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Old 10-16-2020, 09:54 PM   #1
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Hot water heater not working

I'm beyond frustrated. We're 5000 miles into our cross country trip with yet another Forest River quality control issue on our 2021 22MKSE. I'm starting to become convinced Forest River products aren't meant to actually be used...

Our hot water heater quit working (suburban). The pilot light won't turn on. If I light it with a lighter, the heater will run, but only for a second or two and then turn off. This makes me think the thermocouple isn't working. However, the ignitor should still start the hot water heater, right? But then go out after a second our two, like when I used the lighter? I disconnected the wire to the ignitor and it clicks and shocks me like it should. However, when I reconnect it, there is no visible spark and no spark sounds.

So is it both the thermocouple and the ignitor? If it were just the thermocouple I would expect that the heater would light and then go out, due to not correctly sensing the temperature. If it were just the ignitor, I would expect that the lighter would work it, but it wouldn't light on its own.

I should also mention that the rubber boot where the wire is attached to the ignitor is completely melted and crumbling.

This wouldn't be a big deal, except that I'm dry camping in a crowded campground, so I can't run the generator for electric element and it's below freezing. I'm worried about it freezing up and cracking. I could simply drain the heater, but I don't know that it would empty completely without compressed air. Am I better off letting the hot water slowly drip tonight to keep the water flowing? I have tank heaters on all the exposed pipes and tanks, and I usually protect the hot water heater by leaving it on when below freezing.

I'm concerned if the hot water heater is freeze-damaged sure to the hot water heater not working, I'll end up voiding my warranty.
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Old 10-16-2020, 10:14 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GravelRider View Post
I'm beyond frustrated. We're 5000 miles into our cross country trip with yet another Forest River quality control issue on our 2021 22MKSE. I'm starting to become convinced Forest River products aren't meant to actually be used...

Our hot water heater quit working (suburban). The pilot light won't turn on. If I light it with a lighter, the heater will run, but only for a second or two and then turn off. This makes me think the thermocouple isn't working. However, the ignitor should still start the hot water heater, right? But then go out after a second our two, like when I used the lighter? I disconnected the wire to the ignitor and it clicks and shocks me like it should. However, when I reconnect it, there is no visible spark and no spark sounds.

So is it both the thermocouple and the ignitor? If it were just the thermocouple I would expect that the heater would light and then go out, due to not correctly sensing the temperature. If it were just the ignitor, I would expect that the lighter would work it, but it wouldn't light on its own.

I should also mention that the rubber boot where the wire is attached to the ignitor is completely melted and crumbling.

This wouldn't be a big deal, except that I'm dry camping in a crowded campground, so I can't run the generator for electric element and it's below freezing. I'm worried about it freezing up and cracking. I could simply drain the heater, but I don't know that it would empty completely without compressed air. Am I better off letting the hot water slowly drip tonight to keep the water flowing? I have tank heaters on all the exposed pipes and tanks, and I usually protect the hot water heater by leaving it on when below freezing.

I'm concerned if the hot water heater is freeze-damaged sure to the hot water heater not working, I'll end up voiding my warranty.

Are you sure you have a pilot light? From what you are describing, it sounds like you have Direct Spark Ignition (DSI), which will not have a pilot light.


If it is a DSI type, it has a microamp flame sensor (kinda equivalent to a thermocouple) built into the electrode assembly.


Click image for larger version

Name:	Screenshot_2020-10-16 WH_Service and Training Manual 11 pdf.png
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We keep a service manual on the Suburbans in the library here:


https://www.forestriverforums.com/fo...do=file&id=210
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Old 10-16-2020, 10:19 PM   #3
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Suburban has/does have a problem with their module boards going bad. We have many threads on this. That could be a problem, or you could possibly have an electrode gone bad (or misaligned). The fact you said the rubber boot is burned/cracked at the electrode (assuming you have the DSI model) gives me pause as to what happened there on a new water heater.
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Old 10-16-2020, 10:40 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmtire View Post
Are you sure you have a pilot light? From what you are describing, it sounds like you have Direct Spark Ignition (DSI), which will not have a pilot light.


If it is a DSI type, it has a microamp flame sensor (kinda equivalent to a thermocouple) built into the electrode assembly.


Attachment 241340


We keep a service manual on the Suburbans in the library here:


https://www.forestriverforums.com/fo...do=file&id=210
I'm not sure it has a pilot light. I'm only familiar with residential type heaters with pilot lights, so I assumed it did. It appears that it is this type.

Thank you for the link to the manual
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Old 10-16-2020, 10:46 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by wmtire View Post
Suburban has/does have a problem with their module boards going bad. We have many threads on this. That could be a problem, or you could possibly have an electrode gone bad (or misaligned). The fact you said the rubber boot is burned/cracked at the electrode (assuming you have the DSI model) gives me pause as to what happened there on a new water heater.
I'm just hoping it will survive the night without freeze damage, and then I'll dump it off at the dealer yet again. I've never ran into anything new with as many issues as this travel trailer has had.

Here's a picture of the burnt electrode boot

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Old 10-17-2020, 03:52 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by GravelRider View Post
I'm just hoping it will survive the night without freeze damage, and then I'll dump it off at the dealer yet again. I've never ran into anything new with as many issues as this travel trailer has had.

Here's a picture of the burnt electrode boot


Yes, that is not good. As many of these Suburban water heater threads as I have been involved in, can't say I have seen that one before. Just to make sure we aren't chasing our tails here, any possibility that was caused by you initially trying to light what you thought was a pilot light? What lighting object/where did you attempt this process?


If it was not caused this way, I'm thinking that the only other way it could happen is by the burner flame blowing back. Sometimes spiders get into the burner flue and clog it up where the propane cannot flow properly, which you have to clean out. However, you may have had a whoosh and big flame blow back if there was enough residual propane present from previous attempts of the electrode not igniting the propane.


https://www.forestriverforums.com/fo...ml#post2173570


Usually with a bad module board, the electrode doesn't spark at all and/or it won't stay lit. You are saying in the first post, that you can hear the clicking and feel a shock from the spark ignitor when you remove the wire from the electrode....but the process doesn't happen when the wire is connected? This is curious.

As bad as that damage looks to the ignitor/electrode spark wire, I'm now wondering if the electrode is cracked/damage and or the spark wiring is suspect too.

Here is a previous thread on this. You may can start here and scroll down to the step about the module boards to see what/where there may be a problem, so you can look at yours. This thread explains the process for how the gas/propane side of the Suburban water heater works with DSI.

https://www.forestriverforums.com/fo...ml#post1827312

I'm going to be thinking on this.

It is probably under warranty as new a RV as you have, but that doesn't do you a bit of good while out on the road, traveling.
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Old 10-17-2020, 06:46 AM   #7
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I just fought this battle 2 weeks ago..
The top electrode is positive and bottom is ground. Together they make spark and positive sends milliamp signal back as "flame proven" when hot. I had a dead stinkbug at red spot on pic....I think it was grounding the positive and therefore no spark or mA signal.
I removed the igniter and found the bug. I hit it with some scotchbrite to be safe and put it back in...fired right up.Click image for larger version

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Old 10-17-2020, 06:49 AM   #8
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Stupid question on my part.... are you camping with electric hookup? Can't you use the electric side of the water heater?
Also the spark electrode also acts as the flame sensor. Since the wire is melted that could be the cause of it not sensing the flame when you lit it manually and shutting down.
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Old 10-17-2020, 09:10 AM   #9
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Looks like you had a bout with flashback. I've seen the same on an older TT when ladybugs hibernated in the flue over winter. It's getting that time of year.
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Old 10-17-2020, 02:36 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GravelRider View Post
I'm beyond frustrated. We're 5000 miles into our cross country trip with yet another Forest River quality control issue on our 2021 22MKSE. I'm starting to become convinced Forest River products aren't meant to actually be used...

Our hot water heater quit working (suburban). The pilot light won't turn on. If I light it with a lighter, the heater will run, but only for a second or two and then turn off. This makes me think the thermocouple isn't working. However, the ignitor should still start the hot water heater, right? But then go out after a second our two, like when I used the lighter? I disconnected the wire to the ignitor and it clicks and shocks me like it should. However, when I reconnect it, there is no visible spark and no spark sounds.

So is it both the thermocouple and the ignitor? If it were just the thermocouple I would expect that the heater would light and then go out, due to not correctly sensing the temperature. If it were just the ignitor, I would expect that the lighter would work it, but it wouldn't light on its own.

I should also mention that the rubber boot where the wire is attached to the ignitor is completely melted and crumbling.

This wouldn't be a big deal, except that I'm dry camping in a crowded campground, so I can't run the generator for electric element and it's below freezing. I'm worried about it freezing up and cracking. I could simply drain the heater, but I don't know that it would empty completely without compressed air. Am I better off letting the hot water slowly drip tonight to keep the water flowing? I have tank heaters on all the exposed pipes and tanks, and I usually protect the hot water heater by leaving it on when below freezing.

I'm concerned if the hot water heater is freeze-damaged sure to the hot water heater not working, I'll end up voiding my warranty.
And you blame forest river why? It is a suburban water heater so itís a suburban problem. If it is a 6WD water heater it should have to reset buttons on the front of the water heater behind the door to those two black buttons the reset button did you try pressing them?
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Old 10-17-2020, 03:46 PM   #11
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Dry camping

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Stupid question on my part.... are you camping with electric hookup? Can't you use the electric side of the water heater?
Also the spark electrode also acts as the flame sensor. Since the wire is melted that could be the cause of it not sensing the flame when you lit it manually and shutting down.
Dan, the OP did say that he was "dry camping in a crowded campground" in the first post. I interpreted that to mean that all the powered sites were full and he was in the overflow area with no power and a generator prohibition.
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Old 10-17-2020, 04:45 PM   #12
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When you turn it on do you hear the igniter clicking? If not it may be in fail safe mode due to several failed attempts to light. Once in fail safe mode it will not light. To reset control board, pull the 12V fuse for the device. Wait a minute or so and retry. You should hear the igniter clicking. Also be aware that if the battery voltage is too low the controller will not allow the device to start.
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Old 10-17-2020, 04:56 PM   #13
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Thanks for the help everyone. I got it figured out. I took off the electrode assembly and they were bent and the two pieces were touching. I unbent them, reassembled it, and reset the heater and everything is working perfectly. However, I have no idea how they would have gotten bent and why the boot got melted.

I tried to light the 'pilot light' with a BBQ lighter, and definitely didn't cause the boot to melt. That was like that before I did that.

No bugs or anything in there.

I was dry camping in a state park without any hookups
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Old 10-17-2020, 04:59 PM   #14
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And you blame forest river why? It is a suburban water heater so it’s a suburban problem. If it is a 6WD water heater it should have to reset buttons on the front of the water heater behind the door to those two black buttons the reset button did you try pressing them?
I blame them because that's who manufactures the camper. They choose which parts they buy and install. Plain and simple.
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Old 10-17-2020, 05:13 PM   #15
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Thanks for the help everyone. I got it figured out. I took off the electrode assembly and they were bent and the two pieces were touching. I unbent them, reassembled it, and reset the heater and everything is working perfectly. However, I have no idea how they would have gotten bent and why the boot got melted.

I tried to light the 'pilot light' with a BBQ lighter, and definitely didn't cause the boot to melt. That was like that before I did that.

No bugs or anything in there.

I was dry camping in a state park without any hookups
I am also curious to how the spark gap got like that. The burned boot may have been caused as I explained earlier by excess gas accumulating before ignition. The module board will attempt three ignition sequences before going in lockout mode.

It's possible it did t go in lockout mode or the gas didn't dissipate enough between sequences.....then it ignited with a bang.

As long as you are good to go right now, we can figure out the other later.
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