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Espar B4L Heater not starting at Elevation

37455 Views 322 Replies 60 Participants Last post by  brío
So I installed a Espar B4L in my 2020 transit, under the passenger seat and have a problem with the heater starting when I am at elevation.

I live in Boise ID, at around 3k feet elevation, when down here in the valley my heater starts 99% of the time without issues. When I travel to my local ski area around 6800K feet the heater NEVER starts first try and generally will take around 30+ minutes of trying to get the thing started. Once it does starts at elevation, it will run absolutely fine stopping and starting. When I got back down in elevation it also will always start fine, and then back up to elevation I again have the problem.

Ive completely taken apart the entire gas line from the pickup in the tank all the way to the heater, ensuring rise, fittings, etc are perfect... still have the same problem of getting it started at elevation.

Heatso has been sorta OK to work with, but I feel like they dont really know either. They will be sending me a new ECU (when they get them in a couple weeks).

Has anyone had this problem, is there a trick to getting it started I could use until i get the root cause sorted?

Appreciate any pointers!
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I'm also getting ready to install my B4L in my 2021 HR extended AWD Transit. I've been scrounging the forum and other places to be prepared as possible as this is likely to be one of the most complex jobs in my buildout.

Here is a video I found showing a standpipe installation from a knockoff heater, I like when they show their struggles & mistakes.


In my Espar B4L kit, the standpipe is included. The standpipe has what looks like a length of fiber optic line running through it and moves freely within it. Should this piece of plastic remain? Perhaps it helps with the cavitation issue? Since it is not secured in the standpipe in anyway, maybe it would get sucked into the fuel pump?

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In my Espar B4L kit, the standpipe is included. The standpipe has what looks like a length of fiber optic line running through it and moves freely within it. Should this piece of plastic remain?
Found my answer, in case anyone else has the same question, it is to prevent debris from getting inside the standpipe and should be discarded before installation.
 

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Let us know where you end up putting that standpipe into the tank!
My heater installation has been complete for a while now and it works great. Just some extended test runs so far as the weather is just now about to turn cold. Here are pics of the standpipe install location in the fuel pump:

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The length of the standpipe was decided by Espar to work in any fuel tank, it is not specific to the Transit. It is up to the installer to trim it to be the correct length for the vehicle it is being installed into. Leaving the standpipe to its full length leaves you open to running your fuel tank dry and/or picking up debris that may accumulate on the bottom of the fuel tank. I trimmed mine to be about the same depth as the aux pickup.

Being that you already installed it, I'd just be very mindful to not use the heater if the fuel tank is below 1/4 full.

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Im about to pull the trigger on a 2022. I have the Auxiliary fuel port extension line 63F currently in my order, but plan on putting the espar in my van. From reading this thread (and others), I would not even be able to use the auxiliary fuel port extnsion line with the espar, correct? Ie, save my money and don't order this option?
thanks
I'd agree that you'd be better off not getting the extension and instead installing the Espar standpipe and fuel line.
 

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I'm going to continue on this thread even though this is a bit of a tangent.

I have the Espar M2-B4L and live at 7200ft. I've had my heater installed for several months now but never ran it for more than 10 minutes or so just testing it and it always runs fine. Recently, it got cold out and I decided to run it to keep warm while working on the van. After running fine for about 25 minutes, the heater shuts down with these error codes:

P000129 (Flame cutout within the control range 75% – 100% )
P000342 (Invalid configuration, Check ADR coding).

This is repeatable and consistent, every time I try.

I found an Espar document called "Repair Instructions" and for the P000129 error it says to do a fuel quantity test to see how much fuel is being provided in 60 seconds. The document has a chart with min/max values. I ordered a graduated cylinder to perform this test. However, the document does not have any remediation steps should the quantity be too high or low. Anyway, once the cylinder shows up, I'll do this test.

Since it seems I may have a fuel problem, I inspected the fuel lines while the heater is running. I noticed there are air bubbles in the fuel line after the fuel metering pump but none before it. I found some references online that refer to tiny bubbles in the fuel line after the pump to be normal. I disconnected the fuel line on both ends of the pump and they look good. I trimmed some of the slack out of the line and reconnected with no change in behavior.

Here are a couple videos of the fuel line in action, unfortunately the video compression makes it a little tough to see:

Also in the "Repair Instructions" document, I see this reference: "– For precise fuel measurement, at least 11 / 22 volt or maximum 13 / 26 volt should be applied to the control box during the measurement."

My electrical system is based on a lithium battery and the voltage generally sits between 13.5 and 14.1. Espar support has previously requested that I change my system from lithium to lead-acid for the heater when debugging another issue but I couldn't pin them down as to why this would be necessary. I don't have a 12v 20A power supply to test with, but I'm thinking a regulator stabilizer like the MaxxAir fans require might be useful if the heater is also sensitive to the higher voltage.

Unfortunately, I don't know if I am experiencing 1 or more than 1 problem right now.

I'd appreciate any input.
 

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Can you do a test below 4000 feet elevation?
I was on the east coast a couple weeks ago before I knew I had the problem. I may be going back in a couple more weeks. If that trip happens, it will be interesting to see if there is a difference.
 

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Thanks for the input. Espar support wants me to go to the service center in Denver. I'd like to exhaust all other avenues first. I ordered the 12v voltage stabilizer and a replacement fuel metering pump. I don't like blindly throwing money at a problem, but this is likely cheaper than a trip to the service center.

Also, here is a website with Espar troubleshooting & background info that I haven't found before. It was worth it (for me anyway) to read through some of their pages. https://www.letonkinoisvarnish.co.uk/eberspacher_fuel_1.html
 

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Can you do a test below 4000 feet elevation?
Just an update -

I'm now at sea level and I get the same result as when I am at 7250 feet. The heater runs fine for about 25 minutes and then stops with the P000129 (Flame cutout within the control range 75% – 100%). Watching the fuel line when it is running, it looks exactly the same as when I am at altitude. No bubbles before the fuel pump, some small bubbles after.

I'm not in a position to do any more troubleshooting until I get home in 3 - 4 weeks.
- I have the 12v voltage stabilizer at home.
- I am still on the hook to do the fuel quantity test. If it is too high, the remediation is to replace the fuel pump. If it is too low, the remediation check the fuel lines for leaks or blockages.

The fuel pump I ordered from EsparParts was for the previous generation heater and won't work with mine, so I sent it back. I guess it would have been nice if their product description was clearer about that. I'll have to find another source for a new pump since EsparParts doesn't carry the newer version of the pump.
 

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so I am about to put in order soon for 148 WB medium roof, and the extended 31
gallon Tank will be one of my options, so it sounds like the gasoline heaters are
not really very compatible with the auxiliary fuel line and its not worth the extra
100 bucks for option 63F, if you got to drop the tank anyway for the better fuel
line system??
That is the general consensus, the option is not useful for gasoline heaters if you plan to use the heater at altitude.
 

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Here's an update on my heater troubleshooting, it's been a while and this thread is many pages long, so first a recap:

- Performed a DIY install of the Espar M2 B4L with the Espar standpipe
- The heater fan would run, but heater itself would not start (Error code P000223)
- Contacted Espar support in Canada and they had me send them the ECU which they reflashed.
- Updated ECU allowed heater to function and I thought all was good since I didn't run it for more than 10 minutes
- Months later, I attempted to run the heater for longer periods of time and discovered that the heater would shut down with
P000129 (Flame cutout within the control range 75% – 100% ) and occasionally
P000342 (Invalid configuration, Check ADR coding).

So now I pick up with additional steps from the troubleshooting guide and Espar tech support:
- tested at sea level, I live at about 7250 feet, no difference
- purchased and installed a voltage regulator so the power source is now 12.44 volts instead of 13.5v of the lithium battery - no change
- purchased & installed a new fuel metering pump - no change
- performed the 60 second fuel quantity test many times, results in about 5ml each time when 8.1ml is the desired quantity
- performed fuel quantity test with alternate fuel metering pump, same result
- Since the fuel quantity test was low, I suspect an impingement between the fuel tank and the Espar fuel metering pump. I repeated the fuel quantity test with a gas can as the fuel source and a different piece of Espar fuel line, same result (5ml instead of the desired 8.1ml)

Next up:
- is it possible I got 2 bad fuel metering pumps that behave nearly identically?
- I'm relatively confident that the fuel line from the van sending unit to the heater fuel metering pump is clear since the gas can test produced the same results.
- the heater ECU could still be bad?
- the Easy Start Pro controller could be bad?
- start over with a whole new kit? $$$
- ThermoKing service center? $$$

I've sent this info to Espar support. I haven't seen any posts anywhere on the web that anyone has had to go this deep into troubleshooting one of these heaters and I think Espar support has exhausted their bag of tricks for me.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

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Can you use a larger supply line and test with the pumps to see if it makes a difference?
The Espar provided fuel line matches the diameter of the standpipe, the fuel metering pump input & output ports as well as the heater's fuel input port. This is the same fuel line that is used in most installations without issue. This is also the same fuel line I used in my previous van without issue, although that was diesel. Without enlarging the ports, I doubt that using a larger diameter fuel line is likely to help.

I do appreciate the suggestion.
 

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Maybe an adjustable pump like this would work.
Thanks, I'll reach out to him and get his thoughts on compatibility with my heater and whether it could solve this problem.
 

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Some updates:

Espar support said that the fuel quantity test may be a red herring since I am at 7250 ft elevation and the automatic altitude adjustment is likely sending less fuel. They did not offer an exact quantity for my elevation, but felt the 5ml result should be fine. They asked me to perform these troubleshooting steps:
  • validate the flame sensor
  • validate the temperature sensor
  • run without the air intake hose
  • run with kerosene for 30 minutes (assuming the heater runs that long)

@skTransit Thanks for that info. I did round out the fuel line ends with a tiny pick, it was just habit from working on bicycles and replacing cable housings that require the same thing after cutting. I didn't verify the ID of the fuel line yet, but it would give piece of mind.

@Janus9 I did reach out to James, and yes, he is impressive and responsive. I will try to work through these other troubleshooting steps before pursuing. Although, worst case, his pump might help troubleshoot since I would have control over the flow rate.

@brío Thanks, with the update from Espar support about the difference in fuel quantity, I'll hold off with that for now.

@gregoryx Espar does not seem to want to replace anything. Their warranty work must be done through a service center. Thermo King is the only service center that I am aware of in my area. Their hourly rate is high enough that it is possible that I could buy a new unit and come out ahead, especially since each test takes about 15-30 minutes to generate the error code. Maybe I'm just being stubborn in not wanting to deal with Thermo King to my own detriment. We'll see where this round of troubleshooting goes and maybe I'll soften my stance.

If you are interested, see page 26 & 27 of the attached Espar repair doc for how to test the sensors.

Thanks all for your input. I'll post an update when I have more.

EDIT: removed obsolete version of the Espar Repair Instructions doc. See subsequent post for more recent 01.2021 version.
 

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Here is another update:

1) Run heater without air intake hose - no change. Heater shut off after about 15 minutes with a P000129 error code.

2) Test sensors. I located the XS2 connector coming from the EasyStart Pro controller.

The 10.2019 version of the "Repair Instructions" document I have differed from the screenshot of the doc sent by Espar support. The 10.2019 version shows chambers 1 & 3 for the overheating sensor where the screenshot shows chamber 1 & 2. The 10.2019 version shows chambers 1 & 2 for the flame sensor where the screenshot shows 2 & 3. Anyway, I took readings from all 3 possible combinations and the results are:
1 & 2 - open, no reading
2 & 3 - open, no reading
1 & 3 - 1221 @ 6°C

I reverified that the 4 wires from the main harness to the EasyStart Pro all match their respective colors. I do not have the optional external temperature sensor.

I have not yet run the kerosene test as I think we are onto something with the sensor test.

Here is the screenshot Espar support sent that is different from the repair instructions doc I posted above (click to expand):
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The Espar support folks are off for a few days, I'll post another update when I hear back.
 

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I got an update from Espar support:

  • the latest Espar Repair Instructions doc is attached, the one I posted earlier was obsolete.
  • I'm back to my original support guy, he insisted the sensors are not the problem and would not address the fact that I could not get valid readings.
  • He insisted that I use a non-lithium battery as the power source, even though I have a voltage regulator providing 12.44 volts to the heater. He said they have problems with lithium batteries and they don't know why. So they won't support systems with lithium batteries.
  • He wants me to compare the performance using kerosene as the fuel since there won't be bubbles after the fuel metering pump with kerosene. He wants the fuel quantity test and a 30 minute run test with both fuels.
  • he is convinced that there is nothing wrong with the heater and the problem is in the fuel delivery. He offered that there could be a heat source causing the fuel in the line to heat up causing a problem like the van's exhaust system or a large wiring harness.

After the phone call, I felt that nothing good was coming of this troubleshooting effort....just despair.

Since the phone call, the heater ran for about 90 minutes for first time ever and then shut itself down. What's different? It is freaking cold out (15°F). The gas in the gas tank is very cold and the heater exhaust pipe is dissipating heat quickly.

Watching the fuel line while the heater is running, I still see about the same amount & size of air bubbles after the fuel metering pump on this cold day compared to warmer days.

I've run several more tests and they are all running far longer than when I've tested in warm weather, but all still fail eventually in the same way (P000129).

Next I ran with a leaf blower pointed at the bottom of the van where the heater is. This was successful for 3 hours until I removed the leaf blower and then the heater shut down again in about 10-15 minutes. I think I can now conclude that the issue is heat buildup below the heater affecting the fuel in the fuel line or the pump.

I took temperature readings shortly after removing the leaf blower while the heater was still running.

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Basically, the fuel line quickly heats from 60 to 100 to 180 in about the last 3 inches approaching the heater.

I had split loom on the fuel line, it is currently off from all the fuel testing I've been doing. The behavior was no different with the split loom in place.

Questions for anyone still reading:
- what is unique about my install that no one else seems to be experiencing this?
- how best to protect the fuel line from the heat?
- how best to contain the heat in the first few inches of the exhaust?

Thanks for following my painful, circuitous journey, hopefully I'm getting close to getting this resolved.
 

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@RidingRoadsAndTrails - to my eye that's a clean-looking install - nice work! Sorry you've had such a tough time with this. Here's some ideas for consideration.

1) Is your fuel pump oriented the right way? I recall that the power-wires for my fuel pump were on the 'push side', not the 'pull side'.
It is for sure. I believe they changed the orientation with the M2 version.

2) Is your pump angled properly? The push side needs to be 15-30 degrees (or so) higher than the pull side.
Yes, it is, about 20°

3) What is the ratio of 'push line' vs 'pull line'? I think the pumps work best if the pull side is shorter than the push side.
I hadn't heard about this before. I'd guess 3 - 4 feet on the pull side and just under 1 foot on the push side. I could possibly move the pump almost 1 foot upstream but the fuel tank prevents going any further. Most of the fuel line is along the top of the fuel tank.

4) Does your fuel line follow a steady positive angle, without high spots?
On the push side, yes. On the pull side, it is pretty level with a low spot where it comes under a van support.

With my heater, you can watch small bubbles travel up the fuel line with each pump pulse, steadily without interruption and without gathering into a larger bubble at a high spot. Hopefully you see something similar.
Yes, same.

FWIW I have similar spacing between the fuel line and exhaust line, have no heat insulation and have not experienced any heat-related issues.

PS I use lithium batteries.

May you find the solution quickly.
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Not sure if this helps as we have not tried it yet at high elevation, but when we had our Espar heater installed we also had a "High Altitude Kit" installed as there were reported issues @ high altitude.
The latest generation of the Espar heaters have the altitude adjustment built in, so there is no longer the need for an additional high altitude kit. My Espar D2 from 2016 did require the high altitude kit.
 

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Update on my Espar saga: I got an unexpected call from Mike who is the lead Espar trainer for North America. Apparently, when I thought the support guys had essentially blown me off, they forwarded the email string to Mike. Mike said he is the last resort for the support folks. Mike clearly has far more hands-on experience and real-world knowledge with the heaters. He'll be doing training locally in a few weeks and even offered to meet with me if we don't have the issue resolved by then. (y)

We went through some troubleshooting and he did identify an installation error that I made. He said this is actually the most common mistake installers make. The test is to unplug the heater from the harness and measure the resistance between pins 1 & 3 on the main harness connector. The reading must be 60Ω but 58-62 is tolerable. Mine was 118Ω. He identified that I was likely missing the 120Ω resistor on the EasyStartPro connector. Fortunately, I had saved it in my parts box and plugged it into the extra EasyStartPro connector and then the reading went to 60.2Ω. Fortunately, or unfortunately I wasn't experiencing any of the issues that usually come about when this happens, so the behavior of my heater did not change. Anyway, it is good to know that my install seems to be validated.

He made a point that the harness is super susceptible to EMF radiation from other wires and be sure to not zip tie the Espar harness to any other wires and to keep the harness as isolated as possible.

Next time I talk to him, I'll ask about the lithium battery issue.

Now to the problem at hand. He felt that the reason my heater is susceptible to the heat buildup under the heater is that there is too much vapor in the fuel line between the pump and the heater. Essentially, the pump is working too hard pulling fuel, causing excessive cavitation. I did the gas can test again, this time with a shorter fuel supply line and there did seem to be fewer bubbles coming from the pump. While under the van, I saw that I could reroute and shorten the supply side of the fuel line by about 10" and made that adjustment. That did not seem to change anything noticeably, but it is currently so cold out that the same levels of heat that I experienced before would not build up under the heater and trigger the shutdown. I'll test that again when it warms up a bit outside.

Mike reinforced what a number of you have already said, it is harder for the pump to pull than to push. The closer I can get the pump to the source, the better. While under the van this morning, I saw that I can move the fuel pump upstream by about 18" so that the pump will essentially be at the side of the fuel tank just next to the sending unit location. That will likely be my next move when the weather clears.

Happy New Year!
 
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