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How to Drain Your RV Water Heater - Cover

How to Drain Your RV Water Heater

Whether you're wrapping up the end of a trip, preparing for the off-season by winterizing, or giving your tank a much-needed cleaning, you're going to have to drain your RV's water heater sooner or later. Here's how to remove that pesky plug, not scald yourself, and ultimately empty your water heater. Let's get started! Steps for draining your water heater:
  • Turn Off RV Water Heater & Power Sources
  • Relieve Some Pressure with the Pressure Release Valve
  • Pull the (Drain) Plug
  • Let it Flow
Watch Now: How to Drain, Clean, and De-Scale Your RV Water Heater

Turn Off RV Water Heater & Power Sources

You don't want to drain your RV water heater tank with scalding hot water inside. So go ahead and turn your interior and exterior water heater switches off and let your water cool. (To make sure it's cool enough to touch, turn on a hot water tap inside the RV and test the temp.) If the water's not cooling quick enough for your liking, reenact that one miserable shower you had by turning on the tap and letting the hot water run out. Once it's cool and you're ready to work, turn off your water source, your pump, and any tank power sources you might have connected (propane or electric). We want everything shut down and suitably cool for this job!
Turning off your RV water heater switch
Turn off your interior and exterior switches!

Relieve Some Pressure with the Pressure Release Valve

Once everything's nice and cool in there, pull your pressure release valve to depressurize the tank.
Pulling RV water heater pressure relief valve

Pull the (Drain) Plug

This next step is really draining...literally. (I know, I know.) Use a wrench or socket (it's usually a 1-1/16" socket) to remove your water heater drain plug or anode rod. The dam is now open and the water will come flooding out. (I recommend a bucket to catch the flood unless your grass needs some watering.)
Using a socket wrench to remove water heater drain plug
RV water heater draining
RV water heater draining into a bucket
Pro tip: if you don't already have the right wrench or socket for the job, I recommend picking up a water heater drain valve wrench and tossing it in your storage compartment with your other RV tools.
I also want to draw attention to the two different plug types: standard drain valves and anode rods. If your drain plug comes out with nothing attached, you've got a standard valve. If it comes out with a long (probably corroded) rod attached, you've got an anode rod. Anode rods are most commonly used in steel tanks to help prevent tank corrosion and are pretty common in Suburban heaters. Basically, the aluminum or magnesium anode rod acts as a decoy, drawing the ions that would normally attack your tank walls to itself instead. When you take the anode rod out of your water heater, be sure to thank it for its noble sacrifice. Note that anode rods only work if there is sacrificial metal left to, well, sacrifice. Once the rod is about 75% corroded, it's time to replace it (usually once a year).
New anode rod vs old anode rod
Pictured: A new rod and an old rod. If your anode rod looks like the thing on the right, it's time to replace it.
Standard RV water heater drain plug
Pictured: A standard water heater drain plug

Let it Flow

Just keep letting it flow until the tank runs dry. After that, you can replace your drain plug and close your pressure relief valve. If all you wanted to do was drain the water heater, then congrats, you can call it quits and go crack open a beer for crossing an item off your to-do list. If you needed to drain your water heater in preparation for cleaning the tank or winterizing your camper, you can check out our help articles on those topics next. (Don't worry, you can still have the beer.)
RV Water Heater Draining
Amber S.
About Amber S.As a content writer for etrailer, I might spend my morning loading and unloading a bike on five different bike racks to figure out which is easiest to use. I might be in the parking lot, taking pictures of an impressive RV battery setup our techs came across in the shop and discussing the benefits of the setup with the owner. I might spend an afternoon in a manufacturer training classes for some hands-on experience with new products, and then sit down to assemble all this information into a coherent article. At etrailer, one of our core values is that we are always learning, and I learn something new every day. I start each morning with the goal in mind of taking all of this information and figuring out the best way to answer the questions people ask us (and the ones they don’t know to ask yet), and helping people get the solutions they need to make their lives easier, safer, and more fun. I’m a DIYer at heart, so it brings me great joy to help a fellow DIYer find what they’re looking for, whether that’s a product, an answer, or a community.
Related Content Related ProductsWritten by: Amber S.Updated on: 12/1/21



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