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Old 02-25-2007, 04:44 PM   #1
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My husband and I purchased our 1995 Safari Sahara used this past May. When we purchased the RV, we were given paperwork regarding tests to the propane system, which showed no leaks. We lived in it 'full time' from June 1 until Sept. 15, and then spent a long weekend in it in late October. During the summer, with regular use, we had no problems (that we noticed) with our hot water heater, however, when we were camping locally in October, we could smell propane gas on occasion when we turned on the hot water heater. We did not smell it every time we turned on the hot water heater.

Our RV has been in storage all winter, and now it's time to get ready for the next season. W have some extra $$ lying around to do repairs that we couldn't do last fall before winterizing (I know, we should have taken care of the problem last fall, but 'other' issues (i.e. the screwing we received on an alternator repair in Colorado) kept us cash poor at the time), and need to have the issue repaired. A knowledgable friend, who is a mechanic (though not an RV mechanic), checked the propane lines leading to the hot water heater, and could find no obvious leaks. However, in looking at the exhaust vent (I guess that's what you'd call it) on the side of the RV on the wall where the hot water heater sits, he says it appears from the residue on the side of the RV, that propane seems to be too rich where it enters the hot water heater's system. Of course, propane is propane, so when he says rich, I'm assuming he means too much propane is being allowed to enter the system, and the smell we're smelling is excess propane not being burnt at the hot water heater.

We're taking the RV to local Cummins/Onan/RV repair shop (I've had a good relationship with these individuals thus far), and just want to make sure that what I'm going to ask them to look at in addition to testing the propane system for leaks (excess propane where it enters the heating element for the hot water heater), doesn't sound totally off base.

I apologize in advance for my lack of knowledge of the appropriate terminology. I know what I'm trying to describe, but can't really use the terms "inlet thingy by the hot water heater's pilot light," can I?

Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer....
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Old 02-25-2007, 04:44 PM   #2
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My husband and I purchased our 1995 Safari Sahara used this past May. When we purchased the RV, we were given paperwork regarding tests to the propane system, which showed no leaks. We lived in it 'full time' from June 1 until Sept. 15, and then spent a long weekend in it in late October. During the summer, with regular use, we had no problems (that we noticed) with our hot water heater, however, when we were camping locally in October, we could smell propane gas on occasion when we turned on the hot water heater. We did not smell it every time we turned on the hot water heater.

Our RV has been in storage all winter, and now it's time to get ready for the next season. W have some extra $$ lying around to do repairs that we couldn't do last fall before winterizing (I know, we should have taken care of the problem last fall, but 'other' issues (i.e. the screwing we received on an alternator repair in Colorado) kept us cash poor at the time), and need to have the issue repaired. A knowledgable friend, who is a mechanic (though not an RV mechanic), checked the propane lines leading to the hot water heater, and could find no obvious leaks. However, in looking at the exhaust vent (I guess that's what you'd call it) on the side of the RV on the wall where the hot water heater sits, he says it appears from the residue on the side of the RV, that propane seems to be too rich where it enters the hot water heater's system. Of course, propane is propane, so when he says rich, I'm assuming he means too much propane is being allowed to enter the system, and the smell we're smelling is excess propane not being burnt at the hot water heater.

We're taking the RV to local Cummins/Onan/RV repair shop (I've had a good relationship with these individuals thus far), and just want to make sure that what I'm going to ask them to look at in addition to testing the propane system for leaks (excess propane where it enters the heating element for the hot water heater), doesn't sound totally off base.

I apologize in advance for my lack of knowledge of the appropriate terminology. I know what I'm trying to describe, but can't really use the terms "inlet thingy by the hot water heater's pilot light," can I?

Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer....
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Old 02-25-2007, 05:07 PM   #3
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Consider not getting to the level of complaint in your post. When I need professional help, I am the "what" and the professional is the "how". When the repair order is written, just mention the propane smell by the HWH. You also noticed dark residue near the HWH exhaust. Leave it at that. The shop should have routine diagnostic process(es) they will follow and determine how the condition, they find, should be repaired.

On Edit:
I see you are living in North Augusta. Where do you live in North Augusta? I lived there from 1977 to 1982. The house was about a mile from I4 exit 1 just off Martintown Rd. The development was called Chanticlier. I've been to the Augusta National too many times to count.
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Old 02-25-2007, 08:03 PM   #4
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glfprncs,
This sounds like a spiderweb in the pipe (roughly 1/2") that you can see in the waterheater. Take it off noting where the adj is set, and just clean it out. Very common to find this in RV's.
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Old 02-26-2007, 01:38 PM   #5
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Gary and Sacs...thank you both for your replies. MUCH appreciated.


Gary...we live off exit 5 in North Augusta, whereas Martintown Rd. is exit 1. My sister lives off Martintown, though is north of I-20, and I think Chanticleer is south of I-20. My husband is a caddie at Augusta National, so we're looking forward to the first week of May since I have the week off from school (I'm a teacher), and he has the week off from work. We may have to go somewhere in the RV!
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Old 02-27-2007, 07:47 AM   #6
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I had the exact problem as you with my water heater, and the cure was a spider web in the tube as stated by SacsTC above. Easy do it yourself fix.

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Old 02-27-2007, 09:45 AM   #7
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From your post it sounds to me that the air/propane mixture is not correct. Too much propane not enough air, which results in the dark sotty deposits. Your owners manual for the water heater should tell you how to adjust the air shutter so that the flame burns correctly. Not a very hard thing to do.
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Old 02-27-2007, 10:06 AM   #8
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If you find out that the problem is in fact a spiders web, I suggest the old trick of hanging a dog flea collar in all your outside vented areas. They do a great job of detering the little critters.
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