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Old 06-10-2007, 10:46 AM   #1
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original '77 Bowen water heater trouble...

On my last trip out last summer, the old faithful original six gallon Bowen in my '77 International was working well as usual...at least for the first couple of days.
I returned to the trailer one day, and noticed a long trail of black soot on the outside of the trailer above the w/h exhaust screen. It was still lit, but had a very orange sooty flame. I shut it down and did without for the rest of the trip.
Today, I thought I'd go into it and try to fix it. The service manual describes cleaning the regulator and I did that. It was very clean inside and the procedure didn't help. Adjusting the air control didn't do much either.
The pilot works as normal, but when the main gas valve opens, it doesn't sounds as "strong" a gas flow as it did when it was working properly. Sounds like the gas pressure out of the orifice is somehow low. I also removed and cleaned the orifice, which didn't appear to have any obstructions either.
All the other gas appliances in the trailer work normally, so the problem does not seem to be the gas pressure out of the main trailer regulator at the tanks.
I am not that familiar with these things, so I'm trying to figure out what's wrong and how best to fix it. The tank has no leaks and if I could get another couple years out of it before replacing the whole thing, that would be wonderful.
I was scanning some earlier posts in this forum and saw one about moisture in the propane supply and/or lines. Would that act like this? If so, what's the cure for that? We did happen to have been using a freshly filled tank on this trip.
Or does it sound like the problem is the thermostat/regulator unit? Are they fixable or do you just replace them?
The manual talks about the replacement procedure and mentions using a "thermostat wrench" to remove it. Where does one find one of those and what does it look like?
Thanks for any leads on fixing this.....I have a trip coming up in a couple of weeks so I need to get crackin' on this.......
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Old 06-10-2007, 01:02 PM   #2
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I have heard other people talk about spiders and other bugs that like to get in there and foul things up a bit. The black sooty stuff coudl have been a bug/spider. If you can blow out the flame/heat tube and also the office, relight and see what you got.
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Old 06-10-2007, 01:08 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drag'nwagon
I have heard other people talk about spiders and other bugs that like to get in there and foul things up a bit. The black sooty stuff coudl have been a bug/spider. If you can blow out the flame/heat tube and also the office, relight and see what you got.
Ditto ! I'd try to clean out the burner tube itself. There might be something in there restricting the airflow. The yellow flame indicates that the air/fuel mix is off.
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Old 06-10-2007, 01:48 PM   #4
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The only thing about that is that it did work fine the first two days of the trip, then started the problem. It was on continuously until that happened. Seems like an insect would not want to go in there while it was hot.
I ran it quite a bit today. If it had been a bug or something, wouldn't it have burned up by now and cleared?
Is the burner tube the one with the 90 degree bend that has the air adjustment baffle on it and slips over the orifice?
I didn't blow it out, but definitely worth a try.
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Old 06-10-2007, 09:08 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnGalt48
The only thing about that is that it did work fine the first two days of the trip, then started the problem. It was on continuously until that happened. Seems like an insect would not want to go in there while it was hot.
I ran it quite a bit today. If it had been a bug or something, wouldn't it have burned up by now and cleared?
Is the burner tube the one with the 90 degree bend that has the air adjustment baffle on it and slips over the orifice?
I didn't blow it out, but definitely worth a try.
Yes, The tube with the 90' bend in it is the main burner tube.

Did you try to adjust the air baffle on the tube itself ?

You controller could be bad too.

I hate to ask this but how did you clean the orifice ?
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Old 06-10-2007, 09:55 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C Johnson
Yes, The tube with the 90' bend in it is the main burner tube.

Did you try to adjust the air baffle on the tube itself ?

You controller could be bad too.

I hate to ask this but how did you clean the orifice ?
The air baffle was already at the end of it's adjustment range, and it's been operating like that since I got the trailer ten years ago.
I did loosen and move it around to see if it had any effect on the problem today, but it did not.
I removed the orifice and cleaned it with some brake cleaner and compressed air.
Are new controllers available for this thing?
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Old 06-10-2007, 10:09 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnGalt48
The air baffle was already at the end of it's adjustment range, and it's been operating like that since I got the trailer ten years ago.
I did loosen and move it around to see if it had any effect on the problem today, but it did not.
I removed the orifice and cleaned it with some brake cleaner and compressed air.
Are new controllers available for this thing?
Yes, there are new controllers available. Any appliance repair shop/store that stocks parts for propane water heaters should have or can get one for you. My controller was replaced on my 1965 Bowen WH, by a previous owner. It looks just like what you would find on a typical gas WH.

I have a local shop that I use that only works on RV appliances, nothing else. The name of the place is Laurelhurst heating and cooling. You might be able to find a place like that where you live.

FYI - I had to clean the orifice out on my Bowen something like three times before all the grit was blown out of the lines. I have a tool that is made to clean orifices out. It is hair thin and made of brass. It came with my trailer so I don't have any idea where to find one.

It sounds like you have hit all the bases besides replacing the controller. Let us know how it works out.
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Old 06-11-2007, 02:49 PM   #8
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Did you ever have to remove the controller from the tank? I"m really wondering about the special "thermostat wrench" mentioned in the service manual.
I don't want to screw anything up further trying to get it replaced.
Is it still totally out of the question that it could be moisture in the new propane refill or something in the line to the water heater causing this problem? The coincidence is a little hard to ignore for me.
The fridge and range are working fine though, but they are much closer to the propane tanks.
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Old 06-15-2007, 12:45 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnGalt48
Did you ever have to remove the controller from the tank? I"m really wondering about the special "thermostat wrench" mentioned in the service manual.
I don't want to screw anything up further trying to get it replaced.
Is it still totally out of the question that it could be moisture in the new propane refill or something in the line to the water heater causing this problem? The coincidence is a little hard to ignore for me.
The fridge and range are working fine though, but they are much closer to the propane tanks.
Yes, I have had my controller off of my tank. I don't have a thermostat wrench. How I got it off escapes me right now. (long day at work).

I will tell you that I did find a lot of um......gunk....in the main propane line when I had the lines taken apart during my floor replacement. There wasn't anything in the lines until I got to the end, which is the water heater. I have no idea what the brown gunk I found was just that it looked like dirt and was clogging the lines. I blew them out.

I don't think you have a moisture problem, you have a fuel-air mix problem, or lack of fuel problem. I would bet that you have some dirt in the main controller or it is bad, seeing as you have ruled everything else out.

I have never had a moisture problem with my propane. Is that possible ? Maybe someone else will chime in here.
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