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Old 04-12-2008, 09:14 AM   #1
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1974 27' Overlander
Placerville , California
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Water Heater Pilot Light?

Hey guys got a question on the water heater. 1974 Airstream Overlander original Bowen Heater. There might be a problem with the thermal coupler, pilot usually wont stay lit. If I use a stricker with a flame I can get the pilot to stay lit so I think the thermal coupler is weak. Two questions, does anyone know if these couplers are available? Don't look like a normal coupler to me. Next question and maybe more important is there an adjustment on the flame of the pilot? If I can get a little higher flame I bet the pilot will stay lit. Thanks in advance for any assistance.
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Old 04-12-2008, 09:22 AM   #2
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If you can remove the thermocouple you can test it with a meter. With a match flame applied to it, it should be able to produce 25 to 30 millivolts, according to my repair manual. Not uncommon for those to need replacement..
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Old 04-12-2008, 12:45 PM   #3
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Thanks much for the info. I am thinking that is probably the problem I have had to replace those couplers on quite a number of appliances in the past. Do you or anyone else know where I can get a thermal coupler like this one?
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Old 04-12-2008, 04:38 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ronsgto
Thanks much for the info. I am thinking that is probably the problem I have had to replace those couplers on quite a number of appliances in the past. Do you or anyone else know where I can get a thermal coupler like this one?
Try Inland Andy or Camping World Hard to find parts. When you install the thermocouple don't tighten it too much, just a firm snug fit. Charlie E.
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Old 04-12-2008, 04:46 PM   #5
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Before you buy parts, check to make sure the flame of the pilot light is directly under the lead for the thermocouple. If it is not centered, the pilot may not heat the element enough to keep the pilot from being turned off.
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Old 04-13-2008, 04:35 AM   #6
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Had the same problem with mine last year . turned out to be the pilot tube was partially clogged with soot causing the pilot flame to be low. Pilot would light but the force of the main flame would blow it out so it would not restart after it shut off the first time. Not that it cannot be other things but this is an easy thing to check first . Also if it is an original control it is put together with screws and can be disassembled . From the drawing in the manual there is an internal filter , I never went that far because the pilot tube solved the problem. Good luck , and let us know your fix.

I don't think the thermocoupler controls the pilot , just the main flame , could be wrong
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Old 04-13-2008, 06:37 AM   #7
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Thermocouple-Gas Safety valve

The thermocouple is a device that produces a low voltage/current when heated by the pilot light.
The gas safety valve that the thermocouple screws into has a solenoid that controls the flow of all gas from the gas bottles.
There is a spring loaded plunger or spring loaded knob that you must hold in the spring loaded position (light position) while you light the pilot. You must hold this plunger/knob in the light position until the thermocouple gets hot enough to produce enough electricity/current to hold the solenoid open (pilot stays lit when you release the plunger/knob).
The valve controls all gas, including the pilot light.
Sometimes you can loosen the nut on the tubing that runs to the safety valve (or wire terminals on the safety valve) and retighted then to clear the corrosion.
I think that thermocouples are universal and can be purchased at any mom and pop hareware store.
There is a difference in these devices.
There is a thermocouple and there is a Generator.
The Generator is for old floor furnaces that have millivolt thermostats (the generator produces enough electricity to hold the safety valve open and run the thermostat). They are generally around $50.00. The thermocouple for a water heater is usually less than $20.00.
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Old 04-13-2008, 07:52 AM   #8
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A little steel wool on the thermo-coupler probe to clean all the soot up usually works well.
Use a fine steel wool. Those pilots tend to get a little dirty and the soot acts as an insulator keeping the heat from penetrating the metal. No heat = no LP gas.
I use this method on my furnace thermo-coupler all of the time.
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Old 04-13-2008, 07:53 AM   #9
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It's an old tank

Decide if a 34 year old water heater is worth repairing. Is the tank in good shape? I ripped mine out due to age when I rippied the rest of the plumbing out...new pump, heater etc......
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Old 04-13-2008, 07:57 AM   #10
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1974 27' Overlander
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Thanks beginner I appreciated that information. I am somewhat familiar with the thermal coupler but you additional information helps me understand excatly what is happening when it heats up. As I said in my previous post I have replace several of them in the past. This one appears differnt in design to me. Allthough where it connects to the controller it is the same as I have sean on other the difference is where it goes to the pilot light. It appears to have a round disk attatched to the end of it instead of just a straight tube. Underneath the disk there is another disk and that is the portion where the flame comes out for the pilot. There is less then a sixtenth of an inch between the two disk and they are about 1/2 the size of a dime. Thats is where the problem comes in. I have not sean this kind of coupler in the mom and pop stores as you mention. I think there is a possiblity that I can adjust the pilot light just a little higher and this may take care of the problem.
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Old 04-13-2008, 08:14 AM   #11
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1974 27' Overlander
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I wan't if possible to keep this thing as close to original as possible. As far as I can see the tank is okay. Just want to get it up and running for awhile and see.
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Old 04-13-2008, 08:37 PM   #12
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1974 27' Overlander
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Well, sure appreciate all the replies, got the problem fixed. I removed the thermal coupler cleanded it with a small wire brush and used some emory cloth between the pilot and the coupler. Time will tell if there is a problem with the tank but working good now with no leaks. If it does leak in the future I will address it then. Again thanks much.
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Old 04-13-2008, 08:42 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by ronsgto
Well, sure appreciate all the replies, got the problem fixed. I removed the thermal coupler cleanded it with a small wire brush and used some emory cloth between the pilot and the coupler. Time will tell if there is a problem with the tank but working good now with no leaks. If it does leak in the future I will address it then. Again thanks much.
That usually does the trick!
Although, I do have to agree that replacing the water heater when it is that age is a pretty good idea. Things usually tend to fail completely when you are using them; like during a camping trip.
If you are worried about it looking original, take the stainless steel door for your old water heater and fit it onto the new heater. It fits, sometimes with a little modification but it fits.
Good luck.
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