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CZSteve 03-01-2010 08:49 PM

Rheem hot water heater - pilot / burner not staying lit?
We have a Rheem model 41V40-40F (mfg 11/2003) where the pilot light went out the other night. Re-lit, turned back on the burner fired and immediately went out.
Could not get the pilot to light again; waited ~ 10 & tried again, pilot lit and when turned on had a small KaBoom in the chamber from apparent gas build-up... :eek:

Figured I'm done and call the home warranty company (just bought the house 8 mos ago - home warranty provided w/ purchase).
Plumber that was dispatched tried was quick to access as an air flow problem with the heater (vent stack seams clear) and recommends a NEW unit.
My out of pocket after adding all the items NOT covered by the warranty is $470.00 for items such as:
$150 for permit (actual cost here is $65)
$90 for a pan (required for code even though we have no drain; what's new? ~ $15 retail?)
$50 for new gas valve (ball valve)
$45 for gas flex line (new looks excellent; don't mind new, but dang... $$$)

This company had a few negative reviews and honestly I feel they are possibly jumping the gun to replace as opposed to repair because they can get more money by replacing and adding all these other charges as opposed to repair :whistling2:
The owner has already admitted he makes his money on the mark-up of the parts not covered because the warranty company does not pay enough for the labor.
I'm all for making a profit; just feel this company is pushing the ethic limits (IMO).

Conclusion: I'm taking the 'cash out' option from the warranty company; my net after deductible, trip charge, and getting the plumbers 'net' for the heater is $175.00 - Oh Well...

I'm not a plumber but fairly handy. I can sweat joints and know how to 'properly' connect gas lines.
Anything in particular to troubleshoot as opposed to replacing entire unit?
I'm not against another 'respectable' plumber coming in but looking for input for DIY if an option.

BTW - we do have a second water that covers the dish washer, washer, and kids shower so we're not completely 'dead' in the water.
Sorry for the long post.


hayewe farm 03-01-2010 10:14 PM

Go to your local hardware or computer store and pick up a can of air used to clean computer keyboards. With the pilot off insert the air can tube in the end of the pilot tube and give it a couple of blasts of air. It may be you have an oxygen depletion unit that is dirty. The blast of air will usually clean it. Then try lighting the pilot and see if it will work. A good indication that this is the problem is that the pilot light is an orangeish color.

CZSteve 03-02-2010 09:00 PM


Thanks for the suggestion. I'll try one day this week; work is crazy right now - good trouble to have :)

Question: the cover plates states that if the cover is removed from the sealed chamber that the gasket should be replaced.
Is it absolutely critical to always replace the gasket?
I have not removed the panel yet; but if care is taken and the gasket is not damaged I would assume no problem in re-using - yes? no?
Best place to acquire parts such as a gasket if needed? Fergusons?


CZSteve 03-10-2010 08:43 PM

Getting closer but need more HELP
I ordered a new heater assembly.
Pilot lights much easier. Pilot stays lit with no problem but when I turned on the burner the flames slowly extinguished - could obviously tell it was exhausting the oxygen supply and starving for air.

Appears the problem is with a diaphragm underneath that is not staying open.
There is a spring loaded pin I can push down on and feel / hear the diaphragm opening and then closing shut when released.
Following pics show:
Current condition

Here's the old burner and tip that I assume engages the plunger (new is same)

Larger part pulled from plunger; smaller part was discovered laying loose after further inspection.

I'm assuming either I just don't know how the parts go back together or I'm missing another part that either broke or came loose.
Anyone have any insight?

stoneatti 05-30-2010 01:04 AM

I had same problem but figured it out
I was searching the web for an answer to my problem and came across your post. I have a 41V40-40F Rheem which stopped making hot water the other day. My son was painting (with latex paint, not flammable shallac) outside the room where the hot water heater is and heard a loud boom but couldn't find the source as everything in the room was intact. No one told me this until I mentioned that the hot water heater was not working. I tried to light the pilot but there was no response and after checking everything I did some reading on the web and saw that the gas valve (thermostat) has a one time protection thingy that opens the circuit in the gas valve should the water overheat. So, I replaced the gas valve and the pilot lit fine but when I turned the heat dial up and the burner kicked in it only lasted a couple of seconds. I pulled the burner out slightly and relit it and the flames kept going so I knew it was starving for air. Upon pulling the burner out I discovered the same two parts that you have in your picture. I did not read your post until I tried many combinations to try to keep the shaft up. I thought that they were using gravity and if there was a problem that the flap would drop and cover the air entry hole underneath. Then I realized that the flap is closed unless you push down on the shaft and there is a spring feel to it which I confirmed by loading an owners manual which has a rudimentary diagram of the safety mechanism. So here's how it's supposed to be. The Bottom piece has a round hole which the shaft pushes up through if the little round clip falls out. What you don't see in your picture is the third piece of the puzzle and I'm guessing it its a small pin that fits between the bottom piece and the top. This is going to be hard for people reading this to envision how the pieces fit together and I didn't think of taking a pic of the setup when put back in place. I'm also thinking that this pin works the same way the glass bulb or the piece of wax does in a sprinkler head. It probably melts or maybe the curved piece is bi-metallic and with the right amount of heat bends and releases the pin. Now mind you, I vacuumed out the bottom of the heater to remove all the soot so I could have sucked up a tiny pin. When the pieces are assembled correctly the curved piece has a little tab which fits into a slot on the larger piece and the flat side of the curved piece covers the hole keeping the shaft pushed down about an inch and a half beneath. Then the "pin" if you had one goes between the hole in the curved piece and the hole in the top of the bottom piece. I used a screw which I screwed into the hole in the curved part and the head of the screw fit just under the larger piece under the surface where the other hole is. So I made my own pin without the safety factor. It's easily accessible and I will order a replacement if they sell it. Hopefully someone will read my post and not have to go through the agony of trying to figure out why the flame goes out every time you light it.

stoneatti 05-30-2010 01:16 AM

Forgot to mention.
I forgot to mention that once I put this safety mechanism together I had to push it down on the shaft and it has two wings that fit into the two slots on the piece that's built into the floor of the unit. As you are pushing down you twist it about 25-30 degrees making sure that the wings fit into the slots in the built in piece. Once it is installed the shaft is held down about an inch and a half and the burner burns fine. I guess if you wanted to you could use a flat piece of steel maybe a broken off piece of a hacksaw blade and forget about the other pieces and just twist it into the slots on the built in piece while holding the shaft down below the slots just enough to slip the piece of the blade across the top of the shaft. The upward pressure of the shaft would keep the blade piece from moving. Remember, you are defeating a safety mechanism and Rheem says to replace the whole heater if this happens so if you do this you assume all risks. But it can't be any worse that a normal water heater with the open burner design. Make sure you don't let any flammable vapors get near the heater.

CZSteve 05-30-2010 06:47 AM

Stone - thanks.
I should have posted back to possibly help others down the road.

Your screw solution is 'exactly' what I did (used stainless). I agree, bypassing this safety feature turns the water heater into what a normal open air unit is. Ours is inside and not worried about gasoline or other volatile vapors.


stoneatti 05-30-2010 10:00 AM

I looked back at the pictures above and re-read my posts and want to clarify a couple of things. If you look at the pic with the two pieces laying on the floor you seethe larger piece in the foreground and the curved piece in the foreground. If you lay the curved piece on the bottom of the larger piece, iinserting the tab in the curved piece into the little slot on the larger piece you essentially have put it together. Then if you look at the hole in the curved part and the hole in the top of the larger piece there will be a gap of about an inch or so and this is where the pin would be to keep pressure down on the curved piece.

The pin is not tiny as I mentioned, it spans the gap of about an inch.

Below is a post on another site describing what you have to go through if the "TRD" device kicks in. Now keep in mind, you don't have to have a vapor incident for the TRD to sacrifice its life and render the whole heater unusable. If the gas valve stops regulating the temp and the temp shoots up the gas valve will trigger a built-in high temp safety (One time and throw away the valve) cutoff and will not "pass gas":laughing:. The TRD will most likely release rendering it un resettable and you replace the whole water heater. Sorry folks but the likelyhood of my water heater having a flammable vapor incident is extemely low because of where it is and there is never any possibility of any chemical vapors in the area. So my decision to override the safety cutoff damper is based on the fact that I have a 40 gallon water heater that I won at a local charity auction about 10 years ago (don't ask) and was saving it for when one of my heaters needed replacement. This unit is the open chamber type and is actually less safe than leaving the unit I currently have with my override. At least the burner chamber is sealed and there is more protection in that sense. I just hate sweating pipes and reconfiguring flue stacks.

Rheem 41V40-40F Flammable Vapor Incident Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to reset the Rheem 41V40-40F after a flammable vapor incident. Many other manufacturers, such as A.O. smith and Bradford White, have made resettable devices or replaceable parts to aid in getting the heater back working after an incident. Rheem has no devices or parts available to reset their unit. Their reasoning is that “if the unit trips the thermal release device for any reason we want to be aware of it. (yeah, they want to see another heater sold) It means combustion chamber temperatures exceeded what we consider to be normal. The water heater must be replaced.”
Rheem considers normal combustion chamber operating temperatures to be about 350º – 375º.
Is thermal release device activation a warranty replacement?Answer: No. The TRD is a component part. If it fails due to improper workmanship, it will be covered under warranty. The warranty will also cover the tank leak not the activation of the component thermal release device. The warranty also covers parts replacement; but not the activation of the TRD due to misuse. The thermal release device is NOT a consumable part like a thermocouple or gas valve.
You will have to replace the entire water heater, which is not under warranty and pay for the installation labor of the new heater.

jakhowl 08-02-2010 10:52 PM

this was really helpful
Thanks for the photos and information on the gas water heater problems, my problem was exactly the same and now I have a good running heater again.

PhilSki 12-13-2010 08:42 AM

My in laws have a Rheem 21V40-38 and the pilot light will not stay lit. The unit was purchased and installed on 6/6/2000. I was wondering if I should attempt to replace the pilot burner or since the unit is ten yrs old go for a replacement which has been quoted as 650 for all labor and materials including the new water heater. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks in advance for any help provided.

jaque4u 12-27-2010 05:17 PM

TRD replacement
Same thing happend to me in Feb.2010. The oil filled glass vial that holds the pin down broke. Called Rheem. They are now suppling a replacemnt TRD kit, part number SP20246A. They must have been replacing too many $600 water heaters under warranty for that $0.25 glass part...Said you're supposed to have a "certified tech" install it. But since I had the thing apart 4 times already I did it myself in about 5 minutes. Easier than changing sparks plugs, and I wasn't gonna pay $150 to a tech for that. Now, the stupid thing broke again last night. Bypassed it with a small binder clip for now. I'll bet they won't send me another one, oh well then they can replace my entire heater this time....I'll never buy another Rheem product, EVER...

DonaldT 01-04-2011 10:57 AM

Thank you all for posting your experiences. I was having a similar problem but for quite a different reason. But trying to check the TRD led me to find the real problem.

Southern California got a lot of rain prior to Christmas. We were out of town and when we returned I found the pilot light on our direct vent water heater had gone out. I also found the drip pan full of water. This has happened before (the drip pan having water after a rain) but not as much as this time.

Anyway, I re-lit the pilot light and fired up the water heater, but a few seconds after closing the pilot light door the flame went out. I did it all again with the same results. Since it was late I only spent about 30 minutes trying to figure out what was wrong.

The next morning I went on the internet and found this thread. I tried to use a mirror and flashlight to see if I could find the TRD but could not. So I decided to just feel around for it. As soon as I put my finger into the hole under the burners I hit water. The air intake passage was filled with rain water, effectively chocking off the fresh air. A few minutes with a siphon tube cured the problem and the water heater works normally again.

A N____I M P O R T A N T____L E S S O N____L E A R N E D
I did, however, discover one thing about thermocouples that I had not realized before, or just had not thought about them enough. We know that a thermocouple has to be heated before it will allow gas to flow. What I had not thought about was that in my situation, where the burners went out due to insufficient air, the thermocouple had already heated to the point where it would allow gas to flow. It takes 10 to 15 seconds for the thermocouple to cool enough to shut off the gas flow. During this cool-down period there is a full gas flow to the (now extinguished) burners. This creates an very dangerous gas build-up If you try to relight the pilot light the gas could erupt. At best you will get a good scare when flame comes shooting out the pilot light door; at worst an explosion could occur. It is very important to either wait for, or force, the gas to dissipate before attempting to re-light the pilot light.

inquisite1 10-27-2011 06:07 PM

call 1 800 heater3 give them the model # and serial # off the sticker on the water heater and they have the TRD replacement part . the one you have pictured here has the glass bead broken. But it is very important to blow out the screen recessed below the burner just in front of the spring loaded plunger. If you do not do this it will burn out again. thanks.

inquisite1 10-27-2011 06:14 PM

The reason it breaks is one of 2 the air screen recessed in front of it in the triange lots of tiny holes in the bottom is dirty must blow out all the holes. Or you had a vapor incident where other gas vapor gases entered the screen and flashed causing the TRD to trip.If the screen is dirty and you replace the device without blowing it out it will only blow again.If you bypass the device the heater will light but will start sooting and smell bad also stopping up the exhaust.

S.Ali 12-31-2011 05:03 PM

Do anyone have a pic, after fixing that problem? This is the third time happened with us:( Having such a bad experience with Rheem 14V40-40F. NEED HELP!!!

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