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RV Water Heater Isn’t Working On Electric Or Gas – What To Do?

You want to enjoy a nice, hot shower in your RV but the water heater isn’t working. Now you’re wondering what you can do to solve this problem. We researched some possible solutions for you, and here’s what we found.

Troubleshoot your RV water heater to find the source of the issue. Take note that the source of the problem can vary and may be due to the pilot light going out frequently, a faulty electronic ignition, or loose parts. Take the appropriate steps based on the underlying complication to fix the heater properly.

Keep in mind that you may need to replace some faulty parts to restore your RV water heater’s functionality. Continue reading as we talk about these underlying issues in greater detail. We’ll also discuss some possible solutions to repair this plumbing fixture in your camping vehicle.

Before you continue reading, let us say we hope you find the links here useful. If you purchase something through a link on this page, we may get a commission, so thank you!

Instant tankless electric water heater, RV Water Heater Isn't Working On Electric Or Gas - What To Do?

Why Is My RV Water Heater Not Heating?

Perhaps the first step to fixing an RV water heater that’s not functioning properly or at all is to identify the source of the issue. That way, you can proceed with the correct repair procedure.

Hot letters on a RV water heater vent

Some of the reasons that an electric or gas RV water heater is malfunctioning or breaks down are:

Pilot Light Keeps Going Out

Gas RV water heaters have pilot lights that help heat water in this plumbing fixture. Generally, it should stay on as the water heater is running. But some issues may prevent the pilot light from maintaining its flame. Some of these possible reasons are:

  • Dirty thermocouple or pilot tube
  • Faulty flex tube
  • Draft in the main water-heating unit
  • Broken or damaged control valve

In fairly minor cases, you only need to relight the pilot light to restore the gas RV water heater’s functionality. But if it keeps going out, you may need to dig deeper into your camping vehicle’s camping system to find the source of this problem.

Faulty Electronic Ignition

Unlike a gas RV water heater that needs a pilot light, electric models often only need a flick of a switch to operate their functionalities. But this electronic starter may sometimes malfunction, causing the water heater to fail.

But it can also mean that the built-in thermostat or the emergency cutoff feature is faulty, which resulted in the electronic ignition failure. Replacing these components may restore the device’s water-heating capabilities.

Loose Parts

Nuts, bolts, and some connections in the water heater’s framework might be loose, causing it to fail at heating water. Troubleshoot the fixture by ensuring the fasteners and pipelines are as tight as possible. Also, check for leaks, which may also reduce the amount of heated water going through the RV’s plumbing lines.

How To Fix RV Water Heater Not Working On Electric Or Gas?

Pilot flame gas boiler with wide angle

As mentioned previously, you should find out the reason why your electric or gas water heater isn’t working. Once the problem is found, continue reading this section to learn the general steps for fixing the issue based on the underlying concern.

Light The RV Water Heater Pilot

Take note that different RVs often have varying placements for their water-heating systems. So the locations of the pilot lights usually differ for each camping vehicle. Check your RV owner’s manual to find out the location of the water heater’s pilot light before proceeding.

Once you find the pilot light’s placement, continue this process by following these steps:

What You’ll Need

  • Lighter

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Open the cover to expose the water-heating system.
  2. Turn the pilot knob to the position that says ‘Pilot.’
  3. Push the pilot knob down.
  4. Maintain sufficient pressure on the pilot knob while using a lighter to ignite the pilot light.
  5. Continue pressing the pilot knob for about 30 seconds or until the pilot light is stable.
  6. Remove pressure from the pilot knob and twist it to the ‘On’ position.

Check out this electric lighter on Amazon.

You can also see the steps above in action by watching the video below:

Also, you can read more about this procedure by checking out our post on how to manually light RV furnace and water heater.

Replace The Thermocouple

If the pilot light keeps going out, the water heater’s thermocouple might be faulty and need replacing. Make sure to purchase a compatible replacement thermocouple to avoid spending money on a unit that won’t fit.

With your replacement thermocouple ready, proceed with this process by going through these steps:

What You’ll Need

  • Replacement thermocouple kit
  • Wrench

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Open the latch to expose the water heater’s framework.
  2. Pull out the old thermocouple connection from the RV.
  3. Remove the nut holding the other end of the thermocouple connection with a wrench.
  4. Install the new thermocouple while following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  5. Test the new unit by turning on the pilot light and the water heater.

Check out this replacement RV water heater thermocouple on Amazon.

Be sure to watch the video below to see a visual representation of this procedure:

Replace The Igniter

Before proceeding with this task, turn off the power from the RV. Doing so will help prevent a high risk of short-circuiting while working with the electric water heater.

What You’ll Need

  • Wrench
  • Replacement igniter

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Open the cover to the water heater to expose the system.
  2. Pull out the cover that secures the igniter’s connection to the RV. Take out the igniter’s cable from the rest of the system afterward.
  3. Remove the bolt from the bracket that’s securing the rest of the igniter’s assembly.
  4. Install the new igniter based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
  5. Test the new water heater ignition module to see if the problem persists.

Check out this RV water heater igniter repair part on Amazon.

The video below will provide you with a visual guide on how to complete this process. The person in the video will also give you additional steps on how to replace an RV water heater’s control board if you find it necessary:

How Do You Reset An RV Gas Water Heater?

The fire burns in the modern water heater without cover

Resetting a gas water heater may help solve some relatively minor problems, such as the pilot light going out repeatedly. Take note that you don't need any special skills or tools for this job.

Complete this task by following these steps:

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Open the cover of your RV’s water-heating system.
  2. Look for and push the reset button.
  3. Test the fixture to see if it works properly.

What Is The Best Water Heater For A Motorhome?

White modern gas water heater

Generally, there’s not a single water heater on the market that can provide every benefit to each RV user. Still, some RV water heaters have features and traits that make them stand out from the rest of the crowd. So if you’re thinking about replacing your camping vehicle’s water-heating system, ponder these choices:

1. Camplux Tankless Propane Gas Water Heater

One of the best things about this particular RV water heater is that it's portable. It runs on two D-cell batteries and can produce a maximum hot water temperature of 114.8 degrees Fahrenheit. It also has safety features, such as protection from anti-freeze and dry combustion.

Check out this product on Amazon.

2. Bosch Tronic 3000 Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater

This model is another fairly compact water heater for RVs. This heater’s small construction makes it possible for RV owners to install it in different locations around their camping vehicles. For example, you can install it in the bathroom or by the kitchen sink.

Check out this product on Amazon.

3. Girard 2GWHAM Tankless Water Heater

If you have the extra cash to spend, you may want to purchase this water heater for your RV. Although this electric water heater is quite expensive, it can heat water almost immediately. It’s also quite efficient in maintaining a consistent temperature when heating water.

Check out this product on Amazon.

4. Suburban Gas And Electric Water Heater

Another expensive model for this list, this heater provides optimal flexibility for RV users. As its name implies, you can change the source of this water heater when needed. However, the unit is quite large, so make sure you have sufficient room for it in your camping vehicle.

Check out this product on Amazon.

At this point, you might also find it interesting to know the costs of replacing an RV water heater. If so, read our post on that topic to learn the answer.

Final Words

An electric or gas RV water heater may not heat water properly or at all if it encounters certain issues. These possible underlying problems might range from pilot light concerns to loose connections. Make sure to troubleshoot the system properly so you can apply the correct measures to solve the main problem.