Sick Dog – Sick Aqua-Hot (Winterhaven, CA)

I have some catching  up to do… Here it is Monday – and I haven’t posted since Wednesday!  I think I’ll break it up into a few separate posts for easier reading.

Therefore, for this first post I’ll tell you about Wednesday and Thursday.  I last posted on Wednesday morning and predicted that we’d just hang around the campsite, which is exactly what we ended up doing.  At one point during the day, we did a nice hike around the area and then we joined our neighbors here at our boondocking spot around 4 PM for “Happy Hour”.  This has clearly become a daily tradition with the six or seven rigs that are parked near us.  Everyone brings their own beverage of choice along with a small snack to share.  We took cheese cubes and pretzels.

After happy hour, our little dog, “Coach” had another “episode”.  This is the second or third time he has had this “seizure” of sorts… he seemed disoriented and was wobbly on his feet and would just plop down on the ground… probably out of necessity, because he’d fall over if he walked any distance.  All we could do was put him in his bed and make him comfortable.  We tried to have him drink water when he could hold his head up steady enough.  I watched him until about 3 AM, when he just jumped up and started to walk around again.  Although, unsteady at first, he seemed to quickly regain his balance, so I walked him around the campsite while keeping a watchful eye out for coyotes.  He drank lots of water and seemed pretty much fine again.  Sure wish we knew what causes this… internet searches point to several causes, and we can’t afford seizure medication.  One source says that if you start anti-seizure medication, you have to administer it for life – you can’t stop or it will actually trigger seizures and make them worse.  We remember that he was chewing on some peanut shells during “Happy Hour” – maybe he’s allergic?!?

The first time he had this “episode” was while we were in Redmond Oregon at the FMCA Rally back in August.  But that time, he threw up first, so we thought for sure he’d eaten something while we weren’t looking.  He was fine in the morning after we watched him all night.  The second time, was a couple months ago, when he seemed to have to throw up, but couldn’t produce anything other than foamy spittle… he just fell over and laid there until we picked him up.  He was over that in minutes, which made us believe he had lost his breath coughing/throwing up and just got light-headed.  He’s always had a strange cough, kind of reminds me of the kennel-cough that our previous dog “Elvis” had at times.  For those that don’t know, we lost Elvis to a coyote in our back yard just before New Year in 2013-14 🙁  He was 8 years old.  Little Coach is 2 years old now.

Little “Coach” walking his squeaky toy.
Little “Coach” at his favorite spot on the back of the couch by the big window.

With little “Coach” back up and running around like his usual self – on Thursday morning, Stilla jumped in the shower after turning on the diesel switch for the Aqua-Hot and quickly reported that there wasn’t any hot water.  Huh?!?  I went outside and confirmed that the Aqua-Hot exhaust pipe was cold.  Yup, not working!  I opened up the bay compartment to check the light panel.


The “Diesel-Burner Status” light and the “Pump # 3” light were on but the “Heating Status” light was not.  I broke out my service manual which I had printed out from the resources available on the Alpine Coach Association technical library website.  I keep this in a plastic document protector inside a plastic envelope stashed in the bay next to the Aqua-Hot system.  I pulled off the Aqua-Hot cover and began troubleshooting with my multimeter.  I did the voltage checks for the “control module” because it seemed like a good place to start.  It checked out good on all the inputs and outputs except for one test that indicated replacement of the control module.  But, the fact that the “Heating Status” light wasn’t on still bothered me, so I kept flipping through the manual and found the obscure note that indicated the tests I had just done, were only valid after ensuring that both the “Diesel-Burner Status” and “Heating Status” lights are on.

Aqua-Hot system innards. Cover removed.

Since I already confirmed that 12 volts was present at wires 22 and 23 on the electronic controller, the book led me to the coolant sensor.

Electronic Controller with panel cover removed. Located on left side wall of bay.

While troubleshooting, I had to “fool” the switch into thinking the cover was in place by using the tool below.


And here’s the culprit.  The boiler fluid “coolant” sensor wasn’t working.  There was zero resistance between tabs on the sensor and when I jumped the two wires… the Aqua-Hot fired right up!


I remembered seeing an RV in the lower parking lot back at the casino that had a banner advertising RV Service/Repairs.  I jumped in the pickup with manual in hand to see if he could help me locate a new sensor.

After playing twenty questions… the nice gentleman at the service rig concluded that my troubleshooting was sound and he gave me the number of an Aqua-Hot Service representative that was in nearby Yuma.  I called him and quickly made an appointment to meet a couple miles down the highway at Arizona exit 2.

I met Lloyd De Gerald, a factory authorized service representative – He sold me the sensor for the low-low price of only $63.  🙁  He not only had the part on hand, but for an additional $50 deposit, he also had the special tool needed for installation since the new part had wires “pigtails” already on it, so you had to use a home-made special cut-out socket to install.    After paying for the part and leaving a deposit, I went back to the Coach and drained a couple gallons of the boiler antifreeze into a bucket.  I installed the part with no problem, Lloyd even teflon wrapped and pipe-doped the sensor for me.  But then, I ran into the next problem.  My Aqua-Hot doesn’t have the radiator cap on it like most(?) models.  It only has a recovery tank… and well, you can’t fill it back up with the fluid I saved in a bucket through the recovery tank.  I called Lloyd, who had another special tool for filling these type Aqua-Hot systems.  So, I made another trip to meet Lloyd, luckily it was only a few miles away in Yuma (we’re right on the CA/AZ border by Winterhaven), and I exchanged the first special tool for the second, which is an RV water pump with quick-disconnects for easy hook up to my drain valve along with the battery clips to power it up.

While talking with Lloyd, I found out he and his wife, planned on visiting the Yuma Territorial Prison in a couple days on Saturday.  As did we… so we made plans to meet up and tour it together… I could return his special tool to him then and get my deposit back.

Once back at the Coach, (and just before dusk – we missed today’s happy hour, I might add), I used the pump to put the boiler fluid back into the Aqua-Hot system without incident and it fired right up.  Yeah!  We can shower again!

Here’s a pic of the Aqua-Hot all back together again.  This is both our hot water and heating system for the Coach.  Although we haven’t needed the heater since we left Colorado, we still need our showers 🙂


We closed out our Thursday evening with a trip over to the casino for a bite to eat and to support the local Quechan Indian Tribe by leaving some money in the slot machines 🙂

Stay tuned for my next post… the neighbor’s invited us to tag along on a 4-wheel drive trip to the Valley of the Names on Friday.  And then we visited the Yuma Territorial Prison on Saturday… Imperial Sand Dunes on Sunday… lots of pics…




2 thoughts on “Sick Dog – Sick Aqua-Hot (Winterhaven, CA)”

    1. Yes, I had an open circuit… when I checked for continuity between the two tabs on the sensor, I got no reading. I should have some gotten some value of resistance. Thanks for asking me to clarify.

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