Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 01-22-2014, 07:13 PM   #1
New Member
Currently Looking...
St Simons island , Georgia
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 2
Water heater troubles. Need input.

Question about the Atwood propane water heater in a 1998 Safari 25. The unit has started malfunctioning in the following way: the burner ignites, but only burns for a few seconds before cutting off. This happens no matter how many times I repeat the ignition. Any ideas about how to go about a repair would be greatly appreciated.

Wdc7389 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2014, 06:24 AM   #2
Rivet Master
Silver Otter's Avatar

1999 30' Excella 1000
Nellysford , Virginia
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 957
Images: 6
Blog Entries: 1
When that happened to us I went outside and pulled off all the electrical connections, brushed them with brass wool, put them back. It may be all mystical, but now the ignition works. If, on the other hand, you're not getting propane back there, try lighting the stove burners and letting them draw a bit, then try the water heater.

Greg and Linda Heuer
'99 Excella 30 w/HAHA - The Silver Otter
'08 Chevy LTZ 2500HD 6.6 DuraMax
TAC VA-18 | WBCCI 1927 - Unit 149 | AIR 53869
Silver Otter is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2014, 07:04 AM   #3
Figment of My Imagination
Protagonist's Avatar
2012 Interstate Coach
Metairie , Louisiana
Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 9,085
The most basic troubleshooting tips are:
1 - check the free-of-charge things first. Make sure there's no blockage in the air supply and/or propane supply to the burner before you look for a problem that costs money to fix.
2 - check the easy-to-fix things first. Cleaning electrical contacts as suggested by Silver Otter. A bad connection to the thermocouple could be the culprit since the thermocouple tells the unit when to turn on and shut off the heat.
3 - check the most likely problems first. If the propane won't stay lit, make sure you HAVE propane; an empty tank would cause the same problem.
Obviously you can only check one thing first, so pick which troubleshooting philosophy best matches your personality. But whichever you pick to do first, check the others as well. Only after you've done all of those should you look at mechanical defects like a bad thermostat that would cost money to fix.
WBCCI #1105

Engineering: Finding complex solutions to simple problems you didn't even know you had.
Protagonist is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2014, 07:17 AM   #4
Rivet Master
Wayward's Avatar
2006 25' Safari FB SE
Cary , North Carolina
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 793
Assuming you've checked the obvious like propane supply and electrical connections, and your tank is cold when this is happening, it seems the symptoms are related to the thermocouple because the burner lights and then goes out.

Gas appliances have a thermocouple which is a simple sensor that sits near the flame. As long as it remains hot from the burner flame, this thermocouple allows the gas supply valve to stay open. So, should the flame blow out, the thermocouple cools off and signals the gas valve to shut the gas supply off.

However this thermocouple system must be temporarily "fooled" into thinking the burner flame is on in order for the water heater to fire up in the first place. That is the job of the ignition circuit.

Once the flame lights the thermocouple must get heat from the main burner very quickly or it shuts off the gas valve.

It could be a bad thermocouple, or a bad ignition control board depending upon the model of heater you have (or as mentioned above a loose/corroded connection).

If you are good with a volt/ohm meter you can download the manual for your model heater which usually has an igntion and valve circuit diagram. The thermocouple can be tested for resistance on/off an open flame like your stove or propane grill.

If not, you could use trial/error. First check all the obvious first as mentioned above. Look to see that the thermocouple is indeed sitting where it should be near the flame. If it still does not work, replace the thermocouple (probably cheapest), then try replacing the ignition circuit control board.
2006 Safari SE FB
2000 F150 4.2L
2011 F250 6.2L
Raleigh, NC
Wayward is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2014, 08:21 AM   #5
Rivet Master
A W Warn's Avatar

2000 25' Safari
1999 34' Excella
Davidson County, NC , Highlands County, FL
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 2,049
My WH had the same symptoms stated by the OP. After cleaning the electrical connections, running a brush through to make sure there was no intake or exhaust blockage, and cleaning the igniter, the symptoms persisted. I picked up a thermostat kit for about $20 at the local non-Airstream RV dealer. It took about 20 minutes to change both sensors and install the new cover. Only tools used were a flat screwdriver and pliers. Operation is back to normal now.

add edit:
The above is regarding my Excella.
Last summer I had similar symptoms on my Safari, in the middle of a camping trip. Both trailers have electronic ignition water heaters. This time it started requiring multiple switching to the on/off position until the WH would stay lit. Then it went dead one day while we were camping, during a heavy fog. Power was getting to the module and the fuse to the thermostat was good. Cleaning contacts did not help. The control module went bad so I chose to replace the whole WH. I think the module lost its seal and shorted out from moisture.
2014 Silverado 1500 5.3L maximum trailering package (yes, I'm towing the 34')
A W Warn is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2014, 08:33 AM   #6
Overland Adventurer
AtomicNo13's Avatar
1991 34' Excella
2009 34' Panamerica
Telluride , Colorado
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 1,689
If your unit is a dsi model my money is on a failed control module. Atwood acknowledged a problem and used to replace these gratis. I had a few fail and when replaced never gave another minutes worth of trouble. The new version is encased in epoxy and has a fuse. The prior versions which fail do not.
AtomicNo13 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2014, 08:56 AM   #7
Rivet Master
1977 Argosy 24
Currently Looking...
Milltown , Wisconsin
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 1,050
I am betting on the thermocouple. If there is only one wire going to the burner area, the thermocouple is incorporated in the same sensor as the spark ignition. Also make sure the end of it is in the flame so it can sense the heat.
ventport is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2014, 09:41 AM   #8
Site Team
Aage's Avatar
1974 31' Sovereign
Ottawa , ON
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 11,170
Images: 25
I always have to blow out the combustion tube (the large hole that passes through the tank) with compressed air. If I haven't used it in a while, I invariably get a small cloud of light grey soot which I have been told is burned cobwebs.

I use compressed air as is sold in computer supply stores in cans.

Hint: don't stand in from of the other end of the combustion tube; you might get a grey ring on your pants.
If it's to be, it's up to me.
Aage is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2014, 10:03 AM   #9
2 Rivet Member
Okiestreamer's Avatar
1999 25' Safari
Adair , Oklahoma
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 91
Images: 1
Call Atwood. Chances are they can and will help you diagnose the problem. They did for me.
Okiestreamer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2014, 10:14 AM   #10
WBCCI 8562
Jim in Pima's Avatar
1975 31' Sovereign
Pelzer , South Carolina
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 225
Images: 5
Originally Posted by Wdc7389 View Post
Question about the Atwood propane water heater in a 1998 Safari 25. The unit has started malfunctioning in the following way: the burner ignites, but only burns for a few seconds before cutting off. This happens no matter how many times I repeat the ignition. Any ideas about how to go about a repair would be greatly appreciated.
Sounds like a bad thermocouple, or on newer models the spark gap,
this is used for flame sensing as well.
On St Simons right now playing weekend host at the Fort.

Jim in Pima Az, enjoying our 1975 31 ft Airstream Sovereign
Jim in Pima is offline   Reply With Quote

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Virginia Campgrounds

Reviews provided by

Our Communities

Our communities encompass many different hobbies and interests, but each one is built on friendly, intelligent membership.

» More about our Communities

Automotive Communities

Our Automotive communities encompass many different makes and models. From U.S. domestics to European Saloons.

» More about our Automotive Communities

Marine Communities

Our Marine websites focus on Cruising and Sailing Vessels, including forums and the largest cruising Wiki project on the web today.

» More about our Marine Communities

Copyright 2002-2015 Social Knowledge, LLC All Rights Reserved.

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 08:42 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2016, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

Airstream is a registered trademark of Airstream Inc. All rights reserved. Airstream trademark used under license to Social Knowledge LLC.