RV Water Heater Maintenance
Let’s talk a little bit about RV water heater anode rods. The anode rod of a water heater has two functions.
It acts as the drain plug but also as a sacrificial component designed to protect the steel tank of a Suburban water heater. Because the water source for RVs is not stable (campground to campground), the mineral content of the water varies greatly.
These minerals could erode and degrade the tank over time. The composite material of the anode rod (usually magnesium based) attracts these minerals and offers itself up as sacrifice instead, thereby preserving the integrity of the water heater tank.
Most RV water heaters are manufactured by Suburban and Atwood. Atwood water heaters do not use anode rods because they employ aluminum tanks which are not iron based. The aluminum does not react to minerals in the water so they can get away with a nylon drain plug instead.
For those that have anode rods, they should be inspected annually (winterizing is a good time). They usually last 2-3 years.
The first picture below shows a new anode rod next to a degraded anode rod which is still serviceable for another year. The second picture depicts an anode rod that is completely degraded and needs replacement. The third picture shows the nylon drain plug used in Atwood water heaters. Consider this little tidbit of info. The material that decomposes from the anode rod settles to the bottom of your water heater and if not flushed regularly, could produce a foul smelling odor, which you will definitely notice in the shower! You can find all of these products in our parts stores.