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Old 12-05-2004, 08:42 AM   #1
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1973 Argosy 20
Lorain County , Ohio
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NT-16 Suburban furnace burner goes WHOOF!!!

Last night was my first attempt to light the furnace in the Argosy 20 that I bought a month ago. I didn't have high hope for success since all that I knew was the camper had sat for at least 6 years and the power wire to the furnace was disconnected. After blowing out as much rust as I could, testing the gas shut-off and thermocouple, and cleaning the pilot jet I finally got the pilot to stay lit. That's when I found something that's really serious: It seems that while just the pilot is lit propane gases are building up because after about 1 minute I get a WHOOF that combusts in the burner chamber and shoots out the pilot access hole (I tried closing the mica cap and it still fires up. Actually with everything off but the main gas valve next to the furnace I still get the gas buildup. So is this some gas sneaking by some valve? Is there something to clean, adjust, or does it require replacement? I haven't seen this particular symptom in any recent posts and I didn't see it in my service manual. But then again at midnight making little explosions I figured I should quit while I ahead.

Also, who might you recommend for parts online?

Thanks for any advice that you can give,

Stephen
Oberlin, Ohio
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Old 12-05-2004, 09:28 AM   #2
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I think that furnace has a safety recall on it, for another reason. You may want to get a new(er) furnace.

Here is a URL for someone that may be able to help:
http://www.pplmotorhomes.com/parts/r...od-parts-1.htm
Terry
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Old 12-05-2004, 09:26 PM   #3
Old Paint, rolling again.
 
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follow up

After reading more archives I realized that I need to disasemble the unit to do an adequate cleaning. I didn't find anything obviously wrong except for the pile of rust I removed from the heat exchanger AFTER having blown out the unit last night. Also, 6 of the flame slots in the burner were packed with rust. Below is a picture of the pile of rust. I'll need to order some gaskets before reassembly.
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Old 12-06-2004, 04:54 PM   #4
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1993 21' Sovereign
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sfixx
After reading more archives I realized that I need to disasemble the unit to do an adequate cleaning. I didn't find anything obviously wrong except for the pile of rust I removed from the heat exchanger AFTER having blown out the unit last night. Also, 6 of the flame slots in the burner were packed with rust. Below is a picture of the pile of rust. I'll need to order some gaskets before reassembly.
Take a good look at the hoses that lead outside the trailer, these were prone to cracking and allowing CO back into the trailer, with the annoying tendency to kill people in their sleep.
Terry
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Old 12-06-2004, 06:22 PM   #5
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Dangerous

Quote:
Originally Posted by sfixx
After reading more archives I realized that I need to disasemble the unit to do an adequate cleaning. I didn't find anything obviously wrong except for the pile of rust I removed from the heat exchanger AFTER having blown out the unit last night. Also, 6 of the flame slots in the burner were packed with rust. Below is a picture of the pile of rust. I'll need to order some gaskets before reassembly.

This pile of rust tells a good story.
You might have heat exchanger walls rusted through, allowing combusted gas to enter the trailer. Not safe, not desirable. This is exactly what happened to my furnace in teh 1971 Tradewind. I got a coffee cup full of rust out of the inside of the heat exchanger by rapping the unit with a small hammer and dumping the loose particles out the side.
Never mind the gasket set, find a close by dumpster and get rid of it while you still can.
I know that new furnaces are expensive, but these old rusty ones are just not safe to use, in my opinion.
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Old 12-06-2004, 08:53 PM   #6
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Welcome sfixx! Glad to see another contributor from the world of 'Stealth Airstreams.' Nobody'll ever mistake us for millionaires.... I'm still in the middle of a lot of structural issues so haven't gotten down to replacing mine yet, but.... Furnaces, water heaters, etc. are modular and fit into the same spaces, though you may need some duct changes due to somewhat different outlets. By the time you find a reliable RV repair person (AS dealers don't want to touch old units!) you will be safer for not a lot more money by looking into prices of new (and the bewildering array of you-start and electric start units).

Walk, don't run, to a dead stop (oooh -- more literal than I wanted to be). Take a look at the following threads:
Furnace Recall
Furnace safety
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Old 12-06-2004, 11:50 PM   #7
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When I was about five years old, a bird built a nest in our gas furnace flue. On the first cold evening that we used the furnace, the carbon monoxide filled the house and very nearly killed me and my parents. Luckily, my mother woke up and got us out just in time. I can still remember the headache it gave me.

When I bought my '74 Argosy motorhome, I noticed a small hole in the furnace heat exchanger. The furnace seemed to function okay, so the frugal previous owner advised me to "screw a little patch over it and it'll be fine." I threw that furnace away pronto and bought a new one.

Moral - be as frugal as you like everywhere else, but buy yourself a new furnace! Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless. The first indication that you didn't fix your furnace malfunction may be when you wake up dead. It's just not worth the risk.

Bob
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Old 12-06-2004, 11:55 PM   #8
Old Paint, rolling again.
 
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Red eye repair...success!

The service manual actually does mention my symptom: "pilot blow out". This is due to just what I had guessed in my first post, that gas was leaking past the burner gas valve which combusts and takes the pilot light with it. I pulled the top off the gas valve(couldn't save the cork gasket), Both the pilot and main valve seat were contaminated with a thick sticky substance. I cut a new gasket from a NAPA blank sheet and reassembled the furnace. I inspected the combustion chamber and heat exchanger for structural integrity and aside from the previously mentioned rust, which apparently is normal, the metal all seems sound. After having cleaned the pilot orifice, valve seats, and burner it held the pilot well and fired right up for me on my bench. Thanks to the welcome advice of many, I will pay close attention to the installation of the exhaust pipe, and certainly get a carbon monoxide detector.

I've had the budget camper just over a month now and have made tons of progress on it. I've thrown a bit of money at it but mostly just sweat and research. I got the brake drums turned and my new backing plates from "Inland" just arrived. I may get to go camping this fall yet!

Ahhhh it's 12:51 am!!

Thanks for all the help,

Steve
Oberlin, OH
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Old 12-11-2004, 02:00 PM   #9
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I had a similar pilot blow out on my original Suburban NT20.

It shot a flame out 6" towards my face. After removing I found heat exchanger had major rust out problem. Not risking burning the AS to the ground, I searched and bought brand new NT30 on internet for $430 shipped.

With propane fired units often run while sleeping I'd go for buck up, spend bucks, be warm and safe.

rust out is indicator of service life gone.
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Old 02-13-2005, 03:01 PM   #10
Old Paint, rolling again.
 
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Follow-up

Installed and ran the furnace for more than 1 hour in the closed up camper. No CO detected yet it stank something awful. I retired the unit and will probably shop for an Olympian catalytic heater sometime closer to spring.

I certainly appreciate all the helpful advice I received.

Thanks for talking me into doing the prudent thing...

Steve
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Old 02-13-2005, 03:43 PM   #11
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olymic heaters

I too am interested in the olympic catalytic heaters... "safe for indoor use" but in the tech requirements, it says it requires "venting". How is that safe for indoor use? I don't see that it has a vent for the outside?
Marc
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Old 02-13-2005, 04:20 PM   #12
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Angry ventless

Quote:
Originally Posted by 3Ms75Argosy
I too am interested in the olympic catalytic heaters... "safe for indoor use" but in the tech requirements, it says it requires "venting". How is that safe for indoor use? I don't see that it has a vent for the outside?
Marc
Ventless means open a window! The instructions recommend opening a roof vent 1/2" to let the CO escape AND open a window for fresh make-up air. I was expecting to use it just to take off the morning chill...not for true cold weather camping.

I had a ventless infrared heater in my garage workshop which came with a stand alone 6" vent that you mount high on a wall, then you crack a window for the make-up air. The convective current, warm air rising, takes the CO out the vent. Most of these units have oxygen sensors that will shut off the gas when the oxygen depletes to unsafe levels. Silly me didn't want to waste all the warm air at the ceiling so I turn on a fan...my CO detector goes off in 5 minutes. I sold that immediatly and sprung for a direct vent "Hot Dog" Modine heater which is worlds better. The infrared heaters work best in drafty locations where they warm objects in there sight, not the air.

Steve
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Old 02-13-2005, 05:29 PM   #13
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This is a great forum discussion because of the safety issues re all non-electric heaters. We had four deaths here in Maryland last year after Hurricane Isabel due to mis-use of propane equipment. Here's my 2 cents worht:

1 cent- There's a good discussion on catalytic heaters that might be useful: http://www.rverscorner.com/info/catalytic.html

2 cent- There's another concern in an Airstream in really cold weather - pipe and tank freeze up. Because the original equipment and ducting does a farily good job at circulating warm air, the pipes/tanks don't freeze easily. However, folks who use space heaters as supplemental heat sources tend to keep the Airstream toasty, and the furnace thermostat from calling for heat. This keeps the warm air from circulating into the below-deck and behind the wall areas. Although I only use the original heater, I've also installed three small but effectrive circulating fans with small soild-state remote sensors in the tank and storage areas. When it gets too cold in those spaces, it turns on the fans and forces warmer air to them.

I agree with mcneon, nothing will really ruin your day worse than waking up dead!
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