Boler Furnace won't light - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-20-2008, 11:47 PM   #1
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I pulled my furnace from my 76' Boler today to try and fix it. I think its a suburan catalytic furnace. It has the common issue that some have experienced where the pilot lights but won't stay on. Is there anyway to tell in this photo or otherwise if the thermocouple is defective?

Aside from the thermocouple being abit dirty, it seems to be in tack and good shape? No? Anyways, I sourced a universal 'White and Rodgers' Thermocouple from a local RV place for $11 so I will pick one up tomorrow and install it back...after cleaning it up abit of course.
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Old 10-21-2008, 05:41 AM   #2
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Name: Gerry
Trailer: Boler 13 ft / 31 ft Holiday Rambler
Maine
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[quote]
I pulled my furnace from my 76' Boler today to try and fix it. I think its a suburan catalytic furnace. It has the common issue that some have experienced where the pilot lights but won't stay on. Is there anyway to tell in this photo or otherwise if the thermocouple is defective?

I have a 79 Boler with a tempermental pilot also.
But about the thermocouple first: you can not tell from looking at it if it works and dirty or not if it will work if the liquid inside is intact and expands enough to turn the gas valve on
On mine it seems that the gas lines take so long to fill and it will take maybe 5 to 8 attemps at getting it to stay lit.
While lighting, and holding the red button in on "Pilot" does the flame burn good and are you holding in on "Pilot" the red button for a full minute.
This minute alows the thermocoule to ehat up and tell the gas valve to lets gas to pilot.
If the Pilot stays on while your holding red button in for a full minute then goes out the Thermocuple is junk.
Also make sure battery is in good condition.
Although you do not need power to run this furnace on Pilot to get the burner to ignite, you need enough power to run the internal fan plus enough power to turn gas valve on.
Hope this helps
Gerry the canoebuilder
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Old 10-21-2008, 09:36 PM   #3
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Quote:
I have a 79 Boler with a tempermental pilot also.
But about the thermocouple first: you can not tell from looking at it if it works and dirty or not if it will work if the liquid inside is intact and expands enough to turn the gas valve on
On mine it seems that the gas lines take so long to fill and it will take maybe 5 to 8 attemps at getting it to stay lit.
While lighting, and holding the red button in on "Pilot" does the flame burn good and are you holding in on "Pilot" the red button for a full minute.
This minute alows the thermocoule to ehat up and tell the gas valve to lets gas to pilot.
If the Pilot stays on while your holding red button in for a full minute then goes out the Thermocuple is junk.
Also make sure battery is in good condition.
Although you do not need power to run this furnace on Pilot to get the burner to ignite, you need enough power to run the internal fan plus enough power to turn gas valve on.
Hope this helps
Gerry the canoebuilder
Hey Gerry, thanks for the info. I got a new thermocouple installed it, tried to light it, but no luck. There was a more pronounced odor of propane smell and I wasn't sure if I should continue to try and light it so I stopped. I'm going to check to make sure all the connections are secure before proceeding.

The question I have is I couldn't seem to adjust/increase the flame on the pilot. The adjuster knob doesn't seem to make a difference. I read somewhere that the flame on the pilot has to pretty much touch the thermocouple to heat it. Mine is about an inch high, but not touching the thermocouple? Any ideas?
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Old 10-22-2008, 04:00 AM   #4
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Name: Gerry
Trailer: Boler 13 ft / 31 ft Holiday Rambler
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Hey Gerry, thanks for the info. I got a new thermocouple installed it, tried to light it, but no luck. There was a more pronounced odor of propane smell and I wasn't sure if I should continue to try and light it so I stopped. I'm going to check to make sure all the connections are secure before proceeding.

The question I have is I couldn't seem to adjust/increase the flame on the pilot. The adjuster knob doesn't seem to make a difference. I read somewhere that the flame on the pilot has to pretty much touch the thermocouple to heat it. Mine is about an inch high, but not touching the thermocouple? Any ideas?
Carefull Khoa, Propane is very dangerous.
If you can smell it, you must have a leak STOP....
Air out camper and make sure there is no spark to ignite loose gas.
To check your gas line, use a solution of dish soap and water, make a bubbly mix and with gas on, check every joint in the system from tank to where it enters all appliances.
This even means taking off access panels underneath.
Make sure there are no leaks.
After your sure then proceed to work on furnace.

Yes the Thermocouple is suppose to be in the flame.
There is suppose to be a flame deflector on end of pilot tube so flame will point over toward thermocouple and burner.

I have seen these broken off before but can replaced and also I had to bend the thermocouple tube where it enters furnace, very gently, because if you kink the tube going from thermocouple to gas valve you probably ruined it.

Again after and only after your sure of no propane leaks, follow lighting instructions.
Turn wall thermostate to highest setting.
Turn valve to PILOT and push IN
Light via match or PIZZO
Hold in for 60 seconds (if flame sputters then you have air in lines but hold in till flame goes out.)
If pilot goes out, Turn wall thermostate down, WAIT 5 minutes before trying again, Air out.
If it stays lit, turn gas valve to on but monitor for a while.
I have had them light only to go out 5 minutes later and had to start all over but this was due to an almost empty gas tank.

Again Be Carefull and check ALL the joints in gas lines.
Gerry
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Old 10-22-2008, 10:47 AM   #5
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Quote:
Carefull Khoa, Propane is very dangerous.
If you can smell it, you must have a leak STOP....
Air out camper and make sure there is no spark to ignite loose gas.
To check your gas line, use a solution of dish soap and water, make a bubbly mix and with gas on, check every joint in the system from tank to where it enters all appliances.
This even means taking off access panels underneath.
Make sure there are no leaks.
After your sure then proceed to work on furnace.

Yes the Thermocouple is suppose to be in the flame.
There is suppose to be a flame deflector on end of pilot tube so flame will point over toward thermocouple and burner.

I have seen these broken off before but can replaced and also I had to bend the thermocouple tube where it enters furnace, very gently, because if you kink the tube going from thermocouple to gas valve you probably ruined it.

Again after and only after your sure of no propane leaks, follow lighting instructions.
Turn wall thermostate to highest setting.
Turn valve to PILOT and push IN
Light via match or PIZZO
Hold in for 60 seconds (if flame sputters then you have air in lines but hold in till flame goes out.)
If pilot goes out, Turn wall thermostate down, WAIT 5 minutes before trying again, Air out.
If it stays lit, turn gas valve to on but monitor for a while.
I have had them light only to go out 5 minutes later and had to start all over but this was due to an almost empty gas tank.

Again Be Carefull and check ALL the joints in gas lines.
Gerry
Thanks for the tip once again Gerry. To clarify, I only get a propane smell when I push the pilot ligh button on, and leave it depress as I try to keep the pilot light lit. I don't seem to smell it if gas is on and I'm not trying to light the furnace? Does that still mean I might have a leak? Anyways, a soapy solution should answer that question.

I check the PILOT tube where the flame comes out and there is a bend at the top. However, the 'length' of the flame runs just slightly pass that tube, but not touching the thermocouple. I'm not sure if its a good idea or do I want to bend the couple at this stage. I've tried adjusting the PILOT adjuster screw but the height of flame doesn't seem to make much difference.
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Old 10-22-2008, 12:32 PM   #6
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I may be wayyyy off base.... but since it looks like your lighting a furnace that is dissasembled.... it may not stay lit because the oxegen/gas ratio is now way off since its not in its designed for enclosed space.

You might try a big soup or coffee can around it or some other non flamable box of some sort to restrict air flow to something a little closer to the space size and air flow its designed to burn in.
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Old 10-22-2008, 02:47 PM   #7
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Quote:
I may be wayyyy off base.... but since it looks like your lighting a furnace that is dissasembled.... it may not stay lit because the oxegen/gas ratio is now way off since its not in its designed for enclosed space.

You might try a big soup or coffee can around it or some other non flamable box of some sort to restrict air flow to something a little closer to the space size and air flow its designed to burn in.
No, no no Coach!. The picture you see is the furnace unit dismantled. By no means am I lighting it like that. In fact, I don't see how that is possible to light it the way it is...??. The image you see was for reference only. The furnace has been re-installed into the trailer.
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Old 10-23-2008, 04:29 AM   #8
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Name: Gerry
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Quote:
Thanks for the tip once again Gerry. To clarify, I only get a propane smell when I push the pilot ligh button on, and leave it depress as I try to keep the pilot light lit. I don't seem to smell it if gas is on and I'm not trying to light the furnace? Does that still mean I might have a leak? Anyways, a soapy solution should answer that question.

I check the PILOT tube where the flame comes out and there is a bend at the top. However, the 'length' of the flame runs just slightly pass that tube, but not touching the thermocouple. I'm not sure if its a good idea or do I want to bend the couple at this stage. I've tried adjusting the PILOT adjuster screw but the height of flame doesn't seem to make much difference.

Yea, my PILOT adj. screw doesn't seem to do much of anything either.
I would say if you can smell gas when depressing pilot you may have a leak so do the soap test while you or a friend depresses pilot.
Clean pilot tube end with thin wire to remove anything that may be stuck in there.
I had to bend my thermocouple a tiny bit just below the actual thermocouple, where it goes into the furnace to get it close enough to be in the flame.
Because I bent it so far back I only had to bend it very slightly.
I know bringing it to the shop can be $$$.
Took mine in and it cost me over $300 for them to tell me my battery was probably not strong enough to run furnace fan plus open gas valve but that's another story and had nothing to do with the pilot.
Does the Pilot light and stay lit as long as your pressing button???
If so then it is a Thermocouple problem.
Gerry
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Old 10-23-2008, 11:26 AM   #9
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I haven't a chance to do the soap test yet, but my other half tried to light it yesterday while I was at work and she thinks gas is coming from either the pilot light adjuster cap or the 'red pilot light' knob.

On my furnace, there is a cap with threads and a tiny washer that covers the pilot adjust screw. I think she was trying to light it with the cap off, which is where the gas could have seeped from.

My other suspicion is that the leak could be coming from the pilot light knob as I depress it. By leaking there, it may not allow the proper pressure in the tube allowing the flame to increase in height to reach the thermocouple.

BTW, I'm trying to get this resolve as I'm heading off for the weekend. Its alittle cool here in this part of the country (Vancouver, Canada) so a working furnace would make the trip a wee bit more enjoyable. Worse case, I'll light the stove before bed and maybe a couple candles at night to heat the cabin abit.
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Old 10-26-2008, 05:12 PM   #10
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Old 10-30-2008, 11:10 AM   #11
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**UPDATE**

THE FURNACE IS NOW WORKING. I've been working on this thing on and off since I picked up the Boler about a month ago.

It seems, the pilot flame was not strong enough and maybe a bit clogged as it was not hot enough to heat the thermocouple. As others have suggested, I didn't want to bend the thermocouple in fear that I may damage it. The pilot light lit, but wouldn't stay on. A common problem apparently.

So I picked up a bbq lighter. You know, the one with the long tube and trigger control. Stuck it into the furnace and directly heated the thermocouple and at the same time had the pilot light on.

After 30sec or so, the pilot remain lit and WAMO, the furnace started. I let the furnace run for awhile and after a several minutes, I notice the pilot flame was stronger than it was when I initally lit it. I guess it may have been clogged abit from not being used with the previous owner.

I didn't let the furnace run long enough, but noticed that the temp gauge on the furnace doesn't seem to adjust the flame coming from the furnace at all. I suspect the furnace must be at a certain operating temp before it can be dialed down. Any ideas. No big deal, but it would be nice to adjust the amount of heat coming from it.

I also now suspect the original thermocouple may have not been damaged at all, but ohwell. I don't really feel like taking it apart to re-install the old one to confirm. I'm just glad it works and now we can head out in the 'bitter' cold weather and not worry about freezing.

Cheers for now.
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Old 11-01-2008, 05:13 AM   #12
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Name: Gerry
Trailer: Boler 13 ft / 31 ft Holiday Rambler
Maine
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Quote:
**UPDATE**

THE FURNACE IS NOW WORKING.

I didn't let the furnace run long enough, but noticed that the temp gauge on the furnace doesn't seem to adjust the flame coming from the furnace at all. I suspect the furnace must be at a certain operating temp before it can be dialed down. Any ideas. No big deal, but it would be nice to adjust the amount of heat coming from it.

Cheers for now.

Glad things are working for you. I do not have the same type of furnace as you as mine works with a low voltage thermostate hanging on the wall but I think that your thermostate works in the same fashion.
The thermostate will not adjust the flame or heat put out by the furnace but will either turn on or off the furnace when a certain temperture is achived.
So if your furnace is set to a low setting it may ignite the main burner, say, (an abitrary #) 50 degrees then, go out at say 55 degrees.
I will not make the flame get smaller or bigger just turn on and off at different temps.
Gerry
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Old 11-14-2008, 12:27 AM   #13
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**UPDATE - PART II**, or I should just call it FRUSTRATION.

FURNACE AGAIN NOT WORKING. I don't get it. I thought I had it all figured out. I've been trying to re-light it for the last couple days on different occasions and no luck. What is the problem? Before you ask, there is fuel in the tank..not sure how much, but the stove lights no problem so i assume fuel is not an issue. I will check this weekend by taking of the tank. I assume even on its last few litres, it should still fire up.

So at this stage, I can lite the pilot and I've held down the pilot button long enough so that the thermocouple is glowing red, once I let go, it goes out.

Damn it!
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Old 11-14-2008, 06:53 AM   #14
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Name: Gerry
Trailer: Boler 13 ft / 31 ft Holiday Rambler
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Quote:
**UPDATE - PART II**, or I should just call it FRUSTRATION.

FURNACE AGAIN NOT WORKING. I don't get it. I thought I had it all figured out. I've been trying to re-light it for the last couple days on different occasions and no luck. What is the problem? Before you ask, there is fuel in the tank..not sure how much, but the stove lights no problem so i assume fuel is not an issue. I will check this weekend by taking of the tank. I assume even on its last few litres, it should still fire up.

So at this stage, I can lite the pilot and I've held down the pilot button long enough so that the thermocouple is glowing red, once I let go, it goes out.

Damn it!

Believe me I know how damn frustrating it can be now that the temps are down in the 20's.
Every time I take it out I wonder if it will work or not.
Most of the time it's a matter of bleading all air out of line that goes to furnace which takes 5 or 6 times in trying to light.
Now, Lets go down the check list.
You got gas.
Your battery is charged up to !00%
Your following lighting instructions.
I think I read you did replace thermo-couple? (even if it glows red if the inert gas, inside the couple, leaked out it will not work)
Mine has another safety devise on the front of furnace incase of fire to shut off gas valve (cheap Part to replace. I talked to RV repair man and he told me this switch is normaly open when it is good.
Make sure your thermostate is above ambiant temp...does fan run fast or slow?
Slow fan means low battery.
I never thought this would make a differance on Pilot but it seems to make lighting mine easier.
Turn gas valve from Pilot to on slowly.
Hope you get good results.
Gerry
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