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Old 05-31-2017, 03:08 PM   #1
Senior Member
JollyRodgers's Avatar
Brand: Thor Motor Coach
Model: Axis 24.1
State: Illinois
Posts: 127
THOR #3306
Axis 24.1 Electric Water Heater Element Repair

Hi all, I wanted to take a few moments to share our most recent repair and experience with you.

We had a few amazing days in January where we dewinterized the Axis and camped. Afterwards, we drained all the lines & tanks, but the weather forecasts were not bad enough for me to fully rewinterize the RV again. While doing so, we inadvertently left the electric water heater on. The tanks drained and as a result, the electric water heater element failed. No problem we thought. Gas works just fine!!

Over the spring we camped and all was OK. Spent a week in Panama City Fl. it was great! No problems using gas water heater.

In the drive, we had the RV connected to house power to keep the batteries up and the fridge cold. All worked fine.

Last weekend we went to camp at a local park for the holiday. As soon as we connected the RV to shore power, it tripped the breaker at the pole. We tried several poles always the same result. We flipped off all the breakers in the RV and turned them on one by one... still the same result. Tripping at the pole.

So we boondocked for the night, and then returned home to investigate further. Perhaps my OCD kicked in! Once plugged back in to house power, everything worked fine. TOTALLY weird we thought. As you can imagine lots of different thoughts ran through our heads. The darn gremlins showed up. Ugh! No worries, I'm sure our RV dealer could fix it before our next camp....

Then it dawns on us. The electric water heater element is bad. We know this. Could this cause the shore power to trip? The long story, short, is yes.

Before reading spoiler, know I'm no electrician, nor do I attempt to play one on TV. I'm just sharing our own experience and result along with a little bit of our personal theory.

Our experience & theory

As it turns out, the RV and House neutral need to behave differently. On a house, the neutral wire ultimately will be terminated at the ground. However, in an RV the neutral should never come in to contact with the ground. When the electric water heater element failed, the positive & neutral potentially came in to contact with the water (grounded), thus causing the circuit to fault. The GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) would trip as soon as a the neutral and ground "touched". Which was our experience with the shore power at the park.

Why does it work on the house breaker? I believe it's because we didn't actually ground the circuit. We are probably very lucky we didn't ground ourselves while touching some part of the water system. Chances are we would have tripped the breaker in a painful way.

Hindsight being 20x20, if we experience this situation again, I'll remove the ground (and hot) wire from the electric water heater element. I suspect we could have continued to camp without tripping the shore power.

Since we were home, we ended up replacing the electric water heater element in the Axis 24.1. It's not hard, but it is awkward.

0. unplug the RV from any shore power
1. open the water tank pressure valve
2. drain the water heater by removing the drain plug
3. remove the access panel inside the coach (where you change the valves for winterization)
4. we had to remove the cold water inlet from the tank to access the electric water heater element
5. remove black cover to electric water heater element
6. remove neutral and hot wires from element
7. use a specialty socket to remove electric water heater element (can purchase from any hardware store - 1 1/2" in size)
8. replace electric water heater element (hand tighten 1st to not cross threads)
9. replace neutral and hot wires (doesn't matter which terminal)
10. reconnect cold water inlet
11. replace water heater drain plug and make sure pressure release is closed
12. fill water lines and tank
13. look for leaks, fix if needed
14. test the electric water heater element (should hear a click if it turns on and shouldn't trip any breakers)
14. replace the black electric water heater element cover
15. replace the access cover

Drive on being a happy camper!

Here's a couple pics to look at
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