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Thread: Whirlpool Water Heater Problem

  1. #1

    Whirlpool Water Heater Problem

    I had posted this in response to a posting in the General Woodworking section but felt the it was important enough to make it a posting by itself.

    Whirlpool water heaters (sold by Lowes and others) for the past five or so years have a defective thermocouple, or some other defect that causes the thermocouple to fail - I'm not sure of the root cause. The symptom is that the pilot light goes out. You can re-light it but it will go out again, usually the same day. See here and here for some additional info about the problem.

    An issue is that the Whirlpool thermocouple screws into the thermostat with left hand threads and a universal thermocouple has right hand threads. Whirlpool has a conversion kit which they will send you free which converts from left hand to right hand - but if you want it overnight(since you can't keep the pilot light lit) you have to pay the shipping (I think it's about $18).

    What I did was cut my old Whirlpool thermocouple about 6" from the threaded part. You'll find an insulated central wire covered by a copper sheath. Solder the central wire onto the center of the universal thermocouple and use stranded wire to connect the outer sheaths together. Then screw back into the thermostat. Call Whirlpool (www.whirlpoolwaterheaters.com) - 877-817-6750 - and order the parts sent via regular shipment (which is free). When you get the kit, replace the klug I described above.

    If you have a fairly new Whirlpool water heater from Lowes (say within the past five years) described as a "Flame Lock", you might want to call and get the conversion kit so if your thermocouple fails you can repair it quickly with a universal that you can buy at the Borg for about $7.

    Mike

    [I added some pictures of my "fix" (described above) to allow me to use a universal thermocouple while I wait for the Whirlpool shipment. Works fine and is safe. The old part of the original thermocouple is just used for the left hand threads. The voltage and current is extremely small (about 20 mV) so if someone touched the exposed wire, it would in no way harm them.]
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    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 04-12-2008 at 1:20 AM.
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  2. #2
    Good advice, Mike!

    I learned about all this stuff while doing some research a couple months ago before replacing my water heater. I still ended up with a Whirlpool from Lowes () as they've supposed corrected the problem and have also changed the thermocouple thread to a standard right hand thread. But, if you have one manufactured during that period (I think it was 2000 - 2005 or maybe longer), it's a very good idea to buy a spare as insurance in case yours craps out. And something else I'd didn't initially think about it is that the warranty only covers the original thermocouple. So anyone who's had more than one die on them - and I've read about a few people who've had that problem - is going to have to buy the replacement one anyway. So unless you want to go a few days without hot water, have a spare on hand. And I've found that Lowes doesn't always have them in stock.

    Mike
    Last edited by Mike Armstrong; 04-11-2008 at 10:39 PM.
    If you can't make it perfect, make it adjustable.

  3. #3
    I went through 2 waterheaters. Finally called a local family owned plumbing company to fix it and they said...OH...you have one of THOSE.!! We don't fix those....so I had them replace it with their own waterheaters that they sell / support and we've been very happy ever since.
    Thanks & Happy Wood Chips,
    Dennis -
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    ....DEBT is nothing more than yesterday's spending taken from tomorrow's income.

  4. #4
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    You can tell you have a bad one by looking at the label on your water heater. The bad ones are marked with the code "WHIRLPOOL" in large print.


  5. #5
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    Matt,
    Very good!
    David B

  6. #6
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    I wonder who actually makes the water heater for them?? It is always a pain when a part is designed - in this case the threads -- just so you must get the replacement from the original maker. This is especially true when that part has a problem because it is never available in the numbers needed.

    An interesting story on water heaters: I believe it was in the early 90's and my memory is telling me that HD did this internally - prior to universally selling water heaters in all the stores. They had a company go and ask people what brand of water heater was installed in the house they live in -- and also what brand of water heater they would buy in the future.

    The majority of people said GE -- only one problem -- GE doe not make water heaters - and non were being sold under the GE brand at that time.

    So they went to GE and made a deal to design new GE labels and packaging for the same heaters they were selling in some of the stores. They actually did not have to pay GE all that much - I believe only a dollar or two per unit.

    GE went for it because the GE service number would be on the new heaters - Service is the profit area.

  7. #7
    Whirlpool nor Maytag make their own WH's. They are made by a 3rd party company that makes consumer line WH's. I've had both makes of WH's and the info included with them had the name of the manufacturer in the literature. I just don't remember who the company was.
    Thanks & Happy Wood Chips,
    Dennis -
    Get the Benefits of Being an SMC Contributor..!
    ....DEBT is nothing more than yesterday's spending taken from tomorrow's income.

  8. #8
    In the interest of fairness, I wanted to add a follow-up to this thread. The company who makes the Whirlpool water heaters sent me a conversion kit for my water heater (free). It was easy to install and seems to make sense - it uses a standard thermocouple but has a different sensor to detect if there's a fire from combustible gases that come into the heater.

    I'm impressed with the safety features on water heaters now. They have features to block a blowback fire if there's flammable gasses in the area, they detect if the pilot light goes off (old feature) and they detect if the water gets too hot (above 180 degrees) and shut of the burner. They still have the overpressure valve like they always did.

    This problem is due to a design problem in one of the safety features. People get very perturbed because we highly value hot water but I have to say that the company stepped up and addressed the problem.

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  9. #9
    Mike;

    Thanks for the interim fix; it worked like a charm. Now to get the replacement (and a shower!)

    Doug

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Mather View Post
    Mike;

    Thanks for the interim fix; it worked like a charm. Now to get the replacement (and a shower!)

    Doug
    Glad it was of help. I know exactly how you feel.

    Mike

    [Doug - when you get your kit and go to install it, make sure that you remove the brass nozzle from your old setup and screw it into the kit they send you. It's easy to miss that. Good luck!]
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 04-30-2008 at 12:57 PM.
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  11. Thanks Mike!

    Hi Mike Henderson!

    Your spliced thermocouple method worked like a GREAT! Now I can get the replacement parts and my wife can take a hot shower. Keeps me out of trouble for at least one more day...

    Sean
    Last edited by Sean Naylor; 12-03-2008 at 7:48 AM. Reason: someone else said the same thing...

  12. #12
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    Whirlpool might be the same as American, either way there's a few of the newer flamegaurd style water heaters with updates, not a bad idea to check on any of the new ones you may have.

    Wonder what happens to liability when you modify a manufactures product, looks like what you did should work fine, but it'd still make me nervous anytime someone starts playing with safeties.

    Al
    Remember our vets, they need our help, just like they helped us.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Al Willits View Post
    Whirlpool might be the same as American, either way there's a few of the newer flamegaurd style water heaters with updates, not a bad idea to check on any of the new ones you may have.

    Wonder what happens to liability when you modify a manufactures product, looks like what you did should work fine, but it'd still make me nervous anytime someone starts playing with safeties.

    Al
    Sean - I'm glad the fix worked for you.

    Al, no problem, that modification was just temporary to keep hot water in the house until the manufacturer sent the parts, which was about a week.

    You can imagine the problem. The water heater quits working and you have no hot water in the house. You call the manufacturer and they tell you it's a manufacturing defect and they'll send you a replacement part free - but it takes time to get to you. Meanwhile you and your family are without hot water. This "kluge" is just to get the heater working during that period until the parts get to you. Once you get the parts, the heater is back to manufacturer specifications. And while no one wants to bypass safety features, remember that we operated water heaters for decades without these safety features. As long as the owner is reasonably careful, I don't think it's a serious safety problem.

    Mike
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 12-03-2008 at 11:19 AM.
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  14. #14
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    Understandable Mike, but after 30+ years in the repair field, I still get a bit nervous when people start modifying their gas appliances, yours went well but many aren't quite so fortunate.

    And I do know about the little lady being with out hot water and I'd have done the same thing to keep peace...

    Al
    Remember our vets, they need our help, just like they helped us.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Al Willits View Post
    Understandable Mike, but after 30+ years in the repair field, I still get a bit nervous when people start modifying their gas appliances, yours went well but many aren't quite so fortunate.

    And I do know about the little lady being with out hot water and I'd have done the same thing to keep peace...

    Al
    [Laughter] You know EXACTLY why I had to do that! You should have heard my wife when we lost the hot water. She was not going to put up with one day without hot water, let alone a week.

    And I understand your first comment. I'm nervous about that also.

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

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