Atwood Water Heater Will Not Stay Lit or Won’t Light (Fix It)

Being in hot water is only good if you are taking a bath or a shower. Also, hot water is good for cooking and making your favorite beverage. Other than that being in hot water is not a good thing. Having a water heater that works is essential to the positives of being in hot water.

This situation can be caused by at least two sources. First, the circuit board has corroded, and second, the flue may be dirty. These are quick fixes fortunately and shouldn’t take too long to clean up either issue.

To learn more about this problem and its solutions just continue to read our article. It has the information you need so you can get back into hot water soon. Take a few moments and get up to speed on this issue.

Atwood Water Heater Will Not Stay Lit


This seems to be a common problem with this model of hot water heater. More than a few people have mentioned that they are experiencing the same problem and no matter what they do, nothing seems to work.

Some of the more common sources are the probe which may need cleaning, or the solenoid or main burner orifice that also need to be cleaned in order for the heater to stay lit. When cleaning, the parts should look bright.

Then, the electrodes may not be adjusted correctly as those need to have the proper positioning between the flame sense and the spark quality. Also, the thermal shutdown may be kicking in too soon.

But those are not the only parts that can go wrong with this water heater. The high tension spark needs to be in good condition and should not open when heated. Finally, it may be the circuit board which can run over $200 at some parts stores.

There may be cheaper circuit boards on the market that will be dependable and come with a good reputation for quality.

Atwood Water Heater Flame Sensor

This may be one of the more common sources for the heater not staying lit. Its job is to detect the flame once the flame has been lit and there are several versions of this part. You will have to have the right model number from the old part to get a new one.

While many people will suggest simply replace the circuit board, this can get costly because those boards are not cheap nor are they returnable. it is best to buy a new sensor as those are cheap and returnable.

Also, they may fail more often than not as some RV owners have replaced that part 10 times more than the circuit board. That tells you that the circuit board is not necessarily the main source for this issue.

But if the heater is lighting, it may not be the sensor at fault when it shuts down. it could be the circuit board. In other words, you may have to guess what is causing the problem until you find the actual culprit. Start with the inexpensive fixes first.

Atwood RV Water Heater Won't Light

When this happens to the GH6-6E Atwood water heater then the source of the problem could be the regulator or the thermostat or both. The solution t this problem, if these are the source, is to replace them.

On other models of the Atwood heaters, it could be that the ignitor has gone bad and won’t create the spark needed in order to get the flame going. The only solution for this problem is to replace the ignitor or clean it first before you buy a new one.

Next, make sure that the gas valve is open. You never know when the problem is something as simple as turning the valve open. it is embarrassing and hard to admit to but these things do happen and you should always check those simple options first before talking to someone else.

Or you should check your water heater manual to see if there are any limit switches placed on the device. These are known to be on a few models and if yours is one of them, they can cause the heater to stop working.

Finally, make sure your water heater has a strong and clear 12-volt connection. Without the electrical power, your heater should not work right. The spark needs electricity to get it to light the fuel.

Atwood Water Heater Circuit Board Fuse Keeps Blowing


This may be a sign that something inside the heater is touching metal. That connection is creating a short circuit. In one instance the temp cut-off switch may come loose from the lock ring and the spade terminal was touching the side of the water heater.

Replacing the switch or re-tightening it should solve this issue. Or, you could put the wrong sized fuse in the fuse box. Some people tend to get a little confused and buy a 2 amp fuse when a 5 amp model is needed.

This is one of those simple things one should double-check first before asking for help. Make sure you have the right sized fuse in the right spot. Then there may be a problem with the 12-volt source.

All you need to do is hook the water heater up to another independent 12-volt source and see if it works like normal. If it does, then there is a problem with the original electrical source.

Finally, this problem could be with a circuit board and it may have gone bad on you or if it is new, it was defective before you installed it. Test the board, which may take several tests, to find out if this is the problem.

How to Test Atwood Water Heater Circuit Board

The quickest way to test a circuit board for your water heater is to use the circuit board from your Hydroflame furnace if you have one. The 8500 or 8900 models are the most compatible with your Atwood heater and should plug in easily.

There will be the same 20-second delay that happens on your furnace when you power up the water heater. If nothing else is wrong, the heater should fire up and work like normal. This test should tell you if the original board is bad or not.

Another method if you do not have that model of furnace is to use your voltmeter and check the voltage coming to the heater. Low voltage will cause some problems for your heater and keep it from working right.

Then use a pencil eraser after removing the ribbon cable connector, and clean up the contact strips on the board. When these strips get dirty you will have some problems with your heater.

If low voltage is not the problem and the connections are good then most likely the board is bad and you will have to spend the extra money to replace it.

How to Test Atwood Water Heater Thermostat

The best way to test this part on your water heater is by using a continuity tester. When the water is cold there should be continuity between the contacts. When the water is hot there should be no continuity.

If the continuity tester shows that the thermostat is bad, then you will have to replace it. the good news is that it takes about 20 minutes to do and the cost is minimal. It may be a good idea to have a spare one on hand as thermostats are known for going bad frequently and at the wrong time or location.

If you let a professional handle it, you will pay for the labor and the part at the price they set for the part. Sometimes, if there is no warranty to worry about, it is best to handle the simple fixes yourself.

Having the spare on hand will save you a trip into town to get a new one. This will save you even more time if you are not familiar with the town or where all the parts stores are.

Testing Atwood Water Heater Element


If you have a multimeter handy, get it and set it up. This is the best tool to let you know if the heating element has gone bad or not. Merely feeling the cold water will not tell you if it is the element or the thermostat or some other problem causing your water heater to fail.

The multimeter will give you the right diagnosis and tell you if you need to replace the heating element or if another part has the problem. Or you can use a VOM meter to test the resistance and for most water heaters with a 1400 watt heating element, the resistance should be just over 10 ohms.

Check the base and the two probes to see if there is any resistance present. if so, the element is bad. When you find that the element is bad or shorting out, you will need to replace it. there is no repair option in this case.

How to Replace Atwood Water Heater Element

On some models, you will have to remove the junction box out before you get access to the heating elements. Once you have done that, you will see that the element has 2 wires attached to it.

Your next step is to remove the two wires which is easily done by loosening the screws. Now for the tricky part. On some Atwood water heaters, you will need a special tool to remove the element. It may cost anywhere around $10 +/- a buck or two depending on where you buy it.

The key is not to strip the threads on the element or the sides of the water heater. The special tool is an oversized socket and it is the only one you can use to remove the element. Take your time and be careful.

Once you break the seal you should be able to use your fingers to loosen the element all the way. Once it is loose gently remove the old element and replace it with the new one. You can use your fingers up until it gets a little hard to turn then use the special tool again to tighten it all the way.

Replace the wires and the junction box and you are done. Remember to drain as much water as you can from your water heater as it will come out the new opening and get everything nice and wet. Have a towel or cloth handy to mop up the water.

How to Drain Atwood Water Heater

This is one of the easier tasks to perform when it comes to working on your water heater. The drain plug is conveniently located on the bottom of the device and with no obstructions once you open up the exterior panel.

But before you loosen that drain plug, make sure to turn of the water supply first. When that is done, loosen the drain plug and pull it out of its spot. Let the water flow onto the ground or in a tub large enough to hold the water. When the tank is empty just replace the drain plug.

Next, turn on the water supply to refill the tank and get ready for a nice hot shower. If you are going to drain the tank, it is a good idea to flush out the inside as rust, lime and other debris can build up over time.

Once the water is out use a tank flush wand to spray some white vinegar inside. 1/2 gallon for every gallon your heater holds and let the heater cycle through a few times before emptying the solution and refilling the tank.

Do Atwood RV Water Heaters Have an Anode Rod?


Most may not have an anode rod simply because the water heater tank is made from aluminum. If they are made from steel then you would see an anode rod built into the water heater.

Aluminum doesn't corrode like steel can and that construction material eliminates the need for an anode rod. The anode rod has to attract the corrosive elements that are in the water supply protecting the metal lining from damage.

Another name for this part is the sacrificial anode rod and it sacrifices itself in order to save the metal lining from harm. These little parts are easily replaced when they have deteriorated enough.

Their best performance takes place when you are camped in an area of the country that has hard water. They will last between 2 and 5 years depending on the treatment and water type they receive.

Also, it is recommended that you do not use any water from the water heater for cooking or drinking. Some adverse health effects may make you sick if you do. Then if by chance you smell an odor like rotten eggs. It could be from your water heater.

Just replace the anode rod currently in your heater with one made from aluminum and zinc to get rid of the smell.

How to Reset Atwood Water Heater

There is no reset button like you find on different electrical appliances and devices. The way to reset this water heater is to turn it off and then on again and the circuit board should reset itself and be ready to go.

However some models have what is called a reset light and if this lights up, then you may have one of several problems to deal with. It is not a button that resets the water heater so that it functions like normal.

You may need to clean connections, a green ground wire problem or the control board may be malfunctioning. Then it may be a wire terminal junction at the controller that is causing the light to light up.

Generally, a pencil eraser can solve the dirty issue and clean up the connections very quickly. Then there may be a problem with the thermostat and so on. The green reset light is merely telling you that there is a problem that needs your attention.

Once you find and fix the problem the light should go out and the heater works as it did.

Some Final Words

Mechanical items will eventually break down. No matter who makes them, there will be some point in time where you have to interrupt your plans and repair the problem. Fortunately, most problems with the Atwood heater are easy to fix and should not take that long to do.

In some cases, your only repair will be to replace the faulty part and absorb the cost. In other cases, you should be able to use a simple tool like a pencil eraser to solve what is wrong. Make sure to have the owner’s manual handy for good instructions to follow.

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