Troubleshooting Your Atwood RV Furnace

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Exterior of Atwood Furnace with cover removed for troubleshooting

Your Atwood RV furnace stopped working; now what? With a few troubleshooting steps, you can get your RV furnace back up and running in no time.

We’ll walk you through the most common RV furnace issues and how to troubleshoot them. And even if you have a working furnace right now, give this a read for when it comes in handy someday.

Let’s get into it.

What Is an Atwood RV Furnace? 

Your RV furnace is the main source of heat for your RV. It runs off the 12V electric system and uses propane fuel. Like a sticks-and-bricks home, each RV has a thermostat inside the RV that regulates the furnace temperature. You can also turn on and off the furnace from this location.

An RV furnace isn’t just for comfort, but it’s an important tool to keep your RV working seamlessly, even in colder weather. Your pipes, tanks, faucets, and lines risk freezing and potentially bursting without heat.

An Atwood RV furnace is a brand-name unit installed in many recreational vehicles.

interior Atwood furnace thermostat

About Atwood

In 1909, the Atwood brothers founded the Atwood Vacuum Machine Company. Later named Atwood Mobile Products, the company started making RV parts in 1936 with their trailer coupler and then in 1949 with a trailer jack. They bought out several companies, expanding their products to include gas ranges, water heaters, furnaces, and the Fan-Tastic Vent fan.

Atwood is the largest manufacturer of specialized water heaters for recreation vehicles, and they also sell RV furnaces and camper jacks. Today, Atwood is now part of Dometic.

Are Dometic and Atwood the Same? 

Dometic and Atwood are not the same. Dometic is a global company with mobile-living products such as food and beverage, climate, power, and control. They create a range of RV products for RV manufacturers, distributors, and service providers.

Dometic bought out Atwood Mobile Products in 2014. Today, you buy Atwood products under the Dometic brand name. For product support of Atwood RV furnaces manufactured before this time, you call Dometic. They have reliable and helpful customer service, and you can lean on them for troubleshooting your Atwood furnace.

Pro Tip: Before troubleshooting your Atwood furnace, make sure you ask yourself these questions when troubleshooting your RV furnace!

Troubleshooting Your Atwood RV Furnace 

Before we can troubleshoot, we need to get into the furnace panel. Head outside and find your Atwood furnace panel on the exterior of your RV. Remove the screws holding the cover on, then remove the exhaust port.

Exterior shot of Atwood furnace with cover still on

If you run into problems while troubleshooting your furnace, consider calling Dometic. They’ll help you find the problem and let you know if you can fix it before calling in a service technician.

After reviewing the steps below, look at this video for more guidance.

Check Your Error Message

If your furnace stops working, first look for an error message. When you remove the exterior furnace panel, you’ll see a tiny LED bulb that alerts you of a problem.

When there’s a system error, the light flashes in a pattern to indicate the issue. You’ll see the Ignition Control Diagnostics label; this key tells you the error based on how many times the light flashes.

Atwood furnace close up of label showing diagnostic information that is useful when troubleshooting

Reset Your Furnace 

The next step to troubleshoot your Atwood RV furnace is to restart it. Thankfully there’s a reset switch inside the exterior furnace panel. This black switch says “reset” and looks like a basic on-off switch.

You reset your furnace and then allow it to go through its startup cycle, similar to how you’d reset a router when your internet’s not working. It’ll continue putting out an error message until it’s resolved.

Atwood furnace reset switch

Check If You’re Getting Ignition

Once you’ve reset your Atwood RV furnace from the exterior reset switch, wait about 15 seconds for a pre-purge timing circuit. This is when the furnace checks for combustibles before opening up the gas valve that introduces gas into the burner.

Inside the furnace, you’ll soon hear a clicking followed by the sound of a fire burning. Similar to how you ignite your propane stove, the inside of the furnace sparks to ignite the propane. Be sure your propane’s on when you do this; otherwise, your furnace won’t ignite.

If you hear the clicking but not the burning, you may have ignition issues. First, check that you have propane running. Is it empty or shut off? If the propane isn’t the issue, it could be your electrodes, your control board, the wires connecting the two, or all of the above.

If you don’t hear the clicking sound or the fire, you may have a different issue. Consider checking your sail switch, a safety mechanism that keeps the furnace from igniting if the blower can’t move air properly through the system.

Check the Electrodes

Next, check the electrodes. Shut off the propane before doing this step. If you’re not getting ignition, inspect the electrodes by taking out the burner. Remove the screws and the gas valve, then disconnect the green ground wire. 

Now, you can pull out the burner. Turn it around so that you can see the electrodes. Inspect them to make sure they’re an eighth-inch apart and an eighth-inch away from the surface of the burner. If the electrodes touch each other or the burner, it won’t spark.

Reset the furnace and wait for the pre-purge. Listen for the click, and then look for the spark. If you don’t see a spark, the electrodes aren’t working. A bad electrode, wiring, or control board may cause this.

The easiest thing to do now is to buy and test a new electrode. You’ll need to ground the electrodes by touching them to metal nearby. If it still doesn’t spark, it’s time to troubleshoot your control board.

Check the Control Board

Make sure the propane’s still off while you troubleshoot the control board on your Atwood RV furnace.

Since it’s much less expensive to test a new electrode than a control board, do that first. The ignition control circuit board is the brain of the furnace. We need to purchase a new control board now that we know a new electrode won’t fix the issue. 

Copy the wiring of the previous board and temporarily connect the new one while leaving the old one installed. Reset the furnace and wait for the click and spark at the electrode. If you see the spark, you just fixed your furnace.

Next, install the circuit board properly, reconnect your other parts and wiring, and reinstall the exhaust port.

Atwood furnace control board

Where to Find Replacement Parts for Your Atwood RV Furnace

So, where should you get all these parts you need to troubleshoot your Atwood RV furnace? First, check with your local RV dealer, especially if you’re on a time crunch. They may have them on hand or need to order the parts. You can also buy the parts online, and we’ll list a few of our go-to sites.

Before getting a furnace part, find the exact model and serial number of what you need.

Atwood furnace serial number and model number location

Camping World

Camping World is an online and storefront retailer selling RVs and RV gear and parts. They have over 160 stores throughout the nation. You can get deals and reduced shipping on parts through Camping World if you’re a Good Sam Club member. Finally, like eTrailer, they also have a price match guarantee.

Keep in Mind: Before stopping by Camping World, look into the company and Who Owns Camping World

Amazon

You can look for Atwood RV furnace parts from various Amazon retailers with a quick search. You won’t get the same level of customer service from the other two options above, but many items come with fast Prime shipping and free returns. This is a hassle-free option for those needing a quick fix.

Atwood 31501 Circuit Board
  • The ignition control board performs all the functions necessary to turn the furnace on and keep it running
  • Powered with 12V DC, the board sends signals to open the gas valve and emits a high output voltage that creates an...

Don’t Hesitate to Bring in a Professional 

Above all else, do what you need to get your furnace back up and running. Don’t hesitate to bring in a professional. If you’re not in a hurry and have the confidence, carefully look at your heating system and see if you can troubleshoot it on your own. With several online retailers carrying Atwood RV furnace parts, you may have your furnace back up and running before a professional can get there.

Have you ever fixed your RV furnace?

Last update on 2022-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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