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Old 05-13-2014, 10:09 PM   #1
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Default Hot water heaters

I recently took my 2001 Roadtrek in to an RV service center to have it checked out after a very hard winter. They said all looks good except for the hot water heater. They said it is not working and that it would cost $230 for diagnosing the problem. It's already costing over $200 just for checking it over. . . The extra $230 to diagnose the hot water heater issue seems excessive. Any comments or advise would be greatly appreciated. I'm a former "tent" camper and am new to RVing. . . thanks
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Old 05-13-2014, 11:32 PM   #2
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Default Re: Hot water heaters

That seems like a lot of money to me ............. particular after already charging you $200 to look at things. At a minimum I'd phone around and talk to other service shops to get an idea of what they would charge to take a look at your water heater.

There are many Suburban owner / service manuals available to download if you are comfortable working through a troubleshooting list. Here's one: http://rv-mobile-services.ca/wp-cont...-SW-series.pdf A Google search turns up many more, here's another: http://rv52.com/wp-content/uploads/2...air-Manual.pdf. Ignore the section on electric if yours is gas only.

What do they mean by "not working"? Does that mean there's no LP gas ignition? That could be as simple a fix as cleaning out a bug or debris in the burner tube. It is a gas appliance so don't adjust or take apart anything unless you understand what you're doing or be too aggressive when cleaning else disaster may result.

Take a look at the trouble shooting steps in the manuals to see if that is within your comfort level. Some Suburban water heaters have a pilot light, some have an electric heating element in addition to LP gas. Most are DSI - direct spark ignition in Class B's I'd think. Skip to the section that covers your particular model.
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Old 05-14-2014, 01:13 AM   #3
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Default Re: Hot water heaters

That does seem like a lot of money, with no info on symptoms or why they think it's "not working", as marko said.
Your water heater is a Suburban LP 6 gallon model, from the 2001 Roadtrek brochure, which can be downloaded for free from here
http://www.roadtrek.com/brochure_list.aspx
You might also find other useful info about your model year by downloading the free owner's manual from here.
http://www.roadtrek.com/manuals.aspx
Your water heater model appears to be a Suburbam SW6D DSI direct spark model, which means when it's full of water, and there is sufficient propane available from your main propane tank, and the battery is charged, flipping the water heater switch on should cause an ignition routine (you may even be able to hear the clicking of the igniter if the switch is near the water heater itself in the van's layout. My w/h is the same as yours, and I can hear mine if there isn't too much background noise.

Before you spend that money, double check what they told you. It takes a few steps as follows.

Check that there aren't any visible problems at the burner on the outside if the van. You should be able to remove the access cover and venting screen - it's located just forward of the driver's side rear wheel. Have a look inside there, and see if there are any obvious problems or debris that might be blocking the burner tube and/or a problem (loose/unconnected wires?) with the igniter board and wiring. If it looks like there's no debris present and the wiring looks like it's all connected, go to next step. There should also be a large 1 1/16" hex bolt head which is the end of the anode rod screwed into the lower side of the actual tank. It will be obvious if it's there.

Is there propane in the main tank? Check the gauge. It's probably behind the faux license plate at the back bumper. You'll figure out how to remove the cover, to see the gauge.

Is the valve that sends the propane to the appliances open? It's near the gauge you just looked at. Turning it counterclockwise is usually open/on. Clockwise, closed/off.

Is the battery enable/disable switch enabled? Find it on the Monitor Panel that shows battery charge, fluid tanks status, propane tank status. It's near/above and to the right of the side doors. There's a picture in the Owner's Manual.

Is/are the coach battery/batteries charged? Use a multimeter to check them at the battery(ies), or press the "test" button on the Monitor Panel with the battery enable switch enabled.

Making sure there is water in the tank (it is definitely NOT a good idea to turn on an empty water heater) by filling the fresh water system, and making sure the water heater is NOT in winter/bypass mode (see the owners manual pictures), you can try the Water Heater switch above the galley counter. If you don't hear the clicking of the igniter, or the switch doesn't stay glowing red, you may require service.

I would start by reviewing the pictures and appropriate sections of the owner's manual. A little reading and googling can sometimes go a long way to saving you some money.
Let us know how you make out.
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Old 05-14-2014, 03:09 AM   #4
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Default Re: Hot water heaters

Thanks for all the feedback; I appreciate the detailed response and I'll follow your suggestions and post results.
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Old 05-14-2014, 11:37 AM   #5
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Default Re: Hot water heaters

I should have added that a brief test of the (empty) water heater function is probably OK, but if it looks like it's working (switch glowing red, and you hear the clicking of the igniter, and then a soft burner whooshing sound), shut it off immediately, and then follow the o-manual's steps to fill the fresh water system, and make sure the bypass valves are NOT in bypass. If you want to make sure you have it all working, get a large 1-1/16" socket from a hardware store (they aren't usually part of a set) and a large ratchet wrench, and remove the anode rod from the outside of the tank. If water gushes out, you've managed to empty a full water heater tank. Refill it.
It's also a good time to see if the sacrificial anode rod needs to be replaced. If there's nothing left but a wire core looking thing, or nothing at all, attached to the large hex bolt head, replace it. They're $20 or less at most RV parts stores. Take the old part with you to make sure you get the right size.

Enjoy.
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Old 05-14-2014, 03:04 PM   #6
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Default Re: Hot water heaters

Dealing with the anode rod is part of winterizing and de-winterizing routine. It is something you should learn to do. I also carry a 1-1/8" socket, wrench and extension permanently in my B as part of my tools. I once had a water heater failure in Moab, Utah. It wouldn't ignite. I took it to an RV repair shop. The mechanic there took one look and check and knew immediately what the problem was. It was the igniter assembly. They had one. I bought it and installed it myself.
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