Roadtreks have a Suburban 6 gallon hot water tank and water heater. At one time the hot water heater that Roadtrek used propane or electricity to heat the water. The more recent Roadtreks use only propane to heat the water. There is an automatic igniter to ignite the propane to heat the water and this requires that the battery switch be turned on to provide 12 volts DC. There is a switch on the wall of the Roadtrek - usually near the monitor panel - that when turned on starts the ignition of the propane at the hot water heater and the propane flame heats the water. The hot water tank is glass lined inside for insulation and the hot water tank is covered in Styrofoam to insulate it to keep the water hot to warm inside. With 6 gallons of water to heat, it can take a number of minutes (longer on cold day) to heat the water in the tank from cold to hot.
An important thing to understand is that once filled, the hot water tank will remain full. The tank is filled by cold water coming from the water pump or a city water connection through a hose from the Roadtrek to an outside spigot that flows into the bottom of the hot water tank. The water then fills the tank to the top. When a not water handle is turned on at the sink or shower, cold water will go through the water pump or hose and go into the hot water tank and PUSH the hot water at the top of the tank out of the tank and into a hot water pipe that will take the hot water to the sink faucet or shower head. Water cannot come out of the hot water tank unless there is water to push it out - from a fresh tank or an outside hose connection. As water in the tank comes out, more water goes into the tank to refill it. It is NOT POSSIBLE to empty the hot water tank by running hot water through the sink or the inside or outside shower.
The hot water tank must be drained. This is done outside the Roadtrek on the driver's side toward the rear of the van. There is a vented metal panel that must be opened and removed to drain the hot water tank.
To open this metal panel you must turn the ring catch at the top middle. The white ring you see there in this photo is on an elastic cord. To open, turn the ring so that it is straight with the up/down slot that is under it. Pull the panel from the top edge toward you and once the top is clear pull it up. There are two small "pins" at the bottom that you will lift this off panel off of - and then out. Take the panel and put it someplace safe while you drain the hot water tank.
THE OPEN HOT WATER HEATER/TANK
You will need a few things to drain the hot water tank:
1) A RATCHET SOCKET WRENCH
2) A 1 and 1/16" SOCKET - DEEP WELL OR REGULAR WITH EXTENDER
3) PLUMBERS TEFLON THREAD TAPE
4) A SCISSOR TO CUT THE PLUMBERS TAPE
Take a look at the photo just above. This is the workings of the hot water heater. The rest is just the tank that holds the hot water and that is directly behind what you see here and inside the Roadtrek. There are two things in this photo that are of interest to you right now in draining the hot water tank.
PRESSURE RELEASE VALVE
The Pressure RELEASE VALVE or PRESSURE RELIEF VALVE shown in the first photo releases any pressure built up in the hot water tank. This is a safety valve that will automatically open should pressure build too high in the hot water tank. This valve can be opened MANUALLY.
The ANODE ROD/DRAIN is the head of the ANODE ROD screwed into a threaded hole into the hot water tank. This is, when removed will open a hole into the hot water heater and the water will drain out. The valve is located in the top middle of the hot water heater as shown in photo of the open hot water heater/tank above.
The Anode Rod is a long rod of magnesium or aluminum that is used inside the hot water heater tank to prevent the inside of the metal tank from breaking down. This rod breaks down instead of the metal of the tank. It will become pitted and then start to disintegrate - and it will also attach to mineral deposits that form in the water. The rod over time will become whitish grey and the surface full of these mineral deposits will become sharp - sharp enough to cut yourself if you grab hold of the rod tightly. The head of the rod is a hex head that you will use to unscrew the rod. Inside the rod is a thin metal rod that the magnesium or aluminum are molded around. That inner rod will become partly visible over time. When the all of the rod or a good portion of the rod is no thicker than a pencil it is time to replace the anode rod with a new one. How long they last can range from a year to a few years. New ones can be purchased in either magnesium or aluminum - each have advantages and disadvantages which are personal preference. You can Google the differences. Suburban sends the hot water heater out from the factory with a magnesium rod. (For this reason I have always replaced the rod with a magnesium one.) The anode rod is located in the bottom middle of the hot water heater as shown in the photo of the open hot water heater/tank above.
TO DRAIN THE HOT WATER TANK:
1. FIRST TURN OFF THE PROPANE. NEVER DO THIS WITH THE PROPANE ON!
2. NEVER START THIS PROCESS WHILE THE WATER IS STILL HOT INSIDE THE HOT WATER TANK. To test the water go inside - leave the hot water switch OFF. Turn on the hot water handle on the faucet on the sink and feel the water temperature. IF IT IS HOT WAIT UNTIL IT FEELS COOL!
3. YOU ARE GOING TO MANUALLY OPEN THE PRESSURE RELEASE VALVE. TO DO THIS GENTLY TAKE HOLD OF THE HANDLE THAT YOU SEE IN THE PHOTO THAT IS DIAGONALLY SLANTED TO THE LEFT. PULL THAT HANDLE TOWARD YOU AND WHILE DOING THIS STAND AWAY TO THE LEFT SIDE OF THE HOT WATER HEATER. Water will shoot out from the opening that you see to the bottom right of the pressure release valve. It is going to get very wet all over the inside of this area - that is normal and it is OK for the hot water heater. WAIT UNTIL NOTHING MORE IS COMING OUT.
4. WITH THE SOCKET ON THE SOCKET WRENCH YOU ARE NOW GOING TO REMOVE THE ANODE ROD AND OPEN THE DRAIN HOLE. A DEEP WELL SOCKET WILL ALLOW CLEARANCE AWAY FROM THE GAS IGNITION TUBE You can see the brass ignition tube in the photos as it crosses on top of the end of the anode rod. YOU CAN ALSO USE A REGULAR SOCKET WITH AN EXTENDER WHICH WILL ALSO BRING THE SOCKET WRENCH OUT OF THIS TIGHT AREA AND CLEAR THE IGNITION TUBE. (My preference is is the regular socket with the extender as it seats more securely on the hex head of the anode rod.)
5. AS YOU DO THIS NEVER STAND DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE ANODE ROD AND CLEAR ANYONE AWAY FROM THE FRONT OF THE PATH OF THE ANODE ROD - PLUS ANYTHING BREAKABLE. PUT THE SOCKET ON THE HEX HEAD OF THE ANODE ROD AND TURN THE WRENCH TO THE LEFT (COUNTERCLOCKWISE). IT MAY BE TIGHT - USE LEVERAGE TO LOOSEN IT AND UNSCREW THE ANODE ROD FROM THE THREADED HOLE. ONCE IT IS VERY LOOSE YOU CAN FINISH UNSCREWING IT BY HAND.
THE REASON WHY YOU MUST NEVER STAND OR BE IN FRONT OF THE ANODE ROD WHEN REMOVING IT IS IF BY CHANCE YOU DID NOT GET ALL OF THE PRESSURE OUT OF THE HOT WATER TANK THE ANODE ROD ONCE RELEASED WILL SHOOT LIKE A TORPEDO WITH GREAT FORCE FROM THE HOLE STRAIGHT OUT AHEAD OF IT. THE FORCE IS ENOUGH TO DO SERIOUS INJURY IF IT HIT YOU OR SOMEONE STANDING BY.
ALSO - IF THE WATER WAS STILL HOT, YOU WOULD BE SCALDED AS IT CAME OUT - OF BOTH THE PRESSURE RELEASE VALVE AND THE ANODE ROD OPENING.
6. WITH THE ANODE ROD UNSCREWED PULL IT STRAIGHT OUT OF THE HOLE. THE WATER IN THE HOT WATER TANK WILL COME OUT WITH THE ROD AND KEEP COMING OUT UNTIL THE TANK IS ALMOST EMPTY. WITH THE WATER COMING OUT YOU MAY SEE MINERAL DEPOSITS ALSO COMING OUT WITH THE WATER. THESE LOOK LIKE WHITE, GREY, AND BLACK ROCKS. YOU WILL SEE THEM COLLECT ON THE GROUND WHERE THE WATER IS POURING OUT. SOME OF THESE CAN BE SHARP. THESE MINERALS FORM FROM HARD WATER SITTING IN THE HOT WATER TANK.
7. AT THIS POINT YOU MAY WANT TO FLUSH THE HOT WATER TANK TO REMOVE ANY MORE MINERALS THAT MIGHT BE SITTING AT THE BOTTOM OF THE TANK. TO DO THIS FOLLOW THIS ARTICLE ON FLUSHING THE HOT WATER TANK.
8. BECAUSE THE ANODE ROD DRAIN HOLE SITS ABOUT ONE QUARTER OF AN INCH FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE TANK, NOT ALL OF THE WATER COMES OUT WHEN THE DRAIN IS OPEN. FOR MOST PURPOSES YOU CAN LEAVE THIS LITTLE AMOUNT OF WATER STILL IN THE TANK. IN THE WINTER THIS IS NOT ENOUGH TO CAUSE ANY DAMAGE TO THE TANK IF IT FREEZES. THERE ARE WAYS TO GET OUT THE REMAINDER OF THE WATER IF YOU WISH TO. YOU COULD USE A HAND PUMP OR AN ELECTRIC PUMP WITH A SMALL TUBE ON THE SUCTION END THAT YOU WOULD PUT INTO THE HOLE TO THE FLOOR OF THE TANK TO SUCK OUT THE REMAINING WATER. EVEN THEN NOT ALL OF THE WATER WILL COME OUT. LEAVING THE DRAIN HOLE IN THE HOT WATER TANK OPEN FOR A FEW DAYS WILL LET SOME OF THAT WATER EVAPORATE OUT. WHATEVER YOU DO - DO NOT - LET ANYTHING GO INTO THE DRAIN HOLE INTO THE TANK THAT CANNOT BE REACHED TO PULL OUT!
9. NOW EXAMINE THE ANODE ROD TO SEE IF IT NEEDS TO BE REPLACED. IF A LARGE PORTION OF THE ANODE ROD HAS CORRODED AWAY - WHICH IS WHAT IT DOES WHEN IT IS DOING ITS JOB - OR THE ROD HAS BECOME AS THIN AS A PENCIL - IT IS TIME TO REPLACE THE ANODE ROD. IT IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA TO HAVE ONE OR MORE SPARE RODS ON HAND - AND CARRIED IN THE ROADTREK - IN THE EVENT THAT IT NEEDS TO BE REPLACED. IF YOU ARE REPLACING THE ROD, DISCARD THE OLD ROD AND FOR THE NEXT STEPS USE THE NEW ROD.
10. LOOK AT THE THREADS THAT ARE AROUND THE HOLE OF THE DRAIN HOLE. THERE MAY BE PLUMBERS TAPE THAT WAS LEFT IN THE HOLE WHEN YOU TOOK THE ANODE ROD OUT. USING A FINGER GENTLY SCRAPE THE PLUMBERS TAPE OUT AND AWAY FROM THE HOLE. IF YOUR FINGER CAN'T GET IT ALL USE A TOOTHBRUSH TO REMOVE THE TAPE FROM THE HOLE. DO NOT LET THE TAPE FALL INTO THE HOT WATER TANK.
11. WITH THE TANK DRAINED, YOU ARE READY TO PUT THE ANODE ROD BACK IN. IF YOU ARE PUTTING THE ROD THAT CAME OUT BACK IN, REMOVE ANY OLD PLUMBING TAPE THAT IS AROUND THE THREADS OF THE ROD. TO MAKE THE ROD EASIER TO COME OUT THE NEXT TIME, TAKE THE ROLL OF TEFLON PLUMBING THREAD TAPE AND WRAP ENOUGH AROUND THE ALL OF THREADS ON THE SCREW SECTION OF THE TOP OF THE ROD. WRAP THE TAPE IN A CLOCKWISE DIRECTION WITH THE TOP SCREW END OF THE ROD FACING YOU. COVER THE THREADS BUT DO NOT PUT SO MUCH ON THAT IT MAKES IT HARD TO GET THE THREADS TO FIT INTO THE DRAIN HOLE. CUT THE TAPE FROM THE SPOOL OF TAPE WITH THE SCISSOR.
12. INSERTING THE ROD BACK INTO THE HOLE IS TRICKY. BECAUSE THE ROD IS HEAVIEST AWAY FROM THE END YOU WILL BE SCREWING IT DIPS DOWN INSIDE THE TANK. IT WILL NOT SCREW ON PROPERLY THIS WAY. I FIND IT EASIEST TO HOLD THE ROD WITH TWO HANDS WHEN PUTTING IT INTO THE DRAIN HOLE AND SUPPORTING IT OUTSIDE THE HOLE FOR THE ROD INSIDE THE TANK TO REMAIN LEVEL WITH THE OUTSIDE PUSH THE ROD INTO THE THREADS OF THE HOLE AND START TURNING THE END OF THE ROD CLOCKWISE WITH YOUR HAND. TURN IT SEVERAL TURNS - LET GO - IF IT HAS NOT GRABBED THE THREADS CAREFULLY TAKE IT OUT AND TRY IT AGAIN. IT WILL GRAB THE THREADS IF IT IS NOT TIPPING DOWN INSIDE THE TANK. HOLD IT STEADY WHILE YOU DO THIS - KEEPING ONE HAND TO KEEP THE ROD FROM DIPPING DOWN INSIDE THE TANK AND SCREW IT IN WITH THE OTHER HAND.
13. ONCE THE ROD IS IN BY HAND GET YOUR RATCHET WRENCH AND MAKE SURE THE SWITCH ON IT IS SET TO TURN CLOCKWISE. PUT THE SOCKET ONTO THE END OF THE ANODE ROD (THAT YOU JUST TIGHTENED BY HAND) AND START TIGHTENING THE ROD WITH THE SOCKET WRENCH. THE ROD DOES NOT SCREW IN ALL THE WAY TO THE END. IT WILL GET VERY TIGHT ABOUT HALF WAY DOWN. ONCE IT IS GIVING A LOT OF RESISTANCE TO TURN STOP. IT IS IN AND IT WILL NOT LEAK. IF YOU FORCE IT ANY FURTHER YOU WILL HAVE A LOT OF TROUBLE TAKING IT OUT NEXT TIME.
14. GET THE METAL DOOR PANEL YOU TOOK OFF AT THE START. PUT THE BOTTOM OF THE PANEL IN FIRST AND GET THE TWO HOLES ON THE BOTTOM OF THE DOOR TO GO INTO THE TWO SMALL METAL PINS THAT ARE STICKING UP FROM THE BOTTOM. PUSH THE TOP OF THE DOOR INTO THE OPENING AND IT SHOULD LINE UP WITH THE SLOT OF THE PLASTIC RING LATCH. ONCE THE RING LATCH IS THROUGH THE SLOT, TURN IT TO LOCK THE DOOR IN PLACE.
YOU HAVE DRAINED YOUR HOT WATER TANK!
YOU CAN NOW FILL THE TANK AGAIN - OR IF IT IS THE WINTER - LEAVE IT EMPTY. NEVER TURN ON THE HOT WATER HEATER SWITCH ON THE WALL INSIDE THE ROADTREK WITH AN EMPTY HOT WATER TANK. YOU WILL BURN OUT THE HOT WATER HEATER.
WHAT PROBLEMS MIGHT YOU ENCOUNTER?
IF THE ROD WAS PUT IN TOO TIGHT AND YOUR SOCKET WRENCH WILL NOT LOOSEN IT, ONE WAY - THAT ONE MUST USE A LOT OF CAUTION WITH - IS TO USE A SOCKET BREAKER BAR. THIS IS A LONG METAL BAR WITH A SOCKET CONNECTION ON THE END. THIS LONG HANDLE WILL PROVIDE A LOT OF LEVERAGE TO MOVE THE SOCKET TO LOOSEN IT. ONCE IT STARTS TURNING, STOP. TAKE THE SOCKET AND PUT IT BACK ON YOUR REGULAR SOCKET WRENCH AND CONTINUE WITH THE REGULAR SOCKET WRENCH. A LARGE ENOUGH SOCKET WRENCH WITH A LONGER HANDLE IS BETTER TO USE TO START WITH THAN A SHORT OR STUBBY SOCKET WRENCH AS YOU GET BETTER LEVERAGE WITH A LONGER HANDLED WRENCH. THAT COULD AVOID THIS PROBLEM ALL TOGETHER. i HAVE ONLY HAD THE ROD NOT LOOSEN ONCE AND I WENT OUT TO BUY THE BREAKER BAR (HARBOR FREIGHT IS THE MOST ECONOMICAL PLACE TO DO THIS). I HAVE NEVER HAD TO USE IT SINCE THEN. I MAKE SURE THAT I DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN THE ANODE ROD.
WHAT YOU MOST NEED TO BE CAREFUL OF IS TO NOT STRIP THE THREADS ON THE DRAIN HOLE IN THE HOT WATER TANK. YOU WILL SEE THAT THIS HOLE RUSTS - NOT BADLY BUT MORE THAN ONE MIGHT EXPECT SOMETHING THAT INVOLVES WATER. IT IS NORMAL FOR IT TO RUST. WITH THE TYPE OF HOT WATER TANK THAT THE ROADTREK USES, THERE IS NO WAY TO REPLACE THAT HOLE SECTION. IF THE THREADS STRIP OUT OR THE HOLE IS DAMAGED THE ENTIRE HOT WATER HEATER/TANK MUST BE REPLACED. THAT IS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO AVOID! THE ANODE ROD IS EASILY REPLACED - AND YOU WILL DO THAT MANY TIMES OVER YOUR YEARS WITH THE ROADTREK BUT THE DRAIN HOLE IS PART OF THE TANK.
THE ONE AND ONE/SIXTEENTH SOCKET IS NOT COMMON. IT IS RARELY PART OF A SOCKET SET. IT CAN BE FOUND IN HOME DEPOT OR LOWES WHERE THE INDIVIDUAL SOCKETS ARE. I BOUGHT MINE IN LOWES - AND AT THE TIME I BOUGHT THE DEEP WELL AS THAT WAS ALL THAT THEY HAD IN THIS SIZE. AN EXTENDER WILL ALLOW YOU TO GET A REGULAR SOCKET IN AND NOT INTERFERE WITH THE WORKINGS OF THE HOT WATER HEATER RIGHT ABOVE THE ANODE ROD. I FOUND A REGULAR SOCKET IN THIS SIZE AT A HARDWARE/TOOL VENDOR AT A FARMER'S MARKET.
SO - the process reads long - but does not take long to do. It is important to make sure you drain the hot water tank when you are winterizing the Roadtrek and when you are de-winterizing and sanitizing the fresh water and hot water tank. You want to make sure you get your sanitizing bleach and water mixture out of the tank before you put it into use for the season. If you are not going to use the Roadtrek for a period of time you also would want to get the water out of the hot water tank. Keep in mind the a glass enclosed tank that holds hot water than becomes warm is an excellent environment to grow bacteria.