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Old 05-17-2011, 10:16 AM   #1
Join Date: Aug 2010
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Water heater briefly caught fire.

The first camping trip of the season didn't go exactly as planned. When I turned on the switch for the water heater, I couldn't hear the usual sound of the gas igniting. When I went outside to check it out, this is what I found:

It looks like the flame came out of the air vents in the tube and went straight up and fried the wires and did some damage to the solenoid. I checked and the tube is not blocked so I'm not sure why this happened.

It looks like the brown wire that connects to position 1 is the 12v power that opens the solenoid. I checked and it's not getting power. The insulation is burned, but the wires are still good enough for right now. When I turn it on, it tries to light the gas, but none is coming out because the solenoid wont open, presumably because no power is getting to it.

What can I check to see why no poser is going to the solenoid? I'd like to try to fix this myself rather than take it to the dealer and hear some service guy say "wow, that thing is toast. You're going to need a whole new heater... Sign here"..

If I have to, I can replace the entire gas valve assembly (between the gas tube and where the gas comes out of the side of the wall, next to the reset button. But until I figure out why no power is getting to it, I don't even know if anything is wrong with it.

Any suggestions?

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Old 05-17-2011, 10:33 AM   #2
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Pull the cover on the control board.
IF I remember correctly there is a fuse or 2 in there.
Since it's trying to light I guess the hi heat resets are OK
but I think there's a fuse under the cover.

Even the smallest of spider webs or nest can cause the
gas to take a wrong turn.
I'd be real hesitant to try to use this heater again with
the existing burner tube.

Check to be positive the burner tube is absolutely clear
as well as the heater flue pipe the burner feeds in to.
Also be sure the gas orifice is clean.
Even a tiny speck of dirt on it can cause the gas jet to
be mis-directed.

Good luck!

Dan & Rita D
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Old 05-17-2011, 11:29 AM   #3
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Yikes Thats a bit scary! The other day I watched a wasp type thing climb thru the grill, he stayed in there five minutes obviously checking it out to make a nest, I gave the whole thing a blast with insect spray as I was not sure how many could have been in there, there was only the one. I didn't think to check the tube though.

Its that time of year for insects to be making nests, and birds, I had a birds nest once in my sail cover on the boat, eggs everywhere when I undid the cover.

The heater is the same as mine, let us know how you get on with the fix!
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Old 05-17-2011, 11:44 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by KyDan View Post
Pull the cover on the control board.
IF I remember correctly there is a fuse or 2 in there.
Since it's trying to light I guess the hi heat resets are OK
but I think there's a fuse under the cover.
Thanks for the quick reply, Dan. Any idea where the control board is? I looked inside the camper, but I mostly just see a jumble of wires. Also, the water filter canister is in the way which makes it hard to even get to. I guess I could just remove it. Anyway, blown fuses seems reasonable. If I can find the control board, I'll check that.

I took the gas tube off after I took the picture. It seems clean, but I'll check it and the flue pipe again before I try to use it. Of course, I'll also need to replace the wires.
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Old 05-17-2011, 07:38 PM   #5
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Based on the title of this thread and not wanting to become a victim, I have a question by a total novice to the travel trailer world. Wife and I just picked up our 2012 Windjammer 3008W last Saturday and we make our initial trip this coming weekend to a full hookup campground. I want to make sure I do the hot water heater correctly.

It can run off gas or electricity. I know the important thing is to make sure there is water in the heater before you begin. I assume when I hook up to the hydrant that water will flow throughout the trailer and fill the water heater unit. I have a water heater switch inside the trailer on the control panel and also a switch outside under the cover to the water heater unit. The propane will already be on since we will be running the fridge as we drive down to the campsite.

How do I start the water heater properly and safely? I would appreciate answers to running it both ways, on gas and on electricity. Look forward to any and all responses.

Randy and Patty
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Old 05-17-2011, 07:55 PM   #6
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Just make sure before you turn either on that you have no air in heater. Run the hot water faucet to make sure. Then just turn which ever one on you want to use.
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Old 05-17-2011, 08:04 PM   #7
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just in case it is still winterized, check for air at the relief valve on the hw heater. if it is still winterized and u fill the system, the hot water heater won't receive any water. (in this case i am using winterized to say that the wh may still be bypassed with the water inlet blocked).
don't turn on the gas or elec to the water heater until u have verified water at the relief.
in future yrs, check for obstructions. i would suggest watching the flame come on the first time u use the gas each year. each time it sits for any length of time, i would watch the first time it lights.
the elec is how i run mine. used the gas the first time out. my elec didn't work. the trailer had been in a travel trailer show and the switch was on and system was dry. element didn't make it.
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Old 05-17-2011, 09:12 PM   #8
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My WH backfired a few times on a windy day. It didn't do any damage but when I decide to use propane to heat water I make sure no critters have made a home in the tube and the wind doesn't get a clear shot into the housing.
I'll be doing more boondocking this season and plan to heat the water only when we need it for showers.
Do they make on-demand type WH for RVs?
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Old 05-17-2011, 09:45 PM   #9
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I`ll bet there is a spider web inside of it! same thing happened to my buddy`s water heater. we pulled the burner and stuck a piece of wire through it and out came the web. happens very often to alot of people.
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Old 05-18-2011, 12:57 AM   #10
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If it tried to fire it had power at the te of ignition, but you either had very low LP pressure, a sticky control valve not opening properly, or an obstruction- the orifice, burner tube, or the U-tube passage thru the water heater (dirt daubers, wasps). If you have access to a manometer, check for 10.5 to 14" w.c. Pressure in your system with all appliances off. Then turn off LP and check the gas valve orifice for dirt dauber clog, then check all possible blockages thru burner and passage thru heater. If all is clear and gas pressure is good you probably have a bad valve, and/or 2-stage pressure regulator. You also probably heated a safety fuse link which is a one-timer and has to be replaced. If the valve is bad there are serious safety issues involved when you open up the LP system- you need a professional leak test and pressure test if the valve is removed. A faulty valve often means a contaminated system from stale LP.

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