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Old 08-27-2008, 12:34 PM   #1
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Espar Hydronic failure

I thought I would pass along some information to those of us who own the Espar Hydronic system.

I have had several problems with this unit.
The first problem was when I was getting F-codes relating to flame out. SMB found that the problem was due to how the exhaust was routed. They re-routed it and the problem ended for a while. The next was the flat plate issue which was not related to any failing in my unit but SMB also took care of it. I also had SMB add the muffler to the exhaust which dropped the running noise considerably and that was a welcome upgrade. The next problem resulted in several trips to SMB none of which were resolved. I kept getting intermittent over heat and flame out codes. Some times it would work other times I would have to re-start the unit and it would work correctly. I started to smell diesel, something I had never noticed for the first year of service. I operate my Espar to warm the engine before starting during colder weather and I use the timer to turn it on. Eventually the system would fail 20% of the time. My neighbor came running over one morning claiming my van was on fire. He said he saw tons of white smoke coming from under the van. Soon I found he was correct and at times the Espar would throw out a great deal of white smoke. Now I was getting F-codes that pointed to (Espar) motor failure. I finally had it, and told SMB to pull it and ship it off for repair.

The diagnosis:
The unit had dust in it! I mean I couldn’t believe it. Hum…..? For cryin out loud, it sits behind the front tire of a four wheel drive off road vehicle!

I do not have a solution for this yet but it’s not very promising at all.

SMB has bent over backwards for me and Espar did only charge for parts but all I am hoping is that I got a lemon and the problems will quit now that it’s rebuilt.

After reading the post on the Airtronic about dust I’m worried that Espar products might not be a good choice for off road vehicles. I just got a F-12 code on my Airtronic this weekend. Here we go again?

I understand that the Airtronic requires maintenance and that might be my problem there, but the repair center told me the Hydronic was full of dust. How do you stop that? I don't drive doewn the road with it on. I was told the dust came in through the air intake. I asked about a filter but they advised against any restriction. If I find a solution I will post in the known issues section. For now this would be a good place for others to post whether or not you have had problems. Do you run in heavy dirt and dust? Any solutions/ideas?

I would like to hear from other owners who are running Espar products. Anybody else having trouble with their Hydronic?

Dave
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Old 08-27-2008, 01:01 PM   #2
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Where does SMB have the air intake routed?

After hearing about Jeffrey's problem with the dust I was kinda toying with the idea of making a cover for it for when i'm not using it. I know the area I've been driving around in lately is super dusty and I can't imagine anywhere on the van being safe from this dust!

Jeff
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Old 08-27-2008, 03:19 PM   #3
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:37 PM   #4
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Re: Espar Hydronic failure

Jeffrey, I don't believe he missed your post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by daveb
After reading the post on the Airtronic about dust I’m worried that Espar products might not be a good choice for off road vehicles. I just got a F-12 code on my Airtronic this weekend. Here we go again?
We have the flat plate and the Espar diesel heater also. No problems yet, but then again it is less than a year old. Where is the intake for the heater located? I know where the exhaust is. It sounds like something I definitely need to keep an eye on.
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Old 08-28-2008, 09:02 AM   #5
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Would there be a problem with having the intake inside the vehicle? At least it would be more dust free there. But, maybe we should run both the exhaust and intake to the side of the vans and cap 'em like Jeffrey suggested. I had a problem with mine, and it ended up being the glow pin. It looked clean and new to me and the combustion chamber was clean. I'm assuming (hoping) that it was a defective pin.
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Old 08-28-2008, 09:51 PM   #6
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Before I posted here (after repairs were made to my Hydronic), I e-mailed Peter at SMB about my problem with the Airtronic and my concern about Espar products vs. dust. I added a link to the post Jeffery had made and SMB is looking into a solution. It’s still possible that my failure is a fluke. Being my Hydronic only lasted a couple of years they need to figure out something or at least a routine maintenance procedure if needed. SMB hadn't delivered too many vans with the new Espar units when I ordered mine in mid 05 and I have used the Hydronic heavily from day one. I am looking at a filtered air box of some type. I think pulling air from the inside is a good idea provided diesel fumes can’t be forced back into the cab which might be possible. I still don’t know if dust came in from the intake but that’s what the Espar service center said.



The air intake is the smaller port and SMB uses a short 6â€
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Old 08-29-2008, 12:00 AM   #7
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Espar

Dave,

I would install a filter that has enough air flow to not impede the Espar's operation (if you're concerned with forgetting to re-install a cover). Certain conditions call for certain measures to be taken. If the filter impedes the operation once it's dirty, then you'll know to clean it. Better to clean a filter than to take a unit apart to clean it. Both scenarios have the same effect on the unit.

For what it's worth, Suburban Mfg., the company that builds the LP gas furnace SMB uses, doesn't even approve of the aftermarket screen you see on so many of their units to keep wasps out. I'm sure they would also have an issue with the duct tape people use when traveling in dusty areas (I'm thinking of the "moon dust" in Baja!) to prevent the same dust related issues now showing up on the Espar's.

Dust is part of the environment these units are subject to. It sounds like this is something SMB needs to be proactive in designing, now that it is obvious there is a need. I'm sure that Heber or Bernie (both dirt bike riders) can come up with a really good solution that can be retro-fitted. I'm sure they'll want to take care of this issue, the Espar is such a superior product and space saver, why not make it even better!

Good Luck!
John K.
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Old 08-29-2008, 11:06 AM   #8
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Depending on your of road usage, and the fine-ness of the dust you encounter (like in Utah), you need to take some measures to protect the units.

Over the past months, I've had extensive conversations with John K, Peter at SMB, Bernie at SMB, and Greg at Lube Specialists in Indiana. Dave's problems were part of all the conversations.

My SMB install had the intake opening for the airtronic facing nearly straight up. Peter said they got a lot of advice from Espar (perhaps Greg?) that included some training. Still, this install method seems absurd and very responsible for a lot of my nightmare. For those knowledgeable about foam filters, maybe there is a good dust catcher that is not flow restrictive.

For those not too concerned with dust or not too offroady, simply face your intake opening down, with a 6"min. straight run of vertical hose above.

I'll take photos of my new air intake hose and end cap this weekend, and post them on my thread.
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Old 10-31-2009, 03:02 PM   #9
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Re: Espar Hydronic failure

I'm now getting a F-14 code on my water heater. The unit will fire up for about 3 min and shut down. This ONLY happens in cold weather with the 6.0 PSD engine cold. In mild temps it works fine and if I run the engine for a few min in cold weather the Espar will fire up and run normal. The manual says to change a specific probe. The funny thing about it is that the unit does slightly warn the water within the 3 min run time. I tried to fire it up 10 time with complete failure to operate for more than 3 min. As soon as I started the vehicle and warmed the engine coolant just slightly, the Hydronic ran fine. I read the probe checks the the potable water temp against the coolant temp. I might be wrong though.
Has anybody had this problem and if so can the probe be changed without pulling the unit?

I can't say I'm very happy with the Espar products but on the last trip another member had problems with his propane fired heater while my Airtronic ran fine.

Looks like I'm gonna have to make another costly trip to SMB
Dave B
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Old 10-31-2009, 08:44 PM   #10
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Re: Espar Hydronic failure

Quote:
Originally Posted by daveb
I'm now getting a F-14 code on my water heater. The unit will fire up for about 3 min and shut down. This ONLY happens in cold weather with the 6.0 PSD engine cold. In mild temps it works fine and if I run the engine for a few min in cold weather the Espar will fire up and run normal. The manual says to change a specific probe. The funny thing about it is that the unit does slightly warn the water within the 3 min run time. I tried to fire it up 10 time with complete failure to operate for more than 3 min. As soon as I started the vehicle and warmed the engine coolant just slightly, the Hydronic ran fine. I read the probe checks the the potable water temp against the coolant temp. I might be wrong though.
Has anybody had this problem and if so can the probe be changed without pulling the unit?

I can't say I'm very happy with the Espar products but on the last trip another member had problems with his propane fired heater while my Airtronic ran fine.

Looks like I'm gonna have to make another costly trip to SMB
Dave B
Dave

Your problem is water flow ei; the lack of it. Look at all the hose and make sure their are no kinks or pinched lines. From what I recall SMB ran and excessive amount of heater hose. One way to combat the problem is add and aux pump. Very easy to install and you can use it to get hot water when the engine is warm and not have to start the heater.

Greg
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