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Old 05-07-2015, 02:40 PM   #1
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Gas Water Heater Stops Running After a Half Hour or So

The (gas) water heater in my 2014 23D lights, starts and runs for a while (1/2 to 2 hours) before I hear the igniter clicking and see the red light on the panel illuminate. The electric heater side works perfectly. It's an Atwood Model GE9EXT.

I've checked and changed, as a precaution the 2 amp fuse on the heater unit. The propane tanks are 3/4 full and full. Everything else seems normal.

I would welcome suggestions on how to trouble shoot the problem. Thanks.
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Old 05-07-2015, 04:12 PM   #2
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You might check to be sure you have no obstructions from spider webs around the thermocouple area. You also might check out the position of the thermocouple relative to the flame when the burner does light. Anything that could interfere with the thermocouple picking up the heat from the flame can cause the burner to extinguish just after it lights. Also a bad thermocouple can be a contributing factor. You don't have a standing pilot so that pickup of heat from the flame on the burner is important. Thermocouples are easily replaced. I'm assuming you know what a thermocouple looks like.

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Old 05-07-2015, 04:47 PM   #3
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Lets recap what you said.

Are you saying you turn the heater on gas and NOTHING happens for a period of time and then the red igniter light comes on and the heater lights.

This would be normal if the heater was up to temperature from an electric or previous gas cycle.

If the heater is cold the red light should come as soon as you turn the switch and the heater light within seconds.

If the heater is cold and there is a delay before the red light comes on, but does eventually come on, I would check for a lose wire from the switch to the control board. Check for voltage at the board on the wire coming from the switch.

If the heater is working in a timely fashion on electric the limit switches are good.
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Old 05-07-2015, 05:30 PM   #4
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Quote:
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Lets recap what you said.

Are you saying you turn the heater on gas and NOTHING happens for a period of time and then the red igniter light comes on and the heater lights.

This would be normal if the heater was up to temperature from an electric or previous gas cycle.

If the heater is cold the red light should come as soon as you turn the switch and the heater light within seconds.

If the heater is cold and there is a delay before the red light comes on, but does eventually come on, I would check for a lose wire from the switch to the control board. Check for voltage at the board on the wire coming from the switch.

If the heater is working in a timely fashion on electric the limit switches are good.
I turn the gas rocker switch on. It lights. It produces hot water. Hot water production is interrupted by ignition clicking and a red light after 30 minutes to 2 hours (on 3 occasions).

On the three occasions, within that time range, we heard constant ignition clicking and saw the red light illuminate which indicated that the water heater turned off by itself. The first time it happened, I cycled the switch off and on and saw a flame shoot out of the heater cover.
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Old 05-07-2015, 05:45 PM   #5
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The only time the red light is on is while the flame is being ignited. Once there is proof of flame the red light goes out. It is not uncommon for the heater to cycle if there is a draw of hot water or if it is cold outside.

Now if the light stays on for more than a few seconds and if you are seeing flame back out of the heater cover you have an obstruction in the burner tube. Causing a failure to light. Could be a spider nest or a family of stink bugs.

Take the burner tube off and check for foreigners. Be careful not to move the air adjustment on the valve end of the tube as that is set to control the flame size.
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Old 05-07-2015, 10:35 PM   #6
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Thanks Howie. Could you please point out where in the heater assembly that critters would set up shop. I didn't see any obstructions in the large tube that is perpendicular to our view. I was wonder if the problem could be in the curved tube in the foreground.
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Old 05-08-2015, 08:57 AM   #7
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Thanks Howie. Could you please point out where in the heater assembly that critters would set up shop. I didn't see any obstructions in the large tube that is perpendicular to our view. I was wonder if the problem could be in the curved tube in the foreground.
Yes, the curved tube is likely the spot.
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Old 05-08-2015, 09:14 AM   #8
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Yes the curved 5/8 in tube is the condo of choice. Spiders nest will divert the gas flow and cause poor flame formation redirecting the flame from the thermocouple and thus a problem. Stink bugs just move in in mass and that may be the cause of the flame coming out the vent. I have removed as many as 25 bugs from someones heater tube, That heater would not light at all.
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Old 05-08-2015, 09:32 AM   #9
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If there were obstructions in the tube then it wouldn't work the first time. You state the heater starts the first time when cold then runs 1/2 to 2 hours. It shouldn't take 2 hours for the water heater to reach temperature. Are you saying after the first time heating the tank and it shutting off after reaching the specified temperature it won't relight after using some of the hot water in the kitchen or bath?

My Atwood water heater light only comes on if the water heater fails three times to ignite the burner. I then turn off the switch, wait about 10 seconds and turn it on. It will attempt to relight 3 more times and if it fails the red light comes on again.

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Old 05-08-2015, 10:15 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HowieE View Post
Yes the curved 5/8 in tube is the condo of choice. Spiders nest will divert the gas flow and cause poor flame formation redirecting the flame from the thermocouple and thus a problem. Stink bugs just move in in mass and that may be the cause of the flame coming out the vent. I have removed as many as 25 bugs from someones heater tube, That heater would not light at all.
It's surprising but it doesn't take much to mess up the gas flow. I remember cleaning one for a fellow rally attendee. I didn't find a large blockage but there was enough to cause a sooty flame and difficulty for the burner ignition to be reliable.

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Old 05-08-2015, 10:20 AM   #11
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If there were obstructions in the tube then it wouldn't work the first time. You state the heater starts the first time when cold then runs 1/2 to 2 hours. It shouldn't take 2 hours for the water heater to reach temperature.
Kelvin
Wonder if the flame is either being misdirected or is otherwise poor which would cause elongated heating times. With heating times that erratic, I'd definitely look for some type of obstructions. Once that compartment heats up, the flow of gas and air could be different which is why it lights when cold but not when the heat of the burner and tank alter the air flow properties slightly.

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Old 05-08-2015, 11:36 AM   #12
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If you saw a gas flame come out of the cover, the heater is delivering gas but it doesn't ignite immediately for some reason. If gas flows for any length of time there will be a lot of gas inside the compartment and if and when it does ignite there will be a mini explosion (which is why the heater cover is made of flimsy aluminum...so it will release the pressure without damaging the trailer).. My heater does this occasionally when the board fails to deliver a spark the first or second try and then ignites on the third and last try.

The delay you see of 30 min to 2 hours may just be the normal loss of temp in the water tank, calling for re-ignition. I think once the heater warms up the compartment you have a ground or connection that changes with the heat. Try cleaning everything that is an electrical connection.

When the flame does ignite, is the flame quiet and blue with just a yellow tinge at the tip. This is the normal flame. If it is bright blue and 'burbling', then you are getting too much air in the primary air cover just ahead of the nozzle (it has a screen and an adjustable sliding cover). If this is the case, try covering a bit of the screen with your finger. If the flame calms down the you need to loosen the holding screw on the sliding cover and move it forward to reduce the opening while the flame is on. If there is too much air in the gas mixture it may not light easily because the excess air tends to cool the flame too much for the electronics to see it on the probe.
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Old 05-08-2015, 12:43 PM   #13
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Thanks guys. That gives me a lot to go on. A visual inspection didn't reveal insect life. I'll dig into this further this weekend.

Sounds like replacing the flimsy aluminum water heater door with Airstream's noticeably heavier STAINLESS STEEL option may not have been the best idea.....given JCWDCW's suggestion that the flimsier door could minimize damage to the trailer in the event of a gas explosion.
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Old 05-08-2015, 07:28 PM   #14
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Did you replace the door? That heater needs a LOT of air. Is the new door more restrictive that the old?

Clean the burner tube as a first approach.
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