techsupport.pdxrvwholesale.com/technical-service-manuals/atwood-g6a-8e/ and download the manual for that heater. I think the info on page 17 will start you looking in the right direction so you can test several things to see if that solves your problem.

    • Lisa on July 21, 2019 at 9:50 PM
    • Reply

    Hi is there a fuse that could be blown to stop the propane from lighting

    1. Hi Lisa!

      There is a fuse that controls the 12-volt circuit for the water heater that handles the control board and operating functions. It will be located in a fuse panel that is most likely inside the RV and close to the 120-volt electrical panel. Check that first. If that is not it check to see if power is coming out of the control board. It could be that, a bad igniter, or possibly a loose wire.

    • John R Gartner Iii on July 7, 2019 at 7:24 PM
    • Reply

    My dsi light is flickering on and off yet the propane is lit and water heater is working.

    Why is the light staying on when propane works fine?

    1. Hi John!

      What manufacturer and model water heater do you have?

    • Dave on June 27, 2019 at 11:20 PM
    • Reply

    I have a 6 Gallon spark ignition. When I turn on the gas button in the camper it lights up and works fine.
    When it gets to the proper temperature the flame in the burner shuts off
    There is a small flame at the burner tube where the gas line connects that is heating up the wire connected above
    It seems there should be no flame there
    It does not always do it
    Tube and office are clean

    Thanks for a reply

    1. Hi Dave!

      What model and manufacturer of water heater do you have?

    • Gary on June 27, 2019 at 11:11 PM
    • Reply

    hi,

    I just heated up my SW6PA – manual light / gas only and after hearing a noise while it was warming up noticed a flame coming out of the pilot / on knob on the thermostat. The knob has melted.

    Thoughts on cause and what I should replace – has been working fine

    cheers

    1. Hi Gary!

      Sounds like you are going to have to replace the water heater pilot light assembly. I don’t know about the cause but it sounds like maybe the plastic dried out, perhaps cracked, and allow LP gas to leak through and ignite.

    • David Johnson on June 21, 2019 at 2:53 PM
    • Reply

    I didn’t realize sediment can build up on the bottom of an RV water heater tank. This is good to know because recently I have been thinking about getting an RV. I’ll have to look into used RV parts so that I can easily replace anything broken.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Dave! When it comes to the RV water heater I would install new parts as these are not that expensive.

      • Toni on September 6, 2019 at 11:19 AM
      • Reply

      Hello. I was wondering if sediment would cause the water not to heat even after the pilot has clicked on, clicked on , stayed on for a while then shut down like it should? Any help would be appreciated. Thank u!

      1. Hi David!

        Yes, sediment can affect the heating of the water. You can buy a plastic wand that attaches to a hose so you can remove the drain plug and flush the sediment out. This should be done once a year no matter how much the RV is used, at least that’s what I think! If you have a Suburban water heater you may also want to replace the anode rod.

    • Edward on June 20, 2019 at 11:43 AM
    • Reply

    I have a new unite Suburban SW6D propane only unite when turned on only operates for 5 minutes an shuts down an will not be turned on until completely cooled down the water is not even warmed up.
    What is the problem?

    1. Hi Ed!

      Is this new water heater installed in a new RV? If so, it is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. Instead of messing with it and voiding the warranty, take it back to the RV dealership where you bought it for them to diagnose the issue.

      There are many issues that could create this issue: electrical supply, propane supply issues, control boards, batteries, voltage, etc.

    • Janet Wilson on June 11, 2019 at 5:25 PM
    • Reply

    Hello Howard,
    I bought my 2001 Keystone Columbia in Oct 2018. I have a Suburban SW6 DE. I use propane because my electric wont ignite. I changed the anode rod and t/p valve about 3 weeks ago. My water is very hot so I went outside to check the heater. I realized when it ignites, the flame is blue and red like red hot. I release the t/p valve and water came out but the water is kind of reddish. Why is the water reddish, not clear, in the water heater?

    1. Hi Janet!

      Do you have a sediment filter on your water line before it enters the RV? We use one and have to change it regularly. Depending on our location we have seen the filter cartridge turn red.

      So, try putting a filter on your main water line and flush out your water heater to get any leftover sediment out if it. You can also check out the condition of your anode rod while you are doing that.

        • Janet Wilson on June 16, 2019 at 1:41 PM
        • Reply

        I do not believe I have a sediment filter. However, my water hose is attached to a brass looking thing and then that brass thing is screwed onto my RV.

        1. Hi Janet!

          You might want to add a whole-house filter to your RV’s city water system to be sure you are not introducing sediment into it. Once you do, remove the drain plug and flush the existing sediment out of the water heater. See if that corrects your reddish water issue.

    • Julie on June 8, 2019 at 5:12 PM
    • Reply

    No it doesn’t stay on. It kicks on but doesn’t stay on.

    1. Hi Julie!

      If you have a propane cooktop stove, does that operate properly? Does it have full flames on the burners when all burners are lit, or are they weak? What I am trying to do is to narrow down the obvious reasons the water heater will ignite but not stay lit. If there is weak propane flow, or perhaps tanks that are low you will not have enough pressure for things to work properly.

    • Julie on June 8, 2019 at 7:59 AM
    • Reply

    I hate to bug you, but I’m hoping you can help. I don’t mind to pay you for advice. I have a suburban gas hot water heater. Dirt daubers had nested in everything. I’ve cleaned everything the best I can. The hot water heater lights and stays lit. It kicks on every so often but I only have 30-60 seconds of very warm, not hot water and I have it turned up all the way. Does this mean something is dirty or clogged or do you have any advice? Thanks again! I’m over having to use the RV site shower if I want a warm one.

    1. Hi Julie!

      When you turn on the hot water when the water heater burner is off, does the water heater burner stay on or does it shut off even though you are still running the hot water?

    • Billy Kloosterman on May 30, 2019 at 4:15 PM
    • Reply

    Hello

    I love the site, a lot of great information,

    I have a Suburban SW6 DE in a 2001 Thor I bought a few months ago.
    I have been using the hwh fine on LP gas. And I just found out a few days ago that it is also electric.
    I didn’t know what the light switch near stove hood was, and thru a lot of searches found out it is for the hwh.
    So I went on a mission to check it all out, I checked anode, wiring, switches, element.
    Everything except the anode checked out so I powered it up.
    I turned on both switches, checked voltages (I did check resistance on the element before power up).
    I have 115v across t-stat, switches, and element, yet after 4 hours water is still ice cold. so thinking element could be shorted I ordered a new one as well as anode. I checked res on new one and its fine. I then flushed tank and installed both element and anode. Checked voltages and all is well except the water does not heat up.
    So in short:
    1. i have 115v at t-stat, element, switches.
    2. On both new and old elements I had 115v and proper resistance.
    3. Keep in mind it works perfect using LP., but turning LP switch off and just using 115v it will not heat.

    Any ideas?
    Thank you.

    1. Greetings Billy!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      Here is a link to the service manual for your water heater: waterheatertimer.org/pdf/Suburban_Water_Heater_Service_Manual.pdf

      Some things you have already tried, but the others you did not mention. So give page nine a look and see if that may help you.

        • Billy Kloosterman on June 11, 2019 at 12:32 PM
        • Reply

        Hello Howard

        Thank you for the reply and comments.

        The manual didn’t give me any help being I have 115v on the element.

        I have now replaced the element, inside/outside switches, t-stat. as well as the breaker.
        I still get proper voltage throughout the system (at switches, on t-stat, element, breaker) but I get zero amp draw.

        I have tested both old and new elements in water with direct 115v from outlet with cut extension cord.
        The old one (1500w) draws 11.5 amps and the new one (1450w) draws 10.9 amps. So I know it isn’t either element.

        Any other ideas?

        Thanks

        1. Hi Billy!

          Have you checked out the control board?

            • Billy Kloosterman on June 29, 2019 at 11:42 AM

            Hello Howard

            My control board is strictly for the 12v side of the heater.

            I have found and fixed the issue I had (115v ac but no current draw).

            Methods:

            it was not an easy task for a fat man and with the heater in the back corner under bunk bed and past the fresh water tank.

            I first checked continuity from hot and neutral to outside outlet.
            Hot was fine, neutral had nothing.
            Then I started back tracing the white (neutral). Connection box on heater was a PITA to get to, but connections checked fine.
            The switch above stove checked fine to the heater but not to the converter box (breaker box for those that don’t know)
            As I checked the wire and continuity from switch to converter, I still didn’t have continuity on the neutral wire.

            Every thing was in its place. As I was about to remove the white from its bar, I discovered the holding screw was backed out (not or barely making contact with the wire).

            I tightened the screw and now as is well.

            I thank you for your help and information you provided,

            For anyone with the same problem:

            I had 115v volts to heater – element, thermostat, switches but no ( zero )current draw.
            You check voltage from components to ground. All of which worked and was misleading in my case.
            To check neutral (white wire), you need to remove it from element and check voltage from hot (black) to it which I did not do. I only went to ground.

            Hope this helps.

            Billy

            • Howard on July 3, 2019 at 1:32 PM
              Author

            Hi Billy!

            Glad to hear you got it fixed. Loose connections can be a bear to find.

            I just had an issue with my coach and flickering lights. Once I checked for a tightened some suspect connections, the problem went away. It must have been the rough roads in Louisiana that loosened things up . . . LOL!!

  1. Good Morning,
    Thanks for all the helpful information. I have a suburban dw6 (I think) in a 20.0.5 thor’ The interior rocker switch is just simply “on” and is adjacent to an amber light. I tested the unit after I got it home from the purchase and it worked fine. I used city water hookup. Winter has Passed and I have filled the fresh water tank now to find that I have no 12 volt power incoming to the interior switch. There is not a label for water heater at the fuse panel however all the fuse are good. What is the incoming source of power to the start switch?
    Also, there is another rocker switch for electric operation at the unit but I cannot depress the switch to on, it seems blocked or just will not “rock” over to the on side. I have no way to confirm the trailer is wired for electric operation either.
    Without incoming power to the interior switch I get noting at the igniter. Please advise.

    1. Hi Gordon!

      The power for the water heater’s 12-volt requirements should come from the house batteries. If all the fuses are good in the fuse panel for the 12-volt house system then you may have a loose connection somewhere in the system. I would check your 12-volt power at the interior switch and go from there. If you have the electric option, there will be a switch behind the water heater door located on the sidewall of the RV.

  2. We live in a small Franklin RV – Just had brand new hot water heater installed. Live in Houston. Pilot light continuously blows out because of the wind. Is there anything we an purchase online to use as a wind guard shield over the hot water heater screen?

    1. Hi Deborah!

      What manufacturer and model water heater do you have installed?

    • Greg on April 9, 2019 at 2:22 PM
    • Reply

    Hi Howard, Great site with plenty of info. I’ll be saving your page!

    I have a Suburban SW4D water heater on a 2006 camper which I have never used. I tested the water heater when i bought the camper and it worked fine but I did not use it at all for the last 2 years. After cleaning the unit and tank, I tried to light it and the pilot would light when the knob was depressed but when I let go to move to on the pilot would go out. I tried holding the button for several minutes so the pilot could warm up but as soon as I let go it would slowly go out. The flame is blue with a little orange tint at the tip but again goes out as soon as I let go of the pilot button. Any suggestions would be great.

    Greg

    1. Hi Greg!

      Thanks for visiting our website and commenting!

      Do all you other propane appliances work okay? Try running your stove for 5-10 minutes and then try lighting the water heater. There may be a little air in the line and by running the stove that may clear that problem. It seems to always work with furnaces.

  3. It was definitely a leak in the tank. It grew to where it became no longer intermittent. I took it out and had the problem area welded for $50. Ther cloth strips idea was a good one. I wish I would have tried that. I might have saved myself from so much head scratching. Thank you.

    1. Hi Michael!

      Thanks for reporting back on the solution. I am glad you were able to diagnose the problem. I am glad I was able to help you. When good information is given it leads to a good possible diagnosis.

      Happy RVing!!

  4. I have enjoyed reading from this website and you seem very knowledgable. My Atwood GC6AA -10E leaks or weeps once in a while. I have never seen anything like it. It’s 2 years old and never had a problem. Then suddenly I started finding about 1 cup of water under the bottom near where the electric box is located. I removed the whole heater and couldn’t find any problems. I redid the plumbers putty and tightness of the inlet and outlet fittings and put the unit back in service. No leak for about a week and then suddenly more water in the cabinet. I reset the air gap and no leak for about 1 month. Then it happened again. It’s dry now. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Michael!

      Thanks for stopping by our website and for commenting!

      A curious problem for sure. It sounds like you have taken the necessary steps to solve the problem. Intermittent water leaks are certainly annoying! Here’s a couple of thoughts. Take small strips of cloth material and tie them around all fittings and areas where water could leak. Once in place, check them daily to see if any are wet. That may help locate your leak.

      Is it possible there is a small crack at the top of the tank that lets water leak out when the tank no longer has the appropriate air gap? I may be reaching here but the thought came to mind given what you stated about the air gap. Also, if the pressure relief valve is leaking I am sure you would have noticed that, but tie some strips around it too.

      Keep us posted on your progress!

  5. We have our hot water heater on electric it’s worked fine forever now all of a sudden the red lights coming on by the switch what would cause that

    1. Hi Rose!

      If the water heater is not heating water with the electric option, there could be several things that could be the cause: the element has burned out, the control board has failed, a wire has come loose, etc.

      I would get a voltmeter and test voltage at the heating element to see if power is getting through. If it is then the element may need to be replaced. If no power is getting through to the heating element then the issue is elsewhere.

    • JOHN MASON on February 6, 2019 at 3:46 PM
    • Reply

    I have a Suburban SW10 DE water heater and I just replaced propane line and ends on the delivery side to the burner tube. everything works fine good flame and good color, but when the burner shuts down it still has a small flame right at the orifice end of the burner tube. I have checked it with soapy water and there is a slight leak coming out of the orifice. Does this mean that the gas valve is not shutting off the gas flow properly or what? can you repair these by putting new solenoids on or is it better to replace the new valve?

    1. Hi John!

      I would replace the valve assembly and see what that does for you. Sometimes it is just a process of elimination and that seems most logical based on what you are seeing. Even RV technicians have to go through the same process.

    • Brad on December 4, 2018 at 9:11 AM
    • Reply

    I have a Suburban 6 gallon water heater. I only get warm water whether on electric or propane. My bypass valve is closed, so are the inside and outside showers. Any ideas?

    1. Hi Brad!

      The only other suggestion I would have is a mixing valve on one of the RV water fixtures has failed. That can create the same condition as when the outside fixtures are left on with the shower head fixture off.

    • Jennifer on November 12, 2018 at 3:29 PM
    • Reply

    Hello, we have replaced the heating element and the anode rod in our Suburban water heater but still not getting hot water. Checked the bypass valve and it is closed. We are getting hot water at the pressure relief valve but not at the shower or sinks. Could it be the switch outside that is bad? When we opened up to check the thermostat the one for the electric is just dangling there because the little screw is broke off. Could that affect anything?

    1. Hi Jennifer!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      Are you getting water at the pressure relief valve with the electric option or was that by using propane as the heating source? Also, do you have any outside shower faucets in use or are the valves closed?

    • Neel Choate on October 13, 2018 at 8:01 AM
    • Reply

    I have a 2011 KZ Sportsmen. When I plug in to shore power the water heater appears to come on, however, the power switch, located inside the trailer just inside the front door shows to be off! If I shut off the breaker to the water heater it goes off. Bad switch not allowing it to shut off? The propane tanks are off and it does not come on with only battery power to the trailer/

      • Neel Choate on October 13, 2018 at 8:09 AM
      • Reply

      Wow, operator error all over the place!! As you can tell this is a new trailer for me. I realized I have a elect power switch on the outside within the water heater access door that turns the elect on, to go full propane only. Turned it off solved my problem. Sometimes the simple is too complicated for me!! Thanks anyway!!

      1. Hi Neel! That little switch gets a lot of people confused! Glad to hear you fixed the problem.

    • tom dupin on September 30, 2018 at 2:30 PM
    • Reply

    Howard: we have a SW6D circa 2001. i have noticed for a few months the water is getting unusually hot. recently, after the water heater is on for about eight minutes, the pressure relief valve opens. should i replace the pressure relief valve or could there be another issue/

    1. Hi Tom!

      You say the water is getting unusually hot. To me, that would indicate a problem with the water heater’s thermostat. If adjustable it may be set too high. Suburban also states in their service manual to check the gas jet orifice size as well as the gas pressure.

    • Brian on September 25, 2018 at 11:39 AM
    • Reply

    Hi Howard!

    I came across this site, it has lots of good info. After changing the thermostat in my D.S.I. Atwood, (G6A-4E) it now heats water every ten to fifteen minutes for about thirty seconds at a time. I bought the coach, an 88 fleetwood jamboree, and the hot water tank would heat the water about every 3 hours or so, before it stopped working; that’s when I diagnosed the thermostat. Is this normal operation, or something to worry about? Thank you for your help.

    1. Hi Brian!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      The issue may be the control board. You can try replacing that too, or for $300-$500 just replace the whole thing and get warranty coverage for a few years.

    • Gene Majka on September 18, 2018 at 5:50 PM
    • Reply

    Greetings Howard,

    My wife and I retired last December and are now realizing one of our goals. We recently purchased a 2005 Winnebago Minnie and look forward to exploring this great country. We’re on our initial short practice trip and already have a question for you.
    We have an Atwood G6A-8E and each time I’ve fired it up it burns for at least one minute but rarely makes it past two minutes. I’ve observed the flame at ignition and noticed some flecks of orange. Could it be a faulty sensor shutting things down or do you think something else is at play?
    Thanks,
    Gene

    1. Greetings Gene!

      Glad to hear you are able to now get out there and enjoy your RV travels!

      There could be several reasons for the shutdown: the control board, a sensor, a propane flow issue due to regulator adjustment issues, a problem with the burner orifice, and the air gap adjustment for the flame. I would start with hooking a manometer onto the system and see if you have any leaks and if you have a good 10 – 11 column inches of water reading with the system energized. Then go from there eliminating each possible source as you go.

      Best of luck!

    • John on September 10, 2018 at 9:32 AM
    • Reply

    I have a Suburban SW6DE. It’s worked great for years, now all of a sudden when you turn it on (propane) there’s a “click”, not the igniter, red light stays on & nothing else happens.
    It works fine on electric. Furnace & stove work fine so no other propane issues in the coach. Going to order a new Mother Board, but thought I’d see if you had other ideas.

    Thanks,
    John

    1. Hi John!

      Before you go replacing the board, check with these folks! They are the best in circuit board replacements and assistance: https://www.dinosaurelectronics.com/contact_form.php

    • Brad amundson on August 30, 2018 at 2:12 AM
    • Reply

    I have a 2013 Dutchman Denali with a 10 gal. Atwood hot water heater with dual hest source. Gas / electric. It just stsrted displaying the red warning light on the wall control panel. Marked dsi flt. It only happens on propane and you can hear the burner kick off before it reaches full temperature. Any ideas? Thanks for the help and by the way. Great website

    1. Hi Brad!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      How long does it run on propane before it shuts off?

    • Rose on August 20, 2018 at 12:30 PM
    • Reply

    We have a SW 12del, we have hot water at the heater but not at the faucets, we have checked the outdoor shower, there are no valves, other then the ones for dwinterizing and they are in the right position, what else can we do
    Thanks Rose

    1. Hi Rose!

      How did you check to see if you have hot water in the water heater tank? You have an outside shower faucet that does not have hot and cold water adjustments? When you say that the winterization valves are in the right position, what do you have them set at? If you can give me a little more info I might be better able to assist you.

    • Dave on August 6, 2018 at 12:21 PM
    • Reply

    Hi
    I have a Suburban 6 gallon hot water heater. I have electricity from the breaker panel over to the tank but no electricity at the element. I have swapped out the on/off switch but that wasnt the problem and the element has good continuity. The two reset buttons that are located on the tank, I did notice that the 120 volt side would pop and it the water would heat up and then shut down and have to be reset but now has ceased working and no electricity at the element, could this be the problem ?

    1. Hi Dave!

      These situations are a process of elimination sometimes. I would replace the reset switches and see what happens.

    • Pepi Rogers on August 2, 2018 at 6:50 PM
    • Reply

    Hello Howard,

    I have a Suburban SW6DE RV water heater that operates on propane, but will not function on the 120v operation. I replaced the electric element switch, thinking it was bad, and then replaced the electric element itself. With these parts replaced, the electric element switch still trips. I disconnected the white/black wires to the electric element and had 120 volts. I then re-connected the wires, turned on the electric element switch, had a reading of 109 volts and the electric element switch tripped within 3 seconds. This was the original problem that has not been resolved with the replacement of the switch and element. I did read in an earlier message response that it is possible to have a bad element even though it is new. Your thoughts?

    1. Hi Pepi!

      Have you tried replacing the breaker with another to see if the problem still occurs? They do go bad too. Also, check resistance on the element to see what reading you get. Take 120 volts and device it by that reading and you should get around 10 amps.

        • Pepi Rogers on August 3, 2018 at 5:37 PM
        • Reply

        Thanks Howard. I believe I have found the problem. Originally the electric element was bad (low ohm reading), but I replaced the electric element switch at the same time, which I purchased at a local RV dealer. Yesterday I decided to remove the electric element switch as a last resort and discovered it was rated at 5 amps! As you probably know, the original switch is rated at 20 amps. The switch I purchased was supposedly for the model number of the water heater. I have since ordered an “original equipment” Suburban switch with the correct amp rating and part number. When I receive it, I’ll install it and update you with the results. Thanks.

        1. Glad to hear Pepi! It always works better when you get the right part. Let us know if that fixes the issue!

            • Pepi Rogers on August 10, 2018 at 1:11 PM

            Howard, I want to again thank you for validating my diagnoses to the water heater problem. After receiving the proper water heater switch, which was rated at 16.5 amps, the water heater problem is solved. The next time I am at the establishment where I purchased the incorrect switch (5 amps), I will make them aware of this for future reference. Pepi.

            • Howard on August 10, 2018 at 3:55 PM
              Author

            Thanks for the update Pepi! Glad to hear you are heating water again!

    • Robert Gauthier on August 2, 2018 at 8:32 AM
    • Reply

    Good morning , I do have a SW6DE, last fall when I try to put the swicth on for propane operation , the 12 volt fuse burn. After winter, I test everything , and it workfine but again I go camping and when I try it, the fuse blow again , bring backand work again, I retest next day and burn fuse again, I believe it’ could be a short but because it’s intermitent, I dont know were to start. i tested all wire and connection all seem fine.
    PS work perfectly on 120 volt.
    Thanks
    Rob

    1. Hi Robert!

      I would check the wiring behind the water heater inside the RV and behind the black cover where the reset buttons are located. There may be some wires that have melted insulation and that could be intermittently shorting out.

    • Robert Summers on July 25, 2018 at 8:52 PM
    • Reply

    We have a Suburban SW6DE that has worked fine on propane for 8 years. Today in Colorado the CO2 sensor in the RV started to go off. I went outside to check the water heater and noticed that it was sparking and lighting but then it seemed like the propane flow would shut down but not all the way and it would re-spark and light and flow but then slow down and do it again. We have been running on propane for 5 days straight with no issues and both tanks are full. Could this be the thermocouple?

    1. Hi Robert!

      Did you just get to Colorado and the problem occurred or have you been there a while?

    • Gordon Hyde on July 25, 2018 at 2:35 PM
    • Reply

    My water heater ignites and runs fine, good temp and flow but, when the thermostat shuts unit down to PILOT, the gas tube back lights to opposite end of combustion and remains lit. Could this be a control or regulator issue?

    1. Hi Gordon!

      What make of water heater do you have?

    • Dominic Piazza on July 21, 2018 at 9:16 AM
    • Reply

    We turn on the gas at the back of trailer then go threw the procedure of lighting the pilot light and it stay’s on but we don’t get the rumbling sound and it doesn’t stay on so we don’t get any hot water? what else can we try.

    1. Hi Dominic!

      Let’s start with some of the basics: does the propane tank have at least a quarter tank and the valve is fully turned on, does the cooktop work well with a good volume of flame when turned on high, does the furnace stay lit when ignited?

      If all these questions are answered yes then you could try lighting the cooktop stove for 5-10 minutes to be sure there are no air gaps in the line. If after trying that the water heater does not stay lit you will need to check the gas line to be sure there are no clogs and the burner assembly is clean. Check your manual for suggested maintenance tips.

      I hope that helps!

    • Reg on June 28, 2018 at 6:36 PM
    • Reply

    Hi and just came across your blog post while looking for an answer to my water heater issue.

    Atwood – auto ignite – propane
    Cleaned the tubes, replaced the igniter assembly and the regulator.
    When ignited frame is perfect and ignition continues until water is hot, automatic ignition tries to start the burn again when the temperature of the water drops.

    The above should also say that to get it to start after being turned off – the door (cover) has to be open. When it is open it starts and burns perfect, if the cover is closed it continues to burn without change until it shuts down, if the door is not open the automatic ignite will not start a new burn when the temperature drops. The air mix slide is normally set to the “more air” position for the best starts. If is is to the “less air” position it is quieter but may take 2 or more tries with the switch to trigger an ignfition.

    Any suggestion as to what needs to be adjusted?

    1. Hi Reg!

      Do you have a dauber screen installed on the water heater cover? Also, after installing the new regulator did you hook up a manometer to the LP system to see what the gas pressure is that is feeding the water heater? Do this occur in higher altitude locations?

    • Corey Piercey on June 25, 2018 at 12:23 PM
    • Reply

    Hi Howard
    I have a suburban 12 DEL water heater..
    It worked a week ago but now nothing in either propane or electric.
    There appears to be no 12 volt fuse in my fuse box but there is a 15 amp breaker that was not tripped.
    I’m assuming there must be an in line fuse or something?
    Thanks in advance.
    Great advice on RV maintenance.

    1. Hi Corey!

      You are on the right path. You need to figure out why you don’t have 12-volt power. I would start at the batteries and water heater and trace back to the fuse panel to find out where you lose the 12.6 volts (voltage from a good battery).

    • Steve Stratman on June 7, 2018 at 4:29 PM
    • Reply

    Hi Howard! We just bought a 2017 Keystone Hideout. It’s brand new so I think I’m doing something wrong. When I adjust the the hot and cold and get the right warm water temp in the shower everything works fine. There’s great flow and the temp is fine. But when I shut the valve off on the flexible shower head, the flow stops as it should, but then when I open it back up the water goes ice cold. Is there a valve problem? Or am I not filling the water heater up correctly when it’s empty? Just wondering why the temp goes from warm to ice cold when I switch on the water at the shower head.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Steve!

      Thanks for stopping by our website and leaving a comment!

      When you are using the showerhead shutoff, and you turn it back on and the water is cold, does it stay that way or does it warm back up after a few seconds?

    • Richard R Myerly on June 5, 2018 at 8:15 PM
    • Reply

    Hey Howard

    Having an issue and hope you may have some additional advise, My Suburban water heater is not firing properly.
    I am not getting the Roaring Swoosh only a mild flame, it has an igniter not a pilot light
    So I followed the procedures to clean up the unit and even pulled the Burner Tube and made sure it was cleared.but still no Roaring Flame. I never really paid attention before but the flame started back up the Burner Tube to the opening which kind of freaked me out, I have plenty of Propane and have tried to fix this for a couple of days so needles to say the Wife isn’t too fond of cold showers.

    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Richard!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      If you have properly cleaned the burner assembly tube and are sure that the nozzle is clear, I have to think that propane flow is the issue. In order for the water heater to work properly, it needs 11 water column inches of propane pressure. The only way to measure this is to use a manometer which most people don’t have lying around. As an RV inspector, I do, and they are not that expensive.

      If you want to, and if you have not done so already, light the cooktop stove and let it burn for five to ten minutes. If that burns well and the furnace also lights and the burn chamber continues to heat, then probably a good sign that propane flow is okay, but still not a definitive test. By burning other propane appliances in the RV you may help to correct the problem. If not, then testing pressure would be my next step. Regulators do need occasional adjustment.

    • Jim Bell on June 4, 2018 at 8:19 PM
    • Reply

    I have a SW12DE Suburban hot water heater, in a 2010 Forest River 5th wheel.
    I am having problems with it working on gas. It works great on electric. The inside switch, on the control panel, next to the reset light, does nothing. The light used to come on, when you put the switch to the on position, but now nothing. I checked the rest button on the face of the water heater, does not seem to be tripped. I have pushed on it, and does nothing. I have checked the breakers, all are on. I have checked all the fuses, all are good. The propane tank is half full, and the stove burners work great. Just seems like there is no power getting to the valve. Do you have any suggestions? At a loss. Thanks, Jim

    1. Hi Jim!

      Thanks for stopping by our site!

      If the switch is no longer lighting up, I would start there. Use a voltmeter and see if you have power coming to it. If so, bypass it and see if the water heater fires that way. With problems like these, I always start with the power source and trace from there.

    • Jane on May 29, 2018 at 2:38 PM
    • Reply

    how large should the flame be? we were told it shouldn’t be too large????
    also we havesjust used it a week or 2 , and now find a fine fine white soot? in the bottom of the case when you open the box to light it
    we were told to watch for soot, no soot …………….just these fine white particles

    we turned it off

    1. Hi Jane!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      What kind of water heater is this, make and model?

    • Panos on May 20, 2018 at 9:23 AM
    • Reply

    Hi Howard,
    I just purchased an older hybrid trailer, my control buttons are just inside the entrance door and lists water heater gas and water heater electric. The gas button turns on red and the heater ignites, good heat But when I turn on the electric setting, no light appears on the button and no heat ( gas is off and plugged in a 30amp circuit. Any ideas where to start?

    1. Greetings Panos!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      Here’a couple of things you can check: be sure the breaker for the water heater is reset and providing 120-volt power to the water heater and check the voltage at the heating element with a voltmeter to be sure you have power going to it.

      Check those two things and report back on what you find.

    • gene on May 9, 2018 at 3:29 AM
    • Reply

    Thanks for your advice will check it out

    1. Check back Gene and keep us posted on what you finally discover. Thank you!

    • gene tipton on May 8, 2018 at 2:29 AM
    • Reply

    when i turn on hot water i hear a thump hot water comes out slowly.but if i turn it on real slow it comes out full force sometimes its a hit and miss sometimes it works sometimes it dont. I have to mess with it a little or i go back to it later hoping it comes on alot instead of a slow flow. i have rv it is gas it is really getting annoying dont know what to do hope you can help

    1. Hi Gene!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      Is this on all faucets or just one?

        • gene tipton on May 8, 2018 at 10:55 PM
        • Reply

        All faucets

        1. Okay Gene, a few things you can check: the hot water shutoff valve on the back of the water heater to be sure it is all the way open. If that does not do it it could be the mixing valve on the back of the water heater. Calcium and possible other deposits can also clog the mixing valves on all faucets and the water heater and slow hot water flow.

    • GINA BOURGAIZE on May 3, 2018 at 5:29 AM
    • Reply

    Hello Howard,

    I really hope you can help me. I have a 2011 Heartland trailer with Suburban SW6DE water heater, electric and gas. I am able to heat the water with the propane however heating the water electricity is not working anymore. Prior to the electrical portion not working anymore it had been working fine and then slowly over a few weeks the water was not heating up as much until one day it just quit heating altogether through the electric portion. I have checked the breaker it’s fine I have changed the heating element as well as the nano-rod… I have checked the valves behind the water heater and that is also fine. I have checked both switches, the one that is inside the RV and is a lighted switch ( lights up red when it is on) and the black on and off switch that is inside the unit next to the heating element from what I can tell they’re working. Well the black and white Switch there’s no light on it so I’m really not sure if there is a problem with it or not. I have checked the reset buttons as well however they were not protruding out in any way. I’m really not sure what to check next… Please help… I really thought it was the heating element and that it was slowly going out…

    1. Hi Gina!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      From what you are telling me you have exhausted most of the obvious things you would do for this particular situation. The way you describe that the water slowly became less hot would to me also indicate the heating element was failing.

      Have you taken a voltmeter, and with the option to heat water on electric turned on, taken a reading at heating element to be sure that it is getting power?

        • GINA BOURGAIZE on May 4, 2018 at 1:49 PM
        • Reply

        Howard,

        Yes, thank you I was actually thinking that was my next step… After I go out and purchase a voltmeter.

        I was also thinking it could be the thermostat.

        Anyhow, next I will look into those options.

        Thank you,

        1. Hi Gina!

          I always start with the important things: does it have power. If you replaced it and it still does not work, let’s check if it is getting voltage. If it is then maybe a bad element even though new. If it is not that then start looking at the next item upstream that controls that heating element. And so on.

          Having a voltmeter as an RVer is always a good thing. You will have many more uses for it: checking RV park pedestals, battery voltages, checking fuses, diagnosing dropped circuits, etc.

          Good luck on your diagnosing!

    • Guy Wood on May 1, 2018 at 12:47 AM
    • Reply

    Hi Howard, thanks for your time in answering questions.

    I have a suburban sw12del water heater that is in our Keystone 2017 3100RL 5th wheel. Every since we bought the rig, we have had an issue with a “check water heater” indicator that comes on in the command center when running on propane. The issue seems to be tied to when the water heater needs to relight to heat the water. When the message is acknowledged, the system shows the water heater in an off state. We then propane again to turn if on and the heater will light and heat the water. But it will not do this on its own. The water heater run fines on electric. Also, we run the furnace and stove on gas with no problems.

    We took it back to Camping World, where we bought it, and they could not duplicate the issue even though we have had to acknowledge the message and select propane multiple times a day for months. I was not impressed with the service at this particular camping world for a variety of reasons. After months more of dealing with acknowledging the message multiple times a day and turning it back on, we took it to a local RV shop and they were finally able to duplicate the issue after several days. They changed out the burner tube and maybe did some other adjustments but when we got it back home, it still has the same issue. They are at a loss as to what it might be.

    Any ideas on what to check?

    1. Hi Guy!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      It sounds like your water heater has really been giving you fits. They can be finicky!

      Since you have already had work done on the water heater I am going to assume they have checked the obvious: the control board function, a gas line blockage, etc.

      If I were there, I would take my manometer, go to the cooktop stove, and do a pressure/leak test of the propane system. I would want to see how the propane regulator at the propane tanks is functioning under load. Sure, the cooktop and furnace might work fine, but the water heater may have an issue with its propane supply. This test would reveal that.

      Ina case like this I think we have to start at the beginning. It’s a propane issue so let’s be sure the water heater is getting what it needs and that is the right amount of propane to fire again and again.

    • Nick on April 16, 2018 at 6:11 AM
    • Reply

    Hi thanks for all your help with water heaters. I have a Atwood 6 gallon propane only. My issue is when lighting I hear a pop or boom when lighting. I also have soot outside the exhaust vent. The trailer is 2 years old and I am wondering if the burner tube needs to be cleaned out. I checked the orifice and it is clean. I checked the elbow from the orifice to the igniter and that is clean. I believe it may also be an air flow problem. If I leave the door open it seems fine. Also if I lite the water heater after it pops and then turn it off and immediately relite the heater it lites perfectly. I know when they build these they get allot of shavings and such. I also wonder if the igniter gap is to small or out of place. Sorry if its to many questions.

    1. Hi Nick!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      You can check the burner tube to be sure it is okay. The soot you are getting might be cured by adjusting the air gap on the burner tube.

    • Joe Dufresne on April 7, 2018 at 9:17 PM
    • Reply

    Hi!
    Do u have any idea why I would have got water in the bathroom and not in the kitchen sink area. Your advice is much appreciated. Thx

    Joe/ Tennessee

    1. Hi Joe!

      Have you tried feeling the water line coming into the faucet under the sink when you run the faucet with hot water? Is it hot?

    • Jeffrey Mount on January 20, 2018 at 5:34 PM
    • Reply

    My sw6de will not run off gas or electric what could it be the board?

    1. Hi Jeffrey!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      Have you checked to see if you have 12-volt power to the board? How about the fuse if not?

    • Bill on December 26, 2017 at 10:08 AM
    • Reply

    Where is the thermocouple located in a Suburban 6-gallon water heater SW6D? Ther water heater won’t stay lit. Thank you

    1. Greetings Bill!

      This will help you out with the location of the thermocouple: http://waterheatertimer.org/pdf/Suburban_Water_Heater_Service_Manual.pdf

      I am sure you already thought of this, but for the benefit of other readers, I will mention it anyway. Be sure you have sufficient gas pressure to actually keep the thermocouple lit: is the propane tank filled and is your regulator functioning properly. You will know that if all other gas appliances function as they should, especially the furnace.

    • Karen godec on December 14, 2017 at 3:07 AM
    • Reply

    My hot water heater worked fine for four months, allowing me to take relatively long hot showers. Now when in the shower if I try to adjust the water temperature, the water goes completely cold. If I start my shower and don’t adjust the temperature throughout, I get a nice long hot shower. Any suggestions where to start troubleshooting?

    1. Hi Karen!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      Based on what you are telling me, you may have to replace your shower fixture as the mixing valve may have gone bad.

    • Bo Haynes on December 6, 2017 at 7:35 PM
    • Reply

    Just removed the anode plug from my tank. When I unscrewed it blew the plug about 20 feet. Can you tell me what caused this. It hit my hand and cut it…..

    1. Hi Bo!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      When you removed the anode rod/plug from the water tank was the system pressurized? Were you hooked to city water or have the water pump on?

      An energized RV water system is under 40 – 60 psi of pressure. That would be enough to launch the plug that far if not farther. It is a good thing you were not standing directly in front of it when you removed it.

      The best way to remove the drain plugs from either a Suburban or Atwood water heater is to turn the city water service off, or the water pump, open a faucet inside to reduce pressure, and then it will be safe to remove them.

      You all be safe out there!!

    • Joe Cadena on November 25, 2017 at 9:38 PM
    • Reply

    I have an 10 gallon Atwood water heater in my Motorhome. There is hot water in the water heater, but no hot water at the faucets. I have checked the by pass valves , but no luck. Could the hot water out flow be plugged up with sediment? What do you recommend to do? Thanks Joe

    1. Hi Joe!

      The valves to the water heater, top and bottom, should be open and the bypass valve that connects the top and bottom valves should be closed. Also, do you possibly have an outside shower faucet that may have valves open? That can dilute the hot water. Also, a bad fixture mixing valve may cause a similar situation.

    • Jim Ryan on November 20, 2017 at 7:49 PM
    • Reply

    I have a suburban SW12DEL and the electric side of the heater is no longer getting the water hot. I have replaced the heating element twice and the thermostat once. Still no hot water from electric, I get 120volts through the thermostat and at the heating element, still no hot water. I do get hot water with the propane just not with the electric. I just ordered the on/off switch outside at the heater but don’t think it will help but it’s the last thing I can think of replacing. Please let me know if there is something else I should look at also.

    1. Hi Jim!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      It looks like you are on the right track for diagnosing the problem. The only other suggestion I can make is to check the control board that triggers the electric and propane heating options to function.

    • Don Carlon on September 22, 2017 at 6:55 PM
    • Reply

    I have a Suburban 6W6D which I removed from my camper to repair a tie-down point. Since I seldom used the water heater I left it out and taped the three wires (red, blue, and green). Now I find when I try to use my propane space heater it blows the fuse. I discovered that both the water heater and space heater are on the same circuit and suspect I need to do something with the water heater wires to keep the circuit from blowing. I thought I would check around before I started experimenting! Thanks a lot.

    1. Hi, Don!

      Just removing the water heater and capping off the wires should not create a short in the circuit unless you inadvertently created another situation in the removal process where 12-volt power is able to short out when you activate that circuit. Something must be crossed somewhere.

    • Bubba Walke on September 22, 2017 at 8:12 AM
    • Reply

    Have a suburban pilot model water heater. Have replaced the gas valve, burner tube and thermocouple. it lights and has a good blue flame and then flame lowers, does not go out and after a few seconds flame goes back to normal then after a few more seconds it repeats. Full tank of propane and good flame on stove top. Have blown out burner tube and combustion chamber with compressed air. Any idea what causes this?

    1. Hi, Bubba!

      Thanks for checking in with us! Let me confer with another person to see if my thoughts on this are valid and I will get back to you.

        • Bubba Walke on October 3, 2017 at 10:32 AM
        • Reply

        any thoughts yet

        1. Hi, Bubba!

          Sorry, Bubba, been super busy with travel and business: RV Show, seminars, classes, etc. If I were there I would do a manometer test on the system to check that with a 50% load on the entire system there was a 10.5 to 11.5 inches of water column reading on the manometer. If not, this could be the problem.

    • Ray Lees on September 19, 2017 at 1:06 PM
    • Reply

    My water heater won’t ignite. I can hear the sparking click click click sound and when I go outside as soon as I open the access panel, it lights. This makes me tend to believe that it’s not getting enough oxygen but this only started occurring in the last 2 days. What could be the cause of this problem?

    1. Hi Ray!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      Do you have dauber screening over the water heater door that is designed for this application? If so, is it restricting air flow? How is the airflow adjustment? Is it as it has always been or has it moved on its own? Just my initial knee-jerk thoughts.

    • Keely on September 9, 2017 at 10:22 PM
    • Reply

    We have a flame that comes out of the pilot light area on a propane water tank… There is soot up the entire side of trailer. Any reason this is happening?

    1. Greetings Keely!

      You should have a small blue flame at the pilot light area. It should not be a large flame. The soot could be from an improper air gap adjustment if your water heater allows for adjusting that. Check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSjDklZh4ws This may help!

    • Stanley W Wiening on September 6, 2017 at 10:42 AM
    • Reply

    I try to light my pilot but it lights at the little opening right of thbe back of the mou nting plate and not at the end where it meets wi th the thermocoupler. It will stay light until i turn the gas to on and i get a combustion that blows it out. Suburban SW6P

    1. Hi, Stanley!

      Is the pilot gas tube clogged up? There must be gas/flame coming out to heat the thermocouple.

    • Jeremy on August 24, 2017 at 8:24 PM
    • Reply

    Hey Howard, I have a new 2017 coachman clipper with suburban propane-only water heater. It worked well since we purchased it in April, but now when I turn the switch on inside I only hear a click about once every minute outside at the water heater, but it won’t light.
    Propane tank is full, stove works perfectly. If I take a lighter and light the gas tube it will burn the lp with a blue flame for about 2-3 seconds then turn off. I can’t figure out why the water heater won’t light and stay on long enough to heat the water.

    1. Hi, Jeremy!

      It sounds like the gas valve is not allowing propane through? Could be an issue with the control board, a blockage in the gas jet? Start there and see if that gets you going.

        • Jeremy on August 25, 2017 at 4:18 PM
        • Reply

        Thank you!
        How exactly would I be able to check to see if either of those are the problem?
        Btw my model # is SW6D if that helps

        1. Hi, Jeremy!

          Since these types of repairs can be tricky without previous knowledge or experience, I am suggesting you take a look at this manual to get the basics. I think it will help you to think about the gas valve and possible maintenance of associated components:
          http://waterheatertimer.org/pdf/Suburban_Water_Heater_Service_Manual.pdf

          Good Luck!

            • Pete Pierpont on October 3, 2017 at 6:37 PM

            Jeremy,

            My Suburban RV water heater is having the exact same symptoms as yours. Mine was new in April of 2016 and has worked on gas perfectly for the 10 – 15 times we’ve used it since it came home last spring. I just took the trailer to Moab, Utah and it never heated the water. Mine water heater is doing just what you said yours did – cycling the gas three times but no flame, then shutting down.

            Based on some quick internet research, I made sure that the gas burner tube was clear. I actually pulled the whole gas burner/igniter apart. There wasn’t anything in the tube and the gas seems to be flowing fine. You can smell propane when I cycle the water heater because it doesn’t light.

            I put it all back together and tried to hand-light it with an extended lighter. Just like yours, it fired right up with a strong blue flame, much like it always has, but then the gas flow and flame is cut off after just a couple of seconds. My propane heater inside the camper works perfectly along with my two burner gas stove. I’ve got charged batteries and plenty of propane.

            Did you get any additional answers about your problem?

            I’m going to go through the manual that Howard attached above. It looks like it has a pretty solid troubleshooting section.

            Thanks,

            Pete
            Breckenridge, CO
            2016 Forest River Wolf-Pup 16 BHS

      • Pete Pierpont on October 3, 2017 at 11:16 PM
      • Reply

      Jeremy,

      Did you ever get your issue fixed? I have a 6 gallon Suburban water heater that is doing exactly what yours was doing.

      Thanks,

      Pete

    • Bob on July 30, 2017 at 1:18 PM
    • Reply

    I have a 2004 forest river work and play. i can get the pilot light to light and stay one but after i put the knob back to on, the flame never kicks up.
    when i have it apart (tubes off) and in the pilot position, lp comes out of the pilot light tube but never out of the feed tube, shouldnt it? is my control block bad? im gonna be doing my first “self contained” camping trip in 2 weeks with it and dont have the niceities of a bathhouse close by, so it would be nice to have a warm shower

    1. Hi, Bob!

      Thanks for visiting our website!

      Are you waiting 30-60 seconds with the pilot in the light mode and the pilot lit before turning the knob to on? If the pilot stays lit in the on mode then the control panel will signal it is okay to send lp into the burn chamber.

    • Matthew on July 18, 2017 at 8:19 PM
    • Reply

    Howard I just bought a suburban sw6d propane with the electric ignition, installed it. It’s full of water propane is getting to it. When first trying to fire it up it will fire up until the igniter stops then the blue flame goes out. After about an hour of trying ( thought maybe there was air in propane line) the board is really hot to the touch. This is brand new is it possible the board is bad?

    1. Hi, Matthew!

      Sorry to hear that! I would contact Suburban and see what their technical department recommends. In these cases, it could be the control board causing the problem. Since it is under warranty Suburban should be able to provide what you need.

    • Dan Toppenberg on July 15, 2017 at 10:27 PM
    • Reply

    Howard, I have a SE6DE and when it fires up we can smell the exhaust fumes in the trailer. It seems like it is not venting. Help please. Dan T.

    1. Hi, Dan!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      On the outside wall of your RV, where the water heater is located, can you check the propane line that comes into the water heater and see that it is properly sealed? I am assuming that the water heater cover venting is okay and the smell is not coming from a nearby open window.

        • Dan Toppenberg on July 26, 2017 at 7:49 PM
        • Reply

        Thanks that helped.

    • Don on June 17, 2017 at 10:24 PM
    • Reply

    I have a Suburban SW10DE hot water heater. The gas side worked fine when I put it in storage for the winter but now when I fire up the gas it will come on for about 10 seconds and shut right back off. Any ideas?

    1. Hi, Don!

      Any blockages inside the burner assemblies? A good cleaning might cure the problem. That could be a good place to start.

        • Don on June 18, 2017 at 10:11 PM
        • Reply

        Hi Howard, I did not find any blockages but I can here what sounds like the ignitor still trying to light after the burner lights for about 10 seconds. Is this normal? I have a nice blue flame when the burner lights but it will not stay lit.

        1. Hi, Don!

          Once the igniter lights the flame, the clicking should cease once the control board receives the signal that the flame is lit. You might check the electrode and the wiring to it for corrosion. If the igniter does not stop clicking that means the control board senses there is no ignition and stops gas flow. Hopefully, it is not a control board problem. Let’s start with the easy stuff first.

            • Don on June 20, 2017 at 6:53 PM

            i will look at it again on Thursday as I am out of town for a few days. Thank you

  6. Howard: have enjoyed your comments to other readers. Ours is simple but a great problem. We own a 2011 Gulf Stream Conquest Class C and have had no trouble previously filling our Suburban Model SW6D hot water heater. Now, we can’t get any water to flow into the tank. We have tried hook up to city water and water in holding tank. The by-pass valve is set to normal, not by-pass. Water will flow from both hot and cold faucets but can’t fill tank. Are thinking it is something very simple but am stumped to say the least. Your thoughts? Thanks Jim from Littleton, CO.

    1. Hi, Jim!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      What is different from the last time the water heater worked? Has this occurred since the winterization process?

      There are also sometimes shut-off valves to the hot and cold water at the back of the water heater. Also, how do you know that there is no water in the tank? If you pull the anode rod out (been checked recently?) does water come out? Does the propane system ignite when switched on?

    • Mike on June 11, 2017 at 2:32 AM
    • Reply

    Have a new RV with Suburban water heater.The heater lights from the switch inside the RV. Heard clicking noise of heater trying to ignite and it would briefly. I opened the door on the heater and it ignited and ran through the cycle no problem with good strong blue flame. If I close the door on the heater the flame goes out like it is starved for air. It looks like the exhaust air is being drawn through the air intake area on the heater and it doesn’t draw enough air ? I was considering drilling a new air intake hole in the door closer to the burner tube?

    1. Hi, Mike!

      You stated you have a new water heater. Is that on a new RV? If so, take it back to the dealer to have them adjust the burner tube assembly for the correct amount of air flow going into the burner tube assembly.

        • Mike on June 12, 2017 at 10:14 PM
        • Reply

        Thanks Howard I was trying to avoid a 3 hour drive to the dealer. There is not a sleeve on the burner tube to adjust air so was confused as how else to do so. Did call the dealer but haven’t heard back. Was just trying to see if there was a DIY fix or not. Thanks

        1. Okay, Mike!

          Sounds like it would be best to visit the dealership where you bought it.

          As much of a pain as it can be, if it is under warranty, and you mess with it, but something goes wrong, the dealer might not want to repair it. That’s what factory warranties are for, especially if the water heater was defective from the manufacturer.

          Best wishes!!

    • Philippe angers on June 5, 2017 at 10:43 AM
    • Reply

    Good morning Howard,

    We are no longer getting the sparking sound from LPG unit. What should I check first?

    1. Hi, Philippe!

      I would check the 12-volt power to the water heater and also the igniter unit itself to see if it needs replacement.

    • Karen ODell on May 28, 2017 at 10:48 AM
    • Reply

    We have a propane suburban water heater. We turn it on in the morning gets a very short warm shower the it’s like it won’t heat again . You can hear it running just no hot water.? 2015 is when we bought our coachman clipper.

    1. Hi, Karen!

      What has changed since the last time it worked? Was the unit winterized? Have you checked your bypass valves on the back side of the water heater?

    • Nora Fowles on May 24, 2017 at 4:45 PM
    • Reply

    We left the anode tube out after draining our hot water heater when winterizing, and now I cannot get it to go back in. We’ve been trailer camping for about 15 years and never had trouble with this until a few months ago. Neither my husband nor I could get it back in last time we camped, and we had to stop at a Camping World somewhere on our way when we were travelling. A fellow there told my husband some trick for lining it up and was able to do it in seconds. But I didn’t hear what he said, and my husband can’t remember. Do you have any advice?!! Thanks so much!

    1. Hi, Nora!

      Thanks for stopping by our website! I can appreciate the difficulty in replacing that anode rod given its nine-inch long shaft and the weight of that while trying to screw it in sideways.

      What I found worked well for me was to use the 1-1/16″ socket with an extender to help hold the anode rod straight while trying to screw it into the water heater base. Other than that, I am unaware of any other tricks for a quick installation.

      If you do use plumbers thread tape to help keep the threads from corroding together, be sure to do so on only half of the thread area of the anode rod. Otherwise, you will create an insulation barrier and the anode rod will not have a clean connection to the metal tank of the water heater and not perform its intended function.

    • Bill Dennis on May 12, 2017 at 3:28 PM
    • Reply

    We have a 2012 Rockwood with a suburban water heater has worked great until the other day we turned it on and it smelled like melted plastic. We checked the panel box for loose wires did find a loose ground wire and tightened it but did not fix the problem.Any suggestions??

    1. Bill, did you check the back side of the water heater?

    • Jan on May 3, 2017 at 9:43 AM
    • Reply

    I replaced the rod in my waterheater. Now I can’t get any water out of my taps. help please

    1. Hi, Jan!

      Thanks for visiting our website!

      So, you are not getting either hot or cold water out of your faucets after the anode rod replacement in your Suburban water heater?

    • Michael on May 2, 2017 at 6:53 PM
    • Reply

    How do you adjust the water temp on these?

    1. Hi, Michael!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      You can’t adjust the temperature setting on the RV water heaters. Is too hot or too cold?

    • Eric Patterson on April 29, 2017 at 7:44 PM
    • Reply

    I replaced my pop off valve
    On Surburban 10D Hot water heater, gas only.
    I also flushed tank. I followed the procedure to fill tank while keeping air pocket in. Now my hot water doesn’t last long st all, like a minute in shower, or enough to
    Fill sink for dishes.
    Wasn’t like that before .
    Gas is igniting and staying on like should. If run out of ideas what could cause this..!!!! Helppppp
    Driving me crazy. Cold showers is not fun at
    4:30 AM

    1. Hi, Eric!

      Thanks for checking in!

      What procedure did you use to re-fill the water heater tank?

    • Shari Dahms on April 17, 2017 at 12:03 PM
    • Reply

    We have a Suburban water heater, model SW10DE, in our 2013 Quailridge park mode. In spring, after we fill the tank with water, we turn on the switch and nothing happens. It does not try to light and the reset light doesn’t even come on. We’ve had this problem the last 2 springs as well but then it will start working a week later. So this year, 2 weeks ago we filled it and turned it on and nothing happened, not even the reset light came on. This weekend then we turned it on and the reset light came on for a few seconds and it ignited. Sometime over night it stopped working again. Now nothing again, the reset light doesn’t even come on. We replaced the switch to make sure it wasn’t that and still nothing. What do you think?

    Should we try to run it on electric and see if that works. Any input you can give us would be appreciated.

    Thank you.

    Shari

    1. Hi, Shari!

      Thanks for checking in with us!

      You can try it on electric and see if it works. It sounds to me like you possibly have a loose wire connection somewhere or possibly a thermostat issue. How is your battery voltage? If it’s weak, below 12 volts, the control board won’t have the ability to be able to communicate with the water heater to control its operation.

  7. Hi Howard,

    We are hooked to a site and have been for two months. No problems with water up until a few days ago. The hot water faucet only (anywhere in the rig) emits a whining noise when on. We have a Atwoood electric and propane, which when we opene, found the burner tube completely rusted and in terrible shape. Could that lead to the issue, even with electric? Today we shut the hot water off from inside the rig and then found when we went to turn it back on–nothing. No light.

    We bought a few things on Amazon (new burner tube, thermal cut off, drain plugs, and check valve) which should be coming in a few days. But do you have any suggestions of what this definitely could be? We are literally going to try and troubleshoot everything.

    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi, Marisa!

      Thanks for checking in with us! Your decision to purchase some parts is a good place to start. How old is the water heater? From the condition of the burner assembly, it sounds like an older unit. Have you ever flushed out the water tank?

      That would involve removing the plastic drain plug and using a flushing wand to remove possible mineral build up that is lying in the bottom of the tank. I would suggest doing that as well. If the drain plug has been in the unit for awhile you might want to have a spare plug in case it breaks in the removal process.

      Good luck! Let us know how it turns out!

    • Terry on March 20, 2017 at 2:56 PM
    • Reply

    I recently bought a camper and it has a suburban water heater, but I went to light the pilot but it seems as if no propane is getting to the pilot is there anything I can do before paying someone to check it out.

    1. Hi, Terry!

      Gas will flow anytime you are pressing down on the red button. The thermocouple “little rod” is the device that provides a millivolt current to the main gas valve which holds the pilot valve open, allowing the pilot to burn after you release the red button. If you cannot get a flame to light while pressing and holding the red button after you are certain there is adequate propane to the water heater then you may have a clogged pilot orifice or a bad gas valve altogether.

      Once lit you may have to wait 30 seconds or more before turning the knob to the on position for it to stay lit.

      Also, do you have enough propane in your tank/tanks? Do you have an adequate flame at the stovetop inside?

    • victor cadena on March 8, 2017 at 10:19 AM
    • Reply

    Why won’t the on/off switch on the water heater outside turn back to the off position. It is currently on since I am plugged in to 30 amp power. It won’t turn off so I can run it of gas.

    1. Hi, Victor!

      Are you saying the switch on the outside of the water heater located behind the water heater cover won’t turn to the off position even if you push on it?

    • Brenda on January 7, 2017 at 12:12 PM
    • Reply

    We just replaced a suburban water heater. It works great but we don’t have electric now. We just replaced the converter a month ago? Any ideas?

    1. Hi, Brenda!

      Did you replace the water heater with the exact replacement to your previous model? When you say you don’t have electric now does that mean thw water heeater does not heat water on 120 volt power or you don’t have 120 volt power in the RV?

    • Paul Wayte on January 5, 2017 at 4:47 PM
    • Reply

    I have an Atwood GC6AA-9E 6.5 gal propane only water heater that has an ignitor activated from an inside the trailer switch. When turned on, the ignitor lights the propane and flame is clear blue but after 4-5 seconds something clicks and flame shuts off. Was working fine 2 months ago. Thanks for any help you may offer.

    1. Hi, Paul!

      Just a simple question first as it is best to start with the obvious. What is the level of your propane tank? If there is not enough pressure the water heater may fire up and then quit because of that issue. Let me know and we’ll go from there.

    • Jim Gallogley on December 20, 2016 at 1:22 AM
    • Reply

    I have today changed the anode in my suburban hot water system, now the water wont heat i pulled the fuse before i trained the tank and filled t again before re inserting the fuse, other items that operate of the same fuse are ok

    Its operating on 240V no problems before changing the anode.

    How long does it take to heat the water from stone cold to warm

    Regards

    Jim

    1. Hi, Jim!

      Thanks for stopping by our website.

      Changing the anode rod should not affect the operation of your water heater unless you pulled a wire loose somewhere in the area of the anode rod installation. If yours is a combo gas/electric, try heating on propane and see if that works. If not then you are having a problem with the 12-volt system that controls the operation of the water heater. Water heats quickly in these units. You should be ready in less than half an hour and quicker if you run it on both gas and electric to recycle the system quicker.

    • Roger Blevins on November 23, 2016 at 8:06 PM
    • Reply

    Water is real hot at tank but warm at spicket

    1. Hi, Roger!

      Check your water heater bypass valve to see if it is closed or if you have an outside shower faucet on but the shower head off.

    • Roger King on November 4, 2016 at 2:16 AM
    • Reply

    New water heater in stalled doing same as old one water gets luke warm for few second then. Back cold checked water heater opening drain valve it is hot but just come out sinks and Shower luke warm for few minutes any help be appreciated thanks

    1. Hi, Roger!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      From what you are telling me it sounds like either the bypass valve on the back of the water heater has not been turned off or there is an outside shower faucet that has both the hot and cold turned on. In either case, that will allow the hot and cold water to mix.

      Check those items and let us know what you find.

    • Gifford Lawson on October 30, 2016 at 1:52 AM
    • Reply

    We have owned this forest river travel trailer for 6 years and the water heater worked flawlessly. Today at 2 different times there was a loud explosion from the heater area upon it auto igniting. Did a search online and ran into your link. Read through learned a lot about rv water heaters,thanks for that. I did not notice any other readers having the same problem though, any ideas? Thanks in advavce. Safe travels.

    1. Hi, Gifford!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!!

      When I have seen this happen it was due to issues with the igniter failing to light the gas sooner. The delay between the gas valve opening and the ignition process is too long, so what you are hearing is the ignition of LP when it finally does ignite.

      I would check / clean your igniter and the parts associated with part of the process and see if that solves your problem. While you are at it be sure you have a suitable flame once it is going to be sure you have a good flame.

      Best of luck and happy travels!!

        • Brad Bishop on June 30, 2019 at 4:46 PM
        • Reply

        Hello , I am having the exact same issue with the propane causeing a small explosion but the flame not coming on. I cleaned the igniter as you suggested but it is still happening. Any other suggestions from there ? Thank you

        1. Hi Brad!

          What make and model of water heater do you have?

    • Larry on October 9, 2016 at 10:52 AM
    • Reply

    Mike – I cant get my Suburban water heater to work in gas or electric mode. I believe I started the heater up w/o enough water in it when I powered up with a 30 amp service at the campsite because it worked initially then quit, but the rocker switch on the heater was set to 12 volt mode. Will the heater override the 12 volt when connected to a 30 amp service. Hope I didn’t explain this like a dummy. Thanks, Larry

    1. Hi, Larry!

      Your Suburban water heater only needs the 12-volt electrical system to run the circuit board that controls ignition of the heater in either gas or electric mode. If you turned on the heater in electric mode without enough water you may have burned up the heating element. Be careful if you did, because if you fill the water heater and turn on the electric you may create an RV hot skin condition.

    • Mike on September 26, 2016 at 7:49 PM
    • Reply

    Thank You!
    Safe travels.

    • Mike on September 18, 2016 at 10:57 AM
    • Reply

    Burner flame is mostly blue. Had some trouble with pilot light. Did not want to stay lit for a while, but then stayed on.
    I blew out the unit with compressed air, and cycled unit several times with success.
    Think I will purchase a Pilot burner/thermocouple assembly for replacement. Is this hard to replace?
    Is there an online source for this?

    1. Hi, Mike!

      Sorry, I have been on the road and had not had time to take care of website comments!

      You can purchase that part at Amazon and it is fairly easy to install! From what you have told me and done so far you should have no trouble. You can also go to YouTube and search that subject. Many have published videos on the subject! Good luck!!

    • Mike on September 15, 2016 at 7:06 PM
    • Reply

    Thanks!
    will look. Looked mostly blue last time I looked, but I spend a lot of time above 9000 feet.
    This has not been a problem for the last 6 years.
    Will reply.

    • Mike on September 10, 2016 at 3:04 PM
    • Reply

    I have a Suburban SW6P. It has worked properly in the past, but this summer, after lighting the pilot and main burner, the unit heats up properly and shuts off. But when the tank temperature calls for the burner again, there is the sound of the gas igniting, and then it seems to blow out the flame and pilot light.
    Any ideas?

    1. Hi, Mike!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      From what you are telling me I would check out the color of your flame when the water heater burner is ignited. You want to have a mostly blue flame with a little bit of yellow. If you don’t have that, this may be why you are having trouble keeping it lit. It can blow itself out if not set properly.

      Try that and let us know how that works out!

    • Roger Spears on July 21, 2016 at 9:01 PM
    • Reply

    I have a suburban SW6DE that will heat properly with electric or gas. The problem is water will flow into the tank and heat but no hot water will come out in either of the two sinks or the shower. There is a stoppage somewhere as the water tries to exit the tank. Any ideas how to fix this?

    1. Hi, Roger!

      There are valves at the backside of the water heater. If you have access to that, this would be the first place I would look. Be sure the bypass valve is closed and the valve for the water coming out of the heater is on.

      Check back in and let us know what you have discovered!

      1. Yes hello,I bought my daughter a 2003 outback keystone an had to replace hot water heater! When we bought this camper a week ago he told us it needed a new one an we bought a gas/electric atwood from rv place in Houston Texas! Husband installed it an it will not light up for gas or electric an when I use the switch inside on either or gas or electric switch it blows a 15 amp fuse every time. So frustrating! Any advise to first time r.v user/buyer please ???😧

        1. Hi Lynette!

          There could be many reasons this is happening. If there is a fuse that is blowing then there is a short in the system. I would suggest starting at the source of the power and tracing it.

    • Doug on July 8, 2016 at 1:46 AM
    • Reply

    when you turn on the hot water heater ( gas ) ,once the water is hot and you have a shower it runs out of hot water quit fast . Should it not kick in to keep up .

    1. Hi, Doug! Thanks for stopping by our website!

      RV water heaters come in sizes from six to twelve gallons. On propane, depending on the incoming water temperature, it takes about ten minutes or so for the water to be hot enough. Check your hot water temperature and see what that is. It should be uncomfortably hot. When mixed with cold water a ten-gallon tank can give you an adequate shower.

      The water heater should continue to fire as hot water is being used. Check that too. Turn on the hot water, go outside and see if the water heater burner assembly ignites and stays on.

      Check back in and let us know what you find. Good luck!!

    • Nancy Harper on April 10, 2016 at 5:35 PM
    • Reply

    I think that mud dabbers have built clay homes up inside my suburban water heater. Is there any way we can make sure and clean them out? Our electric will not turn on. the reset buttons arent sticking out and they are pushed in and you cant push them in anymore. The gas works but it is creating soot. We have used the water heater once last year when we bought the trailer. We have always made sure there was water in the water heater. We drained it to winterize and made sure the heater was turned off.

    1. Hi, Nancy! Thanks for stopping by our website!

      You can easily access the water burner assembly by removing the sidewall cover and then removing the propane burner assembly. From there you will be able to look into the round chamber and see what debris may be in there. If you are uncomfortable with these procedures get a qualified RV technician to help you out. The burner soot problem is just an adjustment of the burner assembly. The rest of the issues might be best checked by a tech.

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