youtubeFor many, Memorial Day weekend signals the beginning of camping season and time to prep the RV for the first trip of the season.

Click here if you are new to RVing or need a refresher on getting your RV ready for its first excursion of the spring.

You may also want to click here to review the most overlooked items when prepping your RV for its first voyage of the season. One item mentioned in the entry covers checking the condition of the scrap anode on your water heater. This typically applies only to RVs equipped with a Suburban brand water heater.

An anode rod is a metal cylinder that also serves as a water heater’s drain plug. The anode portion prevents the steel water heater tank from rusting from the inside out. Anode rods are made from aluminum, magnesium, or zinc, which are metals that will “sacrifice” themselves through electrolysis, saving the exposed internal portions of the steel water heater tank from rusting through and leaking.

In this entry we will review how to inspect the anode, determining if it needs replacing and how to do so safely.

Safety First:

• Turn off the city water to the RV and/or shut off the water pump

• Shut the water heater off. Both LP gas and electric, if so equipped

• Let the water in the water heater cool to a safe temperature

• Open the water heater door. Make sure there is no pressure in the water heater by opening the pressure relief valve located toward the top of the water heater.

Used Anode on the Left, New Anode on the Right

Remove the anode rod: The only portion of the anode rod you will see when you open the exterior door of your Suburban water heater will be the hex head end. It is located at the bottom near the center. Use the correct sized socket to remove the anode to avoid stripping the head.

New Anode

Inspect the anode: Don’t let looks deceive you, the anode will look corroded with pits and will likely have a white chalkiness appearance. This is normal and indicates the anode is “sacrificing” itself to protect the water heater tank as designed.

If 75% or more of the anode has deteriorated / missing, it should be replaced. (See diagram below)

Replacements can be obtained from your local RV dealer or online from places like

Consider rinsing out the interior of the water heater tank while you have the anode removed. Per the Suburban owner’s manual, “Sediment on the bottom of the tank forms a layer of insulation between the gas burner and the water. The sediment slows heat transfer and overheats the tank bottom. Overheating weakens the steel and damages the glass lining, shortening the tank life. In addition, it lowers the energy efficiency of the tank.”

rinser, like the one pictured, will make the task easier.

Reinstall and check for leaks: Apply Teflon tape to the threads of the new or existing anode before installing / re-installing. Turn the freshwater back on and fill the water heater. You will know it is full when the hot water taps in the RV flow again. Once the water heater is full, check for leaks. If there are no leaks, restart the water heater on gas and/or electric. Check again for leaks once the water heater has reached temperature. Note: Never turn on the electric element to an empty water heater as the element will burn out almost instantly.

Now that you have your RV prepped and ready for its first trip of the season, get out there and enjoy everything the great Pacific Northwest has to offer.

Have an enjoyable Memorial Day and let us not forget those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dave Helgeson is the MHRV Show Director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.

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