How to Replace an RV Water Heater Thermocouple

How to Replace an RV Water Heater Thermocouple
In an RV, a thermocouple is used as safety device. The job of the thermocouple is to monitor the presence of a water heater's pilot light. If the pilot light is extinguished, the thermocouple automatically stops propane gas from flowing to the pilot light. Learning how to replace an RV thermocouple is a normal part of RV maintenance that is not difficult to master and requires one tool.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Adjustable wrench
Step 1
Turn all gas valves to the off position. Depending on the RV, this may be done at the propane tank itself, via an electrical switch inside the RV or via both steps.
Step 2
Remove the outer panel of the water heater; this can be done by hand. Locate the existing thermocouple, which is a thick copper wire that is not insulated. Though its position will vary according to the RV, the thermocouple generally will be found in a horizontal position along the bottom half of the water heater compartment.
Step 3
Loosen the connecting nut that secures the thermocouple to the gas regulator by using the adjustable wrench. Unscrew it completely by hand once it is loose. Loosen the nut on the opposite, thicker end of the thermocouple. Manipulate the thermocouple from side-to-side while pulling to extract it.
Step 4
Push the new thermocouple into position while manipulating it side-to-side. Avoid bending the copper: It can crack. Tighten the nuts by hand first, then with the wrench. Tighten the nuts only a quarter turn initially. Check the thermocouple to ensure there is no play when attempting to wiggle it. Tighten completely afterward. Open the gas valves and ignite the pilot light.

Tips & Warnings

Though universal thermocouples are sold, it is a good idea to consult the manufacturer's manual first. Not all universal thermocouples will work. Some thermocouples will be secured with a screwdriver instead of an adjustable wrench.
Take care not to cross thread the nuts when tightening the thermocouple in position.

Article Written By Mike Biscoe

Mike Biscoe has been writing since 2009. Focusing on travel, sports and entertainment topics, he has credits in various online publications including LIVESTRONG.COM and Trails. He often writes articles covering uncommon travel destinations from firsthand experience. Biscoe holds a Certificate of Completion in acting from the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts.

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