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Old 09-21-2021, 04:13 PM   #1
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Water Heater Question(s)

1999 Itasca Sunflyer 33B with Atwood G6-A8E hot water heater. Purchased three years ago from original owner - he and his wife were about to turn 90 (!!) and they were going into an assisted living facility.

Unit was taken out of winter storage about a month ago and I've been try to get it ready for some short trips and maybe a long one south. A few minor problems here and there, but I've been able to take care of all of them except this water heater.

I flushed and refilled the W/H and replaced the anode (which looked horrible, so it was working!). Went through startup procedure in the manual and it lit right up. However, the flame started to spit and sputter after about 5 minutes and then shut down. It would not restart unless I let it sit a few hours, and then the results were the same. Photo below shows that it appears to be stock except for the installation of a Dinosaur Electronics circuit card inside a plastic cover. Other than the name, there is no information on the plastic cover and I have not yet removed it.

At first I thought it might be the propane regulator on the propane tank itself but the fridge, stove, and heating system all work fine with no spits or sputters, so I eliminated it. Is there some sort of regulator as part of the WH? Would it help if I removed the cover from the Dinosaur circuit card and did visual checks that they recommend? There is a label just below the cover that says "Before replacing circuit board, remove & clean connections to circuit board, ignition sense probe. Also check for a short external to the board (valve or light wiring) that may have blown a track on the board. See manual. I don't have a manual from Dinosaur Electronics and can't find anything on their website.

My thought is that it's not the igniter card since it does light right up....but more like a problem with the gas delivery. Would the igniter card control gas flow also?

Lastly, should I use the tip-out valve to release all the air in the WH? The manual really doesn't mention that. A distant memory says it had to have some air inside the tank to keep pressure in the WH, but am not too clear if that was true or not.

Any help much appreciated.
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Old 09-25-2021, 10:50 PM   #2
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Update

Update

I have removed and cleaned all electrical connections. I cleaned out the burner cavity and used compressed air to blow out everything I couldn't reach.

Now the startup is normal. The ignitor clicks a few times and it roars into life. It runs fine with no unusual noises or anything....for 3.5 to 4 minutes. Then it shuts down. If I leave it alone, it will start up again 8 to 9 minutes later and then it repeats the cycle. After a third repeat of the cycle, it shuts down and I have to remove all power for about an hour. After I restore power, it will repeat the above three 3-minutes restarts with identical results.

About the only thing left that I can think of is a bad reading from the thermostat that makes the ECO signal to the solenoid to cut off propane. I've ordered the thermostat, the ECO module, a couple of new wires with the built-in thermistor, and a tube of thermal compound to make sure they have a good contact with the tank. They're supposed to be here Monday, so I've got my fingers crossed that this fixes it.
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Old 09-25-2021, 11:05 PM   #3
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From your description it could well be the Tstat/ECO, or it could be the flame sensor built into the igniter, or the gas valve, or even that circuit board. There are not a lot of options but they all can play a part.

Here’s head scratcher for you… the Atwood W/H doesn’t use a sacrificial anode rod. Some people remove the drain plug and install one, but it doesn’t come with one and is not needed. It’s not the cause of your problems.

Over at irv2.com, member Old-Biscuit is considered the guru of Atwood water heaters.

PS. If the Thermal Cutoff (what you called a Thermister) is blown then nothing will work via gas or electric. It’s simply a diode that breaks the electrical circuit if it senses temp in that area near 200 degrees. Once “blown” it’s not resettable it’s a one time thing. Since your W/H works it means yours is not blown.
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Old 09-26-2021, 07:27 AM   #4
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This due to the way we each are a bit different in the way we judge things? When it has started and then shut down, have you checked the water temperature to see if it has actually reached a good temp and simply stopped heating as it should? No idea of you outside water temp and such but it often doesn't take long for the pretty big fire to heat a the small 6 gallons?
I'm often surprised by how quick I can start the heater and then do a shower! Maybe do a check with a thermometer to get a real number?
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Old 09-26-2021, 11:19 PM   #5
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Yeah, there are a lot of possibilities, but I'm trying to most logical ones first.

I know it doesn't need an anode, but considering how bad the last one looked, I replaced it.

Thanks for the info....I'm also a member of IRV2 but haven't been there for a while. I like this one because it's all Winnebago products.

My parts arrived this evening....thermostat, ECO, and three thermistors. I'll put them in tomorrow morning. My water heater is gas only, so I only have to chase those circuits. My water heater doesn't exactly work....it comes on for 3.5 minutes and quits. It does not produce any vaguely warm water, much less hot.

One question I haven't seen anything on. Should I vent all the air out of the water tank or just let a new one form when it starts working properly?

Cheers!
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Old 09-26-2021, 11:22 PM   #6
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Richard,

Yes, I've checked and there isn't a hint of warm water, much less hot. I don't think any water heater that only runs for 3.5 minutes is going to heat much of anything. The input water is cool but not really cold.
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Old 09-27-2021, 02:19 PM   #7
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Eureka!!!! I finally got it.

This morning I replaced the thermostat and the ECO modules, plus the wire with the embedded thermistor, and there was no change at all. It runs for 3 1/2 minutes and shuts down. That was really a bummer, because I thought those modules would be the cure.

Well, then, back to the owners manual for the fiftieth time. I was looking up the pages that affect the water heater and noticed the last one said "Water Heater Winterization". That triggered a memory about when we bought the motorhome, they had done the winterization and I never thought about it again.

Right after I bought the unit I was badly injured, then hospitalized for a gut problem, and months later hospitalized for COVID, so in the past two years we have made only one trip, and that was a quick overnight trip to watch an eclipse. It was a last-minute trip so I didn't even bother to fill up the water tank....just threw a 5-gallon jub in the bathtub and went. Now that I've taken it out to prepare for our first long trip, I'm going through everything.

Anyway, I thought "hmmmm....maybe I should check that out!" The manual says there was a small black cover under the sink that is closed for winterizing. Emptied the cabinets and there was no small black cover anywhere. Rats! I was really dejected....everything I try that seems so promising turns out to be nothing. Then as I lay there staring under the sink, I did see a small piece of paneling that didn't look like the other paneling and didn't fit quite right. I took out the screw and there it was....the Holy Grail....the cutoff switch for the hot water heat for winterization.

I opened the valve and heard rush water sounds. I did a quick fill of the hot water tank and turned it on.....and it ran and ran and ran. It was heating the water after about 5 minutes and completely done in less than 15. I was so happy that something finally worked!!!

Thanks to all who responded.

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