Replace Thermostat in an RV Hot Water Heater

Estimated Repair Time:  15 minutes to drain the tank, and 15 minutes for the actual repair.
Cost: $22.00 for the heating element.

Our hot water heater has been having some issues and we were without hot water.  There's not much to fixing a hot water heater even in a fifth wheel.  The first two pictures are to kind of orientate yourself.  See those little doors?  The hot water heater is located in the last one (or fourth from the right).  It's the smallest.  We have to pop out that door altogether.  We will also have to open the middle two doors as we can get to the back of the water heater that way.

Before you start, turn the breaker to the hot water heater off.  Make sure.  Make really, really sure.  I check 3 different times to be sure.  I trip it down, then look away, then look again to make sure....and then look away and back again a third time.  Really, I do.

So, we opened up those two doors that are together in the middle to lay eyes on the water heater itself.  Our water heater is rusted.  Oh nos!  Our water heater sits on it's side.  You can see the plastic tubing that serves as pipes for our water.  See the white fittings?  If you get a leak in your tubing, chances are it's one of those that's come a little loose.  Daniel just replaces them as we go with brass fittings and plumbers tape.

Here is where our water comes from.  We have a drinking water hose hooked up and it plugs into our fifth wheel.

Okay, once we pop off that little door we can see everything we need to, to replace that thermostat. 

If you need to pull the hot water tank out for any reason you have to pop off the frame.  We popped it off, but it turns out we didn't have to pull the unit out.

You have to remove the anode to drain the water out.  If you are doing this and your water is hot, you will get burned.  If your water is hot, turn off the breaker then open the tap inside to get all that hot water out.  When the water coming from the tap is no longer hot, take out the anode to drain your hot water tank.

The shadow of Daniel's hand is covering the hole where the hot water is draining from at the very bottom in the middle once we removed that anode.

Here he is pulling the pilot light out of the way so he could get a screwdriver on the element.  There are two wires screwed there you have to remove, then remove the nut, then the element will come out.

Here's the two wires on the thermostat you need to disconnect.

 Once those wires are disconnected, you can use a socket wrench on the nut.

Here's our broken thermostat.  A new one cost us $22.00.

 At this point you just put everything back the way it was with the new thermostat.


  1. It's such a blessing to have handy husbands. Mine has saved us so much money over the years. He didn't start out with much manual experience but in our early years of marriage, the lack of finances necessitated that he give 'it' a try. He's done wonders. Thanks for taking the time to share this information.

  2. Then you are a good wife, Linda, in my eyes. You are a blessing to your husband. You're very welcome. It's always nice to find someone else who has had to make do before and because you've been through it, I might end up coming to you if I ever get in a fix because I'm sure you'll have found one solution or another. If you have any different solutions to anything I have to say, please please feel free to add that to your comment. I'd welcome it!