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Old 10-16-2022, 07:38 AM   #1
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2015 27' Flying Cloud
needham , Massachusetts
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Atwood/Dometic GE9XT repair vs. replace?

Hi,
We have a 2015 FC 27 FBQ. We got it just about a year ago. When winterizing it, I decided to check into the rusty area in the water heater's sheet metal, which was due to leakage from the drain plug over the prior owner's tenure.

My original plan was to scrape/sand the rusty area and then repaint it with POR15 or Rustoleum. Well, after poking around at the rust with a scraper, I found that it was worse than it looked, meaning that it had rusted through in the area around the drain plug. The other issue is that the left side hinge attachment had rusted to the point of being dust. I'm not sure yet if the underlying metal will be strong enough to drill out and rivet in a new hinge.

So my question is - what is the best way to proceed? My general options thus far are:
1) continue with the original plan and repair the rust as best as possible. The water heater seems to work fine, so if the rust repair gets me by until the heater itself fails, that would be good.
2) replace just the sheet metal housing while keeping the internals of the water heater. I'm not really sure what the part name is for this, but on a few exploded parts drawings I found for similar heater models, I didn't see this part listed as being available for order. Even if I could find it, would it be worth the trouble?
3) replace the entire heater with same/similar model. This is a 6 gallon combo LP and electric unit. It seems that the new models of this capacity have slightly different opening sizes.
4) change the water heater to a tankless design - what are the thoughts on tankless vs. tank water heaters?

Sub questions: If I decide to use POR15 on the existing heater without removing it, how awful of a mess should I expect and how best to protect the rest of the camper shell? Will painter's tape work? Will painter's tape pull off the clearcoat/film on the shell? I did a similar paint job with just spray paint on the trailer tongue, and the painter's tape I used (standard blue 3M) peeled off some of the factory paint, which was a pain.

One of the other things I was trying to do was replace the plastic drain plug with a brass petcock valve, which I have done. But then I read that the plastic plug was a backup pressure release if the PT valve failed. Is that accurate? Is the brass petcock a no-no?

Thanks for any advice on the above!
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Old 10-16-2022, 07:47 AM   #2
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Can't really address making repairs to the rusted metal without seeing at least a few photos of the damage. If the water heater is working, it would seem that repair should be possible to make it last a few more years.

If you are going to replace the water heater with a new one, there are mounting/door kits available which will adapt the newer (smaller) units to the existing opening without any modifications on the trailer.
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Old 10-16-2022, 08:49 AM   #3
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Richard,
Thanks for chiming in. Here is a pic of the rusted area. You can see the holes right below the propane line and the drain plug. Also, the left hinge bracket no longer holds the bent piece of wire in place - it's just sitting there. I found the replacement hinges available, so assuming there's enough meat left in that area, I should be able to replace the hinge.

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Thanks for any more insights!
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Old 10-16-2022, 09:04 AM   #4
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Couple of things I'd consider...

1 - Pull the heater forward a few inches to have better access to the back side of the rusted areas. Or, just pull the water heater to work on it. I would not consider working on this with the heater mounted in place - no way to get the back side repaired/painted, and there is little change that the paint is not going to get on the aluminum. Pulling a water heater forward 4-6" is not that difficult if the gas line is already disconnected.

2 - Wire brush the rust as good as you can, then use your favorite rust-inhibiting paint like POR-15. If the heater is pulled forward from the trailer's sheet metal you should be able to do this without getting any on the aluminum siding.

3 - Add some sheet metal behind the place where the hinge mounts to provide a solid anchor for the hinge. Depending on how it's situated, possibly use something like JB Weld to bond the patch to the back side.

4 - If there are holes in the sheet metal which would allow water to enter the trailer, they need to be sealed. A simple way to do this is with caulking or JB Weld. A fancier way might be some Bondo after the rust is removed with the wire brush.

I suspect that once the rust is removed with a wire brush things will look much better. If the water heater still functions I'd be doing what I could to keep it alive. Even if you spend $50-$75 on this and get a few more years you're way ahead of spending 10x that on a new one.
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Old 10-16-2022, 12:38 PM   #5
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Thanks for the advice, Richard. I think it will be worthwhile, as you point out, to remove the entire heater so I can repair from back as well as front, and not get any paint on the side of the Airstream. I assume it is just a matter of removing the screws around the perimeter and disconnecting the water and electrical from under the sink.

Do you know if it is possible to buy a replacement piece of stamped sheet metal?
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Old 10-16-2022, 12:41 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by alecs View Post
Thanks for the advice, Richard. I think it will be worthwhile, as you point out, to remove the entire heater so I can repair from back as well as front, and not get any paint on the side of the Airstream. I assume it is just a matter of removing the screws around the perimeter and disconnecting the water and electrical from under the sink.

Do you know if it is possible to buy a replacement piece of stamped sheet metal?
The one difficulty might be disconnecting the water lines. If they are not easy to remove, then hopefully you have enough free play to at least get it pulled out enough to do the repair.
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Old 10-17-2022, 10:14 AM   #7
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I wouldn't fool with trying to repair. If you have to pull it out to work on it, replace it, at least that's what I would do.
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Old 10-17-2022, 10:55 AM   #8
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I wouldn't fool with trying to repair. If you have to pull it out to work on it, replace it, at least that's what I would do.
Under normal circumstances I'd agree with you on this. But right now it's very difficult to find any remaining old stock on these water heaters, and if you can find them they're more expensive than they should be. The current substitute requires an adapter kit to mount & hang a door, and possibly a change in plumbing.

It might become apparent after pulling the water heater out a bit that repair is not possible, but from the photo it looks like the damage is cosmetic at this point. The tank on these is aluminum and tend to last quite a while.
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Old 10-17-2022, 11:08 AM   #9
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Alecs: Replace the entire unit. Even if:

You plan to keep it.
You plan to sell it in the near future.

Either way, you will have to sell for less, or have more damage from leaking hot or cold water. The average buyer is not a Fix It Myself person. If anything is not operational... they will walk... want a discounted price... or want you to pay for its repair.

I bought a clean 2019 Oliver Elite II trailer and unknown to myself, the Truma Hot Water system, 'repaired by a Las Vegas approved Truma Dealer', twice... and the owner sold me the Oliver... 'forgot' that the Truma was still leaking before he sold the trailer to me.

I did not check this at purchase. The trailer was stored at a RV Storage indoor building and no water hookups. Next time... I would have hooked it up at my home and could have discovered the Hot Water System was compromised. Education is learned, one lesson at a time.

Had I, the price would have to be $1200 less.

That is your choice, now. Keeping it... fix. Selling it... fix.
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Old 11-21-2022, 10:49 AM   #10
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2021 27' International
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Available unused boxed GE9XT

HI

RE points 3& 4: Iíve experienced both and was perfectly happy with the tank heater but devastated by the tankless in a new airstream we bought. So I spoke to airstream and they said it could be switched out for the old tanked one (at my cost).

I agreed the work with the dealership, and spent a long time finding a new GE9. A LONG time. But I got one, new in box.

Only to find out the dealership changed their mind and we had to pay to upgrade to the better tankless.

And I have a boxed brand new tanked heater here if youíre interested? Lemme know.
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Old 12-14-2022, 04:14 PM   #11
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Thanks to Cold Canner, I have completed the repair. I installed the GE9XT that she had found - it was a direct swap for my rusted out unit.

Meanwhile, I was almost ready to install the newer version GE6, which required a new door and some side wings. I have painted these wings and the door in an aluminum color. But now I have no use for them. If anyone wants them, let me know.
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Old 06-03-2024, 06:27 AM   #12
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GE9EXT hot water heater

@canner do you still have your new in box GE9EXT hot water heater? Iíve been looking for one. Itís a long shot that you still have it but figured Iíd check anyway!
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