You have a camper with a hot water heater, but no one told you about the anode?

This will work, right?

We have enjoyed sharing our adventures here with you. This past year when we got ready to head out on the road for our summer vacations, we finally had to do some of the preventative maintenance on the camper. Unfortunately, be it COVID-brain, getting busy or just plain forgetting to take pictures, we didn’t document enough of the maintenance. For that I am truly sorry. Additionally, I have done a bad, horrible really, job keeping up with the technical blogs. For whatever reason, people seem to like seeing how I do things, not that I ever do them correctly, but hopefully my mistakes help. I did however remember to document some upkeep. Like changing out the anode on our hot water heater.

What is an anode?

If you grew up near salt water and boats you may already know that an anode is sacrificial part that absorbs the corrosion in water to keep things like propellers, pipes and metal fittings from deteriorating. Think of it as the offensive line of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They absorb the punishment so that Tom Brady can comfortably stand in the pocket and deliver passes. Anodes do the same thing in wet environments. Like a zinc plate on the bottom of a boat, anodes soak up the corrosive, reactive elements so that the bronze propeller and shaft can keep pushing the boat forward. If you have a hot water heater on your camper or RV you probably have an anode. If you haven’t taken a look at it in a year, you might want to locate it and take a peak. Anodes perform their magic by oxidizing and disintegrating. Over time the Anode will get eaten away and will need to be replaced.

Dead Anode

How to Replace:

First, shut off the hot water heater and your water supply. I would also disconnect power and shut everything off. Then drain the hot water using a sink or shower. This way when we do take the anode out of the hot water heater, you won’t get scorched as you are christened with your second shower of the day. Then we locate the hot water heater. Ours is a dual model that will heat water electrically or with propane They are usually located on an exterior wall, probably rearward facing closest to your shower. Ours is on the back of the trailer located behind a panel that looks like this. I popped the latch and hinged the panel open to locate the anode.

There are lots of complicated parts here and if your don’t feel comfortable backing a bolt out, fearing you might make a mistake, fear not. I’m sure an RV mechanic will gladly charge you an arm and a leg to replace the anode. If however, you are feeling brave, keep reading I’ll show you how I muddled through. Your looking for a single bolt that looks approximately like the middle image. Then find the corresponding socket, mine took a 1 1/16inch, and firmly but gently loosen the nut.

I personally removed the spent anode and took it with me to the RV store to get the replacement. You are looking for one that has the same threads and the same length. There are a couple varieties and if you hit up the parts desk you might want to bring the make and model of your hot water heater. Telling the parts person you have a KZ Sportsman 261BHLE travel trailer, gets them no closer to finding your hot water heater or your specific anode. As you can see in this comparison, the difference between the before and after are quite striking. Not to worry, the old anode did its job admirably.

With the anode out, I used the hose to flush any debris out of the bottom of the tank. I also took the time to apply some Teflon (or plumbers) tape to the threads of the fitting to prevent leaks and corrosive welding. Then I simply installed the new anode into the old anode hole. Now is also a great time to make a note of which anode fit your RV. Changing them every year or every other year (your mileage may vary), is a great way to keep everything working, smelling and tasting great. And I won’t have to figure it out next time. I know I need a 9.5 inch anode. Power everything back up, connect up your water, bleed the air out of the system and check for leaks.

Hopefully you found this helpful. I have a couple of thoughts about washing the camper in the off season, solar power for our home, towing a 30 foot travel trailer with a Ford Edge -but I would really like to know what you want to read. Is there a technical blog you haven’t found yet that we need to do. Should we have more product reviews? Do you have other questions about our camper, gear or approach to vacationing? How can we make things better for you intrepid reader. Keep happy and healthy, and as always stay safe out there!

Just a quick aside. I hope all of you are maintaining your sanity. Between the pandemic, geo-politics, the weather, kids going back to school and girl scout cookie shortages, its a crazy, crazy world. You’re doing the best that you can, and that is all any of us can do. If you haven’t heard it from anyone lately, I love you. I’m proud of you. I think you are amazing. Take care of your family, friends and neighbors. We will get through all of this together. Peace.

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