/ / How To Tell If RV Tank Heaters Are Working: 3 Signs For Replacement

How To Tell If RV Tank Heaters Are Working: 3 Signs For Replacement

Winters are here and if you are curious about how to tell if RV tank heaters are working? Then you are at the right spot. As in the last winters, my RV tank heater started malfunctioning and this caused me a lot of problems.

So, I have jotted down my experience for you to protect your camper tank and yourself from freezing temperatures. Read on to learn how to check if heaters are working properly and 3 signs of their replacement. Let’s begin!

How To Tell If RV Tank Heaters Are Working?
Credit: www.youtube.com @TheSavvyCampers

Defining RV Tank Heaters And Their Working

RV tank heaters are the devices found in RV’s water and waste water holding tanks to keep them cozy during freezing temperatures. They are specially designed for people like me, who love to go winter camping.

But, first, let me tell you that there are two different types of RV tank heaters which are listed below:

Electric – Water Tank Heaters:

The electric-powered heaters of a camper make use of electric heating elements to warm the tanks. Here’s what you should know about them:

  • There are heating pads installed directly on the exterior side of your camper tanks to provide warmth to the tanks.
  • The heating elements of electric water reservoir heaters are controlled by a thermostat to maintain a specific temperature and prevent freezing in cold weather.
Electric - Water Tank Heaters
Credit: www.youtube.com @MRRVTECH

Propane-Water Tank Heaters:

Propane tank heaters make use of the propane gas by burning propane to warm up the tanks. The following are their couple of important highlights:

  • These propane heaters have a burner unit installed near the camper tanks.
  • In these water reservoir heaters, there is a thermostat that regulates the propane flow to maintain the desired warmth.
How To Tell If RV Tank Heaters Are Working. Propane-Water Tank Heaters
Credit: www.youtube.com @TheSavvyCampers

Reasons For A Malfunction RV Tank Heater

Over time, I have learned that there can be more than one reason that can lead to the malfunctioning of your heater. Let’s learn more about the culprits behind the issue:

Reasons For A Malfunction RV Tank Heater
Credit: www.youtube.com @RVgeeks
  • Faulty Thermostat: I found that there was a malfunctioning thermostat sensor that was restraining my RV tank heater from working properly.
  • Electrical Issues: The second problem in the water holding tank heaters is poor electrical connections and damage to the wiring of the heater.
  • Age and Wear of Heater Tank: With time your heaters will wear and tear as aging components lead to reduced efficiency. However, this issue can only be solved by replacing the RV tank heater.

How To Tell If RV Tank Heaters Are Working?

Finally, the cold weather has arrived, and I find this time of the season most suitable to check the working of my camper tank heater. To do so, I follow these steps:

1. Turn On The Heaters Overnight

During the cold weather, I usually turn on the RV tank heaters overnight and check for the temperature of the tank in the morning. If I feel gentle residual heat by touching the tank from outside, then it assures that the heaters are working perfectly to prevent the water reservoir from freezing.

2. Visual Inspection Of Heating Pads

Secondly, I do a visual inspection of my camper tanks. For this purpose, I inspect the tank heaters for any visual damage and make sure that there is no cut or tear in the heating pad, that could compromise the effectiveness of my camper tank heaters.

Visual Inspection Of Heating Pads
Credit: www.youtube.com @AllAboutRVs

3. Utilize An Amp Meter To Detect The Current Draw

The best thing I found to detect the effectiveness of my RV tank heater is an amp meter. To detect the current draw you need to locate the switch of the thermostat, then use the amp meter to find out the amount of electricity drawn by the heater. If no current is drawn, then it indicates the tank heater is malfunctioning.

Three Signs You Need A Replacement For Your Camper Tank Heater

Almost two years back, my camper tank heater started working inappropriately. It made me realize that something was wrong with my RV tank or the heating pads of the heaters. Let’s learn more about these signs in the section given below:

Sign #1 – Loose Adhesive

Before diving into the issue, I want you to understand the importance of a strong adhesive. It plays a major role in sticking your tank heater with the body of your RV. If you notice that the grip of your heater has become loose, then it indicates that your heating system is underperforming.

I would recommend you tape them as a temporary measure and get them fixed later on by a professional.

Sign #2 – Damaged Wiring

While on a trip I noticed my RV tank heaters just stopped working without any sign or sound. Then the very first thing I checked in the camper heater was for damaged wiring and not to be surprised I found that the wiring was damaged and my heaters were unable to draw proper current.

So, if you also found worn-out, exposed, or damaged wiring, then it’s time you replace the wiring and if the issue persists, then your heater is unable to draw current and needs a replacement.

Sign #2 - Damaged Wiring
Credit: www.youtube.com @MyRVWorks

Sign #3 – Inconsistent Heating

The last replacement indicating sign is the water holding tank having inconsistent heating. Let me make it simple for you. If you notice fluctuations in the warmth like it is turning on and off repeatedly or unable to provide continuous heating then this means that your device is faulty and needs replacement.

A Quick Guide To Turn On Your RV Tank Heaters

Turning on your RV tank heaters is not a difficult job to do as everyone can do it very easily if they know the correct steps to follow. So in the following section, I have shared a detailed guide for your ease. Let’s dive in:

A Quick Guide To Turn On Your RV Tank Heaters
Credit: www.youtube.com @TheSavvyCampers
  • Locate the Heater Switch: Find the switch or knob designed for the tank heater. It’s usually around the main controls; mine is conveniently placed near the kitchen.
  • Check the Power Source: Ensure your RV is connected to a power source, either through shore power or a reliable battery. A steady power supply is the key to a warmer experience.
  • Set Your Desired Warmth: Adjust the thermostat to your preferred temperature. I usually go for a toasty setting to beat the chill during colder trips.
  • Keep an Eye on Indicator Lights: Modern RVs often have indicator lights near the controls. These nifty lights tell you when the tank heater is doing its job. It’s like having a little warmer beacon.
  • Feel the Warmth: Give the camper tank heater a bit of time to work its magic. However, if you’re curious if it’s working, gently touch the outside of the tanks. If they’re warm, your cozy haven is in business.

Maintenance Tips For RV Tank Heaters

Now, the query, of how to tell if RV tank heaters are working is solved and you are satisfied that you are not going to face cold water issues this winter season.

So, if you want your heaters to work properly for a longer time then I here are the best maintenance tips for your RV tank heaters;

Maintenance Tips For RV Tank Heaters
Credit: www.youtube.com @RVgeeks
  • Never Turn On Heater On An Empty Tank: You should never turn on your RV tanks heater when it’s empty as it could damage your camper water reservoir. Also, if it is an electric water tank heater then it will damage the heating element as well.
  • Drain Water When Not In Use: Empty the water tank of your RV if you are not going to use it for months. The water staying in the tank for more than two weeks can cause debris buildup causing problems for you in winter.
  • Clean The RV Tank: For this step, I turn off the heater, let the water cool, and completely drain the tank using a socket wrench. I personally use an RV water heater rinser, followed by a thorough rinse with the water supply, to ensure well-prepared warm water for the colder months.
  • Check For Leaks Or Drips: In my own RV care routine, I make sure to inspect the anode or nylon drain plug for any signs of drips or leaks. If there are any, I promptly tighten them to prevent potential issues.
Keep your RV tank heaters in top shape as they are your passport to worry-free travels during chilly weather! John Wedell, An avid camper and RV enthusiast

An Overview Of User’s Experience With RV Tank Heater

Now as we move towards the end of this informative guide, I will share some of the users’ experiences expressing their way of how to tell about working tank heaters. This will be quite helpful for you in troubleshooting your RV water-holding tanks.

Rebecca S. shared her journey, saying:

As temperatures dropped, I relied on my RV water reservoir heaters to keep surrounding pipes warm. But one chilly night, they seemed less effective. Then, I discovered that the heater pads were worn out making the heater of my camper faulty. I was able to solve this issue by replacing the heating pads.

Wally M. stated:

My tank heaters started malfunctioning. Later, I checked for power consumption and also checked for insulation gaps. However, I solved the issue by restoring the power supply. I learned this from my fellow camper on the RVing forum! Wally M

Linda G. chimed in:

After a season of RVing, my tank heater showed signs of wear. I referred to the RV’s manual and got to know that it’s time my RV tank heater needs replacement. This solved my issue and I was able to enjoy my winter camping adventure with my RVer. Linda G


Do RV tank heaters have thermostats?

Yes, RV water tank heaters have thermostats and they help you to maintain your desired temperature.

How does the RV tank heaters function?

There are two types of RV tank heaters; the Electric Heaters make use of an electric heating element to warm up the water and the Propane Heaters work by burning the propane gas. Both kinds of heaters come with a thermostat to regulate temperature.

Can you leave the RV tank on all the time?

No, it’s not advisable to leave the RV propane tank on all the time for safety reasons. While leaving the fresh water tank on for a constant water supply, it’s advisable to turn off the tank heaters when not in use to preserve the RV battery.

At what temperature should you turn on your RV tank heaters?

It is suggested to turn on the heaters of your RV tank before going below-freezing temperatures that are about 40°F (4°C) or below.


Summing up how to tell if RV tank heaters are working is simple. Turn on the heater overnight, and check the outside temperature of the heater to determine its working status. You can also use an amp meter to check the current flow.

If you notice any loose adhesive or damaged wiring, then it’s a sign to get a new heater. Moreover, to avoid potential issues, I would recommend you drain out the tank water if not in use. And, check for possible leaks. If nothing helps, then it is best to consult with a professional.

Have you ever faced any issues during your winter camping experience? Let me know in the comments below!

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