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Old 09-12-2008, 09:05 PM   #1
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Atwood Water Heater won't fire.

Hello all,

I'm on my second trip in my 2008 Safari SE and I can't get my hot water heater to work. The red light on the switch in the washroom stays on. I have run the trouble shooting routine in the manual, and from the Atwood home page with no luck.

I'm not sure if this is important or not, but the red "no ignition" light on the circuit board of the water heater comes on and stays on the moment the switch in the washroom is put to the "on" position.

I've been outside watching the heater as my wife turns the switch on, and I don't hear or smell any evidence that LP is going through the system at all. Nor do I hear any noises or notice any sparks.

Earlier in the day, I towed my Safari in some fairly heavy rain for over 4 hours. The water heater seems to have gotten wet. Not sure if this would have any impact or not.

Some water has even got inside the plastic protective covering on the thermal cut off. Not a clue if this matters, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

Does anyone have any suggestions that might get me up and running tonight? I'm not sure when I'd be able to get the unit serviced. Certainly not on this trip. Is there a way to start it manually?
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Old 09-12-2008, 10:01 PM   #2
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I'm guessing it's an auto light... Do you have to light a pilot light? Guessing you don't...

Mine is all manual, but if it got really wet it may not be sparking... You could try drying it out with a hair dryer to see if that will get it going...

Also check your breaker box..(fuse) if it has a stand alone one.... in may have blown if it was wet and you tried to turn it on...

thats about as much as I can help....

Can you light it manually.???????
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Old 09-12-2008, 10:21 PM   #3
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I'm guessing it's an auto light... Do you have to light a pilot light? Guessing you don't...

Mine is all manual, but if it got really wet it may not be sparking... You could try drying it out with a hair dryer to see if that will get it going...

Also check your breaker box..(fuse) if it has a stand alone one.... in may have blown if it was wet and you tried to turn it on...

thats about as much as I can help....

Can you light it manually.???????
Sorry, I should have mentioned that it's electric ignition and an LP only model.

I tried lighting it manually, but it didn't work. I had a long reach butane lighter already lit and in position and I shouted for my wife to flip the switch. Nothing happened. I didn't even hear a click of the LP valve opening.

Also, I have tons of LP and I've already primed the lines by running the stove and furnace.

I'll check the fuses.

I actually teased my wife about bringing a hair dryer camping, so she left it at home. Luckily, she doesn't read these forums. :-)

I did notice some dripping from the pressure relief valve.... I am about to try emptying the tank and refilling it, and then calling it a night.

Fortunately, the campground we are at has showers
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Old 09-12-2008, 10:23 PM   #4
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There is no way to manually light the unit. Even if you did get it to light once, as soon as it reached operating temp it would shut down, and you would have to relight it.
Have you tried shutting down all power to it, and hooking it back up again after a few minutes? You may get it to start that way, but it will have to be looked at when you get back to civilization.
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Old 09-13-2008, 12:31 AM   #5
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If you have no gas smell or sound of sparking there are two main possibilities. Either the board is faulty or the battery power is low, unable to provide the required amps to power the unit.
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Old 09-13-2008, 12:36 AM   #6
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If you do not hear any clicking at the water heater, the ignition is probably not firing...normally it fires rapidly (clicking) until the gas lights, then stops (at which point the light at the vanity should also go out, indicating that the unit has fired up)...and if it's getting gas you would "hear" the flame. It's definitely audible from near the heater outside... If the ignition is not firing, it might mean that it's not getting juice for one reason or another...a fuse blowing, a connection loosening or getting very wet might cause that. After it dries out good, check connections, and give it another try. Also check the air inlet collar to make sure it has not come loose and slid closed...it's right in the lower front of the water heater compartment..an aluminum sleeve over the gas line with vents holes in it...there's a set screw to keep it in position...the vents in the sleeve allow air in to mix with the gas...ours had to be adjusted recently because the heater flame kept "fluttering" because it wasn't allowing enough air in...it would go out, causing the ignition to repeatedly kick in again and cycle through it all over again until the water had heated enough to shut the heater down...most annoying not to mention sounding dysfunctional. Good luck with it...not matter what's going on you should probably have it checked out by a tech as soon as you can...if there's no AS service center near by...any RV service place should be able to deal with it, as these heaters are common to a lot of different brands. (Of course, if you can go to an AS service center, this should be covered under warranty. Ours was.)

Good luck...it's a bummer being without hot water!
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Old 09-13-2008, 07:42 AM   #7
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Totonto Guy,
The Atwood water heater in our '06 is cantankerous when it is really damp or wet. But I can manually light it with a lighter. It dries out and works fine after that. When working properly, when the switch is thrown, you should first hear the propane solenoid valve open, then the piezo ignitor will start "ticking" trying to ignite the propane. If you don't hear any of this then I would suspect an issue with the control circuit. As you said it may just be wet / damp and need to be dried out. You may also try re-seating the connections at the circuit board.

Good luck and I hope you do not need to take too many cold showers.
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Old 09-13-2008, 08:46 AM   #8
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Thanks for all the advice!

There's a service center nearby that makes house calls, but my trip is more than half over anyway. I'll just add it to the list of issues I need the dealership to look at when I take it back.

This is my first time with a sewage hook up, and I was actually really looking forward to having a more or less normal shower in my AS! :-(
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Old 09-13-2008, 09:36 AM   #9
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I would be willing to wager that it is your circuit board. I don't know if the fact that you went through some heavy rain has anything to do with it, but I doubt it. I had two circuit boards go out on our '07 Safari within six months. The circuit board is really simple to replace, a screw and a couple of plug-in connectors. Camping World normally stocks the item for around $115.00. I had one replaced by a local RV dealership, and replaced the other myself "on the road." Then I got the displeasure of having to file a claim with Atwood.....one of the worst companies in the world to get any money out of. I basically let the local RV dealership collect for me, based on the presumption that the one they used for the first replacement was faulty......only took three months to be reimbursed. One way to check if it is a faulty circuit board is with a simple 12v circuit tester......if power is not getting to the ignitor, but is getting to the board....there's your sign!

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Old 09-13-2008, 07:22 PM   #10
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I would be willing to wager that it is your circuit board. I don't know if the fact that you went through some heavy rain has anything to do with it, but I doubt it. I had two circuit boards go out on our '07 Safari within six months. The circuit board is really simple to replace, a screw and a couple of plug-in connectors. Camping World normally stocks the item for around $115.00. I had one replaced by a local RV dealership, and replaced the other myself "on the road." Then I got the displeasure of having to file a claim with Atwood.....one of the worst companies in the world to get any money out of. I basically let the local RV dealership collect for me, based on the presumption that the one they used for the first replacement was faulty......only took three months to be reimbursed. One way to check if it is a faulty circuit board is with a simple 12v circuit tester......if power is not getting to the ignitor, but is getting to the board....there's your sign!

Chief
I've tried every other tip and trick that the kind folks on this forum suggested, and several hours spent "googling" with no luck so I think you're right.

I will probably only have one more trip this season, and I think I can get by without the heater. One annoying thing here... a replacement part is $115 but should be under warranty. However, the dealership where I purchased the RV is two hours from my house, and the service department is only open on week days. I'd have to take a day off of work, spend at least 5 hours in traffic and probably $60-$80 in gas, plus whatever time I have to spend at the service department waiting.

I will be passing a Camping World on the way home tomorrow, I might stop off to see if they have the part in stock. Instead of getting a refund from Atwood, maybe I can get them to send me a replacement board and I'll keep it as a spare. ;-)
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Old 09-13-2008, 09:03 PM   #11
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If you end up deciding to go to the dealership that's 2 hours away, why not turn it into a short long weekend camping trip so you're not losing all that time for service, and you get the pleasure of your water heater working again! Like make an appointment for Friday, go up on a Thursday night (you night be able to stay on the dealer's lot over night?) or early Friday, get it fixed Friday, then hit a park somewhere in the area for the weekend. I'll bet there's a place to go camping somewhere within that 2 hours....
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Old 09-13-2008, 09:04 PM   #12
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Hi

Here are a couple of things to try.

1) open the releif valve on the top of the water heater and see if the water coming out is hot. If it is hot your water heater bypass valves are turned the wrong way. The top and bottom valves should be with the line and the centre one crossways to the line.

2) If the water is cold then it may be the water heater has some water shorting it out. It is very easy to remove the circuit board and bring it inside the trailer to dry it out. It is held on by two small screws and the wireing just unplugs.

I hope this helps.

Andy
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Old 09-13-2008, 09:04 PM   #13
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Oh yea and we have service on Saturday's by appointment.

Thanks

Andy
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Old 09-13-2008, 09:13 PM   #14
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...your water heater bypass valves are turned the wrong way. The top and bottom valves should be with the line and the centre one crossways to the line.
I couldn't remember which way the valves went for summer or winter bypass storage so I took a black magic marker and wrote right on the styrofoam of the water heater how they should be set. Beats trying to find the manual or rack my memory each time.

Good luck with your repair.
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Old 09-13-2008, 11:31 PM   #15
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I've tried every other tip and trick that the kind folks on this forum suggested, and several hours spent "googling" with no luck so I think you're right.

I will probably only have one more trip this season, and I think I can get by without the heater. One annoying thing here... a replacement part is $115 but should be under warranty. However, the dealership where I purchased the RV is two hours from my house, and the service department is only open on week days. I'd have to take a day off of work, spend at least 5 hours in traffic and probably $60-$80 in gas, plus whatever time I have to spend at the service department waiting.

I will be passing a Camping World on the way home tomorrow, I might stop off to see if they have the part in stock. Instead of getting a refund from Atwood, maybe I can get them to send me a replacement board and I'll keep it as a spare. ;-)
TG,

You either have no power going to the igniter circuit (but if you have a red light on your interior switch, then in all likelihood, you DO have 12VDC present), or you have bad contacts to the igniter board or a bad board.

First, you should check the condition of the ECO and thermostat that are right in the front of the heater....under the foam rectangle. Check to see that the t/stat is not tripped (there is a little re-set button in between the electrical contact pads. If you have a VOM meter, you should disconnect the wires going into these components and check for continuity on both, as either may be defective, and your unit will not ignite without voltage passing thru these (safety issues). Water contact does not negatively affect these.

Next, there is a little thermal fuse that's covered in a clear plastic tube going into the ECO that might be shorted. You can also check this for continuity (once disconnected). If no continuity...it should be replaced.

Next, remove the flat connector plug from the igniter board and using a pencil eraser, clean the contacts. Then, replace and remove this plug on the board several times just to be sure that it is making good contact. Also, check that the orange hi-voltage wire that feeds the igniter (like a spark plug wire) is fully inserted into the coil on the igniter board.

If all of the above fails and you have the proper continuity that I described, you have a bad igniter board. I WOULD NOT REPLACE IT WITH AN OEM BOARD!!!!!!!! Get a Dinosaur Electronics 'UIB-Small' board with weather cover, and you'll never have another board problem with your water heater again! 3 year warranty too!

Let me know if you have any other questions...............
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Old 09-13-2008, 11:35 PM   #16
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Perhaps you're having the same problem I had. If I have too many 12VDC lights on, the water heater doesn't get enough power to light. Perhaps try turning off all other 12VDC fixures and try again.
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Old 09-14-2008, 10:57 PM   #17
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Here's my follow up.

I took off the circuit board last night and brought it in the AS to dry out. I replaced it in the morning, and still no luck. Actually, other than at the connectors, the board looks pretty water proof.

I packed up, and drove towards home. At the first pit stop I figured what the hell, and I flipped the switch... and it worked fine!

When I got it home I tried again, and it's still working. It must have been the moisture... and the continuing humidity that wouldn't let it dry out. Either I have to invest in a cheap hair dryer as some have suggested, or figure out a way to weather proof the unit.

On the bright side, as a result of all the research I did to troubleshoot this problem, I now know quite a bit about my hot water heater! :-)

Thanks to all who offered their advice. :-)
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Old 09-14-2008, 11:16 PM   #18
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Here's my follow up.

I took off the circuit board last night and brought it in the AS to dry out. I replaced it in the morning, and still no luck. Actually, other than at the connectors, the board looks pretty water proof.

I packed up, and drove towards home. At the first pit stop I figured what the hell, and I flipped the switch... and it worked fine!

When I got it home I tried again, and it's still working. It must have been the moisture... and the continuing humidity that wouldn't let it dry out. Either I have to invest in a cheap hair dryer as some have suggested, or figure out a way to weather proof the unit.

On the bright side, as a result of all the research I did to troubleshoot this problem, I now know quite a bit about my hot water heater! :-)

Thanks to all who offered their advice. :-)
TG,

Glad it's working!!!! Sounds like you might have had some moisture in the igniter coil, and drying it our did the trick! A hair dryer might be a required addition to your Airstream tool kit.
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Old 09-14-2008, 11:54 PM   #19
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Hey congratulations...ain't it grand when something works out?? And now you'll be able to pass your experience along to others down the road who have similar troubles...because it will happen again to someone. Sometimes having a problem and going through the pains of figuring it out is the best teacher...I know I've picked up a lot of tips that way.

See you down the road...
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Old 09-15-2008, 06:24 AM   #20
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Hey congratulations...ain't it grand when something works out?? And now you'll be able to pass your experience along to others down the road who have similar troubles...because it will happen again to someone. Sometimes having a problem and going through the pains of figuring it out is the best teacher...I know I've picked up a lot of tips that way.

See you down the road...
TBTich,
Yeah, but why does the opporutnity to learn about one's Airstream systems come at the most opportune time???

I am intimately familiar with my water heater in the '87 becuase I spent an entire rainy Saturday outside replacing the gas solenoid valve, the ignitor, the burner tube, thermostat, and ECO. I was going to replacre it this winter, but now I am thinking why? It is basically a new water heater. The only thing that was not replaces was the circuit board.

Toronto Guy,
I am glad to hear that your able to get hot water again.
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