Easy RV Hot Water Heater Maintenance Guide + Cleaning Tips

It is important to keep up with your RV hot water heater maintenance. We typically check ours 2-3 times a year and change out our anode rod as often as needed as part of our RV maintenance routine.

RV hot water heart maintenance can be a bit intimidating for new RV owners, but don’t worry; if we can do it, you can too!

I’m going to walk you through step-by-step how we handle our hot water heater maintenance, including changing out an anode rode and flushing your RV hot water heater, and we’ll be answering a few commonly asked questions. 

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Preparation and Tools Needed for RV Hot Water Heater Maintenance

There are multiple kinds of water heaters. Both tankless and with a water tank like the Suburban water heater in our RV.

Suburban water heaters are pretty common on camper trailers and are what we will be showing you today. Ours has both an electric heating element and a gas burner.

Atwood water heaters and Furrion water heaters are also common and are similarly maintained.

Tools and Items Needed for RV Hot Water Heater Maintenance

The tools needed for RV hot water heater maintenance
Tools Needed For RV Hot Water Heater Maintenance

You will only need a handful of tools, which are listed below:

How to Get Ready

There are a few essential things you need to do before you start. First of all, make sure that your hot water heater is turned off.

This includes both the gas and electric elements, depending on what your RV has. You will want to let it cool off so you don’t burn yourself. 

Next, disconnect the fresh water hose from your RV if you are connected to any. You will need water access shortly but have it unconnected to start with. 

The next step is to release any pressure in your water lines by opening a water faucet, a drain valve, or a drain plug on your RV.

Then take the water heater access panel off of your hot water heater and release the air pressure by opening the air pressure relief valve. This is very important, so don’t skip it! 

If you’d prefer, you can watch our short YouTube video below instead, where Tucker shows everything as well as gives some other tips. It’s perfect if you’re a more visual learner! 

RV Hot Water Heater Maintenance – Anode Rod Replacement, Flushing Our Hot Water Heater, and More!

How to Replace an RV Anode Rod and Clean Out Your Hot Water Heater 

First, you will use a wrench to remove the existing anode rod. This will result in a lot of water pouring out of your hot water heater…be prepared so you don’t get soaked!

Once all the water has drained out of your RV water heater tank, you are ready to clean the inside of your hot water heater. Start by connecting the wand to a garden hose with good water pressure.

Insert the wand inside the hole where the anode rod came from and turn the hose on. Once again, water will flow out of the hole, so be cautious to avoid getting wet. 

Flushing out our RV hot water heater with a hose
Cleaning Out Our RV Hot Water Heater

Using the wand, spray water all around the inside of your hot water heater using different angles to be sure you get it all.

You should see white calcium flakes (or even chunks) of mineral deposits coming out with the water flowing out of the hot water heater. It’s possible you might experience a rotten eggs smell.

Once you don’t see any more calcium buildup and you are sure you have it cleaned out, turn the water off and take the wand out. Let all of the water drain out of the hot water tank. 

Now you’re ready to install your new anode rod! First, use the plumber’s thread tape to wrap around the thread of your new anode rod.

This ensures a solid seal and keeps water from leaking around the anode rod. Place the anode rod back in the water heater and tighten it. 

Refilling Your Hot Water Heater and the Final Steps

Leave the air valve open and reconnect your water hose. Let the hot water heater fill completely before closing the air valve. You will know it is full because water will flow out of the valve. 

Once it is full you can close the air valve and put the cover back on your hot water heater. Be careful in case it is already hot! 

And now your RV water heater is good to go again! If you haven’t traveled with your RV in a while, consider completing this maintenance as part of your RV prep before your next trip.

Commonly Asked Questions about RV Water Heater Maintenance 

How Often Should You Replace an RV Anode Rod?  

How often you need to replace your anode rod is determined by multiple factors and will differ for each individual.

The main factors will be the quality of water you put into your RV, and how often you use your hot water heater (i.e., part-time or full-time RVers). 

A high-grade water filtration system can drastically improve your water quality. We use the ClearSource Ultra Triple Canister water filtration system while we travel, and it’s fantastic!

If you watch the video above, then you know that we were expecting to need to change our anode rod but were happily surprised to find that it still had plenty of use left in it.

We attribute this to the Clearsource filters doing an amazing job of keeping the water quality high! This is one of our recommended RV Essentials.

If you want to purchase a Clearsource system, use our affiliate code TUCKNAE25 for $25 off any system.

You can also use code TUCKNAE for 10% off replacement filters.

Let us know if you have any questions, we have been using Clearsource for over 2 1/2 years and really love it! 

How do you know if your anode rod needs to be replaced?

You will only know if it’s ready to be replaced by removing it from your hot water heater. If it is eaten away by calcium and has just a small “stick” left, it is ready to replace. 

If there is still a resemblance of a rod, it has life left in it and can be returned to your hot water heater as we did with ours in the video above. 

As you can see in the picture below, there will be a significant difference between your new and old anode rods when they are ready to be replaced.

A new RV anode rod above an old RV anode rod
New Vs. Used Anode Rods

How Often Should RV Water Heater Cleaning/Rinsing Be Done?

Once again, this also depends on how often you use it. Also, if the water quality is good, your anode rod won’t deteriorate as fast, resulting in less buildup in your water heater tank.

We usually clean ours 2-3 times yearly when we check on our RV water heater anode rod. You could clean yours every 2-3 months if your water quality is lower to keep it in tip-top shape.

In Closing: Easy RV Hot Water Heater Maintenance Guide + Cleaning Tips

I hope that you have found this post helpful. Now, you are ready to do your own regular maintenance on your water heater!

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Much Love, Janae xoxo
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Janae, alongside her husband, Tucker, has turned the world into her playground. Having lived and traveled in an RV for over four years, she has trekked through 22 US national parks, ventured across 28 states, and explored the natural beauty of 12 countries. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been when she witnessed Iceland's shimmering Northern Lights, explored the rugged terrains of Southern Utah, and traveled across Ireland for almost two months. A lover of adventure and couple travel, Janae's writings have been featured in notable travel websites and magazines, and she has collected an online community of over 30,000 passionate fellow travelers.

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