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Old 03-10-2016, 12:44 PM   #11
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Newport, TN
Posts: 82
EPILOGUE: If all of this Agony and Ecstasy were not enough to warrant me a CE credit in Suburban RV Furnace repair at the very least, we went camping again last weekend, and believe it or not, it was cold in North Florida, and got down into the upper 40s.

So, I went to light up the newly repaired (or is it re-re-re-repaired) Suburban furnace, and I'll be damned if I COULD NOT GET IT TO FIRE UP. Click, click, click, click.... reset... click, click, click, click.

The thought of having to PULL this unit and take it apart again made me want to vomit, but I calmed myself and started troubleshooting the issue. I recalled reading somewhere online a tip from a fellow RVer who said that if you can hear the clicking and smell the propane at the exterior vent pipe, that it helps sometimes to partially cover the intake pipe with your hand (like you would do to a lawnmower carburetor), to essentially "choke" the air flow to get it to light. That worked! And, while I dont recommend it as any kind of permanent solution, or for the faint of heart, I had heat right away and the burner was churning out a nice hot flame.

And, it led me to the problem that was causing the furnace not to fire up. Now, keep in mind, the furnace was removed at least 4 times, I replaced the controller board with the Dinosaur Electronics board (a great product!), I took it to the shop, I fixed it after the shop screwed it up, and I bought a new dual pressure regulator made in Italy, and then took it apart again to replace the electrode, only to have to clean out the soot, clean and ADJUST the electrode position, and replace the gasket by the electrode port, and then reinstall.

So, after all that.... drum roll... the problem this time I determined was low propane fuel in the tank. I noticed a strong odor in the propane exhaust of the chemical tracer that is added to propane, and also that the flame at the stove had a slight orange tint to the flame tips. I theorized that the tank was low. After I switched to the 2nd tank, the problem disappeared. The furnace fired up several times on its own with no issues whatsoever, and we ended up using it for 3 more days. No more "choke throttling" required either.

And, it worked great this weekend, too.

THE MORAL OF THIS EPILOGUE is that LOW PROPANE IN THE SUPPLY TANK, as well as LOW PRESSURE, and MISALIGNED ELECTRODE are the most common problems with these units.

It's probably not the sail switch, the controller board or the thermostat. Use your logical troubleshooting skills and dont always rely on what the dealer rep says. After all, did they get trained at Suburban, or just on the job? Some of them are great, and some, like the one at our local dealer, did nothing to help and in fact returned my unit in worse condition that when they received it.


If you can hear "click, click, click" and smell propane exhaust, then your sail switch, controller and gas solenoid valve are ALL WORKING. Otherwise there would be no click and no propane injection happening.

In this case, it could be low propane, low pressure, or a misaligned or dirty electrode. Try the throttling trick, but only once or twice. Dont tape over the outside air intake, just use the palm of your hand to half cover it and see if you can get it to fire.

If it fires up when "choked", then try to figure out if you have low fuel, low pressure or if it is the electrode. It's a process of elimination.

By the way, if Dinosaur Electronics makes an OEM replacement board for most Suburban and some other brands of RV furnaces, and they are worth the money. They are pretty easy to install (other than access issues to the back side of the furnace) and they offer 5 tries/5 strikes (5 clicks) rather the standard 3 strike (3 clicks) on the Suburban OEM board. This can make a difference if your furnace is cranky on startup.

I also suggest firing up the furnace EVERY TIME YOU GO CAMPING, even in the summertime, if just for 5 minutes. Blow the dust out of the unit and make sure it runs. You'll be glad when winter rolls back around.

walk_the_walk is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-10-2016, 01:01 PM   #12
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Newport, TN
Posts: 82
Originally Posted by Webgypsy View Post
...Pulling the entire unit is unfeasible alone.

So far I have:
*Dealer replaced three times but never reported failures to Suburban so they told me to fly a kite.
* Dealer replaced sail switch and never reported to Suburban
* Dealer replaced PC board and never reported to Suburban
* Dealer replaced limit switch and may have reported to Suburban
Dealer's technician walked away, said it was repaired and I went another winter with no heat.
* I found that the igniter was too far from incoming propane so I took it apart and bent it down and it started lighting
* Runs 5 minutes and shuts down. Wait ten minutes, play with thermostat and it might come back on.
*I replaced limit switch and thermostat quit working
*I replaced thermostat with exact Coleman-Mach model
*Heater now lights and warms. While running it randomly clicks as if it is trying to light again. It shuts off long before room temperature is up and will stay off unless I wait ten minutes and play with the thermostat.

I have concluded I am unable to fix this myself. Do I choose the person that says you should not bench test the heater and only work on it in the RV or do I hire the guy that says he will pull it and bench test it?

What is the model of furnace?
Have you asked the manufacturer what they think the problem might be?
I see no advantage to pulling the unit and taking it to the dealer. Mine worked fine at the dealer; they took it apart, charged me, gave it back and on reinstall, it squeaked like a rusty gate, so we had to uninstall, realign the plastic fan housing and re-install. If that is what bench testing is about, I want no part of it. Also, there are several problems that cannot be detected by a bench test (such as faulty pressure regulator, low fuel, leaky or poor duct connection inside the trailer, loose wire connection where furnace ties into trailer power/thermostat wiring, just to name a few). Put another way, NONE of those problems can be identified by a bench test.

Shame on your dealer. I would hire a recommend mobile RV repair person (check Angies List or ask around) and pay him to fix it. That said, you might want to replace the propane regulator first, since they only cost $35-$50 and can be replaced with an adjustable crescent wrench. Or buy one on Amazon and have it handy for the mobile guy to use. The one we bought that is made in Italy which is quite nice is the Cavagna Auto changeover regulator, (model 52-A-890-0006C) which sells for $43 on Amazon. CAMCO makes a plain jane version, also sold on Amazon. If your furnace is a Suburban, you can also buy the sail switch, gasket and electrode on Amazon now, which is handy, as you can return them if unopened and unused.

Sounds like you spent some money doing "shotgun troubleshooting", as we all do when learning how to fix these damnable furnaces (for example replacing the thermostat probably was not needed). You still have a problem, though, based on your description, if the unit runs for a bit and HEATS, then stops and starts clicking. The furnace is going out and attempting to restart.

Off the top of my head this sounds like any of these possibilities:
1. Sail switch or limit switch (something is causing the gas solenoid to shut off after all)
2. Leaky duct work attachment that is causing the sail switch to not stay closed?
3. Bad gas/propane solenoid
4. Bad controller board (unlikely though, given your description)
5. Low gas pressure

Given what you describe, the mobile repair is your best bet. It's probably something tricky, but a mobile RV guy will have the experience to know how to troubleshoot it.

Please post back when its fixed to let us know.

walk_the_walk is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2016, 08:15 PM   #13
Junior Member
Join Date: Apr 2016
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Posts: 2
Smile Suburban SR-30 rattling

Thanks for the above detailed posting. I read it twice before I pulled my gas heater in my 2006 Cherokee trailer. The heater has gotten increasingly noisy and rattles a lot which wakes the occupants of the trailer (me) when it is running.
It took me about 1 hour to pull the heater out, finding it refuses to pull out until you remove the outside vent covers. Sure enough a hold down bolt was missing on the fan unit (factory hole was there but never bolted). I installed a small bolt with locktite, then reassembled it. It took 15 minutes to reinstall. A final test proved it was much quieter now. I still had to install chunks of pool noodle (plastic foam) to keep the outside enclosure from rattling too loudly.
I found the wiring had marr connectors on them and these were easily reachable so I am not sure why you needed auto connectors on the wiring. I also vacuumed out about a 1/4 cup of metal filings from the compartment from the original trailer manufacturing.
I was ready to buy a new heater to stop the rattle but am happy with the results I got. Thanks to the original post I was confident enough to pull the unit out. I also noted that there was no way to pull the fridge out and work on the heater as the cabinet is solid wood and I would have had to saw through to get to the heater, not a great option.
StorminNorm is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2016, 08:34 PM   #14
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Newport, TN
Posts: 82
Thanks, StorminNorman

Congratulations. You have completed your on the job training and are now officially certified as a Dometic RV gas furnace repair technician.


As to your question, there are connectors on the main board. It's been a while and I don't recall if all four wires had a connector, but I do recall that we could neither see nor reach the connectors from the tiny access space beneath our Dometic refrigerator. Luckily, we had a cheesy thin fake wood panel that we could remove to get near the business side of our Dometic SF-30 furnace.

Glad your repair went so well. The missing screw/bolt sounds like a Dometic QC issue. They are based in Tennessee were quite helpful when I called them with questions, BTW.

walk_the_walk is offline   Reply With Quote

furnace, repair, suburban

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