Can't turn hot water heater valves for winterizing

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Kathy O

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 21, 2011
Posts
56
Location
central Oregon
My 5'er is in storage for a couple of months this winter, and I'm working on winterizing -- something I've never done before.  I'm not near an electrical source, so blowing out with a compressor isn't an option. I bought a hand pump and three gallons of rv anti-freeze, but I can't get the three bypass valves for the water heater to turn. The valves look like they're made of cheap plastic and I don't want to break them.  Which way should they turn? Left or right? Is it normal for them to be so hard to turn?

Also, my owners manual says something about removing the anode.  What the heck is an anode!?

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

~Kathy :eek:
 
If the water heater is a Suburban brand, it will have a sacrificial anode attached to the heater drain plug. It's purpose is to get eaten away by corrosive minerals in the water, thus sacrificing itself so that the tank itself is not corroded. It should be checked annually and replaced as needed. When you unscrew the water heater tank drain, the anode comes out with it. If the heater is an Atwood, no worries. It doesn't use a sacrificial anode because the tank metal is self protecting.

Sometimes the valves can be very difficult to turn. In most systems I have seen, the valves turn 1/4 turn. The ones at either end of the bypass tube turn right to close, typically making the valve handle crosswise on the tubing. The one in the middle of the bypass tube is normally closed, so it turns 1/4 turn left to open, typically making the handle aligned in the same direction as the tube. However, the valve arrangement can vary according to who designed the bypass plumbing and the type of valve used.

Any chance you could post a picture?
 
Make sure you are not mistaking the little plastic low point drain valves for the bypass valves.  Most Some of the drain valves are push-pull type, and do not turn.  Turning those will result in a broken valve.

The bypass valves should be obvious, or well marked, as to the direction of handle rotation.  The handle should be rather large and easy to rotate.
 
Thanks for the replies, Gary and Lou. Unfortunately, I lost my camera and I don't have a camera phone.  There is a diagram on the water heater showing open and closed, but no reference as to which direction to turn. I was afraid to crank them too hard for fear of breaking them.  They're fairly large, oval, handles.  I'll give it another try when I get back over to the storage yard.  If I break one, well.. then I have one to replace. I did remove the plugs from the cold and hot low-point hoses and let them drain.

Thanks for the info on the 'anode.'  It's gotta be that plug I saw with the pipe tape around it.  I'll post again when I give 'er another go.

Thanks, again.  The people on this forum are the best!  :)

~Kathy


   
 
BTW, removing the anode will probably need a 1-1/16" socket and a short extension. If is is stubborn, a couple of sharp raps with a hammer on the breaker bar usually gets it started. In  extreme cases, you may need to rent an impact wrench.

Joel
 
Oh, and yes, it is a Suburban.  That anode thingy did have a bit of corrosion on it.  Hopefully, I have the right socket. If not, off to Home Depot... again.  Thanks for the tip.  When I opened the outside door, I noticed there is quite a bit of rust on the outside of the water heater. Looking at the venting on the door that would allow rain in, I'm going to assume this is normal?
 
Rust on the outside of the water heater metal is pretty common from what I've seen.  Like you said, there's no protection against moisture in there.  Checking any exposed exterior electrical connections (often "spade" type push-on plugs) is always a good idea to make sure they have solid metal-to-metal contact.

But back to your valves... sounds just like the 3-valve system I had on my MH.  Try a little "PB Blaster" solvent (comes in a spray can like WD-40) sprayed on the rotating shaft and tap with a hammer a few times.  That might loosen them up.  Otherwise IIRC my valves followed the standard "righty tighty, lefty loosey" rules.  Turning them to the RIGHT closed the valves (which is what you need to do for winterizing) and turning them LEFT opened them back up.
 
For plastic valves, I would try a silicone spray before using an agressive petrolium based product like PB blaster that might damage the plastic.

The plastic by-pass valves in our RV have a nub that moves in a slot to limit which way and how far the valve turns. Look to see if yours have such a slot and which side of the slot the nub is against. Turn the valve to move the nub in the opposite direction from its current position.

Rust on the water heater is not uncommon, but can also be an indication that the pressure relief valve has or is leaking. This can be caused by a bad valve or may be caused by a properly functioning valve if the air bubble at the top of the water heater disappears and the expanding heated water creates enough pressure to open the valve.
 
The plastic by-pass valves in our RV have a nub that moves in a slot to limit which way and how far the valve turns. Look to see if yours have such a slot and which side of the slot the nub is against. Turn the valve to move the nub in the opposite direction from its current position.

Excellent advice, Traveler! Pretty much all the plastic valves that move 1/4 turn only will have that nub & slot.
 
Thanks, all! I won't be able to get back over to the storage yard until Tuesday, my next day off from work, but I did notice what looked like a slot under the handle. I'll give it a little shot of silicone spray and try it again.  There's no hurry, since we have a bit of time here in the Northwest before freezing temps are likely to strike.  Thanks, also, for all the info on the rusty exterior of the tank.  It isn't grossly rusty, mostly on the bottom ledge where water would sit.

Btw... Happy Thanksgiving to you all  :)

 
Usually the handle will show open or closed. If the handle is crosswise to the pipe then the valve should be close. If the handle is parallel then the valve should be open. Typically (not always) but a least in my RV the valves are just quarter turn and appear like a bath cutoff valve.

 
Mission accomplished! Yep... the valves are the slot and nub variety.  I was just being over cautious and was not putting enough torque on them. Bring on the cold weather!  I'm ready. Still working on getting the right socket to remove, and probably replace, the water heater anode.  My owners manual states that it should be checked yearly and replaced every three years, and I'm pretty sure the previous owner never replaced it.  Better safe than sorry....

Removing the plugs for the low-point hot and cold water lines drained the tank.  At least I'm assuming it drained, since I could hear the water glugging it's way out.   

Thanks again to everyone who put in their 2 cents and gave me lots of great advice.  This forum has saved me from making, what would have been, some expensive mistakes. 
 
Kathy O said:
Mission accomplished!

We always love to hear that.  :)  Note the "green checkmark" icon by this topic's title now, indicating Problem Solved!

Kathy O said:
Removing the plugs for the low-point hot and cold water lines drained the tank.  At least I'm assuming it drained, since I could hear the water glugging it's way out.

Were these not exterior drains, where you could also SEE the water glugging out onto the ground somewhere?  You should have drains for both your main water system, and a separate one for the hot water heater tank accessible from the exterior service panel.

Kathy O said:
Thanks again to everyone who put in their 2 cents and gave me lots of great advice.  This forum has saved me from making, what would have been, some expensive mistakes.

That's the goal, and now YOU have valuable knowledge that you can eventually share with others!  ;)
 
There is a blue and a red hose under the rig, each with a screw in plug. I looked for other hoses or valves, but those two are all I found. Very little water drained from the red but a lot of water was running on the ground from the blue, and I could hear the sound of the tank draining. I just removed the plug with the anode on the outside of the tank, and no water drained out.  The rod is about 3/8" in diameter. All I know about anodes is what I saw online just now, but it's pretty obvious it's time for a new one.  I could feel gunk on the bottom of the tank when I scraped the end of the rod around a bit in there.  Guess it's time to clean house, eh?  ;D
 
Not to insult....

You did also drain the fresh water tank,  put antifreeze in traps and black/grey tanks too I hope.

Good job on the other.
 
The blue and red hoses would be cold and hot water line low-point drains. Was the sound of a tank draining from the fresh water tank or the water heater tank? It's fairly common for the cold low point to also be the fresh tank drain.

However, it's a mystery why you didn't get  much water from the heater when you removed the drain plug & anode rod. Had you already opened the red (hot) low point drain? One way or the other, 6 gallons of water should come out. If the heater tank bypass is set to bypass, then the hot tank cannot drain that way and the only way left is through the anode/drain.

I suggest rinsing the tank to remove as much of the gritty stuff as is practical. It's doesn't have to be whistle clean - you are just trying to prevent accumulation to the point where it starts moving through the hot water lines or partially covers the anode.
 
Kathy O said:
There is a blue and a red hose under the rig, each with a screw in plug. I looked for other hoses or valves, but those two are all I found. Very little water drained from the red but a lot of water was running on the ground from the blue, and I could hear the sound of the tank draining. I just removed the plug with the anode on the outside of the tank, and no water drained out.  The rod is about 3/8" in diameter. All I know about anodes is what I saw online just now, but it's pretty obvious it's time for a new one.  I could feel gunk on the bottom of the tank when I scraped the end of the rod around a bit in there.  Guess it's time to clean house, eh?  ;D
Did you open a faucet inside the RV to give air so the lines would drain?
 
I'll have to pick up one of those thingies to clean out the water heater.  Thanks for the tip. No insult taken -- yes, I dumped extra anti-freeze into the tanks and traps. Also made sure there was anti-freeze at the outside shower.
I neglected to drain the fresh water tank completely before I filled the lines with anti-freeze -- yes, I opened all of the faucets -- so I ended up at Camping World to buy more anti-freeze to do over, well, partially over. I only needed another gallon. Opening the low-point lines didn't drain the fresh water tank, but I could hear water running from the water heater.  I haven't seen a valve to drain the fresh water tank, so I just used the pump to drain into the galley tank, since that is the faucet anti-freeze came out of first.  I had also opened the low-point lines before removing the anode plug, so that's probably why no water came out. My mistake was emptying the fresh water tank into the galley tank instead of running it on the ground from the outside shower. I ended up with water in the galley tank, and my rv is sitting in a storage yard. What to do?  Fortunately, I had previously emptied and then thoroughly cleaned all of the tanks.  Sooooo..... I waited until a hard rain, when nobody would be around, and dumped my galley tank -- that had nothing but fresh water in it -- on the ground.  I didn't want anyone thinking I was dumping grey or black water from my rv. I wouldn't do that. Moving the rv to a dump station right now isn't an option. I watched the water come out, and it was clear... ok a little pink from anti-freeze.
 
If the galley tank had antifreeze in it, it probably could have been left alone.  Depends, of course, on the amount of antifreeze vs the temperatures to be encountered.
 

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