Atwood is a very popular manufacturer of gas & electric combination water heaters for RV. While there are other options to go for, Atwood products are well known for their highly safe attribute, making them the choice of many. However, the safety mechanism that comes with the Atwood RV water heater cuts off the electricity when it senses irregularity with the power input and when the water is already too hot courtesy of the power surge sensor within it. That, to many who understand the advantage, is the best part of the Atwood RV water heater. When this happens, the water heater needs to be reset in order to be operational again. Definitely not the hardest thing to do. But when that continues for a while, it does not become any easier, does it!?

Nonetheless, like any other electronic, an Atwood RV water heater can have a variety of problems. These problems are defined by certain criteria such as the age of the appliance, how often it is used and how well it is maintained. These criteria can define, as well, how big the problems can become and how hardly or easily they can be repaired.

Here in this post, we will walk through the Atwood RV water heater troubleshooting guide where we shall discuss the various problems it usually has, and how these issues can be resolved. Have it in mind that this post will not cover every possible issue that the Atwood RV water heater can have. This is definitely going to be comprehensive, no doubt, there is no guarantee that the solutions here will solve all possible scenarios of issues that this appliance can have.  However, this guide will help you in a variety of ways.

1. Atwood RV water heater not working on gas or electric

The worst that can happen to any electronic appliance is for it not to work at all. While this is what most users fear the most, it is not always the hardest issue to solve. An Atwood RV water heater may not work at all, i.e. not produce hot water when the thermostat is malfunctioning. This issue can also arise when the control board is defective. The solutions to these problems are straightforward and are given below.

Troubleshooting a non-working Atwodd RV water heater

  • Foremost, change the thermostat.
  • There is a possibility of the control board being the source of the problem. Replace it.
  • It is worthy of note that changing the control board is not the easiest thing to do. However, there are detailed video guides on how to change the Atwood RV water heater’s control board on YouTube. Take your time to watch a couple of them and follow the instructions given.

2. Atwood RV water heater keeps shutting off

Sometimes, you may find your water heater not staying lit or keep shutting off as you put it on. The level of frustration this can cause especially when you are in urgent need of it cannot be overemphasized. By the way, you may want to know why this happens sometimes, and then go ahead with the troubleshooting guide that comes afterward.

This shutting-off issue happens when there is a defective thermocouple or bad control board. This can also arise when the pilot assembly has some issues. A malfunctioning gas valve or poor gas supply is another probable element that can keep the RV water heater shutting off.

Troubleshooting the water heater when it keeps shutting off

  • Substitute the thermocouple with a new one.
  • Replace the pilot assembly.
  • Acquire a new gas valve and give room for frictionless gas flow.
  • Replace the control board if it is defective.
  • Another point to note. Just like changing the control board, replacing the gas valve will require you to have some electrical knowledge. Again, there are tutorial videos to walk you through this on YouTube. Be sure to check a few of them out.
  • After fixing them all, now put on the water heater again.

3. Pilot Outage

The pilot outage is one of the most common problems seen on the Atwood RV water heater. This happens when the gas pressure is not set correctly or the air is not properly adjusted. The problem can also arise when the thermocouple and gas control magnet is not strong enough. The pilot outage problem ends up clogging the water heater pilot flame and blocking the ‘U’ tube of the heater.

Atwood RV water heater pilot outage troubleshooting

  • Make sure you set the pressure to the minimum recommendation of the manufacturer; Atwood. This at most time is 11˝ W.C. with two or more appliances running.
  • Replace both the thermocouple and gas control magnet as they are most likely already weak.
  • Also, check to make sure that the air shutter ensures the correct alignment of the main burner. If not, adjust it to 1/4 open.
  • Clean the water heater pilot light or replace it if required.
  • Clean the U tube and remove any obstruction that appears there.
  • Lastly, ensure that all connections are tightened, and in a situation where the pilot outage exists when the knob or button is released without any other obvious problem, reflect on holding the knob or button longer than usual.

4. Pilot Outage only when the knob or button is released

There are times the pilot outage may only be experienced when the heater knob or button is released, with the issue not appearing when it is still being held. This happens when the thermocouple is not hot enough; i.e. the temperature is lower than expected. A malfunctioning gas control or thermocouple can also bring up this problem.

Related: Domestic Thermostat Troubleshoot

Troubleshooting the problem

  • Hold the thermocouple for 30 seconds.
  • Ensure that the connection is tightened enough.
  • Change the gas control.
  • Replace the thermocouple.

5. No spark on the electrodes

Another major issue that an Atwood RV water heater may have is the lack of spark at the electrodes. This happens when the electrodes connect with the main burner loosely. It can as well occur when there is a loose wire connection in electrode porcelain or there are deposits on the electrodes. Another likely cause of this problem is a faulty circuit board.

Troubleshooting the Atwood RV water heater “no spark on the electrodes” issue

  • Get rid of the loose wire connections by fastening the electrodes to the main burner.
  • When there are deposits on the electrodes, get rid of them.
  • The electrodes may as well need to be replaced.
  • Lastly, the circuit board would need to be replaced when the issue is coming from it.

6. The gas burner is not igniting

Lack of, or inadequate gas flow is strong enough to lock out your Atwood RV water heater.  The problem may arise when the gas valve is malfunctioning and is not allowing gas to flow in. There may be a lack of electrodes spark as mentioned earlier and this can cause the gas burden to stop igniting. The problem may as well be from the loose wires on the E.C.O. And sometimes, the tube is having some obstructions. To fix these issues, you will need to follow the guideline below.

Atwood RV water heater “gas burner not igniting” troubleshooting

  • The first step may be to replace the faulty solenoid valve with a new one.
  • Clean both the orifice and the burner tube using an attachment brush or an air compressor.
  • The wire connections on the E.C.O, solenoid valve, and wiring harness all need to be secured.

7. Insufficient water temperature

When the temperature selector does not remain in its place, or the bypass levers are improperly placed, there is bound to be an insufficient water temperature. The problem may also arise when the air is not properly adjusted and when the burden gets partially clogged. With the issue that may likely be caused by one or all of the above reasons, the water suddenly turns cooler and gets heated up sporadically.

Atwood RV water heater “insufficient water temperature” troubleshooting

  • Start by repositioning the temperature selector.
  • Also, adjust the levers to be aligned in the right way.
  • Get rid of obstructions along the burner path.
  • Also, check to make sure that the air shutter ensures the correct alignment of the main burner. If not, adjust it to 1/4 open.
  • Sometimes, it may be a defective thermostat. In this case, it may need to be replaced.
  • As well, it can be an issue with the pressure and temperature relief valve. You can effortlessly have it replaced.

8. Soot buildup issue

This comes at the end of the list as it is not a very common problem seen on the Atwood RV water heater. However, when this issue arises, it is enough to raise an alarm. Any issue in components such as the gas supply, ignition, thermostat, electrodes insulation, wire of the gas valve, and grounding, in general, can result in soot buildup issues. The problem can also arise when the shutter, valve, exhaust grille, and burner alignment are not in the proper situation.

Troubleshooting soot buildup on Atwood RV water heater

  • Like many already discussed above, it is quite easy to troubleshoot the soot buildup-related problems on your RV water heater. The below guide will help you get rid of this.
  • Ensure that components such as the gas supply, ignition, thermostat, electrodes insulation, and wire of the gas valve are checked, and none of them has an issue.
  • Clean and properly align the components mentioned above.
  • Tighten any loose components and wires.
  • Ensure proper grounding and sufficient gas supply.
  • Regularly maintain all components, and the whole water heater device itself.

Frequently Asked Questions on Atwood RV water heater troubleshooting

What is the lifespan of a circuit breaker?

Ideally, a circuit breaker can continue to work for 30-40 years. This, as approved by the consumer product safety commission (CPSC), is the same lifespan for AFCI, GFCI, and standard breakers as well.

Why causes water heaters to fail?

Your water heater is likely to fail for the following reasons:

  • The RV water heater becomes warm but still does not make it to a high temperature to make the water become hot.
  • The heater can only produce cold water
  • There is a water leak.
  • The heater emits an irritating noise.

Does the Atwood water heater have a reset button?

It sure has a reset button, and you can find it near the heating element.

What causes a water heater reset button to trip?

The water heater reset button is likely to trip when the thermostat is defective.

How do I know that the thermostat is not working?

When you get the signs highlighted below, the thermostat is definitely not working.

  • The thermostat display gets switched off.
  • The thermostat does not respond to switch changes.

How can I tell that my anode rod is bad?

The most superficial sign that your anode rod is bad is discolored or smelly hot water. An Anode rod cannot protect hot water heater lining when it completely oxidizes.

How do you release a propane tank valve?

You have to do the followings to unstick a propane valve in your water heater.

  • Turn off the water heater
  • Wait for a minute and then open the water heater tank valve
  • Turn the lattice to the “Light” position and try to light
  • Spread over a bit of oil to the stem if the valve is stuck
  • Avoid using a wrench

Departing Thoughts

Without a doubt! Outside the ones discussed in this post, there are many other issues your RV water heater may run into. The device usually comes with some troubleshooting guide or manual, and following these guides can help you fix many of the problems that may arise with the device. For the best result you can get, be sure to call in a plumber, technician, or electrician specializing in water heater repair if you think the problem and the remedy are beyond your deftness.

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