Updated:
Original:

Ask Sail: Stove Troubles

Author:

STOVE TROUBLES

Ask Sail

What do you do with a stove that refuses to stay lit?

Q: I have a Broadwater two-burner propane stove with an oven and broiler. It’s from 2003 but still looks new. When I acquired the boat in 2015 all four burners worked. But after I had the boat transported to Wisconsin and then back to Florida, it went from four working burners to one with a second working intermittently. I get gas and a spark, and they all light as long as I keep the knob depressed. But as soon as I release three of the four knobs, the safety valves do not stay open and the burners go out. It is my impression that either I have three thermocouples that have gone bad, three safety valves that have gone bad or a combination of the two. This seems unusual. Broadwater stoves were made in Australia and are no longer in business. I have searched everywhere to find someone who could look at and repair this stove, but to my surprise, I have yet to find any easily recognizable service facilities. So, other than scrapping it and buying a new stove, do you have any suggestions for getting replacement parts or rebuilding with different parts? I have reached a dead-end in both my research and in my discussions with RV shops, plumbers and gas repair technicians.

Denis Vogel, Madison, WI

DON CASEY REPLIES

Ever thump a flashlight to get it to come on? The problem with your stove is almost certainly the same. Thermocouples are uncomplicated to the extreme, and they rarely fail. So, let’s start there. You can easily test all your thermocouples with a digital meter that measures DC millivolts. First, unscrew and remove the thermocouple from the valve and look for a small “button” under the nut. Clip the meter’s red lead to the copper tubing and the black lead to the button, and use a propane grill lighter to heat the sensor. The millivolt reading should climb quickly from zero toward around 30 millivolts. Anything above 20 or 25 indicates that the thermocouple is good. One that fails can be replaced with any “universal” stove or furnace thermocouple that fits. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this voltage powers a solenoid in the gas valve that only allows gas to flow when the sensor is hot, and the solenoid is also nearly foolproof. So, with multiple valve failures, the question likely remains: what is going on?

The answer is that with just 0.025 volt to work with, almost any resistance between the button and the valve will be fatal. Therefore, clean both the thermocouple button and the interior surface of the valve connection with electronics cleaner or alcohol (do not use abrasives). After that, check to see that the washer behind the button is intact and uncrushed, then reassemble and snug the nut just slightly beyond hand-tight. Overtightening is also a common cause of failure.

If your burners still aren’t working after you’ve given them a cleaning, you need to look at the other end. For example, the burner itself may need to be turned slightly to get the sensor in front of a flame tongue, or the jet may need cleaning to return the flame to proper intensity. (The thermocouple only works when it’s directly in blue flame.) Low line pressure or long plumbing runs can also reduce the heat below the needed level. Ultimately, if you can keep the burner lit by supplementing the heat with a grill lighter, you just need more heat.

Got a question for our experts? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com

May 2017

Related

03-IMG_0590

Bill Tilman’s Simple Sailing

Like an ostrich on a bad day, I’m head-down in the lazarette of Nellie, my Beneteau First 42, dealing with the propane tank. My wife taps me on the shoulder, and I rise to see a pair of foiling catamarans accelerating onto their carbon-fiber wings. As the blood drains from my ...read more

01-LEAD-210801_PM_Tokyo20_22825_5540

Olympic Sailing: Where to Now?

It’s official, not only is the United States no longer an Olympic power when it comes to sailing, it’s fast beginnings look like an also-ran—albeit an also-ran with loads of potential. What other conclusion is there to draw from the fact that for the second time in three ...read more

244526945_394104495768313_1401658800642145082_n

Return of the Annapolis Boat Show

After a hiatus in 2020, the United States Boat Show in Annapolis, Maryland returned in full force last weekend. “Pent up demand” was the name of the game for visitors and exhibitors alike. Queues to get in each morning stretched around the block, and the docks were congested ...read more

Untitled-1

Sailing Hall of Fame Inducts Class of 2021

This weekend, the National Sailing Hall of Fame has inducted eleven new members to make up the class of 2021. “The remarkable achievements of this year’s class exemplify excellence and an unwavering dedication to our sport,” said National Sailing Hall of Fame president Gus ...read more

ed3b8ae9-b65d-2941-47ec-cd0277bfcbe8

Mirabaud Voting Open to the Public

Photos from the industry's top photographers are in, and the 12th annual Mirabaud Yacht Racing Image competition is underway. An international panel of judges has selected this year's 80 finalists, which have been published online. The panel will also select the winner of the ...read more

P1320232-copy

Annapolis’ Boat Show is Back

After a year off in 2020, the United States Boat Show in Annapolis is back. From the diminutive Areys Pond Cat 14 XFC to the massive Lagoon Sixty 5, many of the SAIL’s 2022 Best Boats Nominees are on display for the public to get a firsthand look at, and SAIL’s Best Boats panel ...read more

05-Squall-in-the-ITCZ

Close-Hauled to Hawaii

The saying “Nothing goes to windward like a 747,” is one of my favorites. I actually once took a 747 upwind, retracing my earlier downwind sailing route across the Pacific. I’ve also done a fair bit of ocean sailing to windward. The 747 was a lot more comfortable. But then ...read more

01-LEAD-IMG-2106

Refurbishing Shirley Rose: Part 3

If you missed the first installment, click here. The hull and deck of Shirley Rose had been repaired, but what kind of sailboat would she be without a sturdy rig? I was told she was ready to sail, and that the owner replaced the standing rigging a few years before. Shirley Rose ...read more