Friday, October 5, 2012

The Palms' Unexpected Annual Service

I am going to apologize in advance for this very wordy post.  I want to remember exactly what was done this week so I'll have the information handy for the future. All these things happened over a period of three days.

When we arrived here at Bluewater Lake, I was lucky to meet up with a Certified Master RV Technician here in the park, and through a series of events, he ended up checking out my entire rig for me and making some repairs.  He taught me a lot, and since I was past due for the annual service on my appliances in The Palms, he helped me out with that.

Ron was parked across from me in the first campsite I chose last Thursday.  Then I decided to move my rig to a new site, and when I was talking to Ron, I dropped my welcome mat in his site, and didn't realize it.  Later, after I was in the  new site and setting up, he walked down the road with my rug.


I was plugging in, and he noticed that my electric plug was not in the best shape, not dangerous yet, but I knew it was going to have to be replaced soon.  That's when I learned he was a retired RV tech and he had a replacement plug that he offered to put on my 30 amp cord.  It was really nice of him to offer to do the repair, and his hourly rate was much less than I would have paid at a shop or dealership.


Once that was done he noticed the screen in the water heater cover wasn't flush, so he went over and opened the door to re-set the screen.  That's when he noticed my anode rod.  It was looking pretty old and discolored and he asked me when I last checked it.  "Never."  So back to his truck he went to get tools to unscrew the anode.  It takes a special size socket, a 1 1/16", and he unscrewed it and got it out.  (I'll be buying one of those sockets.) It was completely worn away, and when he pulled it out we could see my water heater tank was full of white material and large flakes.  He said the tank should be emptied and flushed out - this should be done every six months.  He met me over at a water faucet that we could use, and it took lots and lots of flushes to finally get clear water coming out of the tank.

 My totally used up anode rod. See the white material inside the end of the screw-in side?  That stuff was all over the inside of the tank, in powder form, small flakes and large flakes.  A real mess.

This is a new anode rod.

The graphic below was copied from the Suburban Hot Water Heater Service Manual.  It shows the original anode rod all the way to 75% used up.  You should replace it at 75%, mine was at 100%.

I don't know why I let this go.  I knew about the anode rods, and in fact mentioned them in a previous post.  For some reason, I thought I didn't have to check mine.  There are two kinds of RV water heaters, Atwood and Suburban.  I have a Suburban and this kind uses the anode rods that wear away instead of the inside of the tank wearing away.  I need to check mine at least every six months.  The Atwood water heaters don't use these, and although Atwood makes anode rods for their tanks, according to Ron, they shouldn't be used.  They are not needed and will eventually cause problems with the Atwood tanks.

This is confirmed by info posted on the RVing message boards; Tech Talk.  A question was asked about using an anode rod in an Atwood water heater:

"The principal behind the sacrificial anode is that it attracts the charged water particles which cause rust.  Those particles then corrode the anode instead of the walls and seams of the water heater, thereby extending the life of the water heater. Atwood tanks are aluminum and should not need an anode rod. Suburban's are not and do need the rod. Talk to Atwood. I recall the the new tanks are aluminum and do not need an anode. It also may void your warranty. Check with Atwood." 

After cleaning out the hot water tank, Ron noticed the pressure relief valve shown below was dripping a little, and he wanted to replace it with a new one.  As you can see in the photos, in spite of his different size wrenches, taps with a hammer, and using all the muscle power he had, which was impressive, this darn thing wouldn't budge.  He managed to twist the spout, but couldn't move the screw-in part.  He couldn't get a good grip with the wrench, so he got a metal saw and sawed off the spout.  Still - even with a better grip on the valve - it wouldn't unscrew.  He knocked it with his hammer while trying to unscrew it with all his might.  After a while, he said that was as far as he wanted to go.  He was afraid of ruining the hot water tank itself if he kept going.  I told him I can live with a bit of a leak until I needed to replace the tank.

 All the right tools and muscles couldn't budge this part - the metal spout was bent in the effort to turn it, but the relief valve wouldn't unscrew.

 This shows the first cut from the metal saw.

 Ron working on the spout.

 Cut off enough to get the wrench placed in a better position.

Somewhere during all this, Ron wanted to get to the tank and waterlines that were behind my under-the-sink kitchen cupboard to check them. I emptied the cupboard and he started to take out the removable wall separating the cupboard from the tank.  Unfortunately Forest River seems to have built the cupboard after putting in the wall, which was too tall, and the piece wouldn't fit through the opening to come out.  There is a narrow piece of  wood going horizontally that the removable wall should have been screw into, which left a little room above the piece, but instead the wall was covering the wood all the way to the top of the opening, and now it wouldn't fit through. 

Ron got his portable saw and had to saw off the top of the wall in order to get it out.  Later he cut off the extra pieces of plastic that were the molding around the wall piece, it all fit perfectly, and when he was done in that area he re-installed the wall by screwing it on the horizontal piece of wood, as it should have been done in the first place.  (He also found and cleaned up a little mouse nest that was behind the wall, next to my hot water heater.  Good place for a nest with the heater's warmth. It looked like the mouse left before finishing it's nest - thank goodness.  Might have been the one I impaled to the floor with my butcher knife.  Reminder:  Ron said it's a good idea to use gloves when cleaning up something like this, and a mask if there are a lot of mouse droppings - hantavirus isn't something we want to catch from these little critters or their urine or droppings.)

The water heater electric on/off switch was frozen and I couldn't turn it off.  He tried earlier and said it was frozen.  Even though the switch was frozen "ON," the electric part of the water heater didn't work, only the propane would heat the water. After all the water spout relief valve efforts, he pushed again on the on/off switch and it broke loose and we could hear the electricity heating element start up.  That's when he noticed the leak had stopped, too.  

Somehow with all the twisting, banging, unfreezing the switch, etc., everything is now working.  What a deal!  I couldn't believe I was that lucky, when I was expecting to end up ordering a new tank.  (Prayers definitely DO work!)
So...   that's the story of my annual hot water heater service.  Totally unexpected and unplanned, but it was done, thanks to Ron who gave me a great deal in comparison to other places I would have gone, and he has the training and expertise to do it right.  I trusted him completely and was really happy to have him working on The Palms.  I might add that he has the patience of a saint, and I only heard a couple of bad words through this whole ordeal. My own Dad wouldn't have had that much patience.  :)

I'm hoping I'll be able to slide by for a while with the current hot water heater, but it is six years old, so I may be living on borrowed time.  At least I now know what I need to do and how to do it to keep it going as long as possible.


Ron also checked the outside area of the fridge and listened to the coach propane heater and said they both looked and sounded fine.  


He noticed the new propane line installed in the fridge area that goes down to the outlet for my catalytic heater that I had installed last November.  It seems this installation was not done according to code.  The line installed is rubber instead of copper, and there is no shut-off valve, which is also a code violation.  The installation is right over my rear wheel well, and a blowout that might take out the wheel well could cause a real issue with that rubber line.  If there is a spark and the hose rips open, in seven minutes The Palms could be a pile of ashes on the highway.  So I'm going back to the installer on my way to Arizona when I leave here and have him correct it and bring that install to code.  Hopefully I won't have any problems with that. 


And guess what - Ron checked my converter and said it is working fine - just the way it should be.  Can you believe that???  I thought I had a defective one again. The first one I bought in Utah was broken after it had been bouncing around on the closet's under flooring without being attached to the floor, but the current one that I received under warranty IS working.  So now I don't have to worry about it anymore.


The next thing Ron did for me was to show me, and walk me though, taking down my awning, which I've never done.  This winter I'm having an automatic Carefree Awning installed when I'm at Quartzsite.  Ron said that's the best, confirming what my friend Hazel has been telling me, so I was glad to have that confirmation.  In the meantime, if I want to lower the awning, I know how.  Also, to save a little money I planned to re-use my awning fabric when I have the automatic one installed, and I was glad to see I have only a little mold on the awning.  It looks really good - brand new - and Ron said there's no reason he could see why I shouldn't be able to re-use it.


Next he took off my coach door locking mechanism and sprayed it and made sure it was closing properly.  I've been having a lot of problems with it shutting easily so now that works well.  It closes and locks easier than it ever has.  He then went up on the roof and oiled my TV antenna, which has been sticking when I put it up and down, and now it's like it's moving through butter, completely smooth - again, the best it's worked since I've had The Palms. 

It was kind of amazing what he had in his Ranger truck that he pulls behind his motor home. Every time he needed a part or tool, he'd come back with the right thing.  I finally had to laugh, and told him his truck was like those clown cars - it was amazing what kept coming out of it.

Ron left Tuesday morning - Ron, if you read this, THANK YOU!  It felt like you were working on my rig the whole time you were here at Bluewater. You did a fantastic job for me and taught me a lot.  And I'll definitely clean out my HWH every six months and will get the new U-shaped tire valve stem extenders and will check my PSI frequently.  I was ready to learn more about my motor home and you really helped me at the perfect time. 

New Horse Photos

The other night I woke up to Katie's low growls and barks and she wouldn't stop.  I looked outside and in the bright moonlight I could see six horses right near The Palms, grazing in the field.  There was a little one that was trying to nurse, and the mare kept jumping out of the way and it looked like they were having a little dispute.  Finally they walked away and the other horses followed them.  Very cool to wake in the middle of the night to see these beautiful animals in the moonlight. 

Hazel and I took a ride the other day and I got some photos of  horses by the lake, and I also snapped some in the campsite near me.  I love being back with the horses again, especially since there are so many new foals to watch:

From me and Katie, have a great weekend, everyone!  :)


  1. WOW! What luck was that!!! Nice to know you're all fixed up and ready to go for a few months without worrying too much about anything! Nice horse pictures too.

  2. Did you find out where Ron will be in 6 months when it's time to do this all again?

  3. Shoeless Joe - I bought the hose attachment from Ron so I will be able to flush out the tank myself. He said if I do that every six months, I shouldn't need a new anode rod for a while. But I'll sure be checking the anode rod, too.

  4. Wow, wish we could all find a repair person like that at our campground!! What a good deal...instructions, repairs and advice. You were very fortunate.

    Love all your photos!


  5. Me too! Craig is slowly learning about what needs to be done, but we have a long way to go. Right now it's a stinky water problem. We have to deal with it before we go out again.

  6. It was my understanding that splicing a plug on your power cable is against code. Apparently you should have a cord with the plug molded on.

  7. Love the horse pictures. I had Camping World do the annual water heater maintenance in April, now I'm wondering what brand water heater I have and just what they did. I will have to look at it tomorrow or look in my manual. Wish I could find a RV guru to take care of a few little things in my RV.

  8. Lots of maintenance, must feel good to have all that taken care of. That first horse picture is my favorite. That is just beautiful.

  9. Ah your horse photos are precious love the two standing side by side.
    You will love your automatic awning.
    We have one and when a wind comes up or a storm, you can get them up in seconds. So glad you had all that help.

  10. Great job explaining the work done on your rig - especially the hot water heater and anode rod. I just replaced our anode rod at 2 years old.

    Nothing like getting a good RV tech who knows what he's doing.

  11. Doug and Sheila: Ron put a new plug on because the old one was ready to fail. The plug had to be replaced, and since he is a Master Certified RV Tech, I can't think of anyone who could have done a better job. What else would you do if the plug is bad? The elec cord is attached to the motor home. He knew his codes, so I wasn't worried about that. He pointed out two things that were not "to code" in The Palms, which I am going to get fixed.

    Rick: I'm hoping to go two years this time, too, by cleaning out my tank every six months. I'm suspecting that since 2006 the anode rod was never replaced.

  12. Wonderful post. Glad you had such a great experience and got so many things taken care of. Love the horse pictures.

  13. Wonderful article, thanks for putting this together! This is obviously one great post. Thanks for the valuable information and insights you have so provided here.
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  14. Sounds like the mare is weaning the foal. She looks pregnant. All of my Vintage RV's had/have the original hot water heaters. Which puts them at 31 & 26 years old. They are Atwoods. My first Vintage RV, a TT, had to be replaced at 20 years only because of my newbie error. My first winterizing and I got distracted and did not empty the tank. The following spring, when I was camping, there was water pouring out of the rig. No water that weekend! My RV guy showed it to me, after he removed it. Looked like an Alien burst out of it, wow!! Never forgot that again though and stuck to my winterizing script like glue thereafter :)


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