The cooktop is an important appliance for most RV owners. A cooktop is a countertop only appliance having from two to four burners and no oven. If an oven is included, it is classified as a range. Historically, most recreational vehicles were equipped with ranges. However, with the popularity of convection microwaves it is rare to see a range in an RV. In this article I will focus on RV cooktops and discuss detailed operation and troubleshooting.
RV cooktops are extremely simple in their operation, and as such are also inherently reliable. Although I mentioned over the last few weeks how reliable RV furnaces are, cooktops are arguably the most reliable propane appliance in an RV due to their simplicity. Cooktops consist of an incoming propane line connected to a secondary regulator, control valves, and two to four burners. Most modern cooktops have piezo or electronic ignition. Many cooktops, especially three-burner ones, incorporate a “high speed” burner at the front, which means that burner is capable of a higher temperature than the others.
Piezo ignition cooktops operate by utilizing either flash tubes that feed the burners from a central electrode or individual electrodes at each burner fed from high voltage wires off the ignitor. If you are having problems getting your burners to light, first make sure sparks are being generated either at the central electrode under the cooktop cover or at each burner, in the case of individual electrodes. If there is no spark generated at all, the piezo ignitor assembly will need to be replaced. The piezo ignitor is part of the ignition knob or button assembly. If your cooktop has a central electrode and you have a good spark there but one or more burners won’t light, first ensure the flash tubes are properly connected and aligned with the burners. Flash tubes have a tendency to rattle loose. Also ensure the flash ignition holes in the side of the burner that are aligned with the flash tube are not blocked. In the case of individual electrodes for each burner, ensure the high voltage wires are undamaged and properly connected to the piezo ignitor and the electrode.
Modern cooktops sometimes utilize electronic ignition. This technology uses 12 volts to generate a spark whenever the burner knob is turned. If you have this type of cooktop and are not able to get a spark, check your 12 volt supply and fuse.
If you find that your burner ports are clogged, you may clean them with a small wire or pin. Be sure not to enlarge the ports.
One of the primary causes of fires in recreational vehicles is due to cooktop issues. If a cooktop valve is accidently turned on without being lit, propane flows through the burner into the coach. Fire or explosion results as soon as an ignition source is introduced. Try to avoid bumping the burner valves so they don’t accidently turn on. Also, if your cooktop is pilot controlled, be aware that propane will continue to flow if the pilot goes out.
As a reminder, always remember to have your propane system professionally inspected and serviced at least once per year. This will ensure that your LP system and appliances are functioning properly and safely.
About the Author:
Steve Froese, an avid RV owner, traveler, and Coach-Net member since 2013, is the principal of “A Word to the Wise Technical Communications”, a published RV author, certified RV technician, and licensed Professional Engineer. He frequently collaborates with the “RV Doctor”, Gary Bunzer, and has worked with the RVIA/RVDA as a technical and training writer and consultant. Professionally, he works as a quality engineer and musician. Watch for more of Steve’s work in upcoming Coach-Net publications.