Great news! I think I found the problem with the carbon monoxide issueand the water heater.
After checking a few forum posts the last few days I saw people mentioning a few things that could be the potential cause – something as simple as a gap in the seal where the gas line comes in or even a screw falling out in the burner assembly could cause enough of a misalignment it could create problems with the exhaust.
I know I did not have a problem before I ended up going down that rough road in Nebraska National Forest so I anticipated this was probably the root of the problem. It made me think that something was probably shaken loose during this off-road adventure and therein was the problem.
A few days ago I thought I would see if I could try to figure out the issue myself. With labor at a shop probably running $100+ an hour and a new tank around $400 we are talking a sizable bill to fix (and you know they are going to tell me I need a new one). If I can fix it great; if not, then at least I tried and I’ll be making my wallet much thinner.
I opened the cover on the outside of the trailer to look for missing screws. I did not see anything missing but what I found was an old mud dauber wasp nest right in front of the burner tube and igniter. Apparently it was built inside the burner chamber before I put the insect screens on there a couple of years ago. I never thought to clean it out being a newbie at this trailer life. The rough road knocked it loose and it fell in the perfect spot to cause a problem.
The other part of this is the way it is put together and installed. The water heater is installed and secured, then a trim ring with the door is attached to the heater body to pull it in tight against the outside of the trailer and has a flange that goes inside the heater housing. This is supposed to seal the interior from the firebox and burner and works fine as long as everything else is okay. I think that this joint is where the fumes were leaking in when there was nowhere else for them to go. There was no positive pressure to push the fumes out through the exhaust grate on the door.
I busted the nest apart and vacuumed it out and looked around for any other potential problems. I fired up the water heater and let it run the cycle, leaving it on for hours. There was no alarm! I even tested the CO detector to make sure it was working okay and checked the memory settings and no warnings. It looks like I just saved a bunch of money.
I have emailed the manufacturer about the issue and see if this could, indeed, cause the problem. I also want to find out of there should be some sort of seal around that flange where it slides inside the heater housing. It looks like it from the diagrams I found but I want to make sure. It could be the trailer manufacturer did not install it correctly.
I don’t know much about these but I am definitely learning. I would, obviously, rather fix the things I can myself to save money and leave the things I can’t to the professionals.