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Suburban Furnace Maintenance and Repair for the Elite II


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A week or so ago I posted issues I was having with our Suburban furnace and its erratic behavior, and had many helpful suggestions. John Davies requested I post a followup to benefit others who have this furnace should I take it upon myself to repair the thing which I did. It appears to be working fine now. Hopefully other members who still have this furnace will benefit from my experience. Be forewarned though removing and repairing this furnace is nothing short of a major PITA, so much so its hard not to recommend changing over to the Atwood which is now being used in both the Elite II and Elite. Even so you have to get the darn thing out of its compartment, no easy task in itself.

 

So let the fun begin.

 

1. The basics: remove cover hatch under the curb side bed, remove everything stored in the basement rear, then the black rubber mats. At this point you will see several white plastic panels that make up a sub floor and partition to the heater compartment. The floor panel closest to the vertical partition will need to be removed, then the vertical portion will need to be moved out of the way. Its size prevents it from being completely removed from the basement area. There are several, 10 or so, phillip's head screws holding these two panels in place.

 

Tape applied to the edges of all hatches due to abrasive fiberglass. This access looks down onto the furnace casing

 

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This second photo shows the compartment after the plastic boards are removed at the rear of the trailer in the basement. The two circled marks represent the two casing mounting bolts that have to be removed. The red arrow represents yet more melted red tape.

 

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2. Once those panels are removed, you will have much better access to the furnace itself. Turn the gas valve off at the front of the trailer, then burn out the remainder of gas in the line at the stove top. At this point it should be safe to disconnect the gas line as you can see in photos provided. Remove the sheathing on the wiring harness that goes into the side of the casing to the furnace. This will enter from the right side of the casing, facing the rear of the camper. Take a phone picture of the harness making special note of the connections. The two blue wires are for the thermostat, but notice the ++++ will be unconnected, while the neutral is connected to a pink 18 AWG thermo wire. The other red thermo wire is also not connected. Do NOT connect the red to the ++++ blue wire during reassembly. The other two of the 4 wire harness will be red and yellow to the furnace and yellow striped and brown for the Oliver wiring. Yellow to yellow, red to brown when reassembling. At this point after photos are taken cut all wires, but you should shut off all power to the camper before doing so. I was careless and blew a 10 amp fuse to the furnace when stripping the wires again for re-connection a couple of days later. I would encourage anyone who has gotten this far to reassemble the wiring using insulated fast tab connectors so that you don't have to continue cutting these wires in the future, thereby shortening them during another service visit, which hopefully you'll never have to do. From the factory mine came connected with crimped connectors.

 

Clear view of gas line disconnected from brass nipple, note red arrow pointing to wiring harness

 

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Removing one of the casing mounting bolts, red arrow points to the 90 degree brass nipple that will need to be removed

 

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Mounting bolt on right side unscrewed, circle around left mounting bolt, also notice yet more red tape, circle in the upper right is the one to dislodge the heat exchanger system from the casing.

 

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Wiring harness as attached to the Oliver.

 

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3. Remove the two set screws at the rear of the furnace casing. John Davies pointed this out in a previous thread. At this point you will have a decision to make. Try to remove the furnace from the casing while allowing the casing to stay in place, or remove the entire enchilada at once. Neither choice has a happy outcome. Should you try to remove the furnace from the casing, the brass 90 degree nipple will also have to be removed first to clear the casing. Red arrow points to this in photos. There is one set screw that holds the heat exchanger within the casing and can be found at the bottom of a small sheet metal panel that holds the circuit board in place. The gas line runs through this panel which has some info regarding the specs of the furnace. If this doesn't work, then the entire casing assembly has to come out which is what I had to do. This presented another almost overwhelming conundrum as you will see in the photos. At the rear base of the casing there are two medium size set screws or self taping bolts. Remove those, and if you are lucky the whole thing should just slide out. I wasn't because who ever assembled and installed this furnace on our Oliver also installed one of those self taping bolts to the front of the casing bottom completely out of sight and completely inaccessible. I'm not making this up. Suburban only requires two bolts to be mounted at the back, where the access panel is located.

 

Close up of bolt attaching casing to the outside edge. This is the one which was totally inaccessible and had to cut.

 

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Furnace mounting frame made by Oliver that attaches to the carriage frame of trailer. Its obvious I was not able to cut the bolt but rather the sheet metal casing and then pried the casing away from the bolt. Arrow points to yet more tape debris.

 

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Looking down into the torn mounting bolt hole of the casing.

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Another view of the cut casing from below

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4. Assuming you have a front mounted casing bolt, it gets ugly here. You will either have to cut the bolt from underneath or cut into the casing and pry the thing off which is what I did. So with rear bolts and front bolt removed, gas lines disconnected and wiring harness cut it should be fairly easy to slide the assembly out of the compartment, but it is a tight fit and will need to be shifted sideways while pulling backwards to clear the Oliver compartment area.

 

Using my multi tool saw to cut bolt/casing. This was extremely difficult access with very little room to move let alone apply force.

 

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5. After removal there were a few disturbing factors I had to deal with. One the frame work the furnace is mounted to was extremely loose and wobbled back and forth like a seesaw because the installer was too lazy to finishing driving the bolts completely down snug to the Oliver carriage frame. No they did not vibrate loose, the bolts were way too tight to ratchet down. As you can see in the photos those bolts were 1/4 inch to 3/8 of an inch above the mounting frame. But thats not all. Once I had the assembly out of the camper, and pulled the heat exchanger from the casing I found significant amounts of some sort of red tape all over the inside of the casing. The tape was similar to electrical tape only red but most of it had been completely burned onto the heat exchanger and other parts  or was wrapped up around the fan assembly and the shaft going into the motor. Again I'm to making this up. At this point I started noticing shreds of this red tape debris laying around parts of the furnace compartment area as well. Thankfully there was no damage to the sail switch to the best of my knowledge.

 

The next two shots are the loose mounting bolts that attach the furnace frame to the actual Oliver frame. This illustrates the extent of unfinished work.

 

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The next two shots show red tape bound up on the fan and shaft to the motor.

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6. At this point I figured I better inspect the ignitor and unscrewed it from the rear of the heat exchanger it looked ok other than some carbon deposits but I started noticing the center pin rotated about 15 or so degrees which would change the tolerance. Called the local RV dealer and luckily they had replacements, but didn't realize until back home and reinstalling the gasket was disintegrating. Back to the RV dealer to buy a gasket kit for the ignitor and furnace door. At this point reassembly was pretty much academic. But before installing the casing assembly I ratcheted down those bolts that hold the furnace frame onto the Oliver carriage frame so the entire assembly was rock solid once complete.

 

7. The brass 90 nipple should be reinstalled with gas pipe dope, but the fitting to the gas line does not require this as its a compression fitting. Make sure all fast tabs connectors for the wiring harness are crimped like a cold weld. Note: not all crimpers have the ability. Once everything is properly hooked up, turn the gas valve back on. Wait awhile and look or smell for leaks, better yet use a propane sniffer if you have one. I don't. My gas line connections appeared to be good so at this point it was time to fire things up, but it was 90 degrees outside. I would have to wait until the next morning for cooler weather. Thus far its been working fine since reassembly.

 

View of the sail switch from above, which is mounted in the upper left corner of the casing assembly so that the fan blows on it.

 

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Igniter removed

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Attaching screws to the basement subfloor made of plastic sheeting, red circles represent the screws.

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Let me know if you have questions, be glad to answer what I can.

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So, from your description, it would seem that the problem you were having was caused by either the red tape mucking up the works and/or the igniter center pin rotating into a position where it would not work properly.  Certainly there was virtually nothing you could have done about the red tape but is the igniter accessible without removing the furnace?

 

Nice job and thanks for the description!

 

Bill

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

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It would be VERY helpful if you could go back and annotate some of your pictures that have circles or arrows, by adding text boxes. All this stuff is so fresh in your mind that you understand what each picture means, but to somebody who has never seen inside this unit, a lot of the pictures are not very meaningful.

 

If you removed the exhaust duct at the start, would that have helped getting the unit out? It seems to intrude very far into the compartment....

 

I feel for you, what a nightmare. I thought that these trailers were more intelligently designed in terms of access, but apparently not. You can’t do anything to your fridge without completely removing it, so NObody bothers to do the recommended preventive maintenance. I can’t see an owner removing a furnace unless it has failed....it is very depressing to see shoddy workmanship, there is simply no excuse for that in an Oliver.

 

FYI, if you removed the furnace and the hot water heater, and threw them as far away as possible, you could easily fit a Webasto Dual Top diesel fired marine furnace/ WH combo, with room left over to put an outside compartment to mount a small diesel fuel tank. Put in a diesel stove top and replace the fridge with a compressor version. Then sell the front propane tanks and the doghouse, and put a nifty double bike rack up there.... I hate propane RV appliances with a passion.

 

Thanks for posting.

 

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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Bill that is correct regarding the igniter, easily removable without removing the entire enchilada out of the compartment. At the time though for what ever reason I was convinced the issue was most likely with the sail switch, rather than igniter. At least in my case, there were other extraneous and very good reasons for removing and repairing some issues due to some very poor installation methods.

 

It is worth noting the entire casing due to the wobbly mounting frame below did not provide for a stable installation which might have created more shock and rattle to the internal parts than was necessary or desired.

 

Also worth pointing out, with two calls to the Suburban tech support for clarification on certain issues I found them to be extremely helpful. The people went to great lengths to explain the wiring, installation and other things regarding the furnace. Also if you notice in the photos I have applied some heavy duty red tape, (not to be confused with the tape inside the furnace) to the cutout hatches. Those openings have some raw exposed fiberglass rough edges and after cutting my arms and hands a few times I finally resorted to taping the edges each of those access hatches. Made a huge difference and would encourage anyone else to do the same.

 

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John you make good points regarding captions for the photos. I was hoping that a picture, even mediocre phone photos in dark places might be self explanatory. Apparently not. Hopefully I can edit those and add captions.

 

The exhaust duct at least on my Oliver is riveted in place, not screwed. Not the end of the world but when you are working in the "blind" not knowing exactly what you're getting into taking destruction up another notch makes the entire process just that much more daunting. But even if removed, it still would not have provided the access needed to remove the one self taping bolt in the front casing area. In my case I really had to do it the hard way, and believe this was a difficult pill to swallow.

 

In a phone call to Jason Essary at Oliver he told me several owners have retro fitted their Elite II's with the Atwood. Its my understanding a new fuel line needs to be run, and some spacers mounted to the framework Oliver built to house the furnace. A large cavity also has to be cut into the side of the Oliver where those exhaust ports are to accommodate the Atwood furnace. Personally I don't mind propane appliances but I do see your point. We had a compressor type fridge in our T@b for 8 years before purchasing the Oliver. Absolutely hated that thing. It was very loud, as in you could not sleep with it running. And they do take a drain on the batteries too.

 

I totally agree regarding your comments about shoddy work in Olivers. And as much as I hate to say it, this episode has really put a damper on my love affair with Olivers at this point. I spent 3 days in 90 ± degree heat working on this thing. A guy can get pretty irritated under those circumstances, putting it mildly.

 

I'll try and get those captions done.

 

It would be VERY helpful if you could go back and annotate some of your pictures that have circles or arrows, by adding text boxes. All this stuff is so fresh in your mind that you understand what each picture means, but to somebody who has never seen inside this unit, a lot of the pictures are not very meaningful.

 

If you removed the exhaust duct at the start, would that have helped getting the unit out? It seems to intrude very far into the compartment….

 

I feel for you, what a nightmare. I thought that these trailers were more intelligently designed in terms of access, but apparently not. You can’t do anything to your fridge without completely removing it, so NObody bothers to do the recommended preventive maintenance. I can’t see an owner removing a furnace unless it has failed….it is very depressing to see shoddy workmanship, there is simply no excuse for that in an Oliver.

 

FYI, if you removed the furnace and the hot water heater, and threw them as far away as possible, you could easily fit a diesel fired marine furnace/ WH combo, with room left over to put an outside compartment to mount a small diesel fuel tank. Put in a diesel stove top and replace the fridge with a compressor version. Then sell the front propane tanks and the doghouse, and put a nifty double bike rack up there…. I hate propane RV appliances with a passion.

 

Thanks for posting.

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

 

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I have just finished captioning all photos. The system doesn't apparently allow one to add those captions later so I just created additional text above each picture. I hope this helps others to have a better understanding. Let me know if there are questions or if its all clear as mud.

 

Thanks

 

Rob

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Just for sake of clarification, general knowledge and to be "fair" - it should be noted that the production line for Oliver campers has changed drastically over the past couple of years.  Much more attention is being paid to quality control and there is much more standardization in these units than there was in the past.  Of course, for those that want more things customized this approach to production presents a problem.  However, quality control and standardization allows for the campers now coming off the line to have far fewer problems than was seen in the past.

 

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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Frankly, I think that working on LP appliances and fittings is beyond the skillset of many owners, for safety reasons.

 

Thank you for the share.

 

My husband's background makes it safe for us. But for many others, I think the best route is to take the camper to an rv site/campingworld and get the annual maintenance done. It's not that expensive, imo

 

Sherry

2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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routlaw, sorry to hear about your problems, glad you resolved them. I just wanted to point out the later units have an outside access port cut into side of the trailer, with 4 screws holding the panel on, fortunately I haven’t had to remove it but it “should” make access easier.

 

Thanks, Steve

 

 

 

 

STEVEnBETTY

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I had watched the guys at Oliver install this furnace in our trailer at the factory back in 2014.  It came out and went it through the basement access door. Because of a couple of minor issues I've had our furnace out, twice. I took it out through the rear under-bed access panel on the curb side.  I had to remove the vent cap and exhaust tube assembly from the outside of the trailer by drilling out the pop rivets.  Then it was just a matter of unhooking the vents, gas and electrical feeds and rotating the heater to remove it up through the hatch.

 

Although I feel there is minimal danger in all this, anyone who is uncomfortable with this process or doesn't feel they possess a skill set that's up to the task, should probably not attempt it.

 

Realistically, only the oldest models will have the Suburban Heaters that would have to come out from the inside.  All the later models have Atwood heaters that are serviceable from the outside.

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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 

 

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Correct Steve, due to the Atwood furnace which does require this larger cut out on the outside of the trailer. What I did only applies to the older installed Suburbans, thus my recommendation early on for making this conversion change from Suburban to Atwood.

 

routlaw, sorry to hear about your problems, glad you resolved them. I just wanted to point out the later units have an outside access port cut into side of the trailer, with 4 screws holding the panel on, fortunately I haven’t had to remove it but it “should” make access easier.

 

Thanks, Steve

 

 

 

 

 

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Sherry thanks for the comment. I can't disagree with your point of view either other than to say this would not in any shape form or fashion be an inexpensive standard annual maintenance project. This project is very labor intensive, especially the first time around and more importantly due to some of the shoddy and odd installation procedures some one took. Primarily the security bolt to the casing on the curb side which was completely not needed and unnecessary. And at least in my case its over a half days drive to the nearest Camping World store and the other local RV store is normally months out for scheduling repairs. Neither of those choices made much sense either.

 

By no stretch of the imagination was I encouraging anyone to embark on this repair if they don't feel comfortable working on such things, thus the precautionary comments I made in terms of dealing with gas connections. Regardless some other members and owners had requested this information and I was glad to oblige.

 

Hope this makes sense.

 

Rob

 

Frankly, I think that working on LP appliances and fittings is beyond the skillset of many owners, for safety reasons.

 

Thank you for the share.

 

My husband’s background makes it safe for us. But for many others, I think the best route is to take the camper to an rv site/campingworld and get the annual maintenance done. It’s not that expensive, imo

 

Sherry

 

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