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Old 11-24-2021, 02:53 PM   #1
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2017 Interstate Grand Tour Ext
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Hot water heater element

Folks, I need your wisdom. The dealer tells me that the hot water heater element is literally burnt out. They are claiming they aren't getting any continuity from the wire running from the switch (panel) to element. When I was last in earlier this year complaining that it didn't work, they said it was fine and worked properly, yet I was never able to get it to work. It works fine on propane. I don't understand how the element would be "burnt out" yet not have continuity in the wire, that they now want to replace for $$$. If this is from a power surge would not the fuse panel flipped a breaker or fuse before it fried the heater element. For that matter caused the switch to fail. I assume there isn't any inline fuses that might have blown.

Has anyone run into this.
I have a 2017 AI GT. Thanks, George
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Old 11-24-2021, 03:04 PM   #2
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Water heater elements are a common replacement item on RV's. They burn out in a few moments if the heater is started and there is insufficient water in the tank to cool the element. There will be continuity if the element is good but not if it's bad. The element will normally burn out without blowing a fuse so that's not uncommon. A new heater element is about $15.00 on Amazon and is relatively easy to replace.
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Old 11-24-2021, 03:24 PM   #3
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Thanks for that feedback. The only way it would not have had water is if it was in bypass correct? We didn't touch that. I am only talking to the service writer, not the tech so I don't have much confidence at this point in them telling me the wire is bad and has to be rerun from the switch back to the water heater.
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Old 11-24-2021, 04:17 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by broncowilly View Post
They are claiming they aren't getting any continuity from the wire running from the switch (panel) to element.
To test and condemn the heating element itself, why not (shore power disconnected) remove the wires from the element and resistance test the element all by itself eliminating other wires. Only needs a basic multi meter to test and read actual resistance.
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Old 11-24-2021, 05:19 PM   #5
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Not sure if the places they tested are the right ones. To check the element you don't involve the switch at all - the probes are put on the two terminals for the element itself after pulling the power feed to it.

If they tested from the switch, then perhaps there is another problem. For instance, there are separate thermostats (2 of them) on the electric side from those on the propane side meaning that the heater might work on LP but not electric. The thermostats are also easy to inspect with a multimeter.
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Old 11-24-2021, 06:09 PM   #6
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Great input. I also see that there is apparently a relay near the water heater as well. I asked that the service manager call me so I can better understand how they are drawing the conclusion that it is the wire from the switch to the heater. From what you all are saying there are other tests that they could and should be running.
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Old 11-24-2021, 06:45 PM   #7
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Here's a great step-by-step on how to troubleshoot...

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Old 11-24-2021, 06:59 PM   #8
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Something else that can pin things down for troubleshooting is if you provide the mfgr name and model if the water heater.
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Old 11-24-2021, 09:52 PM   #9
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I am not sure what the model is but it is a Atwood 6 gallon unit that is Electric/LP. It was the standard for most the later model Airstream Interstate Grand Tour EXT's as well as a number of other models of the AI's as I understand.
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Old 11-25-2021, 06:27 AM   #10
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On my heater the model number is a label on the outside easy to see by opening the exterior panel. See pic.

Richard gave you a good YouTube link for similar unit but that same RV Tech has a very good collection of factory manuals. https://myrvworks.com/manuals/ Select category then mfgr and you can download the Atwood factory manuals and the Web Training Water Heaters Final has a powerpoint type file that shows a lot of additional pointers and on its page 51 it shows resistance testing of an element only. You can also grab furnace manuals and more from the My RV Works website.

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Old 11-26-2021, 06:11 AM   #11
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Element Test

The only sure way to prove an element is bad is to put it under load as sometimes you will read resistance when it is cold. Turn it on. Make sure that you have 120V across the 2 screws on the element. If no, the problem is either the relay attached to the cover or the board. if you have 120v, put an amp probe around either wire on the element. If you read amps, it is heating. If you have 0 amps, it is bad.
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Old 11-27-2021, 08:01 PM   #12
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I just picked up the van at Colonial Airstream, and the Service Manager assured me that they isolated the problem to the wire(s) running from the switch back. He said they also ran jumper wires from the switch to make sure that was in fact the problem and it worked. Apparently problem solved, but in my mind what would have made those wires bad, or were they in fact bad from original. No way to tell at this point. Thank you all for the input.
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Old 11-27-2021, 08:04 PM   #13
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Possibly one got pinched or abraded somewhere between the two ends. It happens. Might be worthwhile to spend a few minutes with a good work light inspecting any harness loom you can find in the general vicinity to see if you can spot any obvious problems.
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Old 12-01-2021, 11:44 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by broncowilly View Post
Folks, I need your wisdom. The dealer tells me that the hot water heater element is literally burnt out. They are claiming they aren't getting any continuity from the wire running from the switch (panel) to element. When I was last in earlier this year complaining that it didn't work, they said it was fine and worked properly, yet I was never able to get it to work. It works fine on propane. I don't understand how the element would be "burnt out" yet not have continuity in the wire, that they now want to replace for $$$. If this is from a power surge would not the fuse panel flipped a breaker or fuse before it fried the heater element. For that matter caused the switch to fail. I assume there isn't any inline fuses that might have blown.

Has anyone run into this.
I have a 2017 AI GT. Thanks, George
My Airstream Excella 34 is a 2000 built at the end of 1999. I have only had it since April 2017 but we are living in it full time. I had an issue with water heater not heating good on 110v. Went the whole route to put in element and thermostats to fix. Donít ask how hard it was to access the back side of heater to replace parts. Found out the original element worked and looked great for the age. Replaced the thermostats and and element and heater worked properly for a few months. It only lasted a few months and same problem started. Checked all connections for any shorts to ground and checked the new element I put in. After replacing the thermostat another 3 times within a year and half, I decided the thermostats arenít very heavy duty to handle the current going through the contacts. The last thermostat I installed seems to be doing better, maybe it is better made. If you do a search on the forums there are others that have had the same problem with the thermostat. Check for power at the element common terminal and the black power wire to the thermostat. If there is power then check the other connector on thermostat. If no power then thermostat is bad.
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