RV Doctor – Atwood Oven Won't Maintain Temperature

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March 29, 2009

Dear Doc,

My problem is with my Atwood oven. It has never worked right from when I got the RV new. I took it back to the dealer and they made some adjustments, but it still doesn’t work. It is now four years old. The problem is the oven will not maintain the temperature. When it reaches its selected temperature the burner will shut off and never come back on. When I first light the pilot it takes about two to three minutes of holding a match under the pilot to light it. When the pilot does light the flame sputters for a couple of minutes then it seems to burn normal. I set the oven temp to 450-degrees or so and the oven will go up to about 350-degrees and then the burner goes out. Sometimes the pilot will go out also. My other appliances seem to work okay.

Gary Schiff, (Middleton, MA)


Gary, operational issues with any of the four LP-fired appliances common to just about every RV hinge on two very important facets; cleanliness and the correct amount of LP pressure. By verifying these two aspects one can then begin a proper track of troubleshooting.

The incoming LP is very important, especially in smaller burners such as pilot flames. The relatively large orifice of the main burner in a water heater, for example, will hardly notice any difference in minimal discrepancies with the delivery pressure. But to the oven pilot burner, it will have a more dramatic and negative effect.

First thing, be sure the delivery line pressure is set correctly at 11.0-inches of water column. The only way to accurately measure this pressure is to use a water column manometer and to load the main LP regulator to about 50% capacity while making the adjustment. Many RVers are equipped with a water column manometer and have the wherewithal to make their own adjustments, (especially if you’ve attended one of my seminars). If you have not had prior training in this important step, simply make an appointment at your local RV service shop and have them set the pressure for you. They should also perform a perfunctory LP leak test at the same time.

Second, be sure that pilot orifice is clean and free from debris and spider nests, etc. Though there is very little maintenance necessary on the typical RV range, the pilot orifice is one of the important areas to consider. Since you mention the appearance of sputtering at that pilot, I would suspect insufficient LP pressure, a dirty orifice or possibly the presence of moisture in the LP source. If you can verify the correct pressure and eliminate a partially clogged orifice, have an LP supplier investigate the possibility of moisture in the LP container. If found, that moisture will have to be purged from the container and the system. This seems unlikely since you state no operational problems with the other appliances.

When the delivery line pressure is properly set and the burner orifice free of any obstructions, next look for the proper positioning of the thermal sensing bulb at the oven pilot assembly, (see photo). It should be positioned such that when the pilot flame is enlarged (when you set the oven thermostat to the desired cooking temperature) the pilot flame fully engulfs the body of the bulb. This opens the oven safety valve, allowing LP to enter the main burner where it is ignited by the pilot flame. If the thermal bulb is out of position, it may feel the extended pilot for a few minutes, but with the disturbance of air inside the oven when the main burner ignites, the flame may move slightly away from the tip of that thermal bulb. Thinking the pilot has been extinguished, (perhaps it has), the oven safety valve will shut off the gas supply to the main burner.

Another component to check for cleanliness is the oven temperature sensing bulb inside the main compartment of the oven. Located at the rear and upper portion of the oven, it can become coated with cooking oils or greases, thereby rendering it inaccurate. This device lets the oven thermostat know that the desired temperature has been reached.

Lastly, you could simply have a faulty oven thermostat. If the pressure is set properly and all the above-mentioned components are clean, this is where I would focus my attention.

(Please feel free to comment, however, please also note that due to the volume of communications I receive from multiple channels I cannot guarantee a personal response in every instance. However, questions of an overall general interest may be considered and published in an upcoming RV Doctor column.)

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  2. Dean Artruc

    This has also happened to me with my new Starcraft 2010. I have not got a resolution yet. This has been going on since we purchased in 2009. The dealer can’t find the fix. What you can do is light the pilot and it will stay lit for weeks. Once you start using the oven and it reaches temparature, the pilot starts flickering (you can actually hear it). The dealer had replaced the regulator, pilot, and rail.

  3. Travlr

    Had the same problem in my Jayco 5ver.The problem turned out to be the regulator that mounts on the back wall of the oven.

  4. Larry I think RV-Doc & you are right Replace Thermalcouple only take you a few minute’s you need to pull old one out so you can compare it to new one Length & all Try and get one that is close in Diameter & Length! Good Luck! with your over This RV-Doc Know’s his stuff! Rick Vogel U.S.Army Retired!

  5. Ham! I am No RV-Doc But have worked in air-conditioning & Refer’s both Home & Comerical! when a line get’s Frost on it your system ids either Under-Charged or Over-Charged! This is what Probaly your problem might be? Have them Sweat solder a line tap in and a Line dryer put in place of the old one, & your problem should be over! Hope this Help’s Rick Vogel U.S.Army Retired, Ol-Air Force Pilot before i Joined Army & Flew Chopper’s! Good luck to you!

  6. Ham

    Dear Doc, we have a norcold in our f ifth wheel 21 1/2 ft. the freezer works fine,but the refrigator keep dripping water eveything gets wet. One side of the frig. has ice built up on the fins the other side is clear no build up. The frig. isn’t even very cold i have to keep throwing food away. can you help?

  7. Larry

    Since nothing was said about the other gas appliances, it seems likely that the pressure is correct. If the flame is about an inch or so long the first time the orifice is not likely dirty. Replace the thermocouple. That’s the device that the pilot flame heats up, There is a small tube going from the part in the flame to the thermostat.

    This should be less than $10.00 plus labor.

    Doing it the other way is the way a shop with solve the problem. Takes a lot longer, follows a set procedure that a minimum wage employee can follow, does not rely on any reasoning and generates more labor dollars. Of course in the 10 percent of the cases replacing the thermocouple doesn’t solve…