Monday, February 2, 2009


When I first went to look at this trailer, in discussing the Safari's systems with the previous owner he mentioned that he had never tried to start the furnace or the water heater in the whole time he had owned it.
I thought that was kind of strange. I'm way too curious to leave these things alone. The refrigerator had only been run on 110vac and it worked fine on that source, so I knew the cooling system was working at least. So, the only gas appliance that had been used in the recorded (or remembered) history of the trailer was the cook top. The oven looked new inside, so I assume it was never used either. I mean there's not a speck of anything on the inside of that oven!
I read through the owners manual, to get familiar with the appliance operations and setup, then I went to work.
The furnace was first. It was not bad looking considering its age. I turned on the power and set it to run on 110vac. It made a loud buzzing sound, like it was gonna go off like a bomb, so I shut it off quickly, then I remembered that I had not even turned the gas valve on at the tanks yet, much less the furnace. So, with no gas to blow me to kingdom come I felt pretty safe, and I threw the switch again. The same loud, buzzing, really irritating sound came out of it again. So I looked into the mouth of the beast so to speak, and stuck my hands right in there, to see what I could feel. The transformer was vibrating like crazy so I got my handy voltmeter out and checked the power to and from it, and it checked out okay. I threw the switch on and off a few times and noticed the sound changed with each throw, sometimes loud and sometimes quieter, and no changes in voltage. I next checked the thermostat on the opposite side of the aisle, above the side gaucho, and it was not hooked up at all. I found the right wires for it and got them connected to the terminals on the back, then replaced the cover on it. On to the fun part... I turned the gas on at the tanks and then at the furnace, and checked for leaks with soapy water in a spray bottle. Nothing leaked, whew! I threw the switch a few times, until the buzzing was not too bad, and I was ready for ignition. I put a wooden match in the match holder and propped the pilot light access door opened. I put my propane nose on and checked for any odor. There was none at all, so I lit the match and stuck it in the pilot door. I turned pilot to start, and pushed the safety button down to start the fuel flowing. The pilot lit almost right away but it was weak and would not stay lit so I adjusted the pilot light fuel adjustment screw and tried again. This time it fired right up and looked stronger than before. In about 30 seconds I let go of the safety button and the pilot stayed on really well, so I turned the dial to the on position and took a few steps back, toward the door( and the fire extinguisher). It took about a minute and a half to warm up and then I heard the fan start up like a rusty old bike wheel, squeal, squeal, squeal. Shut down everything, oil the fan bearings, spin by hand a bit to circulate the new oil, re-start everything again. This time it worked like a charm, a too loud, buzzing, squeaking charm, and it made good heat!
Now that I had a warm place to work it was much better. I went after the water heater next.
The exterior shroud was full of pine needles and leaves, so I opened it and cleaned it out really well. then I looked into the burner opening and pulled out the mouse mummy and pine needles. Next I turned the gas on and did a leak check, which was not showing any leaks at all. I did the standard start up procedure and I once again couldn't get the pilot to stay lit. So I adjusted it and got it lit again. It was looking really good there, with a nice strong pilot going, so I released the safety button and reached for the dial to turn it to the on position. There was a foof! and the flame was suddenly in the wrong place! I had not even turned the dial yet so needless to say, I was a bit surprised. The flame had jumped from the pilot light to the safety button, which now needed a new name. It wasn't going well, suddenly, and I think the seven unspeakable words all went through my mind at once. I slapped my hand on the side of the control housing where the safety is located and the flame went out, thank goodness.
I shut off the pilot light and checked the safety for a leak, which was obviously there, though I hadn't found it the first time. I sprayed the safety button and the whole controller with the soap solution and viola! no leak! What the h--l! Then, after thinking about it for a while, I realized that the only thing that had changed from the time it caught fire til now, was that the safty was pushed in to start the pilot light. So I got the soap again and I sprayed the heck out of the safety button, then I pushed it in and immediatly there were bubbles coming out of the area around the button. When it was pushed all the way in the bubbles stopped. Then, when I released the button again the bubbles came out faster, and I noticed the button was coming out very slowly from the depressed position. It took about five to seven seconds for the button to top out, and the whole time it was spewing gas out. Then, when it topped out, the bubbles stopped. I was ready to junk the water heater!
I thought about it for some time, and then I realized that the button must have a seal of some kind below it. In paint sprayers and similar things, there are gaskets made of plastic, leather, or rubber for the same kind of connections and when they get dried out they don't seal well. So, back to the Safari... I got my fine tipped oiler out and went to the task of getting oil into the back of the button, which is mounted on a brass post, and is the part that needs to seal. It took alot of trying, but eventually I was able to get some oil into the works, and the button started moving much more freely. I cleaned up all of the excess oil that had run out of the button and did the leak test again. This time it worked like it was supposed to, no leaks at all, and the button wasn't sticking anymore. YES!
I lighted the pilot and turned the dial on, and the burner kicked on right away! And it sounded like a frieght train!
I was two for two.


  1. Sounds like fun, I really did laugh out loud at "The flame had jumped from the pilot light to the safety button, which now needed a new name." :)

    I'll enjoy following your blog.

    One thing to keep in mind, and I do NOT know from experience, just what I've read on the forums-- those old furnaces are viewed as somewhat unsafe by a lot of people. Mine is broken and I live in Central Texas so don't really need it anyway, so I'll be pulling it out, but it's just something to keep in mind.

    Good luck!

  2. I fully agree with you on that Marcus! I did read on the forums shortly after that happened that these are prone to exploding. Not for me, thanks.

  3. I also think that safety on the water heater could not too safe. For a little money a new water heater can be installed and actually make it much safer. Peace of mind is worth the expense.

  4. I'm thinking of an on-demand type water heater to replace this one. I could use the space better than for water storage, and have unlimited hot water when I have hook-ups available. Still not sure though.

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