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Old 02-25-2018, 10:19 AM   #1
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Gas water heater problem

The gas water heater in our 2016, 21 runs erratically. We turn on the hot tap and it is Luke warm. Turn the heater switch off than back on and it starts up and runs maybe a minute and a half, than there is a rapid clicking noise and it goes out. About 15 seconds it starts agin for maybe 30 seconds, than clicking noise and out.
Now if i leave the outside door to the heater compartment open it runs fine. Its almost as if its not getting enough air. The screen is not blocked. This ones got me stumped. We are in Desert Trails in Tucson at this time, going to be here 5 more weeks. Before i call RV repair I thought Id ask if anyone has any ideas.
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Old 02-25-2018, 01:48 PM   #2
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The clicking noise would presumably be the ignitor sparking, unsuccessfully trying to light the burner. The cycle is likely the controls trying to relight the flame, with a delay to allow excess propane to clear. After a couple of tries it gives up (to avoid building up a dangerous amount of unburned propane) until you reset it by turning the switch off and back on.

You probably already realize that, and I can't think of a solution at this point. I've never heard of a water heater starving for combustion air to the point of not working, although that does fit the symptoms.
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Old 02-25-2018, 01:57 PM   #3
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Reace, at an Escape rally, fixed my problem, similarly described, with a pair of pliers. I couldn't see exactly what he was doing ( his hands were in the way ), but I believe he bent something so that the igniter spark was a little closer to the fuel source. Took him a minute to fix.
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Old 02-25-2018, 02:25 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by gbaglo View Post
Reace, at an Escape rally, fixed my problem, similarly described, with a pair of pliers. I couldn't see exactly what he was doing ( his hands were in the way ), but I believe he bent something so that the igniter spark was a little closer to the fuel source.
That makes sense for appliance having an ignition problem, but (to me) doesn't immediately explain why having the heater door open would help.

Also, if it is clicking the spark is being created; moving the electrode would be to move that spark closer to where the propane-air mixture is coming out of the burner tube holes. Hey, maybe that's the door connection: more air movement gets air-propane mixture to the spark?
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Old 02-25-2018, 02:41 PM   #5
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I think you've figured it out Brian.
The answer, my friend, was blowing in the wind.
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Old 02-25-2018, 02:47 PM   #6
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The answer, my friend, was blowing in the wind.

If this is really the solution, it means that the fix will probably involve a few cycles of trial-and-error: adjusting the electrode, closing the door to test, and repeating.
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Old 02-25-2018, 06:07 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post
That makes sense for appliance having an ignition problem, but (to me) doesn't immediately explain why having the heater door open would help.

Also, if it is clicking the spark is being created; moving the electrode would be to move that spark closer to where the propane-air mixture is coming out of the burner tube holes. Hey, maybe that's the door connection: more air movement gets air-propane mixture to the spark?
Ok the clicking noise is the starter, I kind of figured that was it. But once the flame is lit the electrode is no longer needed, right or am I wrong? With the compartment door open, it has a nice strong blue flame. When I close the door you can hear the flame strength get lower and lower until click, click.... and out. Than it restarts for 15 sec. than click, click..... and out.
I can see the 2 electrodes when it’s running, they are like right in the flame and red glowing hot.
Thanks for all the reply’s, keep them coming. If we still feel it’s the electrode position by tomorrow, Than I’ll try to adjust them.
Something that just popped into my head. Could it be a bad thermostat or some kind of sensor. And when the door is closed the compartment gets to hot and it cuts out?.
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Old 02-25-2018, 06:35 PM   #8
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Did you check to see if there is any obstruction in the flame tube, spider webs or bees nest?
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Old 02-25-2018, 07:26 PM   #9
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Ok the clicking noise is the starter, I kind of figured that was it. But once the flame is lit the electrode is no longer needed, right or am I wrong?
Right. The sparking stops as soon as the control circuit determines that the flame is burning. It is starting again because the flame is going out... or at least that it thinks the flame is going out.

Since you say that the flame strength gets lower and lower, it sounds like it is actually going out - that's a new piece of information. Poor electrode placement would not explain this, because the burner is supposed to be just fully on or completely off (in this type of heater). Once it is burning, it should burn with the same size of flame until the target water temperature is reached, then it should turn completely off instantaneously.

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Originally Posted by Jake930 View Post
Something that just popped into my head. Could it be a bad thermostat or some kind of sensor. And when the door is closed the compartment gets to hot and it cuts out?.
In modern direct spark ignition (DSI) appliances, the same electrode which is used to spark the flame is also used to detect the flame, so there is no separate sensing device for the presence of a flame.

A protective shutoff would not turn down the burner, so that doesn't match with the flame getting lower. If the water in the heater gets too hot there is a safety switch which should shut off the burner, but since the heater is only running briefly it can't be water temperature. I suppose that this high-temperature shutdown could be triggered by the compartment getting hot, but why would that happen?

Is the tube which carries the flame and hot air through the heater tank (partially) blocked? It would certainly be a problem if the flamethrower of this thing is not blasting where is supposed to be.
EDIT: Chotch already caught this possibility, about possible flame tube blockage.
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Old 02-25-2018, 07:29 PM   #10
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Did you check to see if there is any obstruction in the flame tube, spider webs or bees nest?
Yes I did. Even blew things out with some canned air, thinking there might be and obstruction. But we have been on the road since last November 20th. So it has been in continuous use since than. Plan on getting home the last of April.
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