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Old 01-01-2018, 03:07 PM   #1
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Espar D5 ice-clogged exhaust

I've been happy with the Espar so far, but had my first bummer today. I'm in north-central Washington, with consistently sub-freezing temperatures and around 10* overnight, and the Espar exhaust pipe got filled up with highway slush and frozen solid. It's mounted right in front of the left rear tire, so getting sprayed with freezing slush was inevitable.

When we got our orientation at SMB, I actually had the (rare!) presence of mind to ask about icing up, but was told that it was never a problem in practice, as the ice would melt right off as soon as the furnace was fired up.

Luckily, we're staying at an inn, not dependent on the furnace to survive the night. But, we went for a 2.5 hour ski expedition, and had the not-so-bright idea (common!) of running the furnace while we were out so we could return to a comfortably warm van when we finished. Instead, the exhaust remained clogged, the fan was blowing cold air, and worst of all, there's a little bit of yellow fluid -- smelled like diesel -- dripping down from the unit.

I didn't see any fault code on the Espar control unit, and don't think we're still leaking anything, but the jury's still out on that.

2 nights ago, we were plugged in and used the heater in 110V mode, with no issues. I'm pretty sure the exhaust was already clogged then and didn't become unclogged with use, but of course we weren't running the diesel burner.

So...

- Any opinions on keeping the exhaust pipe clear or melting it out in freezing weather? I'm a little leery shooting a flame around there!
- The leak has me the most worried... any chance that's temporary due to the clog and doesn't warrant a trip to a "Qualified Service Tech"?
- Any favorite Techs near Bainbridge Island, WA? (I moved recently, but it's too late to change my login name!)

Cheers, and happy new year!
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Old 01-01-2018, 03:27 PM   #2
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If your exhaust pipe is like mine there is a single clamp that attaches it to the bottom of the D5 unit and maybe one more to hold it in place. Take a 5/16" nut driver or a flat bladed screwdriver and remove the flexible exhaust pipe and take it inside and thaw it out.

You could be seeing diesel, but the system runs an anti-freeze water mixture and I'm guessing that is most likely what you are seeing. The two fluids are different enough you should be able to determine which it is.

Also, to see the fault code you need to run the diagnostic with the unit running. That's a little-known fact I had to learn the hard way! Fire it up, hold the blue arrow button down, insert a pin or paper clip in the hole for the service button, wait for the red light on the upper right-hand corner to light up steady, release the blue arrow button, then follow the prompts.

Good luck!
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Old 01-01-2018, 05:28 PM   #3
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Ooh, good tips on the clamps and the fault code.

I just took another look after letting it rest, and the drip is definitely diesel. Next to the silver exhaust pipe, there's a black pipe (the combustion air intake) also connecting to the D5 that's glistening from where it attaches to the D5 down to where it bends back upwards. Not sure why diesel would be coming from there, or maybe it's just collecting there. There's only another drop or two in the snow under the van, but it's disheartening.
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Old 01-01-2018, 05:53 PM   #4
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Possibly the diesel is coming from the intake tube because the combustion chamber filled with fuel due to the blocked exhaust. Be careful with resets right now because you can flood the chamber further. See if you can get the unit to fire up and get some heat going. Let it run on high for around 15 mins to burn off the excess fuel. You may get white smoke for a while it is burning off. It may also take a couple of starts. It will help if the D5 can be brought up to 60F or higher before starting by heating the interior with electric. This will help start the combustion process rather than starting from a very cold temp.
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Old 01-01-2018, 06:29 PM   #5
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Thanks 1der, I'll give that a shot! "Overflowing the combustion chamber" sounds a lot better than "fuel is leaking and IT CAN'T BE STOPPED!"

At this point, it's too cold, dark, and tool-less to do anything here, but my impression is that we're still good to drive and it's not time-sensitive, so we'll head home and work on it next weekend, where we've got tools, electricity, and it's above freezing.

I'll report back with the fault code, if any, and whether burning it off worked... and how much smoke I scared the neighbors with!

Meanwhile, I'm still curious how other people avoid clogging their exhaust with freezing slush when heading into cold weather to camp. Our pipe is mounted in what I believe is a standard position. There must be a better option than disconnecting it and bringing it inside to melt out. I'm thinking we should get a securely fitting cap that we can remove before starting the furnace.

Thanks again, I love this crowd!
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Old 01-01-2018, 06:37 PM   #6
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I have wondered about this. My exhaust is just behind the front left tire on my Transit. I carry a propane torch and would use that if it’s not too close to the body or any wiring or plumbing. Keep in mind this exhaust tubing gets VERY hot so you aren’t going to hurt it shooting it with a propane torch, just watch the stuff around it carefully. The slush couldn’t be more than an inch or two into the pipe so a quick shot at the end is likely all you need. You might even be able to fix it with a lighter. A stick lighter would probably work perfectly.


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Old 01-01-2018, 09:04 PM   #7
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Re exhaust location: I gave this A LOT of thought when installing our D4. I mounted the D4 right behind the drivers seat at the base of the B pillar. This allowed me to route the exhaust forward so it exhausts just behind the engine oil pan. I hooked/bent the end of the exhaust so it points backwards so as to not get any road debris. Why?

Because the heat of the exhaust helps with under hood temps (why waste it) a bit and the exhaust also can exit via the front wheel arches which would be the highest spot. 18 to 24 inched overnight snowfall would likely block the exhaust where installers normally have it exit below the pinch seam.

You should relocate the exhaust exit so it is clear of the road debris and spray. And make sure the intake for the cabin air is clear of any obstructions.
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Old 01-07-2018, 03:11 PM   #8
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Just to close the loop on this...

I went through the diagnostics, there was no fault code. Seems a bit weird, given all the other fault codes it can generate, having no combustion and a flooded chamber seems like something it would detect in some way.

As for fixing it, 1der's suggestion worked flawlessly. I plugged in and warmed up the system using 110V and no furnace for 15 minutes or so, powered off, flipped the "H20 HTR" breaker back off, and powered back with the furnace, and it fired right up.

Almost immediately, there was a bit of white smoke. Then it really got going, and there was a whole lot, as in, "We have a new pope!" levels of white smoke.

The smoke lasted about 5 minutes, then things were back to normal, and I let it go another 10 minutes for good measure.
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Old 01-07-2018, 06:49 PM   #9
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I had a little ice clogging my self the other day.
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Old 01-16-2018, 05:42 PM   #10
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Classic sign of a plugged combustion chamber. Let it set a day or 2 and see what happens when you start it.

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