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Old 05-17-2011, 10:16 AM   #1
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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!
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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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Quote:
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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Old 05-18-2011, 01:20 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rvtech59
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.
Just saw your pic up close- no fuse link, but the valve has a burned solenoid. Be safe and find a reputable servicer. That's not a major job (36 minutes shop rate to change the valve and do a leak test) of course there may be other things involved(?)
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Old 05-18-2011, 06:16 AM   #12
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In his original post he says there is no voltage going to
the solenoid.
Yes it is cooked but there should be voltage there if
it's trying to open.
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Old 05-18-2011, 09:22 AM   #13
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If this problem experienced by the original poster had happened to me, I would have a QUALIFIED LP gas water heater technician do the repair. Either that or make sure my fire insurance was completely paid up !!

...VTX-AL
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Old 05-18-2011, 10:40 AM   #14
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Fisk,
U know u r going to have to replace thr gas valve. I would start there. Do a good soap test to makr sure u dont hsve leaks. With the wires removed from the selenoid, go thru the lighting seq and see if u have voltage on the disconnected wires.
The fire could havr damaged the wires or it could have created an insulating layer between connection (bet wire and spade).
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Old 05-18-2011, 07:43 PM   #15
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Fisk has a good point- I've got some operational flow charts- will look at them later and reply if I see anything helpful.
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Old 05-18-2011, 08:49 PM   #16
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Inside the black box just above the gas valve there is a thermal cutout switch. The cover appears to be partially melted. If one of the wires to the switch melted or the switch itself got hot enough to trip the power to the valve will be cut. Try pressing the button in the middle of the switch which is under the circular bit of rubber on the right of the cover and it may reset.
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Old 05-18-2011, 09:17 PM   #17
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Keep in mind with some of these DIY repairs - if the repairs causes damage and the insurance co. can prove that a non-qualified person was messing with it - they can refuse to pay you. If you aren't fully confidenty its best left to others IMHO
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Old 05-19-2011, 08:57 AM   #18
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the control module is located on the back of the hw heater inside a box mounted between the hot and cold inlet.
backin15 has a point abt trying to reset the limit switch. it's worth a try but i would tend to think that is ok if ur getting a spark.
the burnt insulation could go deeper than u see. the reason i suggested pulling the wires (especially the outer two) and check for voltage is if the solenoid has shorted from the fire, it may drag the voltage down. if there is some sort of limit within the module, it may not blow a fuse.
i would also have those wires pulled when i check the voltage at its connection to the module.
if u have voltage at the module, u know the wires or connections are the problem.
with those solenoids charred, i would replace the valve and the wires between it and the control module. the manual recommends #18.
i don't have a good manual but it appears the flame is sensed with the spark ignitor. i don't see anything else.
if it goes thru, here is what i have. it isn't for what u have but it should be close enough.
i had the insulated connection happen on a washing machine a couple years ago. connection looked good but was charred on the inside. sense u had a fire, i wouldn't rule that out. even the wire connected to the connector could have been compromised by the fire.
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Old 05-19-2011, 09:04 AM   #19
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Thanks everyone for the replies. I've been doing some research since I started this thread. The heater is a Suburban model SW6D The prices i've found online for a complete replacement really aren't that bad. However, this is only five years old so i'd like to try to fix it if possible. If the gas valve has to be replaced, and the black box where the reset button is located has been melted, I might as well just replace the entire unit.

I've got until mid-July until our next camping trip so i've got time to think about it.
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Old 05-19-2011, 09:08 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fisk View Post
I've got until mid-July until our next camping trip so i've got time to think about it.
Mid July
Dang, now I remember what it used to be like to have
a real job

Good luck on what ever you decide!
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