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Old 02-01-2020, 10:57 PM   #1
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Water heater troubleshooting and repair

Unfortunately I wasn't able to write it up at the time (a few months ago) due to wrist issues, so it's a bit less detailed than I'd hoped. Hopefully still useful, though.

My water heater started getting flaky on propane. It'd only light some of the time, maybe 1/4 attempts or so.

First step is just to see what's going on. It seemed to be having some trouble lighting, and also trouble staying lit. Using a lighter manually would light it, but it'd still go out after a while sometimes. Flame was strong and blue, so probably not a propane issue (and the fridge worked fine on LP despite generally being pickier about pressure than other devices)

First thing I tried was blowing it out a bit, and that seemed to help.. but unfortunately not much. It maybe worked a little more often, but not a lot.

Next thing was replacing the ignitor/sensor. Technically these can be tested, but fully testing it seemed a bit risky in that it involves measuring microAmps along a wire that probably carries a fair bit of power when it's in spark mode instead of sense. I don't have a clamp-on multimeter, and the ignitor/sensor is cheap (and handy to have a spare of anyways), so I went ahead and replaced it even though it tested OK in terms of continuity at least.

The new ignitor did seem to help... but still not much. That just leaves the circuit board. So, I squeezed myself under the bed and started taking a look at the ignitor board. Pulled it out, and noticed there was a piece of foam actually stuck to the back with adhesive which seemed a bit odd. Pulled the foam off, and sure enough there's a decent-sized burnt spot. Looking closer, there's one on the top of the board as well. Maybe not an ideal mounting strategy by Escape. At least I've found my culprit, though. I could probably carefully clean it off and see if it starts working properly, but if any components are only moderately damaged it's likely to work then flake out later. Might as well replace the thing and be done with it.

The new board from Dinosaur is noticeably more robust than the original. Larger transformer especially, and a replaceable fuse. I went ahead and ordered the plastic cover for it as well and am glad I did. Mounting it was a bit awkward, but I managed to get it screwed into a couple of wooden supports at an angle. More secure than the original setup that just had it dangling from one screw with just a foam pad keeping it from bouncing on the wall or getting shorted out by something.
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Old 02-02-2020, 07:37 AM   #2
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I would have thought all of that electronic stuff was inside the unit or in the outside part. Was not aware there was a separate electronic unit dangling in the compartment, I'll have to be more observant down there.
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Old 02-02-2020, 09:58 AM   #3
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In your repair efforts did you read about others having an similar issue ?
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Old 02-02-2020, 12:27 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Defenestrator View Post
More secure than the original setup that just had it dangling from one screw with just a foam pad keeping it from bouncing on the wall or getting shorted out by something.
Your circuit board was just hanging out in the open completely unprotected? The stock Suburban board does have the foam pad on the back but is also supposed to be in a plastic enclosure that covers the top and sides.
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Old 02-02-2020, 02:53 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fudge_brownie View Post
In your repair efforts did you read about others having an similar issue ?
I have had similar troubles with the water heater in my 19. With multiple attempts, I'm usually able to get it lit and keep it lit, but it takes multiple attempts. It lights, then flames out. During the multiple attempts, there is what sounds like a very small explosion, which I'm assuming is the excess propane burning up. Most disconcerting.

Once it stays lit, it does a great job. And it seems like if I get it going and then try on consecutive days, it stays lit with fewer attempts than it does when it's been sitting for weeks. But it always takes at least 2, and usually more.

Based on the OP's report, I may investigate further. I had thought it was a problem in the propane supply line, but perhaps not. Similar to the OP, I did try to blow it out (thinking I had bugs in the line), and that did seem to help but did not totally solve the problem. I'm planning a trip back to Chilliwack this summer and will have Escape look at it too. Thanks for the post!
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Old 02-02-2020, 05:07 PM   #6
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I've heard of others with similar issues, but I think in most cases it ended up being the igniter/sensor or regulator.

The board did have a case around the top/sides, but not the bottom, and it was attached by just one screw. Interesting that the pad is stock. I wonder whether the melted foam was the culprit, casualty, or a bit of both (or something like an iffy/dirty igniter causing frequent relights and burning the board out).
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Old 02-02-2020, 05:09 PM   #7
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In your case, Salmo7000, it's probably worth making sure the igniter/sensor is undamaged and in the right spot. It should have a nice strong spark and be sitting in the hot part of the flame while it's burning.
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