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Old 04-16-2016, 12:03 PM   #1
2 Rivet Member
1975 31' Sovereign
Prudenville , Michigan
Join Date: Apr 2016
Posts: 46
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How to change out water heater?

We need to put in a new water heater. From what we've seen on the forums that the easiest way to get it out is to cut it in pieces. We have a rear bath so that is where ours lives. So the question is what is the best way to put in a new one? Is it mostly swearing and wishing we'd paid someone else to do it? What is the best way to put one in?

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Old 04-16-2016, 12:25 PM   #2
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1974 Argosy 20
2014 20' Flying Cloud
Kooskia , Idaho
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 4,591
The water heater is not at all difficult to replace, other than sometimes the pipes are not quite in the same place on the new ones.

There is no need to "cut it into pieces" to remove. Simply disconnect the hot an cold water pipes from the inside, then remove the gas line from the outside. Then remove all the screws on the flange of the water heater. They are visible from the outside under tut hhe cover. With a putty knife, cut the seal between the heater and the skin of the trailer. Once that is done it should pull out in one piece but it may be difficult, the original opening, and the sealant may make it a little stuck in place.

The new one is put into place in the reverse order. The gas inlet location may not be the same on the old one vs. the new one, and you might have to figure out how to re route it.

If all of that sounds like too much, have a professional at an RV place do it. It need not be taken to an Airstream dealer, if a good RV shop is closer. Nothing special about the Airstream vs. any other trailer relative to the water heater.

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Old 04-16-2016, 12:42 PM   #3
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2007 22' International CCD
Corona , California
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 4,277
Put a good layer of blue painters tape next to the flange and out 3-4 inches to keep the putty knife from scratching the skin whilst you are trying to break the sealant free. I had 3/4 inch thick blobs of caulk all over the flange and water heater body. At least it did not leak...

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Old 04-16-2016, 07:45 PM   #4
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1986 34' Limited
1975 27' Overlander
Conifer , Colorado
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The standard Atwood 6 gallon water heater is a straight forward appliance. I recommend you learn PEX plumbing system as it is quite easy and versatile if relocating the hot or cold water lines to your new heater. Many folks install a by pass valve while installing a new water heater. It just makes winterizing easier. And as always, check for gas leaks when re-connecting the propane line. New water heaters have electronic ignition requiring a 12v power source, and mounting the on, off switch somewhere convenient in the trailer.

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Old 04-17-2016, 10:49 AM   #5
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1969 23' Safari
Palmer Lake , Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 560
We had to have ours replaced. They never seem to go out and start leaking at a good time and ours was on a cold night somewhere in Colorado at 2:00 am and it announced itself with an increasingly wet floor. I'm not a plumber and I don't work with gas / electric connections unless it's an emergency fix (which means I simply unplug or turn off). For us there was not a 1:1 replacement model which required some removal and replacement of external trim and also the custom manufacture of a new cover door since the vent was in a different location. No big deal, it was done quickly and with the auto ignite it sure is nice to flip a switch inside to start the water heater instead of holding down a button or two trying to get a pilot lit.
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Old 04-17-2016, 03:21 PM   #6
4 Rivet Member
1973 31' Sovereign
Middletown , California
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 424
It's important to buy the same model as a replacement so that it fits the hole and you won't have to improvise as much. You should have a 10 gallon Suburban if it's the original water heater and the newer ones have a different door. A new one will fit right in and you should be able to use the same screw holes in the wall but the gas pipe will probably need a new hole and the water pipes will be a little out of place. It's too bad they don't put a drip pan under these things so that you don't end up with a wet floor when they leak. Maybe they want you to know your water heater needs work from your squishy socks?

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