Hot Water Tank Maintenance

Hot Water Tank Maintenance

While Lubbock Winter Camping, we had a pretty good drip coming out of our hot water tank.  We first noticed the problem when the water pump kept cycling on and off every five minutes or so.   The cycling seemed more frequent when the water heater was on than when it was off.

On closer inspection, the drip was coming from the white plastic drain plug.

Atwood Water Heater Drain Plug Drip
Atwood Water Heater Drain Plug Drip

My first step to solving the problem involved finding the Atwood water heater manual that came with our camper.  The schematic diagram in the manual identified the part visually and provided the name and part number.

I searched online to find if other people were having trouble with dripping plastic drain plugs.  Plenty of information in different forums.  These points seemed to keep coming up:

  • drain plugs often get cross threaded,
  • don’t over tighten drain plugs,
  • use plumber’s tape,
  • drain plugs need to be replaced often and
  • carry spare drain plugs.

Next, I went to Amazon and searched for “atwood water heater drain plug 91857”.  Bingo!

Interestingly, under “Customers who bought this item also bought” there was a reference to a tool that came with two plugs and plumber’s tape:

I bought both.

Today I installed a new plug.  Using the Camco made tool, I removed the original drain plug.  Fortunately, the water heater was cold.  Otherwise I could have had some really bad burns on my hands.

Original Atwood Hot Water Heater Drain Plug With Some Sort of Brown Sealer Material
Original Atwood Hot Water Heater Drain Plug With Some Sort of Brown Sealer Material

When I pulled the old plug out, I noticed an excess of sticky brown junk that I assume was some sort of sealer.   I tried to clean out the sticky brown junk but it was sticky.  Using nylon plumbers tape included in the Camco product, I wrapped the threads of the new drain plug.  Slowly, to avoid cross threading, I got the plug screwed into the drain hole finger tight.  Then I used the Camco tool to tighten the plug.

I have no idea how tight these plugs should be.  The tool provides pretty good leverage and using it would allow me to way over tighten the drain plug.

Camco Tool, 3 Spare Drain Plugs and Plumber's Tape
Camco Tool, 3 Spare Drain Plugs and Plumber’s Tape

Since much of the water had drained out of the hot water tank, I filled the camper’s fresh water tank and powered up the water pump.  Then I opened the hot water valves on the bathroom sink and the kitchen sink.  I was surprised at how long it took to get the air out of the hot water tank and for water to start flowing out of the faucets.  Once the water flow was consistent, I turned of the faucets.

Leaving the water pump on, I turned on the water heater gas so the tank would get hot.  Within 10 minutes the tank was HOT!  There was still a slow drip.  I turned off the water heater gas.

Next I tightened the drain plug two thirds of a turn and the problem was solved.   No more leaking and no more water pump cycling.

New Installed Hot Water Heater Drain Plug
New Installed Hot Water Heater Drain Plug

After this successful conclusion to a plumbing problem, I moped the camper’s floor, cleaned road grime off the ladder and tail lights, put clean rugs down and stowed provisions in the camper for our next trip.


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