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RV Water Heater Not Igniting (How Do I Fix)

Ever had the excitement of an RV trip chilled by a water heater that just won’t play nice? Yeah, I get it. In this guide, I’m cutting through the confusion to help you fix that stubborn heater. From checking gas supplies to giving crucial components the once-over, we’ve got your back.

Basically, when the RV water heater not lighting up, check the propane supply and regulator for gas issues. If the pilot’s on but the main burner won’t ignite, inspect and clean the thermocouple for corrosion. Replace if needed. Fixing these can bring back the warmth to your RV water heater for a trouble-free trip.

So, let’s make sure your travels stay cozy and hitch-free – no more shivers in the shower! Whether you’re a seasoned RV pro or hitting the road for the first time, my guide gives you practical tips to tackle water heater hiccups, making your journey comfy and stress-free.

RV Water Heater Not Igniting

What Are the RV Water Heater Types?

The first step in troubleshooting your RV’s water heater is understanding how it works. The most common water heater types found in RVs are:

Manual Gas Valve

This simple unit consists of a pilot light that must be manually lit and stays lit to heat the water. If the pilot goes out, you’ll need to reignite it by hand to get hot water.

DSI (Direct Spark Ignition)

DSI water heaters employ an electronic ignition system that automatically lights the burner when hot water is called for. If ignition fails, there is likely an issue with the electronic control board, sensors, or gas valve functioning.

Electric Heating Element

Electric water heaters use an element that heats water when hooked up to shore power. Problems are typically traced to a faulty heating element or issues with wiring or fuses.

Troubleshooting RV Water Heater That Won’t Ignite

If your RV’s water heater fails to ignite, methodically go through these troubleshooting steps:

Troubleshooting RV Water Heater That Won’t Ignite

Verify Water, Gas, and Electricity Supply

Ensure water lines and Propane gas tanks are opened, filled, and supplied with the water heater. For electric units, verify shore or generator power is active. Restore any interrupted utilities before further diagnosis.

Fixing Manual Valve Issues

For manual pilot light water heaters –

If the pilot won’t stay lit, the thermocouple likely needs cleaning or replacement. The pilot flames heat this sensor to signal the gas valve to open.

If the pilot is on but the burner is not lighting, the manual gas control valve itself may malfunction and be unable to open the gas flow properly.


Check Gas Supply – Ensure sufficient propane in the RV tank. Verify the propane regulator is working. Check for kinks/obstructions in the gas line.

Inspect Pilot Light – Make sure lit before igniting the main burner. Clean pilot orifice.

Thermocouple Inspection – Inspect for corrosion/buildup. Ensure properly positioned in flame. Consider replacing if faulty.

Ventilation Check – Confirm adequate ventilation to prevent gas buildup. Clean obstructions in vent/exhaust.

Fixing DSI Issues

For DSI ignition water heaters –

If no ignition, first check the electronic control board and igniter function. Reset the board and test operation several times before replacing these pricy components.

If it sparks but doesn’t ignite, inspect all gas lines and orifices for obstructions preventing gas flow.

If it ignites initially but doesn’t stay lit, recheck the flame sensor and other safety controls are operating properly.


Check for Obstructions – Remove debris, webs, and dust affecting the burner.

Ignition System Examination – Inspect system operation. Clean igniter electrode.

Verify Water Flow – Confirm adequate flow through the heater. Check for line blockages.

Inspect Control Board – Examine board issues. Check error codes.

Fixing Electric Element Issues

For electric heating element water heaters –

If getting no hot water, use a multimeter to check the electric heating element itself for continuity. If damaged, replace the element.

Fixing Other General RV Water Heater Issues

Beyond ignition issues, other common water heater problems (with fix) include –

a) A loud burner roar indicates that heat exchanger tubes or exhaust ducting have become clogged with debris or insect nests. Carefully clean out all passages.

b) Soot deposits forming are a clue the air-to-fuel mixture needs adjustment at the burner. Consult manufacturer guidelines.

c) For lukewarm rather than hot water, the thermostat may need calibration to reach proper temperatures.

d) Tankless water heaters have different issues centering on sensors, computer boards, flow valves, or burners not firing at needed demand levels.

e) Interior control panel problems can cut off burner operation or temperature regulation if communication faults occur.

How to Maintain an RV Water Heater to Prevent Future Ignition Issues?

With proper maintenance, you can avoid many RV hot water headaches. Be sure to –

Step 1: Inspect burner tubes and heat exchangers annually for insect or debris clogs. Gently flush if needed.

Step 2: Check all gas lines and fittings for wear, cracks, or leaks that can impact proper gas flow.

Step 3: For DSI heaters, keep the control panel and circuit boards clean and dry to prevent corrosion issues.

Step 4: For electric units, inspect wiring conditions and contact integrity to avoid resistance heating losses.

Step 5: Review all owner manual care & maintenance instructions for your specific unit.

Proper use and upkeep will maximize the lifespan of your RV water heater. But even well-maintained heaters eventually fail.

When Should You Seek Professional Help?

With the right mechanical aptitude and diagnostic equipment, many RV owners can troubleshoot and repair ignition issues on their own following the guidance above.

However, if you’ve systematically addressed all common problems and the system still fails to operate properly, don’t continue blind guessing. At that point, contact a certified RV technician to properly diagnose and remedy the fault. A pro can rapidly pinpoint underlying issues beyond DIY capacities.

Tankless water heaters, interior control panels, and complex DSI main boards may also require professional-level electronics expertise when problems arise. Don’t risk further damaging expensive components by attempting complex repairs without the proper electrical know-how.

People Also Ask

Why does my RV water heater intermittently spark but fail to ignite?

Intermittent spark without ignition suggests adequate power but disrupted gas flow. Thoroughly inspect supply lines, valves, and couplings for cracks/leaks allowing air infiltration which prevents ignition.

What should I do if my DSI board has power but won’t ignite?

First, reset the DSI control board by switching it off, waiting 30 seconds, and turning the water/gas valves back on. Retest operation several times. If still fails to ignite, systematically check the igniter probe electrode, flame sensor position, and wire harness integrity before replacing the module.

Why does my tankless RV water heater cutoff burner operate?

Tankless heaters rely on precise water flow sensors to govern burner firing. If water pressure drops below thresholds, safety protocols cut off the burner. Check the operation of the flow valve, sensors, and burner independently to isolate malfunctions.


I hope this overview gives RV owners the confidence to tackle basic water heater ignition troubles on their own. Methodically verifying utilities, testing components, and cleaning passages can get your hot water flowing again. Maintain your system properly to minimize future ignition hiccups. Know when to bring in a professional for complex or persistent issues going beyond DIY comfort levels. With the right balance of self-reliant troubleshooting and expert repair when needed, you’ll be enjoying long, steamy RV showers for years to come. Say hello to warm adventures, wherever your wheels take you!

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