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Old 05-09-2021, 02:43 PM   #1
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Hot water heater issues

I just got back home from first trip and boy was it eventful. The positive side of the trip is that I learned a ton about towing and about the trailer. Unfortunately, the biggest headache was the hot water heater. I could not figure out how the hell to get it to work. I could not get water into it no matter what I tried. I even got support from the dealer where I bought the trailer to no avail.

I have a 26dbh and when I set up I ran the water line into the trailer. I hooked up electric, sewer and everything else as I had planned after watching a million youtube videos. I turned on the water pump and the water heater switch. I turned on the electric power switch at the outside panel based on what I was told about the hot water heater using propane AND electric at the same time in order go give you more than the 6 gallons it holds. Nothing!

A nearby camper asked me if I had filled the fresh water tank and I said no because I was hooked up the city water line. I filled it up anyway. Nothing. I opened up the valve on the overflow and all I got was a little bit of trapped air. I turned the system off, on, off, on, I walked in and out of the trailer, around the trailer....you name it, all while trying to get the hot water heater to turn on. At one point the gas line turned on. I could hear the gas burning.

At one point I saw smoke coming out of the release valve. The release pin popped out and I could no longer use it to release the pressure inside of the tank. I shut everything down and waited a while. When I came back the release pin was back to normal. I gave up at that point. The next day I found a video online that said to turn on the hot water in the kitchen and that would fill the water tank. I tried it and nothing. I gave up again.

I do not know what I did wrong or what step I missed. If anyone has any ideas please let me know. I know there is a chance that I burned the heating element so I am going to order a few replacements from Amazon. It was no fun not having hot water.

Any ideas for those of you with a Grey Wolf?
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Old 05-09-2021, 02:48 PM   #2
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The winterization valves on the back of the water heater are set wrong. You need to access the back of the water heater which is likely in a cabinet or behind a panel on the inside of the trailer. On my old trailer I had to take the back wall out of my pass-through storage compartment and crawl in there to get to the back of the water heater. On my new trailer the back of the water heater is behind a panel held on by two screws under the bathroom sink.

The bad news is you likely damaged the water heater by running it dry. At a minimum you likely burned up the electric element, which would explain the smoke coming from the relief valve. The gas side may be OK if you didn't damage the tank itself due to overheating.

BTW, you do not turn on the water pump when connected to city water. Also it's quite possible where is an antifreeze suction on the inlet side of the water pump and since your hot water winterization valves are set wrong, you may have an issue with the antifreeze suction still being open.

I would suggest you find someone experienced in winterizing an RV to show you personally where all these valves are at on your trailer and show you which position they are in for winterization and which position is normal use.

Never turn on gas or electric to any water heater (home or RV) unless you are sure it is full of water.
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Old 05-09-2021, 03:00 PM   #3
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I tried to find the access panel to the water heater and I could find it. I went into the bedroom and opened the closet. There was a little panel covering the outlet where the water heater is plugged in. Besides that, nothing. I could not reach the water heater from the storage area either. I looked from the outside and all I saw were two valves for hot and cold water lines that were on the correct way.

So the smoke could have been something other than the heating element that screws into the water heater?

What really sucks about this is that I read through the only document that I had on the water heater. It was of now use because it was basically the installation guide. It did not include any information about HOW to get water into the water heater.
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Old 05-09-2021, 03:04 PM   #4
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This is an example of water heater bypass (winterization) valves. These are currently set in the bypass direction and no water will be flowing in our out of the water heater. Turn both valve handles to point into the water heater and they will be set for normal operation. There are also three valve setups where the valves on the inlet and outlet pipes to the water get open, and the valve in the bypass pipe gets shut for normal operations. There is also a very uncommon single valve setup and handle pointing into the water heater inlet is normal use, valve in line with the straight section of piping is bypass.

There was a thread on here recently where it looked like a person had an RV with the two bypass valves that were installed incorrectly and they needed to actually be reinstalled "upside down" with the handles on the bottom of the valves rather than on top. Post a photo of the back of your water heater and we can tell you.
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Old 05-09-2021, 03:07 PM   #5
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****!!!!! That is exactly what I saw. I thought that the handle being inline with the tubes meant that they were open. I assumed it was like all of the other water lines I know of: main house water valve, sprinkler system valve, pool valve, etc....
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Old 05-09-2021, 03:11 PM   #6
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That's why we recommend Camp Driveway BEFORE going on a trip.
That way you can make sure everything works while at home.
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Old 05-09-2021, 03:12 PM   #7
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From what you have described, it sounds like you have ruined your water heater. I may be wrong, and it mat be salvageable, but everything you did was everything you shouldn’t have done. Hopefully I’m wrong.

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Old 05-09-2021, 03:18 PM   #8
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The best thing when in doubt is to pressurize the system with either city water or fresh water pump (not both). You should get water flowing from both cold and hot water faucets (maybe air spitting for a bit). Once you get water flowing from both hot and cold faucets, close all the faucets and then manually pop open the relief valve on the water heater. Be prepared. You should get a solid stream of water with the handle manually opened.

Then turn off your water supply and open a hot water faucet to depressurize the water heater tank and exercise the relief valve handle a couple of times - open it and let it snap back closed. This should reseat it. Then turn on your water supply again. Then and only then turn on gas and/or electric to the water heater.

Once you've verified everything is correct with this procedure, as long as you don't mess with any of the winterization valves all you need to do is hook up water or turn on water pump and make sure you have water out of a hot water faucet before turning on gas/electric to the water heater.
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Old 05-09-2021, 03:20 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by TTnewbie View Post
****!!!!! That is exactly what I saw. I thought that the handle being inline with the tubes meant that they were open. I assumed it was like all of the other water lines I know of: main house water valve, sprinkler system valve, pool valve, etc....
They are two way valves.

In the photo, it does mean they are open to the bypass line and closed to the tank. Turning the handle will open them to the tank and closed to the bypass.

You have likely burned out the element. (smoke) Do not fill the water heater now and turn on the element until you get that fixed. There is a possibility for electrical shock!

Using BOTH electric and propane does give you faster recovery but it doesn't give you additional gallons of hot water. It simply reheats quicker.

Shame on your selling dealer for not going over this R/V 101 stuff with you. The support should have been when you purchased and not useless information over the phone when you were having issues. They should fix this for you for free due to their lack of explaining this important process. And... as you have found out, they didn't explain a lot of other things to you such as not using the on-board pump while on city water.
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Old 05-09-2021, 03:24 PM   #10
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TTNewbie - I had a similar issue when dewinterizing my new 26dbh a month ago. Not sure what year yours is but on mine (2021) the water pump is in the far back of the front storage (sounds like that is where you were looking for the water heater maybe?) while the water heater is in the back storage by the dump outs. When looking in that back compartment, to the left is one of those little divider walls and the water heater is behind that.

I never turned on the water heater as I was only clearing out the antifreeze and sanitizing, but wasn’t getting any water when opening the hot water faucets. Figured the valve was set to bypass the water heater but couldn’t see a valve by the water heater. After a few minutes of cussing, googling, etc I stuck my head in there further with a brighter light and found it. Was tough to reach but got it flipped and problem was resolved.

Willie
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Old 05-09-2021, 03:25 PM   #11
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You have likely burned out the element. (smoke)
Plus he fired-up the propane. (worse smoke, tank damage, shattered glass lining)

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Old 05-09-2021, 03:48 PM   #12
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Look under the mattress at the head of the bed on left side (street side) for an access hole to the water heater and water pump valves.
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Old 05-09-2021, 04:07 PM   #13
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That's why we recommend Camp Driveway BEFORE going on a trip.
That way you can make sure everything works while at home.
I've never heard of Camp Driveway. Was the dealer supposed to tell me about it?
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Old 05-09-2021, 04:09 PM   #14
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Look under the mattress at the head of the bed on left side (street side) for an access hole to the water heater and water pump valves.
No such hole exists on the rear platform of my bedframe.
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Old 05-09-2021, 04:20 PM   #15
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They are two way valves.

In the photo, it does mean they are open to the bypass line and closed to the tank. Turning the handle will open them to the tank and closed to the bypass.

You have likely burned out the element. (smoke) Do not fill the water heater now and turn on the element until you get that fixed. There is a possibility for electrical shock!

Using BOTH electric and propane does give you faster recovery but it doesn't give you additional gallons of hot water. It simply reheats quicker.

Shame on your selling dealer for not going over this R/V 101 stuff with you. The support should have been when you purchased and not useless information over the phone when you were having issues. They should fix this for you for free due to their lack of explaining this important process. And... as you have found out, they didn't explain a lot of other things to you such as not using the on-board pump while on city water.
I'm definitely taking this up with the dealer. They mentioned ABSOLUTELY nothing about valves being shut for winterizing of the water heater. I even asked for the trailer to have water running but they said that it would an extra cost to them to re-winterize the trailer. At the end of the day it will be my word against theirs so I am not going to go crazy here.

If I damaged the water heater I replace it. From what I saw online they run from $350 to $500. I also noticed that there are larger capacity hot water heaters available. Is there any particular reason why manufacturers use 6 gallon units?

But first, how do I test to see if the heater works? I will order the electrode and replace it. The trailer is stored at a lot without any water available. How much water do I need to bring with me in order to put water in the fresh water tank to test it?
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Old 05-09-2021, 05:22 PM   #16
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Yeah the water heater is under the bottom bunk by the ladder. There is no hole, access panel, etc from there, have to get to it from the storage compartment underneath that bed. I am thinking of making an access panel but just not to that point yet.

Willie
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Old 05-09-2021, 06:56 PM   #17
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I've never heard of Camp Driveway. Was the dealer supposed to tell me about it?
No.
You learn about it by reading RV forums or asking experienced RV owners.
I'm pretty sure it was suggested in one of your many threads. But I could be wrong.
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Old 05-09-2021, 07:25 PM   #18
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I've never heard of Camp Driveway. Was the dealer supposed to tell me about it?
Camp Driveway is a suggestion to setup and camp in your driveway BEFORE going on your 1st outing to familiarize yourself with your R/V and work out any kinks while in the comfort of being in familiar surroundings... home!

You're really going to need to have someone show you how to dewinterize, get the element replaced and see if the tank is OK before jumping to conclusions that you need to replace it.

Yes, there are larger tanks (10 gallon is the next step up) but thousands of folks get by on a 6 gallon tank every camping trip.

Camping in a R/V is not like having what seems like unlimited resources you have at home. Things like Navy showers or staggered showers go a long way to getting the best from the limited resources you have with a R/V.

Your dealer seems useless. To charge you extra to dewinterize on a unit you just purchased is ludicrous. You may need to employ the services of a mobile tech to help you understand the nuances of your R/V. Do you know any seasoned R/Ver you could have come help you?
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Old 05-09-2021, 08:08 PM   #19
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Yeah the water heater is under the bottom bunk by the ladder. There is no hole, access panel, etc from there, have to get to it from the storage compartment underneath that bed. I am thinking of making an access panel but just not to that point yet.

Willie
My water heater is in the front under the bedroom or whatever you call it. I have the water pump in the location that you are talking about.
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Old 05-09-2021, 08:09 PM   #20
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No.
You learn about it by reading RV forums or asking experienced RV owners.
I'm pretty sure it was suggested in one of your many threads. But I could be wrong.
It could have been suggested but I don't recall that name. I am pretty sure that I would have remembered if someone told me to set up my trailer on my driveway and do a trial and error run through because my trailer will not fit on my driveway. lol It makes sense though.
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