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Old 09-15-2022, 03:31 PM   #1
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Water Heater Leak

I have a 1982 Sunline 16 1/2 FD and the water heater has started to leak. It appears to be from the far side of the heater where I cannot see, causing water to pool under the tank and flood the floor so I think I will have to pull the entire heater out to see what is going on. It only leaks when under pressure and not when the pump is off. The tank is encased in cardboard and insulation which also makes inspection difficult. Any advice/tips on how to pull it out or perhaps ideas what might be leaking will be greatly appreciated.
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Old 09-16-2022, 01:13 PM   #2
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Water Heater Leak

Hi, typically the water connections are to the upper and lower portion of the tank, they are usually on the back( inboard) end of the tank meaning they are accessible from inside the camper. Thereís usually an access panel or door inside to gain access. The gas is piped in at the outboard side of the unit, seen through the metal door on the exterior of the unit. To remove the unit, drain the water out of the water heater by removing the freeze plug on the exterior of the unit. shut gas off or better yet, disconnect propane tanks entirely. Then disconnect the gas line at the water heater. From inside, disconnect water lines( inlet and outlet) the water heater is removed from the outside by removing the sheet metal screws that hold the body of the unit in to the wall of the camper. There should also be butyl tape there sealing the unit to the siding. If the leak is not apparent coming from the lines coming in and out of the back of the unit then I suspect it may be a blown tank. Was the water heater winterized properly? If not, then the water inside can freeze and bust the seam on the aluminum tank. We would need to know more about the circumstances. Ie: have you been using the camper and the leak just started? Or is this camper new to you and you donít know the history?
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Old 09-17-2022, 03:01 PM   #3
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I removed the heater and it does not appear to be leaking out the bottom of the tank but rather from where the control unit screws into the tank. I can't figure out how to post photos and could use some help with that.
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Old 09-17-2022, 04:49 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Banjoman View Post
I can't figure out how to post photos and could use some help with that.
The procedure is described in this post:

https://www.sunlineclub.com/forums/f...html#post86041
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Old 09-19-2022, 03:47 PM   #5
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Hi Banjoman,

Not sure if your water heater is original, been changed or what model you have. Posting the, make and model number helps, there should be a sticker in the outside compartment when the door is down. If it is still exists, let us know the make & model. Sunline used the Atwood brand in most cases but someone may have changed yours to another brand.

The pics really help, if you need more help on posting pics, just ask.

By your last reply, it appears you made it past getting the heater out of the camper. Good! And your leak looks to be coming from where the control unit screws into the tank, h'mm need some more info.

Need some help on what you are calling the "control unit". Those words fit a few different things by generic description, and only one of them normally leak's inside the camper.

An 1982 Atwood water heater most times had an all gas control valve in the outside compartment with a temperature sensor probe that screwed into the tank behind the gas valve. That gas valve and sensor ran the entire gas operation, other then the pilot, thermocouple and the gas burner. However, normally if the sensor probe into the tank leaks, it drips outside and then onto the ground. Not really leaking inside unless it is leaking between the tank coupling and the metal outer shield and sneaking in that way.

If yours by odd chance had an electric element, there would be wires on the back side of the tank "inside" the camper. The electric element would screw into the tank and that could leak inside the camper. The control sensors usually touched the side of the tank on the electric unit.

Need some more info and what you are seeing with the leak, ideally the pics and we can see what you are up against.

Looking forward to you info, so we can help better.

John
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Old 09-19-2022, 06:36 PM   #6
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More on water heater leak

After removing the water heater and pressurizing with air, I discovered a small crack about a half inch long and a tiny pin hole in the bottom. Neither were visible so the bottom appeared fine but these two were sufficient to slowly flood the compartment where the heater resides. This unit is by Atwood and by its looks it may be original to the camper which, as stated in an earlier post, is a 1982 Sunline 16 1/2 FD. My plan right now is to braze these two holes with aluminum rod., but if that doesn't work I may resort to MIG welding with aluminum wire. Failing either of these I will take it to a professional welder. I don't believe any of the epoxies such as JB Weld will provide a permanent fix. I also need to repair the edge of the floor that has deteriorated due to the moisture. I want to thank those who have provided helpful comments on this.
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Old 09-19-2022, 06:49 PM   #7
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Aha! Good work finding the leak! Let us know how you make out with the brazing. Or if you end up needing to get it welded. I know aluminum welding can be tricky.
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Old 09-23-2022, 07:47 PM   #8
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Even more on water heater leak

Further examination of the bottom of the tank and probing what looked like calcium deposits revealed the damage was far more extensive than I thought. There were many holes, some large, and repair is looking more unlikely.

First I searched for a new Atwood and found they are out of business. There are a couple of mail order RV parts places that claim to still sell them but these places turned out to be scams. If there is no phone number to call and if they don't give their place of business address stay away.

Next I am looking to just replace the tank. My heater is a 6GA-3 and the replacement tank appears to be the 91412 tank which no one seems to have in stock anymore. Amazon sells the 91059 replacement tank and I am trying to find out if it will fit. It does have a 110 volt heater as well as the propane but if the rest of it is the same it might work.

Lastly I can replace it with a Suburban heater. Suburban heaters are reasonably priced and the install appears easy with the adapter kit and replacement door but I am wondering about the propane hookup and the water hookups. Also the Suburban requires a 12v hookup to light the pilot (what was wrong with just lighting it with a match?). If anyone here has ever done this Atwood to Suburban swap I would enjoy hearing about it.
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Old 09-24-2022, 09:56 AM   #9
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Hi Banjoman,

Water heater tanks, and all new heaters, has been a big issue in the last few years. Mainly complicated by Covid and the mad rush to fix up old campers. Late last year, finding a new water heater did start to gain some relief. The prices were all over the map... big time.

A few things, yes, sadly Atwood Mobile sold out I think 4 to 5 years back now. Dometic picked up the water heaters, ranges, furnaces and the power jacks (tongue). The jacks were sold off to Lippert who then just about discontinued all of them.

Dometic is still selling some parts for the Atwood furnaces, water heaters and ranges, at least for now. They have discontinued many low volume selling parts.

The tank service kit for your G6A-3 (I think you mixed up the letters in your post) is listed as Atwood 91412. From my places I buy parts from, these 2 list it for sale, but for sure call them to make sure the inventory is still in stock. Many of my other go too places were out of stock.

Tweety's, I have bought from them in the past with a positive experience https://tweetys.com/atwood-dometic-9...ater-tank.aspx

RVParts country is somewhat new, I have not yet bought from them. https://www.rvpartscountry.com/91412-inner-tank.html

From what I know, the 91059 tank you are looking at, is a gas/electric combo tank that fits the electronic ignition and where the control board runs the electric element portion. That tank does not have the tapped hole for your older all gas valve sensor probe. This tank will not work from what I know in your case.

Since yours was made and as the years went by, the gas only Atwood heater was converted to gas with electronic ignition. There is no pilot light and no sensor probe that screwed into the outside area of the tank that works with your old gas valve/controller.

So now what?

I see you found the all new Suburban option that was made to fit into the camper opening of the Atwood heaters. https://suburbanrv.com/water-heating...-water-heater/

That is an good heater, just some do not like the steel tank with the anode requirement in the RV setting. The anode is in the drain plug hole and some of us drain the water heater after every trip. Which means taking that anode in and out all the time increases the odds you will cross thread the anode in the tank and then deal with that issue as time goes on. And there is no quick drain feature with a valve that we could do with the Atwood's.

If you do go the Suburban route, consider piping in a drain line into the cold water fill port on the back of the tank. This might allow the anode to stay in the heater and still be able to drain it. I have seen some older Suburban's in motor homes that did that, but the not sure the newer heaters have the cold port in the low spot on the back of the tank.

I have a friend up the road with a new Keystone camper with the Suburban in it and he has to deal with that anode/draining issue as they dump the water every campout.

I'm not saying not to get the Suburban, just understand the drain/anode issue if that is a concern for you. There are a lot of campers out there with the Suburban. How people deal with the fresh water system in their camper is a whole topic by itself.

There is another option for you. Dometic redesigned the Atwood style heater and as of late last year, you can find it for sale. These are the 3 models they now offer.
https://www.dometic.com/en-us/outdoo...ting-solutions

I bought 2 of 6 gallon gas/combo electric ones in Jan time frame of this year. And they where made here in the US, at least for now. It still uses the aluminum tank concept, consider it an updated design of the last Atwood's made. I installed one so far and it is up and operational in a friend of mine's camper. And it does fit in the hole in the camper the old Atwood came out of, but you have to do a little wood work to narrow the hole as the new one is square. They sell a door kit that fits over the new wood to make a conversion from the old Atwood to the new Dometic possible and deal with the siding.

I was going to do a post on it, but have not made it to it yet of the new Dometic option. If this option is of interest to you, let me know I'll get the post up and going.

Here are a few quick picks from the install.
New heater test fit in the hole in the camper


Wood work to close up the width


The door retro fit kit installed


The retro fit kit door closed


Regardless if you go with a new Suburban or Dometic, you will need to deal with water, gas piping changes and electric changes. You need 12 VDC to run the controls and if you want the electric option, you need to run 120 VAC to the heater.

The cost of a new replacement tank is not far away from an all new heater if you shop around. Just you have to deal the the piping, gas and controls changes.

Hope this helps

John
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Old 09-24-2022, 12:16 PM   #10
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John,
Thank you so very much for your reply. You have given a lot to think about. And yes I did get the numbers of my heater wrong. The 40 year label is getting hard to read.
Replacing the tank is the most desirable approach because everything goes back the way it was but with my luck something else on this old heater would fail and I would be back to where I started. I checked the two suppliers of the replacement tank and the first is indeed legitimate but the price is approaching that of a new unit. The other supplier has a reasonable price but is not one I would deal with after reading the reviews.

Both the Suburban and the Atwood Dometic are about 4" longer than the old heater and there is a clearance issue with a large PVC vent pipe. The Suburban rear pipe locations would be an issue but the Atwood Dometic pipe locations, being located higher, would work better. So right now I am leaning toward the Atwood WH-6GA gas only unit. Amazon sells this heater for $449.99 with free shipping and there is an Atwood Dometic dealer a half hour from me. A nice new heater will also be a good selling point when I sell it someday. The pictures you posted are helpful, especially with the retro fit kit.
Again, thank you and I will look forward to your post on the Atwood replacement if you decide to do it.
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Old 09-24-2022, 12:26 PM   #11
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P.S.

All this talk about water heaters I forgot to post a picture of my 40 year old Sunline from a recent trip to Maine.
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Old 09-24-2022, 12:31 PM   #12
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Nice! We are taking our Ď78 up to Maine for Columbus Day weekend and some leaf peeping. This will be our first trip with it, Iíve been rehabbing it all summer. Just put the new tires on, canít wait! Itís good to see the oldies still on the road.
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Old 09-24-2022, 12:33 PM   #13
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Old 09-25-2022, 08:05 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Banjoman View Post
John,
Thank you so very much for your reply. You have given a lot to think about. And yes I did get the numbers of my heater wrong. The 40 year label is getting hard to read.
Replacing the tank is the most desirable approach because everything goes back the way it was but with my luck something else on this old heater would fail and I would be back to where I started. I checked the two suppliers of the replacement tank and the first is indeed legitimate but the price is approaching that of a new unit. The other supplier has a reasonable price but is not one I would deal with after reading the reviews.

Both the Suburban and the Atwood Dometic are about 4" longer than the old heater and there is a clearance issue with a large PVC vent pipe. The Suburban rear pipe locations would be an issue but the Atwood Dometic pipe locations, being located higher, would work better. So right now I am leaning toward the Atwood WH-6GA gas only unit. Amazon sells this heater for $449.99 with free shipping and there is an Atwood Dometic dealer a half hour from me. A nice new heater will also be a good selling point when I sell it someday. The pictures you posted are helpful, especially with the retro fit kit.
Again, thank you and I will look forward to your post on the Atwood replacement if you decide to do it.
Hi Banjoman,

You are very welcome. Glad to help.

Your new adventure has prompted me to get my post up on converting an Atwood to the new Domeitc. See this thread for more info https://www.sunlineclub.com/forums/f...tml#post158309

Good luck on your install and please post back how you make out. This conversion to Dometic is going to increase in the future as the older water heaters start failing beyond practical repair. Your camper will have it's own piping and converting challenges and it is always good to see what others have found to overcome them with.

John
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Old 09-26-2022, 08:11 AM   #15
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JohnB,
A lot of us are going to be replacing old water heaters so your post is a great help. I hadn't thought about a drip pan but it does seem a good idea so I will do that. The weather here in the Northeast is getting chilly so I will put the old heater back for now to keep out furry friends cover the camper for the winter. I will order the Dometic WH-6GA and the conversion door kit soon and work on the rear piping during the winter as well as a drip pan. In the spring when I install it all I will post my progress. In the meantime I will study all the material you have provided. Thank you!
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Old 09-26-2022, 08:42 AM   #16
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Good deal Banjoman. It will be interesting to see how your fits in the older campers. The camper being smaller and the cabinets not as deep, will create a few things to work through.

John
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