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Old 11-13-2019, 02:32 PM   #1
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How to start furnace?

Hi everyone!
We have a 1983 Winnebago Brave but no information about how to start the furnace among other things.
I have searched the Internet to find info on our RVa previous owner did not like stickers and removed most of them.
We are at a loss on many things and the Internet is sketchy at best, so the learning process has been difficult and slow.
Our biggest obstacle is lack of knowledge regarding RVs in general - we never lived in one before.
If you know of a link that explains the systems and operations it would be most helpful.
Thank you!
Mike
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Old 11-13-2019, 02:55 PM   #2
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Have you checked the Operators Manual?

It's a huge file and takes time to download 128 pages. It wouldn't display in my browser I had to download it to my desktop.

https://winnebagoind.com/resources/m...ago-Itasca.pdf

I tried attaching it to this post, but it's too large:
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Old 11-13-2019, 03:01 PM   #3
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OK, attached are the pages that deal with the Heater on a 1983 Winnebago Motorhome:
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File Type: pdf 1983 Heater.pdf (990.3 KB, 9 views)
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Old 11-13-2019, 06:39 PM   #4
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Thank you for the pages. What we cannot find is where the gas valve is even located for the furnace. Is it perhaps somewhere under the floor of the closet?
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Old 11-13-2019, 07:24 PM   #5
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1983? We were still backpacking and sleeping in a tent, but I'll take a couple of stabs at the subject. Furnaces usually don't have a dedicated valve at least not today. The valve should be on the tank. First verify you have propane in the tank. I would suggest trying to light the stove. If the stove hasn't been on in a while, it may take a bit to bleed air out of the line. You should be able to smell the propane as you are trying to light the stove. Might take 20-30 seconds to bleed the line.


If you've got gas, then let us know and maybe somebody can help out. Trouble shooting an RV furnace is not rocket science. YouTube and the Internet are your friend.
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Old 11-13-2019, 07:44 PM   #6
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The manuals will almost always be a good place to start but they also lack a lot when things don't work. Maybe a rundown of what "should" happen will help?
Knowing that RV furnaces are different than home is step one as they have different safety items.
Step one of course is making sure gas is in the tank, the valve on the tank is open. Checking the stove is a simple way to go on those as they are almost always on one valve/tank combo. Then move to seeing what happens when the thermostat is turned up. Do you hear a blower start? That is step one of the firing portion. There is a "sail switch" in the combustion airflow which has to have air moving to close a switch before allowing gas valve to open at the furnace. On older furnaces, check for different sets of controls inside a metal cover on the furnace. Do you know what a thermocouple looks like? You may have a pilot that requires lighting to heat this thermocouple before the main gas valve will open. Do some looking at that as I'm not sure on that year which you may find.
Turn thermostat up and hear blower start, then after a short time, depending on furnace model, you may hear a valve open with a click as the gas valve opens (assuming there is not a wasp nest , etc. blocking airflow!) If there is a pilot flame, the gas valve opening should let it start the fire! Go slow, give each portion some minutes to start and be aware that there may be a timeout process to keep it from trying to start too many times in a row.
Manual reading can help sort that out.
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Old 11-13-2019, 09:17 PM   #7
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We have scoured the inside looking for anything that resembles a furnace box without success.
There is a box for fuses and the battery charger and if I look through the bottom area of the fresh water tank, above the wiring there is metal but no access to that so I assumed it was for the battery charger part of the fuse box.
That is why I asked if it was under the closet. The bottom of the closet is removable, but that seemed way too strange… to build a furnace control box below the closet? Yet the thermostat co tell us there. At the bottom of the thermostat is an off switch like what is said on the pages you sent, yet nothing indicating controls for a fan or any other co trims, switches or gas valve. It seems to be a real mystery in this coach and without a location for controls, there is no other place to look. Strange.
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Old 11-13-2019, 11:18 PM   #8
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Look for the two round furnace vents on the outside of your RV. The furnace is on the other side of those vents.

This what they look like these days. Who knows what the looked like 36 years ago.
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Old 11-13-2019, 11:28 PM   #9
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I did a Google search and they looked the same as what I posted. Find those on the outside of your RV and your heater will be inside behind those vents. But I certainly don’t think finding the heater will help you turn it on.

You turn on the furnace by turning up the temp on your thermostat just like in a house.
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Old 11-14-2019, 12:03 AM   #10
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Back in '83, I believe you have a Propane Leak Detector. Down near the floor under the stove on the kick plate. That device was required by law and what it did was operate a safety gas solenoid. If that device is not on, there would be no gas flow, or if there was a leak detected, it would shut it off. The solenoid itself was attached right after the propane tank by a short copper pipe. You'd have to crawl under the RV to find it but it's obvious, often attached right at the tank.

The laws were later changed so that the manufacturers could eliminate the solenoid/gas valve to save a few bucks. The leak detector remained to just 'beep' and nothing else if it detected a leak.

So, I'd recommend you take a close look at and google search your propane leak detector's model number. It probably doesn't work, so your gas solenoid won't operate, so no gas. So if you don't have any working propane appliance, that's where you should search.

If you have gas at the stove, that means your main gas solenoid is working, so then you need to check inside the furnace itself because there will be a gas valve inside there. Like the gas valve in the outside vent for the refer. You can see that one pretty easily for reference.
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Old 11-14-2019, 07:44 AM   #11
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Suggestions for you... If there are some local campgrounds near you give them a call and ask if they can recommend a mobile RV tech. They've seen everything and worked on everything. Resist the urge of taking your unit to Camping World or any other dealer unless they've got some very good references.
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Old 11-14-2019, 11:25 AM   #12
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Thank you! This information has been most helpful and we have located the heater. There are a few ducts to repair before we can fire it up. I will check for the solenoid. That probably is where the issue is located. Thanks again to all who contributed!
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Old 11-14-2019, 11:36 AM   #13
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If you have ducting that's all messed up, note that RV gas furnaces have a device known as the Sail Switch. That's a simple micro switch that has a square of metal attached that is in the air stream when the fan runs. The force of the air lifts the sail, the switch closes, and the electronic spark device fires. If the air stream is messed up, that switch may not close, so no spark, and no flame.

I mention it because in a rig that old, that could be a likely issue. They are easily cleaned with a bit of contact spray, but often need changing.
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Old 11-14-2019, 11:48 AM   #14
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Awesome! We have many things to repair before this RV is up to par. It was a shot in the dark for $1000 but was the only option we had other than tent camping and we are too far north in California to go with tent camping come winter and it is approaching quickly now.
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Old 11-14-2019, 01:40 PM   #15
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I might revise my advise? There are times when we need to back off on projects and when one is not up to finding the furnace, it may also be a good time to NOT try to work on propane!
If I am totally wrong and you are more experienced than that, a bold move might be in order but before suggesting that, do take some time to read up and consider how dangerous it MIGHT be. Working on gas is not all that difficult but it does require the proper respect or you do run a very high risk. Better to throw the $1000 in the trash than to have to have the skin peeled off your face!~
One quick way to tell if gas is flowing to the furnace is to very slightly crack open the gas line at the point where it enters the furnace. One big thing to know here is that really old propane may not smell but still burn, so don't relie only on the nose as a detector. Do this only if you feel you know how to handle the hazards involved because you can actually fill the space with gas and blow it all to hell. But is it is done right, it will tell you whether you need to troubleshoot the furnace itself or the parts which supply gas to the furnace.
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Old 11-14-2019, 01:47 PM   #16
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best way to start your furnace stand on your right foot than stand on your left foot raise your right hand turn around three times stomp on the floor once and set the stat to the correct temp and pray.
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Old 11-14-2019, 01:54 PM   #17
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Morich is correct. I should have mentioned that if you don't even know what a RV funace looks like, you can check google for a Mobile RV Tech in your area, which is the best thing to do right now. Let them explain stuff to you about your RV. Maybe he fixes a couple things. Maybe he tells you to rent an apartment. You won't know until s/he comes out and looks your rig over.

Gordiegaffer is also correct. But you have to shout 'Turn on it's cold' while spinning around.
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Old 11-14-2019, 02:27 PM   #18
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I am familiar with using propane. I worked construction for 20 years and have done installations and minor repairs as well. What we did not know was the location, yet I remember seeing something under the stove before so we checked back there. The information on the solenoid was most helpful. My wife has been repairing the ducts and still has one left to reinstall under the sink before we give it a try. I have always found it best to check the manual if I am unsure and if you look back at the beginning you will see that we had no reference to work from.
As to doing the dance,…hahaha…you forgot to add there is a reason to use the smudge stick first to remove all the ancients that may wish to witness the bonfire, instead of helping you on your travels in this realm. We have no idea how many spirits are traveling with us from any realm since this beast was built in 1983. So far we have wondered about the pixies and brownies that keep moving things, because somehow, things get lost easily in our 22 foot space, only to reappear in total view the next day. Not sure how to get the little imp to stop messing with us…
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Old 11-14-2019, 02:37 PM   #19
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Cool, cool.

OK, now, the water heater. Under that outside cover you'll have a good view of the square controller, the gas flame section, the wiring that connects several parts in there. There is a short jumper, between a brown wire coming from the RV and terminal on the spark-er. Use an ohmmeter and check for continuity. That's a 'thermal fuse' and they blow for no reason other then a spirit wandered by. It's covered with loose tubing. Doesn't look like much of anything but it's a fuse. You can short that out and your WH should fire. If it's bad, even Amazon carries them. You need to read the label on it to match it but even that is fairly loose.

Same goes with the other two thermal devices in there (under the outside cover), they should be closed if the tank is cool, just short them out to test. Make sure the tank is full of water of course.

Next up, the refer! Oh, what fun.
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