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Old 07-16-2011, 12:46 PM   #1
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Pilot Light Not Staying Lit

I am trying to test out the gas operation of the fridge in our 88 (original fridge). When I turn it on to gas operation it does in fact light. I can hear both the ignitor and see the flame at the bottom of the vent after removing the plate. It stays lit for ~30 seconds and then shuts off. The gas operation of other appliances like the stove work perfect. Any ideas on what could be wrong?

Thank you,

Todd
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Old 07-16-2011, 01:10 PM   #2
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Your fridge, as all gas appliance pilots, has a device called a thermocouple that can and does go bad. Do you see a thermometer looking object in the middle of the flame with a small tubing going back to the valve mechanism?...........thats the thermocouple.......if the valve doesnt sense the heat from the flame in X amount of time, it shuts down the gas supply..........

Check to see if the thermocouple is in the flame..........if not, adjust it......If it is in the flame...........replace it........it has gone bad.........Good luck.....God bless........Dennis
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Old 07-16-2011, 01:56 PM   #3
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I do see the thermocouple and it is directly above the flame. In this model the wire from the thermocouple runs into what I am guessing is a control board and not directly to the valve. So I guess the issue is either with the thermocouple or the control board? Any way to diagnose which is the issue?
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Old 07-16-2011, 02:02 PM   #4
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Todd there is a tool to measure the millivoltage output from a thermocouple but it costs more than a new thermocouple. There is also circuit board tester which is very expensive. Both tools cost more than the new parts. A thermocouple is relatively cheap and most often the problem. Replace that and if that doesn't do the trick you can pull the board and have it tested by any RV dealer for what I'm sure would be a couple of bucks. It takes 30 seconds to test a board.
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Old 07-16-2011, 02:08 PM   #5
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Thank you, that makes perfect sense. Are there local type stores that might stock the thermocouple or is my best by to order online (already found the correct model on ebay)? I have an RV parts place nearby, but they have fairly limited stock.

Thank you,

Todd
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Old 07-16-2011, 02:16 PM   #6
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Can you post a photo of how the thermo couple connects to the circuit board? If it is screw type connectors or stab on connectors. You might try cleaning the connections and fire it up again. This is only a 20 millivolt system, it doesn't take a whole lot of oxidation to mess it up.
If it has a connection like on a water heater where a small copper tube is held in place by a brass nut, take it apart at the brass nut, clean the contact on the end of the copper tube, also clean the mating contact on the circuit board. When you reassemble it, hold the push the copper tube firmly into the hole and tighten the nut.
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Old 07-16-2011, 02:16 PM   #7
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Thermocouples are pretty much standard stuff. A universal one will work fine and the local store should have one.
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Old 07-16-2011, 02:40 PM   #8
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Take it out and bring it to the store to see if it can be matched. Bring along the refrigerator model number. You may not be able to get the right one for an RV from a hardware store and may have to go to an RV store for one. Chris may be right and you can get one at a hardware store, but I have found RV parts are often different than ones for other applications; I'd try the hardware store first because it is bound to be less expensive.

If you do not have a electronically controlled igniter, you have a thermocouple and a piezo electric igniter or have to use a match. Our stove top has piezo electric igniters; our oven pilot has to be lit with a match and the button held in until the thermocouple heats up. It requires an acrobat to light, or 2 people.

When you light the pilot with a match or a piezo electric igniter, you have to hold down a button until the thermocouple heats up enough to generate a very small current. That current is detected by the main gas valve and it opens to allow the burner to light. In your case the wire goes to a circuit board and then the information is relayed to the main gas valve. If you don't hold down the button long enough, the pilot light goes out and you do it again. It is a safety feature to make sure the main valve opens and closes according to demand and is controlled by a thermostat.

Some people, me included, will turn on the main valve soon after the pilot lights and that may allow the burner to light. This is not a good idea because if the safety system may be compromised and the burner may stay on too long. This seems unlikely, even nearly impossible, to happen, but if it does, the results are not good. I have done for the oven when we are only using it for a short time—making garlic bread is the main use for our oven—but would not try it with another appliance.

The electronic ignitor is fully automatic. They can fail eventually or need to be cleaned. Never having taken one apart, I don't know if they have something like a thermocouple, but they have to have some sort of safety system. An '88 will not have an electronic ignitor and from what you say is not lit with a match. Your ignitor works, so the most likely problem is the thermocouple, but there could be a wiring problem with the circuit board or at the main valve. Make sure all connections are tight and clean—carbon collects on electrical connections (you can't see it) and can cause problems. You can clean them with a little bit of WD40.

While doing the repair, clean everything you can because clean things work better.

Gene
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Old 07-16-2011, 03:46 PM   #9
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This model's thermocouple has the two push type connectors that connect to the controller board. I took the thermocouple apart and sanded off the corrosion off of the end of the thermocouple, but the push type connectors looked like they were in great condition. No change in the problem and the end is about almost 1/2 over the flame (as far as it can possibly be pushed in).

The hardware store only looks to have the type of thermocouple with the end that screws into the valve instead of the wires. I will just order one online as I see it is the correct part number. I will give that a go and hopefully that is it.

I might need to start a new thread, but discovered another issue testing the gas operation of the fridge. I decided to run it on AC just to make sure the fridge and freezer are at least working so I could at least rely on AC (we are leaving on a trip to CO end of next week). The freezer dropped ~30 degrees in about 5-10 minutes. The fridge did not show any noticeable drop in temperature. Is it normal for the fridge to take a very long time to start cooling off since it is a larger area? I read outside of this forum where another guy was having the same issue and a tech recommending disconnecting the thermistor taking thus it out of the system and allow it to run "wild". I did that and after 15 minutes there was no noticeable change in fridge temp. It is VERY hot here in Texas today at 100 currently, so this might not be the best testing condition. I would greatly appreciate any tips to diagnose the fridge or if I just need to test by leaving it running overnight.

Thank you,

Todd
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Old 07-16-2011, 04:49 PM   #10
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Yes, the fridge takes much longer to cool off, freezer cools first.

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Old 07-16-2011, 08:37 PM   #11
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If your "Thermocouple" has wires, it is either a Thermistor or an RTD type sensor. They probably won't be available at the hardware store.
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Old 07-17-2011, 10:55 PM   #12
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So are you saying the thermocouple could be ok? Should unplugging the thermistor from the control board rule out that as the culprit?
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Old 07-17-2011, 10:59 PM   #13
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Gene, how long should it take for a fridge to normally start to cool down and is there any difference between gas and AC power in the fridge performance? I am fairly new to all of the appliances and appreciate all of the info/patience.
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Old 07-17-2011, 11:07 PM   #14
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Gene, how long should it take for a fridge to normally start to cool down and is there any difference between gas and AC power in the fridge performance? I am fairly new to all of the appliances and appreciate all of the info/patience.
Todd four to six hours for a fridge to reach proper temperature depending on ambient temps. The fridge will cool faster on propane then electric.
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