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Old 02-03-2018, 09:59 PM   #1
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Multimeter Help - Suburban SW10DE Water Heater

The amount of knowledge on this forum is mind boggling. And your posts have helped innumerable times. So i'm going to ask for an assist again. Despite lots of experience and years doing this... I'm still an electrical novice. I did manage recently to trace electric power and identify a blown converter and replace it for a sucessful outcome - but that's the exception.

I HAVE gone through posts on my issue! And it's great information. But, not specific enough to guide me. Darn it!

My 110 side is gone. The propane side works fine.

So - could someone please show me EXACTLY where to place the red and black probes on my multimeter to identify voltage - or not - for the components of my water heater?

e.g. to confirm heating element voltage, put your red probe HERE and your black probe HERE. If you get X voltage it's good, if not its bad. Same with therostat and ON/OFF switch. To test it put this probe HERE and the other THERE. And heres what you should see - or not. And those results mean _______ .

It can't possibly be that tough to replace bad components. I can do that. It's how to identify which component is or is not functioning that's my difficulty.

I've attached a photo of the water heater. In hopes someone has some time on their hands and can put some arrows or something on it to show PUT THIS PROBE HERE AND THAT PROBE THERE to test THIS...

--------------------

The above is what I really really would like to get so I CAN deal with this in future.

Having said that, not knowing for sure if I was using the multimeter correctly, I eventually found that one of the wires to the on/off switch had fried for an inch or so from the connector. So I trimmed the wire, replaced the connector (those 90 degree connectors are hard to find!) and replaced the switch itself. If I'm using the probes on the multimeter correctly, it appears that I now have 110 volts on that fried wire - but only with the switch in the OFF position. Which, in my possibly deranged mind, seems to indicate that something else in the circuit has failed, be it an element or thermostat or something.

Any assist I can get - thank you !
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Old 02-03-2018, 11:05 PM   #2
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OK, first of all, please be careful! 120 Volts AC kills a lot of people. The circuit is a pretty simple one. The current goes to the switch first. Since you found the burned wire and repaired it, I assume you know how to shut off the power to the water heater.

So, when you measured power at the switch were you putting the meter probes on the two switch connections? If so, you will only read 120 volts when the switch is off.

Also assuming the heater has water (no water will fry the heater element) in it, turn on the power and the switch. Place one probe against the metal case of the heater. Now place the other probe on the heater element where the black wire is connected. If you have 120 volts there, place both probes on the 2 terminals on the heater element. Still have 120 volts? The heater element is bad. Place the other probe on the thermostat with the black wires. If no power at the element, measure from heater case to the thermostat connections. The thermostat is the one with the black wires. You should measure 120 volts on either of the connections. If you only measure voltage on one terminal, the thermostat is bad. It's late and I got to get some sleep. Let me know what you find.
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Old 02-04-2018, 06:36 PM   #3
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THANK YOU for the prompt response. Attempted to follow instructions - photos attached. With the WH On/Off switch in the ON position... and with black probe on the WH casing:

WH Element Black Wire test - no voltage.
WH Element Both Wires test - again, no voltage.
WH 110 Thermostat test - no voltage on either upper or lower wire attachment.
WH Switch test, Switch in ON position - no voltage probing lower (On position wire) connection, which was the fried wire trimmed and connector replaced.
WH Switch test, Switch in OFF position -113v reading.

From the photos, did I place probes and measure voltage correctly? And if so, thoughts on what the above readings seem to indicate?
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Old 02-04-2018, 06:49 PM   #4
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Do the voltage checks with the switch OFF. Or reverse the wires on the switch. Sounds like maybe a bad switch. Typically on a switch the terminal for the corresponding position will be the opposite end terminal on the back of the switch. Do you know how to use the ohms meter function?
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Old 02-04-2018, 07:12 PM   #5
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Bad switch, shorted out wire can and often do take out the temp sensor pack. Start where the 120V side is plugged in. Verify voltage. Yes, move to the switch. My guess it will be dead. Common problem and frankly if it is I would bypass it usi g the breaker inside to kill power. Temp sensor packs are another common problem. You want to look at the one on the right side. Left side is 12VDC. Check voltage red to wire, black lead to ground. Folow voltage until you see zero. There is your problem. BTW did you reset the temp sensor pack? You can also disconnect one of the wires from the heating element and using the ohm function on your meter check the heating element.
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Old 02-04-2018, 07:21 PM   #6
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Whoa, how did that black wire on the switch get from black to red which is what is on the right thermostat.
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Old 02-04-2018, 07:21 PM   #7
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Please be very very careful around the 110 voltage.... you can be hurt very badly or worse if you accidentally arch on something. Did you shut the main power off from the 'house' power when you pulled that switch out? Shut the main power off when you put it back in and also be careful that you do not arch anything.

With the main power off, unhook the electric heating element and take out and replace it. The switch wire was burn because of some heavy resistance, I would guess this came from the heating element shorting. If at any time the water heater ran low on water and the electric element was on, this would cause it to overheat way to much and begin to burn/short out. So, to go that extra step and change the element also.
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Old 02-04-2018, 07:26 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brother Les View Post

With the main power off, unhook the electric heating element and take out and replace it. The switch wire was burn because of some heavy resistance, I would guess this came from the heating element
Not necessairly. If a wire shorts to ground, and believe me it is common the way Suburban stamps the sheet metal, it can take out the temp sensor pack first.
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Old 02-04-2018, 07:29 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brother Les View Post
Please be very very careful around the 110 voltage.... you can be hurt very badly or worse if you accidentally arch on something. Did you shut the main power off from the 'house' power when you pulled that switch out? Shut the main power off when you put it back in and also be careful that you do not arch anything.

With the main power off, unhook the electric heating element and take out and replace it. The switch wire was burn because of some heavy resistance, I would guess this came from the heating element shorting. If at any time the water heater ran low on water and the electric element was on, this would cause it to overheat way to much and begin to burn/short out. So, to go that extra step and change the element also.
Actually it would burn because of no resistance. And what about that wrong thermostat callout by donniedu ?
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Old 02-04-2018, 09:05 PM   #10
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Sorry I didn't get back sooner. It sure seems like you have a bad switch. Don't replace the heating element. It draws a lot of current and the OEM switch is a piece of junk. If the element was shorted, it would trip a breaker. It's common for the switch to go bad.

Also, double check all advice you get. The 120 volt thermostat is on the left and has black wires on it. I replaced my switch with a heavier duty switch. It no longer fit in the cutout so I added wires to the originals and mounted my new switch on an angle bracket. If it wasn't cold and dark outside, I'd get you a pic.
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