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RV Water Heater That Won't Light

One of the many advantages of RV camping over tent camping is the luxury of stepping into a hot shower in the comfort of your home away from home. No matter where you camp in your RV, you’ll have hot water. That is, as long as your water heater is working. Sometimes your water heater may choose to go on strike, giving you the chills (literally!). Here’s how to deal with an RV water heater that won't light.

Diagnosing the Issue of No Hot Water

Before you tear apart the water heater, let's make sure that the lack of hot water isn't being caused by something other than the water heater. There are some valves to check to ensure that everything is flowing where it should be. If it’s your first time out after having the RV in storage for the winter, check your bypass valve to ensure that water is going into the water heater. Next you want to ensure that the water heater is actually on. Some of them are gas only and some are dual power. Under the sink you will find switches to turn it on. Make sure the switches are in the ON position. Once you know that the water heater is getting both the power and water it needs, you can move on to the water pump. If you are using the water in your freshwater tank, the pump needs to be on to push the water through the pipes. You won't have any water pressure at all for hot or cold if the pump is off (unless you have a direct water inlet). Now that you’ve looked into all the other possible causes of a lack of hot water, it’s pretty safe to say that the issue is with the water heater itself. Let's examine the hot water heater.

What Could Be Causing It


If air is getting into the LP lines somewhere, it can be hard for the water heater to light. To find out if this is the problem, light your stove burners, leave them going, and then turn on the water heater. If it lights easily, then you most likely have air entering the system somewhere.

Bad Connection

If you have a DSI water heater, and the light on the switch comes on but it doesn’t even try to light, the problem could be a bad connection. You can sometimes reset this by unplugging the PC board and then plugging it back in. If it does not correct the problem, you may need a new PC board.

ECO Switch

Some water heaters will have an Energy Cut Off switch in the event that things get too hot in there. Sometimes the solution can be as simple as locating these switches and resetting them. Other times, these switches can go bad and pop before they’re supposed to. So if you reset it and it pops again but it doesn’t seem like it’s getting too hot, you may have to replace the switch.

Clogged Burner Tube

The tube where the flames come from can get clogged from a lot of different things. It could be dirt from the road, remaining residue, or a spider may have made her home inside it. This will block the propane from reaching the igniter and it won't be able to light. Use compressed air to blow out the tube to see if this corrects the problem. You should also blow out the chamber while you’re at it just to ensure that everything is clean.

These are just a few possible causes of your water heater not wanting to work correctly. Always refer to your RV's owner's manual before trying to do any work on it yourself. If you are not comfortable with doing the work yourself, or you’re still struggling with finding the cause of the problem, take your RV to a service center where they can diagnose and fix the problem for you. After all, you'll need that hot shower up and running when you get back from your thrilling hike into Mendenhall Glacier Ice Caves!

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