When I was traveling full time in a Winnebago motorhome training dealers across the country, the stovetops and ovens were pretty simple and there were only a couple of models, Magic Chef, and Atwood. But just like everything else in the RV industry dozens of models have come and gone over the years and today, there are dozens of brands available such as Furrion, Recpro, Suburban, and Dometic which now owns Atwood which also owns Wedgewood, and many more.
A major shift in the industry that I have noticed in the past decade is the use of more residential appliances and furnishing especially since the slide rooms provide more space for the larger items such as residential refrigerators and electric stovetops and ovens although they take an enormous amount of electricity so the old propane models are still the majority that I have seen.
For this article, we will focus on the propane model stovetop and oven combination. The first step in any appliance maintenance and troubleshooting is to understand the operation and lighting sequence. Your main LP regulator at the LP container will reduce the pressure supplied to the rig to 11” of the water column. Most RV stovetops and ovens have an internal regulator that will reduce that down to 10” of water column to a manifold. This manifold has the control knob attached to it and in the case of the stovetop, delivers LP to the burner assembly. The rate of flame or temperature is regulated by the operator turning the knob to the desired height. In the case of the oven, the temperature is set at the knob and a thermostat regulates the flow of LP to the desired temperature to the burner tube.
The oven pilot must be lit before the burner assemble will light. Typically pressing the oven knob in will supply lp to the pilot assembly which must be lit manually and stay lit for at least 30 seconds until the flame reaches and heats the thermocoupler. This pushes a magnet in which is a safety feature in case the flame goes out. The thermostat senses temperature and some models have a temperature bulb in the back of the oven called a mini bulb. Once the thermocouple senses a flame, LP flows to the burner assembly and is lit by the pilot light. If the flame and the pilot light go out, the magnet drops and shut off LP to the oven. The thermostat senses temperature from the temperature bulb in the back of the oven.
For the stovetop, simply press in and turn the knob and turn the ignitor if your model has one, or manually light the burner with a long match or butane stick lighter. Keep in mind the burner assembly does not have a thermocoupler so the LP will continue to flow if the knob is open and there is no flame! I have leaned against a knob in units and smelled the distinct rotten egg smell in the past! Make sure the knob is in the off and locked position when not in use.
Compared to other appliances, there is little maintenance required with an LP stovetop/oven combination other than keeping it clean. Some stovetop models have a sealed burner assembly which means the metal cover comes all the way around the burner so food can not spill over into the burner area. Periodically inspect the burner orifice to ensure nothing is spilled over and clogging which can affect performance or even start on fire.
Troubleshooting The Stove Top
If the stovetop will not light with the piezo or spark assist, verify there is LP coming to the burner by trying to light it manually with a butane lighter. If it lights, the piezo is either defective or has a cracked ceramic case which will send the spark through the crack rather than to the burner. Visually inspect the piezo for spark attempt.
If the burner does not light manually and has no LP flowing to the burner check another burner to verify LP flow. If there is LP flow to another burner, check the supply tube to the affected burner and clean. If not, check to make sure the knob is actually opening on the stovetop and the valve is on at the LP container. Often times there is an in-line shut-off valve to LP appliances that should also be checked. If all these steps are verified, check another LP appliance to verify the main regulator is working properly. If it is, there is an issue with the LP supply line to the stovetop. Some models have an air shutter that can be adjusted. Check with your owner’s manual. It is also a good idea to check connections for leaks with an approved LP leak solution. Do not use soap and water as some detergents can cause corrosion to the metal.
If the burner lights, but the flame is yellow and “jumping” the LP pressure is too high and needs to be tested and adjusted by a certified technician with a water column tester first at the stovetop regulator and then the main LP regulator at the container.
If the burner lights but the flame is too small, verify the knob is actually turning to the higher position first, then check for insufficient pressure again by a certified technician. If other burners are working correctly, clean the supply tube or replace the knob/valve.
Troubleshooting The Oven
If the pilot does not light, check for leaks at the pilot supply tube, check LP pressure at the oven regulator, and then the main LP container regulator. Inspect and clean the pilot assembly to ensure LP is flowing to the pilot. If the pilot lights but does not stay lit after 30 seconds verify the thermocoupler is positioned properly and the flame is reaching it.
If the pilot stays lit but the oven will not light, verify LP flow to the burner assembly and adjust the air shutter if applicable. Also, have LP pressure tested by a certified technician with a water column tester.
If the oven lights, but has low flame and low temperature, test LP pressure at the regulator and burner assembly. Low pressure at the burner assembly would indicate a valve not opening.
If the oven has low temperatures or uneven heat it may be as simple as poor air circulation inside the oven. There must be at least 1” space on all sides from items cooking inside the oven. There are also ventilation holes at the bottom that can get clogged with food drippings and must be cleaned out as well as the top vents. Do not cover the bottom of the racks with aluminum foil to catch drippings! Check your owner’s manual for specifics to your model.
Intermittent Operation of Both
If the stovetop and or oven work for a short period of time but then fail, it could either be insufficient LP pressure or low 12-volt power. This is what we call “gremlins” during troubleshooting as they sometimes can not be replicated in the service department! All LP appliances need 12-volt DC power to open gas valves and run the thermostats. This power is supplied by the deep cycle house batteries which are also supplying other appliances and items like lights and fans. If the batteries are sulfated or the converter/charger can not keep up, the battery bank drains down and will shut off the LP supply at the valve. Typically this only happens with the oven as it has the thermocoupler and thermostat.
If your main LP container regulator is getting weak, it might be able to supply enough pressure (11” WC) to the stovetop/oven regulator however if the water heater or refrigerator kicks in, the regulator might not be able to provide enough LP pressure to all the appliances? This would require using a pressure tester and turning on several appliances at once to verify proper pressure during extreme use situations.
About the author: Dave Solberg: Managing Editor, RV Repair Club
For the last 25 years, Dave has conducted RV maintenance and safety seminars, developed dealer and owner training programs, written RV safety and handyman articles, authored an RV handbook reference guide and logged over 100,000 miles on the road in an RV.
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