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Old 12-10-2023, 08:23 AM   #1
Pull Toy
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Suburban 12 Gal. Electric/LP trouble

The 120v switch in the lower left outside corner of my Suburban lpg / 120v,water heater died this past camping season, Fortunately, it died in the ON position, so I was able to finish the season using my circuit breaker as a power switch. I know it's not recommended, but it got me by. This will be the second time that I had to replace this switch. Multimeter does not show any excessive draw. I purchased a third replacement switch, but upon pulling the bad one, it came out charred and broken. The wires seem okay, but I would like to inspect them further. Short of pulling the entire water heater, is there a way to check wires from back side? My 5er has a removable partition, but it's a lot of work if it's a no go. The Suburban blow up parts list doesn't help much, Any and all suggestions welcomed. I can't energize the breaker. as I am winterized, and was hoping to make any repairs / mods before Spring.

I am also thinking of bypassing the outside switch altogether, and placing a 110v household type pilot switch in my power/monitor panel that is illuminated when switch is on. Any thoughts are also welcome regarding this mod. I want to get away from removing the outside cover every time we make/break camp. THX
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Old 12-10-2023, 10:38 AM   #2
sourdough
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Steve I had lots of trouble with mine after purchase. It kept burning up the switch and I kept replacing it (I have 2 spares now in the spare box). What it turned out to be was the switch was being pushed into the foam enclosing the water tank causing it to eventually melt. I cut/dug out a section larger than the back of the switch (it went back in much easier too) and it's not been a problem since. Either the foam itself was enough of a conductor to cause a high short or provided enough additional resistance to burn it up (rated for 15A). I don't think it was resistance because I read it a couple of times with an amp clamp and it was in the 12A range. The other thing I thought about was additional moisture from either humidity or condensation collecting on the foam.

As far as the switch use I just leave it on (or try to). IMO it's redundant and doesn't do anything but cause trouble. I'm sure they think it's either a safety feature or convenience because if you make a habit of using it upon setup and break down you won't be frying the element if the tank is empty....I just do that once a year at shutdown. So to me it's more of a pain than anything.

They make those same water heaters without the switch. I think the DEL model is the only one with it (this is from memory and studying that schematic about 50 times). IMO you could just splice it straight through and eliminate the switch. It's always on my mind every time I turn on the water heater - is that switch on or off? An unneeded worry I think.
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Old 12-10-2023, 12:34 PM   #3
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The outside heating element switch is not waterproof (at least it doesn't appear to be waterproof). Every time I winterize or de-winterize, I hose out the water heater compartment to get dirt, old antifreeze and the corrosion from the anode out of that space. When I hose it out, invariably, that switch gets wet and I'd suspect that leads to internal corrosion or at least internal arcing while it's wet. So, IMO, it may not be a "faulty electrical design" or a "bad build with exposed wires that cause issues with the switch overheating and failing"... It may simply be that we "hose it down and make it fail by spraying water on it in our effort to keep things clean"....

My Cougar is 10 years old and I think I'm on my 3rd or 4th switch. Like Danny, I keep a couple of spares in the trailer for those "gonna happen at the worst time" events.
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Old 12-10-2023, 12:59 PM   #4
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I would give the back of the switch a liberal coating of liquid electric tape. Brush it on the terminals and wires. Then every time you drain/flush out the tank spay some WD-40 inside the switch by using the spray staw aimed in-between the sides of the rocker switch. WD -40 is a water displacement spray and is excellent for the application.

I use it on the stabilizer switches mounted in the J-wrap as well. Our trailer is a 2012 and all of those switches are original. Just my experience, YMMV
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Old 12-10-2023, 06:47 PM   #5
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Probably better to just eliminate the switch. It is just redundant to the breaker switch and if it fails, it likely will continue to fail if replaced.
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Old 12-14-2023, 09:59 AM   #6
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You could use a 12vdc RV style wall switch and wire it to a remote relay that controls the 120 vac to heating element and completely remove the exterior switch..

I suspect your issue with the existing switch is not so much from outside moisture, etc..

Instead have you ever bothered to located the 120 vac junction box that connects 120 feed to that WH element thru the outside switch ?

I will bet you find the existing wire twist caps and wires connected in those caps is lousy ..

* if so then this will cause a higher amp draw across that outside switch ..

I have the SW12DE model with the external switch but NO inside switch for the elect side of the WH.. it is now 11 years old..zero issues with exterior switch, thermostat or heating element

Many Alpine floor plans have both the LP and Electric mode switches inside plus the outside switch as well..

The issue with the remote relay method is the lousy factory wiring connections made to the relay

Couple of images ..one explains WH model options SW12DE versus SWDEL

Second image shows wiring for both inside switches for LP and 120 operation

The 12 vdc switch and remote relay are low cost and readily available if one desired to have inside switch and eliminate that outside switch completly

Regardless .. I would highly recommend you make the effort to look at the wiring inside that junction box located up high on the back side of the WH .. I believe you will discover this is why your external rocker switch keeps failing
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Old 12-14-2023, 04:32 PM   #7
Don77
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pull Toy View Post
The 120v switch in the lower left outside corner of my Suburban lpg / 120v,water heater died this past camping season, Fortunately, it died in the ON position, so I was able to finish the season using my circuit breaker as a power switch. I know it's not recommended, but it got me by. This will be the second time that I had to replace this switch. Multimeter does not show any excessive draw. I purchased a third replacement switch, but upon pulling the bad one, it came out charred and broken. The wires seem okay, but I would like to inspect them further. Short of pulling the entire water heater, is there a way to check wires from back side? My 5er has a removable partition, but it's a lot of work if it's a no go. The Suburban blow up parts list doesn't help much, Any and all suggestions welcomed. I can't energize the breaker. as I am winterized, and was hoping to make any repairs / mods before Spring.

I am also thinking of bypassing the outside switch altogether, and placing a 110v household type pilot switch in my power/monitor panel that is illuminated when switch is on. Any thoughts are also welcome regarding this mod. I want to get away from removing the outside cover every time we make/break camp. THX
I would use the 110 v house switch in a location inside the coach!
I had an older RV and that was the way it was from the manufacture.

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