Suburban Water Heater Repair – Faulty Switch

Suburban Water Heater Repair – Faulty Switch

One of the joys of “home” ownership is the repairs that are involved with it.  After we purchased Bessy, we spent time cleaning her, packing her and doing some repairs.  One of the repairs that came up was the hot water heater.  The gas side it it was working fine, but when I tried to use the electric, it didn’t work.

A couple of days before we left, I decided to give this a shot at fixing it.  What I found was that electricity was getting to the water heater, but wasn’t actually getting to the element. In the picture, you’ll see two black round circles.  These are breakers to shut things off in case of an issue.  I checked these and they weren’t needing to be reset.  In the bottom left corner, there is a black on/off switch.  That was in the on position. Still nothing.

I figured the issue was that the on/off switch wasn’t working right or the electric element was bad.  You can test the element by removing the wires from it and checking it for resistance.  I did this and there was resistance, so I figured it was probably good.

Next would be the switch.  We have an on/off switch inside the coach, so as a “quick fix” I decided to just bypass the switch on the tank and just run a wire directly to the element instead of to the switch.  Great idea, right?  Ha ha!  Wrong!

What I forgot to take into consideration was that after the switch, the wire runs to the thermostat and then down to the element.  By installing the direct wire, it bypassed the thermostat too and so the electric element was constantly running.  I didn’t think that one all the way through!

Once I realized that, I left the electric turned off and just kept running on propane.  In the mean time, I was able to this video by Love Your RV where he ran into an issue with his switch.  With his, it would sometimes work if put in the right position, but not always.  I figured that was basically the same issue I was having, but needed to get the switch out to test it and find out.

Saturday morning, I finally got an opportunity to take a look at it again and figure out what was wrong.  I pulled the switch out and sure enough, I couldn’t get a continuity (connectivity) between the two posts.  Bad switch.

The night before, we stopped by Camping World and bought a new one just in case.  After we got home, I realized that the switch we bought was only for 12 volts and we needed one that was for 120 volts.  So, back to Camping World.  But, they didn’t have any.  All of their switches were only 12 volts, so plan B, go to Ace Hardware.

At Ace, I was able to find one with the exact same specs: 120 Volts, 16 Amps.  It even is a lighted switch, so when it is on, it lights up.  This is what Love Your RV did and I thought it was a good idea.

Installation was pretty smooth.  The two connectors from the old switch connected right up to the new one.  The switch only cut out the hot (black) wire, so I had to run an additional neutral (white) wire for the switch to light up.  That was pretty simple.  I also added a little bit of silicone around the switch.  This should prevent any water from getting behind the switch and potentially shorting it out.

Now, we have hot water running off the electricity just fine!  We can now save some of our propane for the running the furnaces.

With love,
Benjamin and Shannon

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