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Old 09-04-2017, 11:00 AM   #1
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Atwood water heating element issue?

Hello! Had a problem yesterday with our Atwood 6 gal water heater on the electric side(works fine on propane). Turned it on at the breaker like always since the switch is on the back of the unit itself and quite inconvenient to access. The heating element turned on momentarily but after a short period it stopped working. Thought the breaker tripped(never happens) so I cycled the breaker and no results. Accessed the water heater switch itself and cycled that....still no operation. Removed the back cover and instantly noticed the jump wire between the thermostat buttons was scorched and melted off the terminal of the upper most button sensor. Sorry, didn't take any photos. So I figure a simple fix. Ordered a new thermostat sensor set which should arrive in a couple days. I am also wondering if I should change the heating element as well? I don't know how old it is or if it was ever changed from new. I have had no issues up until now since we took possession of it. My real question is, can I replace the original 1400watt element with a store bought 1500watt unit? I only ask because it seems any decent hardware store carries elements but I can't find a 1400watt unit. Only 1500watt. Would it work or do I need to order the more expensive, application specific 1400 watt element? Thanks and sorry to ramble on.
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Old 09-04-2017, 05:18 PM   #2
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If it fits it ships. Usually burnt wires indicates a poor connection. 1500 watts is within the realm of a 15 amp breaker but not a lot of leeway but then again neither is a 1400 watt it's only a couple amps difference.
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Old 09-04-2017, 05:38 PM   #3
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I found some posts where people replaced with a generic box store element and had no issue. I picked one up to install along with the new thermostat sensors when they come. 9bux for element, 17 for sensors.
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Old 09-04-2017, 07:48 PM   #4
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Hi Mike,

It seems you are on the road to recovery.

On changing the element, your heater is before the Atwood 2003 redesign on the electric element control circuit. So yes, like mainah stated, be on the look out for loose connections. On the 2003 and newer heaters they took all the controls out of the little box in the back and just put a relay in there for a remote on/off switch. The relay is activated with the same safeties and call for heat comes from the main control board. As well as the remote on/off switch being on. This makes a much better setup.

The heads up on getting the old element out. Since it is working, if the element gives you a bear of a time trying to get it out, maybe stop before damage comes. Save the new element for a day the old one dies. If it wants to come out, then good and change it. It most likely has a lot of scale build up on it from hard water.

The element might have some corrosion on the threaded connections and may be bound up in the heater. The threads in the tank are aluminium. Mine screws in but some of the older ones bolted in. If there is a real big hex on the head of the element, it is a screw in. If there is a 4 bolt pattern (square) around the head of the element then it is bolt in.

Hope this helps and let us know how you make out.

John
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Old 09-04-2017, 09:43 PM   #5
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It is a screw in type. Not the flange style. I looked at it very closely and all looks good and free of corrosion. Of course that doesn't tell the tale of the tank interior condition. I have recently flushed out the tank of sediment with the flushing wand and it was quite clean. Barely any debris came out so I am hoping that is a good sign of the tank's condition.I am a mechanic by trade so I am not intimidated by the task. I trust my experience to know when the removal isn't feeling quite right to stop and leave well enough alone. We will see how it goes very soon. Thanks for the help. Greatly appreciated.
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Old 09-05-2017, 09:43 AM   #6
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Okay I got the parts I need to do the repair. My only other question I have is the switch that is physically on the water heater itself to turn it on and off. Is that just a basic 12 volt switch? Or is it 1:10? I want to relocate that on to the outer wall of the bottom bunk so I can access it much easier instead of flipping the breaker every time I need to turn it on or off. Thanks again
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Old 09-05-2017, 12:25 PM   #7
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I think your camper is a 1996 model. Assuming the heater is still the original vintage, the electric element controls are all 120 VAC. The thermostat, the ECO disk switch and the on/off toggle switch were all 120 VAC. There should be no other wires coming out of that steal junction box other then the romex cable feeding the 120 VAC.

Some folks had a floor plan that allowed them to put a standard 120 volt switch box in the side of a cabinet and mount a standard 15 or 20 amp 120 VAC switch in the incoming romex wire line. Then just leave the rocker switch on all the time.

Ideally you can find a switch with a light to tell you it is on.

Like one of these or similar.

https://www.amazon.com/Leviton-1461-.../dp/B0030ZRDSE

https://www.amazon.com/Legrand-Pass-...ht+wall+switch

Hope this helps

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Old 09-05-2017, 12:53 PM   #8
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Perfect! I was considering relocating the original switch by simply extending the wires to the wall as well. Great help. So appreciative. I have all the books and specs on my unit but they are in the trailer 25miles away from home. I just want to be sure I have all I need for tonight's fix.
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Old 09-06-2017, 07:29 AM   #9
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Don't know how accessible your heater is but the easy way would be to remove the heater switch joint the switch wires to new romex then to a new box. A standard box will not fit in any wall they are not deep enough so a cabinet or closet would be the answer.
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Old 09-06-2017, 08:06 AM   #10
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Repair went swimmingly. Although I could not get the heating element loose to change it so I left that for another day when I have a better socket and a ratchet with more leverage. Thermostat buttons installed and unit is working again. Thanks again for all the tips.
Also will do the switch relocating another day. Didn't have proper wire to do the job. Maybe this weekend.
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Old 09-06-2017, 09:13 PM   #11
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Great!!! Thanks for reporting back and glad it worked out.
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