Atwood is one of the leading manufacturers of gas and gas/electric combination water heaters for recreational vehicles (RVs). However, poor maintenance and long service of the unit may bring some performance problems.

Atwood is one of the leading manufacturers of gas and gas/electric combination water heaters for recreational vehicles (RVs). However, poor maintenance and long service of the unit may bring some performance problems.

Atwood water heaters are fairly easy to repair with a few readily available basic tools and a little expertise in how a water heater works. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to repair your Atwood water heater.

How to set up a new Atwood water heater

Follow the steps below to remove and replace your Atwood heater;

Remove the old water heater.

  • Disconnect the 110v electrical, gas, electric, and water lines going into your old water heater. Make sure the water in the heater cools down before proceeding.
  • Remove the drain plug from the water tank and drain your water heater completely.
  • Follow the gas line through a grommet into the hole filled with sealant. Peel off the adhesive with a utility knife and a pair of pliers, then disconnect the unit's gas connection.
  • Disconnect the water lines at the back of the water heater by loosening the fasteners holding the lines to the unit.
  • Remove the screws securing the water heater to the body of the RV.
  • Pull the old water heater out a couple of inches to expose the electrical wiring.
  • Notice how the colored lines connect. Remember that RV wire colors do not always match water heater electrical wires.
  • Disconnect the 110v, then carefully remove the old water heater from its case.

Install a new Atwood water heater.

  • Use channel lock pliers to bend the edges around the perimeter of the panel to about 90 degrees. Remove the wrapping and packaging from your unit and inspect it for any dents and shipping damage.
  • Insert the new water heater partially into the access panel.
  • Remove the grommet blocking the gas line hole in the unit and thread the gas line through the hole to connect to the unit. Cut one side of the grommet, fit it over the gas line, and protect the grommet with glass or silicone sealant to avoid gas leakage.
  • Disconnect and reconnect electrical wires using wire connectors or electrical tape.
  • Push the water heater fully into its housing and secure it with the mounting screws.
  • Connect water pipes and use silicone or caulk sealant on the mounting edge to prevent leaks.
  • Turn off the water cut-off valve and turn on the propane tank.
  • Fill the water heater and check for leaks.
  • If there are no leaks, replace the rear access cover.

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How to Manually Reset an Atwood Water Heater

Atwood water heaters have a safety mechanism that cuts off power when it senses a power surge or if the system gets too hot. Here's how to reset your Atwood water heater.

  • Turn off the power to the Atwood water heater.
  • Using a socket wrench, loosen the nuts holding the thermostat junction box cover to the rear of the unit and pull the cover off.
  • Locate the red reset button protruding near the heating element.
  • Press the reset button until you hear it click into place.
  • If it doesn't retract, wait about 10 minutes and push it back into place.
  • Replace the junction box cover on the back of the unit and screw in the nuts.
  • Turn on the water heater.

Atwood water heater won’t stay lit.

If your water heater won't turn on, you may have a faulty thermostatic control or thermocouple; Here's how to fix ;

  • Hold the knob for a long time as it may take some time for the gas valve / electric board to receive the signal from the thermocouple indicating the presence of flame.
  • Make sure the pilot flame is clean and replace it to keep in contact with the end of the thermocouple probe. A thermocouple sits above the pilot flame.
  • Check the thermostatic control that is part of the gas valve assembly with a dial that adjusts the temperature and monitors the water temperature. If the decent malfunction does not ignite, it is defective and should be replaced by a trained gas technician.
  • Check YouTube for any block and unblock it.
  • You may have an incorrect pressure reading. Adjust the pressure to a minimum of 11˝ W.C.

Atwood water heater has no hot water.

If your water heater isn't heating water, here's how to fix the problem;

  • If you have an electric water heater, rule out electrical problems first. Turn on any tripped breaker in the fuse box and replace and blow the fuses.
  • Check whether the bypass valve is off or on. The bypass valve winterizes the water heater, so you must turn the valve to the off position.
  • Check for any open pipes. If more than one faucet is open at the same time, cold water will flow from one and hot water from the other.
  • Small water heater models cannot have two open faucets and allow hot water from both at the same time.
  • Check the temperature selector and reset the water temperature again.
  • Check the handle on the bypass valve line. If the valve is open, you're bypassing the water heater and no hot water is going through. Close the valve to disconnect the bypass.
  • Check if the u-tube is blocked and remove any blockage in the pipe and burner to prevent the water from getting hot enough.
  • Ensure that the thermostat makes open contact with the aluminum tank for proper temperature monitoring. It should be set to HI position and heat water at 130 degrees. Replace if defective.

No spark at electrodes on Atwood water heater

The electrodes provide energy to the anode wires, which prevents corrosion inside the water heater. Here are troubleshooting tips when your water heater electrodes are not sparking.

  • Check electrode and main burner connection. Tighten the screws holding the electrodes to the main burner.
  • Check that the electrodes are touching each other. Reposition the electrodes, allowing about an inch of space between each.
  • Carefully clean dirty electrodes. Dusty and dirty electrodes do not conduct electricity properly.Make sure the insulation on the electrodes is not damaged and replace them if they are too old. If replacing the insulation doesn't work, you'll need to get new electrodes.
  • Secure any loose electrical wire connections to the circuit board.
  • If the circuit board is not responding, you need to replace it.

Gas burner does not ignite

If the gas burner does not ignite, the water will not heat. To repair a non-igniting gas burner;

  • Check for loose wires that may be blocking the propane from igniting and heating the burner. If you find any loose wires, tighten them to allow gas to flow smoothly.
  • Check flight status. Check for any blockages such as dirt, dust or soot and clean them.
  • Align the flame spreader if it is out of line.
  • Unblock YouTube or Main Burner. Remove dust and bugs from the burner nozzle and tube.
  • If the burner is rusted, you should get a replacement.
  • If your water heater has been in storage for a long time, it may accumulate air in the airways. Blow out any trapped air and dust in the plane, and once all the air is out of the system the burner will ignite.

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Soot Build-up Symptoms, Causes and Remedies

A water heater produces soot when it mixes with excess carbon monoxide gas in the water heater. Accumulation of dirt and debris in the burner prevents proper flow; Dirt and dust in the vents prevent carbon monoxide from escaping.

A tightly sealed set will also prevent insufficient oxygen from entering the unit. Before solving the problem, soot should be cleaned from the unit to avoid future blockages. Here's how to fix further production of soot;

  • Check your gas tank and refill it if it's empty.
  • Unclog and clean the main burner, u-tube and exhaust grill carefully.
  • Check alignment of main burner, air valve, air shutter and flame spreader. Check for loose screws, tighten them, and clean any corrosion or lime scale. 


With this guide, you can install your new Atwood water heater and fix most problems that may arise. Maintain your water heater by cleaning it regularly and reducing dust build-up