Water heater malfunction
For the past several days my water heater has been malfunctioning. It's an Atwood G6A-8E, 6 gallons, propane, with direct spark ignition.
It would take several tries to start (that is, to light). Sometimes I'd have to turn it on and off several times before it would start. Each time, it makes three tries, then gives up. It would always start eventually, but that's a pain.
After it eventually started, the flame would be very unsteady, with constantly changing sound, and I could peer in and see the flame jumping around.
Could be several things: obstructed (dirty) gas jet, a $1 part; something wrong with the burner assembly, a $30 part; bad gas regulator, price unknown; possibly the igniter board, which I have replaced before, a $75 part.
First things first: I remove the burner assembly and inspect it. Looks OK to me. Then I unscrew the jet and peer through the orifice. Aha! The hole looks smaller than expected, and isn't round! Probably that's it. I scrub it with a retired toothbrush and toothpaste, after which the hole looks bigger and is perfectly round.
Put it together. Run some hot water so it'll want to start. Turn it on.
Success! It starts instantly, burns very steadily, and heats more quickly than it has been doing lately.
Cost to repair: $0.00. Well, I did use a penny's worth of WD-40 to make sure the screws and the jet would come out smoothly.
Time to repair: about 1/2 hour of easy work.
Moral: Always try the simple things first.