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Old 06-16-2016, 08:11 PM   #1
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Angry Atwood HWH Element R&R: Major Project!!

This past year I started noticing some calcium deposits when I drained/flushed my HWH, so being 11 years old I figured it was time to replace the heating element (Atwood #92249).

My 2005 Eagle has the Atwood GC6AA-10E (6 gal) model HWH so the heating element is located on the "back" of the HWH, located inside the TT. The back of my HWH is accessed through a cabinet door below my range..., it didn't take long to see this was not going to be a plug-n-play job.

Removing the relay box on the back of the HWH was required to get access to the actual heating element which required disconnecting 5 wires including the two heating element wires. Now the problems begin.........., the HWH is supported by a wood platform that interferes with getting the Camco 5" long 1 1/2" element wrench square onto the heating element hex head. ISSUE: The Atwood heating element installs into the tank at an angle..., not straight-in

Well, I did manage to saw away (small hand saw tool) some of the wood platform so the Camco wrench seated properly on the element hex head. But, due to the limited work space there was no-way that element was coming out, just couldn't get any leverage on with the wrench.

Long story short, I had to remove the entire HWH......., wish I would have taken some pics before the removal, but I was on the verge of throwing things so having an expensive camera in hand might not have been a good idea

Once I had the HWH removed the Camco wrench still wouldn't even budge the element without rounding the element's hex head corners....., had to use a 14" pipe wrench to get it loose....., and the threads didn't show any signs of galvanic corrosion.

Anyway, I plan to reinstall the HWH tomorrow and will take some "install" pics that will provide some insight on what I was up against (post pics tomorrow).

Bob
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Old 06-17-2016, 07:06 AM   #2
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Might have been easier to fill the hot water heater with vinegar to dissolve the calcium deposits.
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Old 06-17-2016, 07:09 AM   #3
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I think you should've bought a new camper!
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Old 06-17-2016, 08:52 AM   #4
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That big black box on the back of my Atwood water heater looks intimidating. I'll look at your pictures very closely to see how it goes back together so I can take mine apart if I have to. Thanks for posting about this.
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Old 06-17-2016, 10:17 AM   #5
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I can see already I would have one of those "Homer Simpson" moments......

DOH!!!
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Old 06-17-2016, 10:17 AM   #6
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Kudos on getting the job done.


You are correct in that any servicing on the back of a camper's HWH practically requires pulling the unit from the RV.
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Old 06-17-2016, 12:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seann45 View Post
Might have been easier to fill the hot water heater with vinegar to dissolve the calcium deposits.
Good point, and that may have taken care of the loose deposits, but my concern was the condition of the 11 year old element......., upon removing the old element I found calcium baked/crusted around the entire element.

Bob
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Old 06-17-2016, 01:19 PM   #8
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Installed the HWH this morning......., a much more pleasant task then the removal

The following pic shows the HWH area below the range/oven with the HWH and wood support platform removed:



One can see the wood support platform in place in the following pic. After removing the platform I used a jig saw to provide adequate "Camco wrench" accessibility to the element hex head. The cutout looks much better then the hack job I did on my initial attempt of using the Camco wrench.



There are four additional wires (plus the 5 relay box wires) that had to be cut from the outside of the TT when removing the HWH..., at reinstall I used plugin connections, then bundled the wires together with electrical tape so the connectors didn't get compromised as I pushed the HWH flush with the TT outer wall. Also re-connected the LP line.



With the HWH in place you can see that I now have ample "wrench" access to the heating element should it need future attention.



I used Butyl tape around the perimeter of the HWH outer frame (pic below), and trimmed it back after giving a little time to 'settle'. I plan on picking up a tube of Dicor to run a bead along the top and partially down the sides of the frame to provide an additional seal.



I re-connected the five reaming wires from the really box and the plumbing....., but I elected not to mount the relay box to the tank until after a HWH function and leak test. Since my HWH R&R project has taken place at a public storage facility, I'll have to wait until I get the TT back home to do the tests.



Trimmed off the excess Butyl tape, locked the TT, then headed home for a burger & beer.



BOB
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Old 06-17-2016, 03:27 PM   #9
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Thanks for the pix and narrative.

How is the plastic box held to the back of the WH?

Is there anything special about the Camco element wrench? Is it just an 1 1/2 inch 6 sided deep socket?

Once you had good access to the element, how hard was it to remove? For re-install, just some pipe dope on the threads?
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Old 06-17-2016, 07:18 PM   #10
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RVhiker,

Quote:
Originally Posted by RVhiker View Post
snip...... How is the plastic box held to the back of the WH?......snip
If you reference the pic where I was showing the Camco wrench attached to the heating element, you will see two screws (attached to the tank) where a separate wire from the relay box is attached to each, and the plastic relay box also gets attached at these same two points.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RVhiker View Post
snip...... there anything special about the Camco element wrench? Is it just an 1 1/2 inch 6 sided deep socket?......snip
Most HWH's will require a 1 1/2" deep well socket....., but the Camco 1 1/2" 6-sided socket is cheap ($6) and made with a thin gauge material for some of those tight applications where a nice Craftsman deep well may be to thick-sided.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RVhiker View Post
snip...... Once you had good access to the element, how hard was it to remove? For re-install, just some pipe dope on the threads?
Once I had the HWH removed and had full access to the element, the Camco wrench couldn't break the element loose...., it wanted to climb off the element's hex head....., damn thing was overtightened have (I didn't have any other 1 1/2" sockets). I couldn't use a crescent wrench because the styrofoam wouldn't allow for a flat placement on the hex head, so I used a 14" pipe wrench and it still took a little push to break it loose. I used the Camco wrench to install the new element.

The existing element didn't have any evidence of dope/tape usage. The element comes with a compression gasket for sealing the stainless steel element face to the aluminum tank, and it was recommend (called a couple sources) not to use any dope or tape with the aluminum/stainless steel HWH components......, my leak test will prove this theory out

Bob
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