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Old 06-07-2010, 02:15 PM   #1
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Atwood Water Heater Rear Access

The electric side of my waterheater stopped working. I have an Atwood waterheater in a box in front of my step. There is no rear access to the box or from inside the coach. The electric element is in the back of the heater. This is in a 2003 38U adventurer. Has anyone else encountered this problem? Any idea how to get to it?
Thanks for any help.
Ken Hendrickson
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Old 06-07-2010, 02:31 PM   #2
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I had a 2003 35U Itasca Suncruiser (Adventurer sister model) where my electric water heater went bad. After pulling out the water heater with my brother in law, we found that there is a reset/thermal disconnect button in between the electrical connectors of the heating element. Instructions were pasted on the back side (where you could not read them) to take the eraser side of a pencil and push the reset button back in if you did not have electric hot water.

If you can get your hand up there, it is worth a try before you pull everything apart.
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Old 06-08-2010, 03:36 PM   #3
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I would recommend turning off the breaker first, as you will be on the hot side.

I removed my heater several years ago because I thought this ECO was bad. Found out though that my heater had an on/off switch located on the back side. This switch was underrated & had melted. I bypassed the switch & all has been well since.

I believe there are 4 components on the back that could be causing your problem:

3-ECO (with reset button)

Depending on how thin and agile you are you may be able to replace 1,2 or 3, but not sure if there is enough room behind heater to remove #4.

I had to remove the plywood board just rear of the heater to access the connectors.

You should be able to remove this board, the propane line, and be able to move the heater out enough for service without removing coolant hoses.

It is a job in any event.

If your coach aux heater is inop, removing the heater gives you easy access to it.

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Old 06-09-2010, 09:58 AM   #4
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Not sure if yours is the same but on mine there is a round access door on the rear outside turn it to remove and feel around inside there is a small rubber boot covering a switch or button you cannot see it but its the only thing that feels that way ( if your hand is in the correct place). I think the switch is called a momentary switch press it down turn the heater on and see if you get an increase in amps on your energy management panel, make sure your coach is unplugged or your generator is off before you do anything.
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Old 06-09-2010, 01:28 PM   #5
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Update on Atwood Heater

Thanks for the replies. I was able to reach around the back and found an oblong hole on a protruding (about 1/2 inch) plate and used a pencil with eraser to press into it. I could feel no button so was disappointed. Later I tried the hot water and it was HOT again on electric. This morning it was back to being cold and had to use gas to warm the water.
In the box where the heater is I have about two feet of width to get into and a wooden side to the heater area with the water pump and water lines mounted to it. My plan is to try and disconnect the water lines and move the side away to get to the back of the heater. Maybe I will not have to pull it all of the way out.
Some have suggested that the wiring around the element is often poorly done. I am hoping it is under the raised plate in the back. Maybe I pushed something to make contact in probing that area. It is raining here in Oregon where I am so I will wait for better weather to have another go at it.
Any other ideas would be appreciated.
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Old 06-09-2010, 06:02 PM   #6
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Ken, let us know what you find. I am having the same problem, but have not tackeled it. I am concerned if I pull it out to far I will cause the lines from the radiator to leak.
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Old 06-10-2010, 11:26 AM   #7
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On mine to remove the plywood wall, I disconnected the water pump lines & placed it on the back shelf Then removed all screws on the board holding the water lines & valves. I moved them to the left as I pulled the water drain from the floor. Two screws held a bracket on the rear of the board, & I think 3 screws which go thru the front heater flange into the plywood.

Before removing the plywood I removed the light & cut the wires. I added butt connectors to reconnect it. I then removed the plywood using a small flat screwdriver along the bottom edge to sneak it out. Mine is a tight fit.

Good luck.
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Old 06-10-2010, 01:28 PM   #8
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It's been a while since I've been in the back of my heater, but as I recall the "button" is not what you think it should be. It's the head of a convex plate that resets much like the old toy crickets.
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Old 06-12-2010, 06:50 AM   #9
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I have created a Word doc on the "how-to" removal of the Atwood water heater, plus a few mods to enhance future service (includes jpegs/pics). If you're interested, send me a regular e-mail:

[email protected]
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Old 06-15-2010, 11:55 AM   #10
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On our 2005 Adventurer 33V access to the back of the hot water heater is from underneath the motorhome. While laying on your back on the ground and looking up toward the area where the bottom of the water heater should be, there is an oval plastic plate that can be pryed out of the hole. Then you can see up into the area in the back of the HWH. Our electric problem was a frayed hot wire to the element. The wire was cut and a new one added on with a new connector to the element.
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Old 06-17-2010, 10:50 AM   #11
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Smile Heater is fixed

Thanks to all of you that replied. I removed the wall in my compartment next to the water heater. With it off and help from a more agile and smaller friend we found that the wires from the 110 were burned where they connected to the wires from the heater. A flat spade type connector had been used. We cut them off and replaced with wire nuts. Now the electric is back up and running.
TROTH has great pictures to look at before you tackle the job. Be careful of the plastic water line connectors. I cracked one going to the water pump and had a hard time finding a replacement. I removed everything from the wall and I took it out. I also plan to trim the wall in the back as shown in pictures you can get from TROTH. See the post earlier from him. He also took out his heater and cut an access door under the box. I will do that when I get home.
You can move the heater about three inches further forward by removing the screws around the front panel. Don't force it. I was able to get that without disconnecting the gas line. On mine there is also lines from the engine that passes coolant to warm the water in the heater when the engine is running. Again, get TROTH's pictures so you can see where the lines are.
Thanks again to everyone.
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