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Old 11-15-2017, 12:13 PM   #1
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I'm out of my element. Where's the w.h. electric element in an 03 T- 1950?

As some of you may recall, on our first outing, I was unaware that the water heater (Model GC6AA-9E) had been bypassed by the previous owner. When I hit the switch for the electric element (for several hours!), it appears to have burned it up. No hot water via the electric switch but it DOES heat up with propane.

The tank was drained for the winter and at that time, I determined that the plug was just a plug, no element attached.

Here are the pictures that I took. Where is the element located? In the silver box on the front of the w.h. under the bed or outside on the back somewhere?

The close up of the silver box shows that the on/off switch has been epoxied in the ON position, either by a P.O. or by the Canadian dealer who originally sold it after modifying it with the Microwave/Water Heater switch.
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Old 11-15-2017, 12:42 PM   #2
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Our very own Kitty did this replacement herself years ago. Yours looks a little different than the tutorial John gave, but the process should be the same. I am a little surprised you don't have it on the bottom though, in the middle seems like a dumb design.

Replacing electric WH element in '06 T-2499
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Old 11-15-2017, 04:03 PM   #3
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Thanks Jon. I had seen that thread but I didn't make the connection since the box in those pictures was different from the box in my camper. I now have everything disassembled and the element is out of the tank.

It was starting to get a little dark so as I was putting things away I pushed the box to a new location and accidentally pressed the on-off button. What I had assumed to be contact cement turned out to just be some schmutz. I had also assumed that it was in the ON position (bad angle and weak reading glasses) but instead, it was in the OFF position. The rocker switch easily clicked to the on position, unlike when I tried it previously.

Would this indicate that if the rocker switch was in the off position I would not have electric hot water regardless of whatever else I did in the camper with the other switches?
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Old 11-15-2017, 04:32 PM   #4
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More information. I just spoke with the previous owner who told me that they only used the water heater a couple of times in the 3 years that they owned it and AND THEY ONLY USED PROPANE! So he never flipped the rocker on.

I'll try this test to see of the element is still good.

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Old 11-16-2017, 07:15 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Digmenow View Post
Thanks Jon. I had seen that thread but I didn't make the connection since the box in those pictures was different from the box in my camper. I now have everything disassembled and the element is out of the tank.

It was starting to get a little dark so as I was putting things away I pushed the box to a new location and accidentally pressed the on-off button. What I had assumed to be contact cement turned out to just be some schmutz. I had also assumed that it was in the ON position (bad angle and weak reading glasses) but instead, it was in the OFF position. The rocker switch easily clicked to the on position, unlike when I tried it previously.

Would this indicate that if the rocker switch was in the off position I would not have electric hot water regardless of whatever else I did in the camper with the other switches?
Correct, if your water heater has a switch on the unit itself, it won't work unless that switch is on. My '97 is one of the first to have an electric element, and there was not a wall switch at that time. I just have the one on the unit, and then the circuit breaker. If I want to turn it off, I can certainly access the breaker easier than the back of the unit, but I do try to turn both off in storage just as a safeguard.

From the sounds of it, I'm going to guess your element is probably perfectly fine. Let's hope that's the case!
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1997 T-2653 Blue Denim, #5471
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Past Sunlines: '97 T-2653 #5089, '94 T-2251, '86 T-1550, '94 T-2363, '98 T-270SR
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Old 11-16-2017, 07:55 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunline Fan View Post
If I want to turn it off, I can certainly access the breaker easier than the back of the unit, but I do try to turn both off in storage just as a safeguard.
Yes, any time the water heater is drained, turn off the breaker. We have the simple on off switch for hot water out in the open. Real easy to burn out the element... It is standard practice as part of our end of camp check list. ( on the wife's list) I drain the water in the camper after each campout.

Hope you lucked out on this one.

John
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Old 11-20-2017, 10:08 AM   #7
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The element checks out as good. Over 13 ohms on the multimeter. Just a bit of rust here and there but no cracks or splits. Back in the tank it goes. I will be replacing this melted connector as well. It goes from the on-off switch to the box. In the third pic, you can see it fuzzy up close and the receptor is the top one visible to the right of the element above the other three blue connectors.

Just for future info, there's no markings on the element. Would a universal 1500w/120v element from the hardware store work?
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Old 11-20-2017, 10:30 AM   #8
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Never mind. Answered my own question. Google is my friend.

Atwood Water Heater Heating Element & Gasket 92249 $15.90

Specifications:
120V
1400W
Style: Screw in style
Replaces Part Number: 91160
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Old 11-20-2017, 01:12 PM   #9
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The hits just keep on coming with things that I don't know. I took back the universal wh element to Lowes only to find the same unit for sale at Leo's RV. They said that's all that they install. Go figure.

Meanwhile, there was ONE Atwood #91160 element (out of the package but complete with rubber washer) that they sold me for the same price as the universal element, $10, so I'm ahead of the game, right?

I get it home and just for giggles, I put the multimeter on the new element (1400w) and I get a reading of 17.1, which is out of the recommended range of 11 to 16.

Now what?

I think I'll put the old one back in and let the big dog eat.

Edit...

I googled some more and found this.

Quote:
An electrical formula is used to find the amount of amperage used by this size of heating element. The formula reads as watts are equal to volts times amperage (w = v x a). In order to find the amperage required for this element we divide 1400 watts by the 120 volts and the answer is 11.7 or 12 amps. The actual algebraically modified formula is (a = w/v).
Quote:
The formula reads that the voltage of the circuit is equal to the amperage times the resistance of that circuit (v = a x r). In order to find the resistance of the heater element ..., we must algebraically modify the formula to read (r = v/a).
Based on 1400w/120v, the amps should be around 12 and the resistance should be 10.

Quote:
Touch the two leads to one each of the screw terminals on the heating element. In other words, touch the red lead to one screw terminal and the black lead to the other screw terminal on the heating element. The ohmmeter should read in the vicinity of what was calculated or 14 ohms. The reading can be a little higher and a little lower. About plus 10 ohms or minus 5 ohms. Any meter reading that exceeds higher than 50 ohms over the calculated element resistance, indicates the element is going bad and will have to be replaced very soon.
Since 10 plus 10 is 20 and I'm at 17, I guess I'm safe with the new element.

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Old 11-20-2017, 03:54 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Digmenow View Post

I get it home and just for giggles, I put the multimeter on the new element (1400w) and I get a reading of 17.1, which is out of the recommended range of 11 to 16.
Hi Dig,

You are doing great!! And look at all you are learning!

While you are in discovery mode, I'll throw in a few things to help the cause. What I'm going to tell you comes from an industrial background that we never really think about because under the normal home or camper way of life we do not run into these things and many times, do not really care either...

When measuring things, all devices that measure have a level of accuracy what ever it is. The ohm meter you have, is a standard general purpose meter. There is nothing wrong with them and they will serve you well. I have a few of them to use for quick trouble shooting and from my work background I have a higher end one. The level of accuracy is considerably different between them and so is the cost.

Some basics on measuring ohms,

1. You can have a level of corrosion or something insulating the terminals you are testing and this complicates the reading too. You should try the reading a few times to make sure you get the same answer. If it keeps moving around a lot, then there is not a good connection somewhere.

2. Did you test the meter against itself? Cross the 2 leads and did the ohm reading come out as 0.0 ohm? There is often times some resistance in the actual wire lead connections. They get loose, you are not touching the leads right, etc. If you are not starting at 0 you have error from the get go.

3. Many of these new meters have an auto zero adjust, others have a small screw you would manually tweak to get zero if the meter is slightly off when you cross the leads. I don't know on yours you would have to read the book.

Accuracy:

Then comes the accuracy or the meter? Meaning what is the stated accuracy by the manufacture of the meter? Let's compare a few.

The $5.99 Harbor Freight meter. https://www.harborfreight.com/7-func...ter-69096.html This simple meter will do a lot in troubleshooting a camper if you know how to use it. Downloading the manual it states an ohm's accuracy of: (@200-200K Ohm) 0.8%2D. On a 100 ohm test item the best it is rated to do is +/- 2.8 ohms (also note it is listing it's accuracy starting at 200 ohms which means it really is not rated at 100 ohms.)

The Fluke 87 meter. This is an industrial well known meter. This one lists retail at $499.99. Going to the specs on it, Fluke 87V Industrial Multimeter it lists on a 50 mega ohm scale it is (0.2% + 1). On a 100 ohm test item the best it is rated to do is +/- 1.2 ohms

There is also a calibration test to prove the meter actually is working correctly. A metallurgy dept will compare the meter to a known certified test sample and confirm the meter is within the required calibration tolerance you need to measure it to.

What's on ohm?

Now lets talk about what an ohm is? It is a unit of measure of resistance. H'mm, OK so what does an ohm feel like in reality?

How much is 1 ohm or 10 ohms? Those are numbers but what do they mean? Is 1 ohm any different then 10 ohms or 100 ohms? And the meter I'm reading it with, how accurate is the meter?

One ohm is close to nothing. As you can see, even the $500 meter has a hard time being able to guarantee it can read 1 ohm. Ten ohms these meters can read but that is still not much.

If you made it this far reading my note.... keep using your meter. It can help you a lot on the camper hunting down electrical gremlins. Remember the 3 basics up top. Over time and enough measuring you will learn when a few digits do or do not really mean much. And they change depending on what you are measuring like this: 0.1 ohms to 0.5 ohms, don't worry about. 0.1 volts to 0.5 volts on a battery voltage reading can mean a lot on battery discharge. In time you will know when to be concerned and when not to.

Bottom line, on your new element odds are high it is just fine. Don't get too worried over 1 or 2 ohms. You done good sorting this out and you did not burn out your electric element!

Hope this helps

John
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Old 11-20-2017, 04:31 PM   #11
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Thanks for the info, John. I feel a little better now, knowing about the 'plus or minus factor' of the Harbor Freight meter. I am new to the ways of the multimeter. I have a family (electrician) member who long ago said, "Don't worry about the electrical stuff, I got that." I figured, okay by me and thought I'd use those brain cells to learn how to play Tetris instead.

Anyhow, I put the old element back in and buttoned everything up until Spring. I'll hang onto the new element in case the day comes that the old one packs it in.

Meanwhile, I am uneasy that I was unable to test the watertightness of the element and its function before I reassembled everything but I've blown out all the lines and dumped a gallon of antifreeze in due to last week's cold snap so when the warm weather returns, I'll hook up the city water and peek through the 'glory hole' to make sure that the element is in tight enough. That flimsy wrench does not inspire confidence.
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Old 11-21-2017, 07:31 AM   #12
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Just leave yourself a note on the counter to remind yourself to check for leaks in the spring.

I did just that to remind myself about the water heater breaker and switch off. Since this is the first time I've had a Sunline of my own with a switch on the heater instead of on the wall, I need reminders lol.
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Past Sunlines: '97 T-2653 #5089, '94 T-2251, '86 T-1550, '94 T-2363, '98 T-270SR
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Old 11-22-2017, 07:38 AM   #13
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Just leave yourself a note on the counter to remind yourself to check for leaks in the spring.

I did just that to remind myself about the water heater breaker and switch off. Since this is the first time I've had a Sunline of my own with a switch on the heater instead of on the wall, I need reminders lol.
Good thinking. I've already got a binder that stays in the wardrobe that holds the receipts, mileage log, checklists and pictures from the trips so I may as well add a 'To Do' section to it.
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