RV Electric Water Heater Switch Not Working

Having an issue with your RV electric water heater not turning on can be extremely frustrating, especially when you need hot water. As the same thing happened to me, I know how it feels. Don’t worry, this is a common issue and there are many possible reasons why the switch may not be working, from faulty wiring to a bad circuit board.

The key is to methodically test different components like the switch, wiring, and heating elements to isolate the root cause. This prevents wasting time and money replacing parts that are actually fine. In my case, I simply fixed my RV electric heater by resetting the tripped breaker. So, you can try resetting it or replacing the cheap part.

Let’s walk through all the troubleshooting steps needed to diagnose why your RV electric water heater switch is not working.

RV Electric Water Heater Switch Not Working

Reasons the Electric Water Heater Switch May Not Work

There are a number of reasons why the switch for your RV electric water heater stops functioning. Here are the most common causes:

  1. Faulty Switch: The switch itself may be damaged or worn out, preventing it from properly activating the water heater. Switches can degrade over time from normal wear and tear.
  2. Loose Wiring Connection: Vibration from traveling can loosen wiring connections for the switch or water heater over time. This interrupts power flow.
  3. Tripped Circuit Breaker: The circuit breaker for the electric water heater may have tripped, cutting off power to the entire circuit. This is a safety mechanism to prevent overloads.
  4. Blown Fuse: Similar to a tripped breaker, a blown fuse for the water heater circuit will cut off power. Check the fuse box for any burnt-out fuses.
  5. Faulty Control Board: Most RV electric water heaters have a small control board that can malfunction and prevent operation. Control boards manage power flow.
  6. Bad Heating Element: If the heating element inside the water heater fails, this will prevent it from turning on. Elements do wear out over time.
  7. Problem with the Propane System: If running a dual-power RV water heater, a propane issue can prevent the electric side from working properly.
  8. Clogged Air Flow: Insufficient airflow to the burner chamber can trigger the safety shut-off on an electric water heater.

Now that you know the most common issues, let’s walk through how to systematically diagnose the specific problem with your RV electric water heater switch.

Step-by-Step Diagnosis and Repair Process

Follow these key troubleshooting steps to properly identify and repair the issue with your electric water heater switch:

Step 1 – Check the Power to the Water Heater

The first step is verifying power is getting to the appliance. Check if the switch has any power coming to it with a multimeter or by plugging in a test light. If there is no power at all, check the breaker box and fuse connected to that circuit.

Reset any tripped breakers and replace blown fuses. If the breakers immediately trip again when reset, this indicates a short circuit somewhere in the wiring.

Step 2 – Verify Switch Functionality

If you have power getting to the switch, the next step is testing if the switch works properly. Carefully remove the switch panel and disconnect the wiring. Use a multimeter to check for continuity when flipping the switch on and off.

If the switch no longer functions, it will need to be replaced. Disconnect all wiring before removing the bad switch and installing a new one.

Step 3 – Check Wiring Connections

Loose wiring is a common cause of RV electric appliance issues. Verify all wiring connections to the water heater are tight and corrosion-free. Wires may need to be cleaned or crimped/soldered again for a solid connection.

Use a multimeter to check for voltage drops indicating loose connections. Tighten or redo any problem wiring.

Step 4 – Test Heating Element

With everything checked up to the appliance itself, now you can test if the problem lies in the water heater. Start by testing the electric heating element using a multimeter.

Set the multimeter to the Ohms setting. Disconnect the element wires and touch probes to the element screw terminals. Healthy elements show very low resistance, while bad ones show infinite resistance.

Step 5 – Check Control Board

The small control board inside the RV water heater operates relays to turn the heating elements on. Carefully remove it and check for any scorch marks indicating a short. Turn the power on and use a multimeter to check if the control board outputs the expected voltage. Replace if faulty.

Step 6 – Inspect Burner Chamber

For dual propane electric water heaters, remove the access cover and inspect the burner tube and igniter for any blockages from insect nests or debris. Check the flame is igniting properly when turned on. Clean any clogs or obstructions.

Step 7 – Test Propane System

For propane water heaters, issues like low tank pressure, faulty regulators, or leaks in the gas line can prevent ignition. Carefully inspect the propane system components and test for any issues. Consult your owner’s manual for help.

By methodically working through these troubleshooting steps, you should be able to determine the exact issue with your RV electric water heater switch and make the necessary repairs to get hot water flowing again.

Preventative Maintenance Tips

To maximize the life of your RV water heater and minimize future problems, follow these key maintenance tips:

  • Inspect wiring connections annually – Check for any loose, corroded, or damaged wires that may need to be cleaned or replaced.
  • Flush mineral deposits – Flush the water heater tank annually to clear any mineral buildup that can lead to overheating failures.
  • Clean air flow areas – Use compressed air to clear any obstructions in burner tubes or combustion chambers.
  • Check anode rod – Replace the anode rod every 2-3 years to prevent tank corrosion problems.
  • Test pressure relief valve – Manually operate the pressure relief valve once a year to ensure proper water heater function.
  • Check propane lines and regulator – Inspect for leaks or damage. Have regulator pressure tested if issues arise.
  • Keep vents clear – Make sure outside appliance vents aren’t obstructed when parked.

Proper preventative maintenance will add years of life to your RV electric water heater system.

Safety Tips for Troubleshooting Water Heater 

When attempting to diagnose and repair appliance issues in your RV, safety should always be the top priority:

  • Disconnect power sources before doing any electrical testing or part replacement.
  • Allow system components to fully cool before attempting any repairs.
  • Have an ABC fire extinguisher on hand in case of accidents.
  • Use insulated tools and gloves when testing electrical circuits.
  • Do not leave appliances disassembled while unattended.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s troubleshooting guidelines.
  • If you are not comfortable doing electrical repairs, hire a certified RV technician.

Applying safe troubleshooting processes will keep both you and your RV protected.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why Does My Water Heater Switch Keep Tripping The Breaker?

A breaker that keeps tripping likely indicates a short circuit somewhere in the water heater wiring. This is often caused by loose or damaged wiring that needs to be repaired. It could also signal a problem with a heating element or component shorting internally.

2. How Do I Reset The Thermal Cutoff Switch On My Rv Water Heater?

Locate the small circular thermal cutoff switch near the wiring panel. These trips as a safety precaution if overheating occurs. Press the small reset button in the center of the device to reset it. If it continues to trip, there is still an underlying issue causing excess heat.

3. Can I Bypass The Gfci Switch For My Rv Water Heater?

No, you should never bypass or override the GFCI switch on an RV water heater. This is an important safety device that shuts off power if a ground fault occurs. Determine the underlying electrical issue for why it keeps tripping instead.

4. Why Does My Electric Water Heater Only Work On Shore Power?

If an RV electric water only works when plugged into shore power, but not on generator or battery power, the issue is usually insufficient power. The heating elements draw a lot of current. The generator or batteries may need to be upgraded to handle the load.

5. How Do I Know If My Water Heater Thermostat Is Bad?

If the water heater fails to turn on and you’ve confirmed power to the unit, the thermostat may be faulty. Remove the access panel and check if the thermostat clicks when adjusting the temperature. Use a multimeter to test continuity across the thermostat terminals while adjusting.


Having your RV electric water heater switch stop working can certainly be inconvenient. But armed with the troubleshooting tips from this guide, you should be able to confidently diagnose and fix the problem. Methodically testing each component and wiring run will reveal the failure point. With the proper care and periodic inspections, you’ll avoid inconvenient breakdowns on future camping trips. Here’s wishing you many more comfortable hot showers in your home on wheels! Please leave a comment below if you have any other questions regarding troubleshooting RV electric water heater switches. And thanks for reading – safe travels and happy camping!

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