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Old 07-22-2003, 10:40 PM   #15
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1986 32' Excella
Aurora , Colorado
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You're doing good work!

Sounds to me like you are on the right track. Everything you're going through is what most the rest of us have or are going through. So, hang in there, eat it one bite at a time.

While your tank is accessible be sure to give the interior a good cleaning. I discovered, after some trial and error, that the best way is to first flush it with lots of fresh water, then fill the tank with pure vinegar and cap all the outlets. Vinegar is pretty cheap. Then let the bare tank (filled with vinegar) sit in the hot sun for several days or even a week. After that, drain and flush. Don't be intimidated by what comes out. With a small flashlight shining in one inlet you can visually inspect the interior by looking in an outlet (and vice versa). You may want to repeat the process depending on the degree of mineral deposits and sediment. Then reassemble.

One of the PO's caulked the bottom of the jacket or casing, probably in an attempt to keep dirt and debris out of the fiberglass batting, but if you're tempted to do that don't! the bottom of the casing acts as a drain pan in case the tank starts to leak. A leak would hopefully drain to the outside of the trailer instead of pooling inside. When you reinstall check to make sure that the bottom is level or even a bit slanted to drain outward.

The tank is the same basic design as the new ones except that it must be lit manually. I don't see any reason why an old water heater couldn't be updated with electronic ignition if you wanted to go that way.

Good luck!


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Old 08-01-2003, 01:33 PM   #16
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1973 23' Safari
Brevard , North Carolina
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WH quandry...among others.

I would like to get in on this forum cuz we might be installing a WH in our '67 Safari ourselves. All we have is a hole in the wall and the gas pipe that comes to the stove. I don't know when the WH was taken out or where the gas line is to it. We have removed everything so we are starting from scratch and it's easy to get to.

I had an RV shop guy look at what it would be to make our plumbing workable and install one but he was concerned that there are water pipes that run right under where the WH goes. there are no valves in the pipes so I would have to cut them and add one. He said the pipes need to run above the WH.

How does the water line attach to a basic Atwood pilot unit? I downloaded the brouchure but it doesn't show them in place. I also need to know if I can "t " off the stove gas line for it and how that attaches. Can you solder gas lines just like water pipes? I've done that but they may need special solder or other requirements.

Does anyone have a picture on one in place. I have no idea how it sits in this hole in the trailer....or is supported. The shop guy said that he did think the airstream wall would hold the bolts that hold it in place but I have read where lots of folks install them. He said the wall would have to be reinforced.

I'm about to just boil water on the stove and take baths like in the old days!!! I can operate a stove!!!

After circumnavigating on 40' sailboat, cruising the USA in our '73 Safari, Tara!
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Old 08-01-2003, 01:56 PM   #17
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1978 28' Argosy 28
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First issue is the opening in the skin. In the 60's the water heaters were huge. There is a retrofit kit that fills in the hole and makes it the right size for a 6 gallon attwod. If the hole is the right size for a 6 or 10 gallon attwod you are golden.

If the hole is the right size and you can set it on the floor the skin will support the heater fine. There are screw holes in the flange from atwood, airstream adds a screw in between each of theses factory holes. I have done 2 heaters myself and the inlet/outlet hookup was harder than mounting in the skin.

The water lines running under the heater are not an issue as long as the heater is not sitting on top of the lines. Most RV's including Airstream mount the water heater so it sits on the floor or 1/2 inch up on a peice of plywood. If you are mounting it in the big honking hole with a filler plate of new aluminum then you can position it up an inch or two and save a bit of work. If not then it's just copper pipe. Cut and sweat in new to route around or over the heater. The inlet and outlet fittings are on the back and are 1/2 inch threaded pipe inlets.

Gas, funny thing on gas in the older models, they ran it inside. Newer ones the tubing is all outside, so it is easy to tap into. I would try to follow the gas line from the stove back to where it joins the main line and tap in there. If the stove tube is 1/2 inch then you could just buy a flare T fitting and go from there to the stove and the water heater. both the stove and water heater are considered high volume users or propane, that is why you want to be in a prpoer size line.

Copper for gas should be 1 piece from connector to connector. I do not think soldering is a good idea on a gas line. 1/2 Flex copper tubing is not that costly and you will need a flare tool for the ends. You can get the tool and the flare nuts at home depot.
Brett G
WBCCI #5501 AIR # 49
1978 Argosy 28 foot Motorhome

Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something. -- Plato

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Old 08-01-2003, 02:00 PM   #18
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LOST , Hawaii
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Don't solder gas lines, you will never be able to work on them again without purging the system. A simple repair that can be made with a couple of wrenches will become a major headache.

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Old 08-01-2003, 02:32 PM   #19
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I am probably going to have to get a new water heater
in my '67. I think the one in it is the original but I'm not
sure. The door is the original and thats what I'm
worried about. I called Airstream customer service for
a recommendation for a service place. They reccomended
North Dallas RV. The person I spoke to was rude and
unknowledgeable. He insisted that there was no way
to modify the existing door and I would have to have a
big white door on my trailer. He was supposed to call
me back with info but never did.
Any solutions?? I want to retain the original door.

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Old 08-01-2003, 10:14 PM   #20
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1986 32' Excella
Aurora , Colorado
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Heater door


The design of the door goes with the heater. They can't be fitted to different brands. If you get a new water heater it will come with a white door, but that isn't too big an issue since you can either repaint the door silver or since it will probably be made of aluminum anyway you could strip the white paint off to bare metal. Older doors were anodized, but there are shops that do anodizing. However, I would recommend having a white door stripped and powder coated silver. It's not too expensive and the powder coating is a baked on, high temperature, durable finish.


My '66 Globe Trotter has it's gas lines attached to the underside of the pan. This was the original, factory fitting. The main line running underneath shouldn't ever be fitted inside your trailer, and the fittings to branch off lines to the stove, water heater, furnace, etc. should likewise be on the outside. This is to reduce the possibility of a gas leak filling the interior of the trailer. Better it leak outside for obvious reasons. Use flexible copper tubing with flare fittings. Don't over-tighten on flare fittings as you can pinch the copper tubing to the point that it splits, producing a leak. But making the connections is an easy DIY project. Reduce the possibility of kinking the lines by using a tube bending tool. These are coiled springs about a foot long that come in different diameters and slide over the tubing.
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Old 08-02-2003, 09:02 AM   #21
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Still taking cold showers....

Thanks for your reply. I still dont really get why the
door wont work. I havent seen one tho...
It seems as if the hole in the AS is the same size
no matter what heater is in it. Why not just pull the
door off of the new heater and cover it with the old
cover? Is the door on the new one anything more than
just a cover? If so couldnt an aluminum one be
made? I do like your silver paint idea much better
than the big white door idea.

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Old 08-02-2003, 10:12 AM   #22
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1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre
Anna , Illinois
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Water heater - keep it or replace???

Greetings Heidi!

The door on the water heater provides for both air intake and the exhaust of byproducts from combustion. The Vintage water heater cover may or may not have openings that properly align with the openings on the new heater - - if they do, then it MIGHT be possible to adapt - - if they don't, then the process becomes one of questionable merit (IMHO). Another consideration is that the manufacturer of your new water heater unit may interpret the removal of the factory door/cover and replacement with a modified OEM door to be a violation of warranty and void your warranty if any issues crop up during the warranty period - - I have had issues with both new water heaters on my two coaches, but my installer utilized the doors included with the water heaters so there were no questions about warranty coverage.

Good luck with your decision!

Kevin D. Allen
WBCCI (Lifetime Member)/VAC/Free Wheelers #6359
AIR #827
1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 08-02-2003, 10:20 PM   #23
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1986 32' Excella
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What Kevin said. The cover or door is actually part of the flue or chimney on my vintage water heater, and is three pieces. Here's a photo of one part without the large cover in place.
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Old 08-02-2003, 10:28 PM   #24
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Then the cover fits over the flue (the part that's black in the prior photo) as shown in this photo. Also, the photo shows a mesh grill or grate hanging down. That fits in the bottom of the outer cover to protect the pilot light from being blown out by the wind, and is removable to provide access to light it. All three pieces are specific to this water heater and most likely wouldn't fit a new one or some other brand.
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Old 08-03-2003, 07:39 AM   #25
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All right Guys. I'll believe it if you say it. I did not know about the flue part and all. Thought it was just a cover. My water heater
looks exactly like Forrest's. It was working fine for the PO
and the RV dealer told me it may just need cleaning. I'm
going to try that route first I think. If it dosent work I'll have
to go from there. Do you know if the thermostat can
be replaced on this? My tank is fine and holds water. I just cant light it.
We are getting a polish soon and the white door will look
even worse.
Thanks for the help.

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Old 08-03-2003, 11:49 AM   #26
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Which won't light?


Is it the burner that won't light? If so it may be clogged with leaves or spider webs (they love propane). Simply run a rag or push a long thin brush through it. It must be kept entirely clean. Even a little obstruction causes the flame to be a lazy orange (it should be blue).

The pilot light is hard to light on my water heater mostly because it is buried in next to the tip of the burner. The pilot gas tube has a long run from the regulator/thermostate and takes its own sweet time getting there. Then once it is lit I have to hold down the red button for at least a minute. If you go through all of this and can't get the pilot to light even with the button depressed then the lines or thermostate might need cleaning, but most likely will not need to be replaced. Check the inlets and outlets for obstructions first.

If the pilot lights but won't stay lit then try adjusting the thermocouple so that it is in the flame better, and if that doesn't work you may need a new thermocouple.

None of these things are expensive, just require patience, and once everything is adjusted the unit should be reliable. Here's a diagram I hope will help you.
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Old 08-03-2003, 07:35 PM   #27
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2004 25' Safari
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Heidi---i would suggest trying two things--1) try tighting that nut on the copper line ( bottom line ) where it comes from the control. Don't over tighten it, just so it's snug. 2) look see when you get the pilot light, that the flame is burning across the tip of the other end of the copper line ( thermocouple ). If the flame is not burning correctly on the end of the thermocouple, it will not produce enough millivots to keep the safety on & will need to be cleaned. If this doesn't work, then I would try a new thermocouple, before replacing the control. A word of CAUTION, if you're not comfortable doing these, then get some qualified service person to check it out.
Home of the Wayward Wind

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Old 08-04-2003, 08:26 AM   #28
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1975 24' Argosy 24
Burlington , Ontario
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 88
6 Gallon Water tank

A number of years ago my 6 gal. water tank began to leak.
I removed same and ordered fro Atwood Mobile Products. a new one . I phoned and sent them a cheque. and received it in short course.

I installed it and it is still just fine.

You need the model number. Mine was a G6A2
part number 91412. and at that time was $67.20.
plus shipping.

They were very friendly and co-operative.

It installed easily and is what I needed.

Atwood Mobile Products
4750 Hiawatha Drive
Rockford, Ill.
(815) 877-5700

Rae Baker
Burlington, Ont.

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