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John E Davies

Suburban hot water heater failed: a dealer repair story and lesson

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My water heater quit working on gas a couple of days after delivery. I did some basic troubleshooting and determined after ten minutes that the ignitor was not firing. The system would cycle on and off three times, then lock out with a solid red light. The overtemp switches were not tripped, and there was gas, which I proved by carefully sticking a long camp stove lighter in the burner hole. I clicked the lighter and the flame POPPED and whooshed out and burned all the hair off the back of my hand. Check, there is gas! Note to self: do not do this again...

 

I called Jason at Oliver Service and asked if he could send me a replacement board so I could install it myself. He told me that they do not warranty the appliances and I would have to take it to an RV dealer for repair. Fine....

 

I found a new OEM module on Amazon for $79, and also a much better aftermarket one for about the same price, but it would require a new plastic cover.

 

https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B0002MG2IK/_encoding=UTF8?coliid=IY2Y0Y0X7RVZF&colid=1X5H11EH41351

 

https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B007HRVXY6/_encoding=UTF8?coliid=I3LZPCEN833TPC&colid=1X5H11EH41351

 

Since it was going to be a warranty repair, and I am a confirmed cheapskate, I scheduled an appointment at a local shop in Spokane. They told me it would be three weeks before they could see me, and that they stocked a lot of boards for the Suburban heaters, so most likely they could fix it while I waited. I told them that I would be surprised if the job took more than fifteen minutes, and access to it was great.

 

Three weeks later I showed up, checked in, watched with concern as they took Mouse away, and then I waited. Half an hour later I was called into the office.

 

"The board is bad."

 

ME: "Right, I knew that and I told your tech."

 

"In order to do this under warranty we have to order a replacement board from Suburban, and it will take two to six weeks to get here, do you need the water heater to work before then?"

 

ME: silence, counting to ten very slowly.

 

"Sir?"

 

ME: "I do need it to work on propane. Is there an alternative?"

 

"We can install an aftermarket Dinosaur Electronics board, it is a much better part and has a five year warranty, and we have plenty of those in stock since the Suburban boards fail so often."

 

ME: Sinking heart. "How much would that cost?"

 

"The board is $129 and the cover is $10, and it will be $279 total with labor."

 

ME: "I wish this was mentioned when I talked three weeks ago. Just put it back together and I'll order the part from Amazon and fix the heater in two days."

 

"OK, fine, that will be $50 plus tax for the diagnosis."

 

As I left, the tech who did the work told me quietly, "I left your old board on the floor at the entry, and I also left a used one that was in our junk box. We strip stuff like that off old water heaters when we scrap them. It will probably work fine for years. They sure did build your trailer nice!"

 

I was floored and relieved, and my faith in mankind got a very small boost. I thanked him and left with Mouse, feeling a lot better. I got home, plugged in the board and the heater fired right up. Woohoo!

 

My old (brand new) board that failed (water pump is to the left):

 

IMG_1778.thumb.jpg.641c859fec5d1ad1f598770527a99d02.jpg

 

The underside, showing the bottom of the fried resistor. The white foam strip goes on the PC board and keeps it off the mounting surface (the water pump and manifold assembly plate). If I had the notion, I could have replaced that resistor for less than a buck....

 

IMG_2312.thumb.jpg.f78f91e11a012c68247f02228547e524.jpg

 

I don't know how I should feel about the dealer, their parts prices are _over_ MSRP and they sure try to screw you, but then the tech went way out of his way to make things right. He could have got into trouble with his boss, too.

 

Moral of story: unless it is an expensive repair or you can live without a part for a long time,  just fix it yourself or have a buddy do it for you. I hope to never go back to a dealer, ever. There is no way I was going to leave Mouse there, and then have everybody start crawling around inside, looking.

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

 

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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I'd guess that the tech knows the kind of place that he is working for and wanted to try to make things right.  I'd also bet that this tech will not be working for these people for very long unless he has absolutely no other choice.  Glad you got it fixed but sad that it cost you $50 to find out what you already knew.

 

Bill


2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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What a terrible experience! I am glad the technician helped you in the end. Unfortunately, I am afraid most dealer repair shops, at least the 4 we have tired anyway,  are much like the one you visited. We don't know how to repair or diagnose our camper problems ourselves. This is the one of the main reasons we bought an Oliver. Luckily we live only 4 1/2 hours away from the factory if things go wrong with ours. From reading your posts, you seem well equipped and skilled to handle most anything that goes wrong yourself. I hope you don't have to you put those skills to use again anytime soon.

 

Yvonne


Yvonne & Doug


2017 Legacy Elite II, twin bed


Hull #223


2017 Ford F-250 Lariat, crew cab

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Hi John,

 

We are having the same problem with our having no hot water.  I bought an ignitor board, but I can't find where to install it.  Where is it located?

 

 

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twdavid - unlock and lower the hot water heater panel on the curbside exterior of your Ollie.  The board should be in there.  Bill

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2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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Hi John, We are having the same problem with our having no hot water. I bought an ignitor board, but I can’t find where to install it. Where is it located?

 

It's not outside, it is inside the cabin, on my trailer (Hull 218)....

 

In the top pic, one of the water pump fittings is barely visible to the left (forward) of the board. It is hidden by a yellowish plastic splash cover, remove two philips screws after unplugging the igniter cable and low voltage connector. The board is stuck down with tape. Guard the screws with your life, they want to roll down and vanish into the dark recesses, and you can't retrieve them with a magnet.

 

I suggest that you buy the aftermarket board mentioned above, unless you can find a free one.

 

I don't know why they put the board there. Right next to a water system component that needs regular servicing (filter cleaning) is NOT a good location. I would have selected a much drier spot in the aft compartment. There is no reason for it to be in a quick access compartment...

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA


"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

 

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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That's weird but smart - with every camper I've owned, the board has been inside the exterior compartment and I just assumed that it was in that location with the Oliver.  Sorry about that! - Bill


2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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John,

Our Suburban igniter quit working recently. The electric side works, but obviously while only on city power. I have submitted a service ticket to Jason, but wonder if you were reimbursed for your trouble. Regardless, I will have to repair this one in a similar way. I wish to thank you for your sharing the replacement info - I know exactly were to look. I have thoughts about contacting the Suburban company near Chattanooga to see if they have any suggestions or replacements for a swap.

Cheers,


Legacy Elite I

#240

ALCTDEFLGAKYMEMDMANHNYNCPARISCTNVTVAWVxl

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Some of the manufacturers now require bad part sent back before new sent, unless you are willing to pay "expedited" charges. Had it happen to us in our way to Alaska in the delivery motorhome.

If you can work with an authorized dealer close to home, and you have the time, it can all be easy. On the road, not as easy.

A few years ago, we had a new fridge installed. It quit working before we got home to Florida. Camping world in New Port Richey did a great job of trouble shooting and dealing with the warranty issue. But, they had our trailer for five weeks.. not their fault. Dometic parts replacement issues. Our fridge was basically a Friday afternoon unit... Poor assembly and a few bad parts.

Our cost was zero.

 

Sherry


2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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On the road with the delivery motorhome, I paid the $25 expedited charge, got the warranty part shipped ups red to the next destination and we swapped out the faulty charger/controller. Way faster than taking it to any dealer/ camping world. We'll worth the $25 to us. .

Every vendor has their own set of rules. Not as easy as it used to be.


2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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John,

Our Suburban igniter quit working recently. The electric side works, but obviously while only on city power. I have submitted a service ticket to Jason, but wonder if you were reimbursed for your trouble.

 

I did not even try to get reimbursed. It was made very clear that it was a warranty claim between me and the heater manufacturer. Oliver really has nothing to do with it. Same with all the other appliances, 1 year warranty, deal with the part manufacturer as needed.

 

Or just you or a skilled friend fix it yourself;( in the end it saves so much worry.

 

BTW my water heater has been working fine since I swapped out the burned board for the free used one the tech gave me.

 

John Davies

Spokane WA

  • Thanks 2

"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

 

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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John, I agree with your statement about the appliance issues being between you and the manufacturer, however oliver will try to intervene.

My story began the day before we were leaving for the spring rally, on my pre trip inspection, I discovered a loose wheel bearing, when I removed the wheel the axle dust cap was rattling around in the hub cap, I had no idea for how long. Needless to say the bearings and races had to be replaced, I replaced them and when I got to the rally and talked to the dexter rep, he said " it happens" and told me to turn it in to oliver. When I got home two weeks later I called Jason and sent a copy of my receipts, one week after that I called and he said dexter denied the claim (out of warranty) give him some time he'll work on it, four days later a check arrived in the mail. Outstanding customer support!

Steve

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STEVEnBETTY

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Our Suburban water heater board failed too on our recent trip out west. I contacted Jason at OTT and he was kind enough to send a replacement board to the house. It was a easy replacement, one plug, one igniter wire and 2 screws. I had to return the old one to OTT with the model & S/N so they could process the warranty. The new board on the bottom was different from the original on the top.

 

[attachment file=Water Heater.jpg]

Water-Heater.thumb.jpg.d3032642c43d6eb7ba9bee8b375d4890.jpg


ABNBNSPEALARCOCTDEFLGAIDILINIAKSKYLAMEMDMAMSMOMTNENHNMNYNCOHOKPARISCSDTNTXUTVTVAWVWYmed.jpg

 

Tom & Cheryl 

LE II #305

2018 GMC 2500HD SLT Duramax

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...BTW my water heater has been working fine since I swapped out the burned board for the free used one the tech gave me.

John Davies

Spokane WA

 

John, will Suburban not warranty the old board? You’ve still got it to send back. Then you’d have an extra. The same board will work in the water heater or the furnace.


Steve, Tali and the dogs: Reacher, Lucy and Rocky plus our beloved Storm and Maggie (both waiting at the Rainbow Bridge) 2008 Legacy Elite I - Outlaw Oliver, HULL NUMBER: 0026 2014 Legacy Elite II - Outlaw Oliver, HULL NUMBER: 0050 2017 Silverado High Country 2500HD Diesel 4x4 

 

      ALAKAZARCACOCTDEFLGAIDILINIAKSKYLAMEMDMA       ABBCMBNSYTsm.jpg

 

 

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"I don’t know why they put the board there. Right next to a water system component that needs regular servicing (filter cleaning) is NOT a good location. I would have selected a much drier spot in the aft compartment. There is no reason for it to be in a quick access compartment…"

 

FOUND it - I was able to remove the bad board with out removing the screws (which are unseeable) and have it in my hand. Looks exactly like John's burnt marks and all.

Now to replace

DSCN13751.thumb.jpg.eeab14f00152bf67e643e55e70c13ab4.jpg


Legacy Elite I

#240

ALCTDEFLGAKYMEMDMANHNYNCPARISCTNVTVAWVxl

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Thanks everyone for the info, John Davies is the board from Amazon that you posted on your reply the one I need for my 2019 Oliver. Also is the board screwed on, or is it on with stick tape and I just pull it off. I did talk with Jason at Oliver and I just told him about the water heated not working on gas, but I have not asked about a board replacement at that time as I had not checked it out. When we got back from camping I have now checked it out and it appears to be the board, thanks for everyone help here. I will just order a new board and do the job myself as you have convinced me that the original boards are junk. I will contact Oliver Service (Jason) and see if the will reimburse me, but don't expect to see any money for a replacement. My biggest gripe here is that Oliver knows these boards go bad and still keep installing them in there trailer and then not wanting to correct the problem with a replacement board of better quality. It's pretty much BS on warranty work on appliances, take your trailer to a dealer, wait 3-6 weeks for them to look at it and then wait another 3-4 weeks for a replacement parts, I would just soon pay for it and be done with it.

 

trainman


Elite II, Twin Bed, Hull #489, 2019 RAM 1500, 5.7 Hemi, 4X4, Crew Cab, 5'7" bed, Towing Package, 3.92 Gears.

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My Suburban water heater has had no problems in almost 4 years. We are boondocking in Roosevelt NP in North Dakota now with plenty of hot water. I don’t think it’s fair to say that all the original boards are junk. Some, maybe? Not an Oliver issue.

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Mike and Carol | Fair Oaks Ranch, TX | 2016 Elite II #135 | 2020 Ram Rebel 4X4 5.7L Hemi

ALAZARCACOFLGAIDILKSKYLAMDMSMOMTNENVNMNYNCNDOHOKSCSDTNTXUTVAWVWYsm.jpg

 

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Trainman, I'm really sorry to hear of your issue.

However, I can think of several reasons to follow up with Oliver and Suburban before ordering a non oem part out of pocket. The first, of course, is the $100, since a new board under warranty would be zero, and I'd rather spend the money on something else. ?

 

Second, using a non oem board could void the rest of your warranty, which, I think with Suburban is 3 years. Not just the one year wrap you get from Oliver. A number of rv appliances have warranties well beyond one year, if maintained.

 

The third... if warranty issues go unreported, to Oliver, and Suburban, they think everything is hunky dory. And, the cycle continues...

 

There are really only two major manufacturers of standard tank six gallon water heaters, both based in the US. Suburban has been around forever, as you know, and they do stand behind their products, installed in rvs made by a great number of manufacturers. Unless something has changed (and I'm unsure, as we now have a Girard tankless), they offer the longer warranty of the two. Atwood, the other, sold out to Dometic, and I believe has a 2 year warranty.

 

As far as being " cheap Chinese" as referenced in another thread on this topic, I'm pretty certain the Suburban is manufactured in Tennessee, USA, where the factory and warehouse employ three to four hundred people. Sure. Some of the components come from offshore. Just like American cars. But that's pretty much the way the world works today. Global economy.

 

Over the last three years, I've seen half a dozen or so posts about suburban water heater issues. At least two were faulty connections, corrected immediately after pickup.

 

Several others were boards. That's a little over 1 per cent failure rate, which I doubt Suburban likes, but it doesn't make them "junk."

 

Honestly, if I were in your shoes, I'd take a step back, pick up the phone tomorrow, and start the warranty process. See how it goes. No one has reported a second failure with a factory replacement board, that I know of.

 

If you do go the Dinosaur board route (which I would only do in an emergency, or after warranty expiration on the unit, but that's me), keep your old board if you ever need warranty service. Any authorized dealer will look at the non oem board, and blame any problem on the board...

 

Just my thoughts, and my personal process with all warranty items, rv, home, or boats.

 

Sherry

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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Thanks Sherry, I did contact Oliver Service and talked with Jason again and he is sending me a new board for me to install in our new Oliver. I feel it's only right for Oliver to correct the problem and they are doing just that, so sending a new board is the correct thing to do, thanks Jason at Oliver. The only thing I know about Suburban water heaters is that our Casita had one and to me it looks to be the exact same one as in the Oliver, it never gave a problem all the time we owned the Casita.  I will plug in the new module and see what happens, for the time being I just hope it was a isolated incident.

 

 

 

trainman

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Elite II, Twin Bed, Hull #489, 2019 RAM 1500, 5.7 Hemi, 4X4, Crew Cab, 5'7" bed, Towing Package, 3.92 Gears.

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I hope the board resolves your problem.

Best of luck!

 

 


2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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