Propane Safety Tips for Recreational Vehicle Users

You, propane, and the open road! (image: fernwoodbigsur.com)

With the warmer weather making its way to us, thousands of people across the country will be fueling up the ole’ RV, and hitting the road. In addition to regular maintenance under the hood of your RV, it’s important to remember you’re driving around with a well-contained, but volatile propane system. While LPG (liquid petroleum gas) is used by millions and is very safe when used properly, it’s also highly explosive and can be dangerous if neglected. Take the time now to take a look at the overall safety of your system.

There are two different types of propane containers and systems, and which one you have is dependent on what kind of RV you’re driving. The Department of Transportation (DoT) cylinders are mainly mounted, upright, in the back of travel trailers and folding camping trailers. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) cylinders are positioned horizontally in the larger motor homes.

While most systems are perfectly safe, there are rare instances of propane leaks leading to explosions (rarely!) or carbon monoxide poisoning. This is why the system in your RV should be inspected annually by a service professional. And in the meantime, there are things you can do to make sure everything is running smoothly.

Checking For Leaks

This should be done periodically, between annual inspections. There are portable leak detectors than you can buy for this very purpose. Or you can simply spray the connections with soapy water. If you see bubbles, you’ve got a leak. Immediately turn off the main supply valve until the leak has been repaired by a professional.

Know Thy Cylinder

If you’re using DoT cylinders, make sure to always transport them in an upright position, secured to something in the vehicle. While there are plastic rings designed specifically for this purpose (see video below), you can just as easily use a milk crate or a cardboard box to keep it from rolling around.

Also keep in mind that DoT tanks are good for 12 years after their manufacture date, and must be re-certified for use every five years after that. Don’t rely on the propane seller to check the date, even though they are supposed to.

Before You Go

Here’s a quick list of things to check out before you get on the road:

– Check that exterior vents are clear of sticks and debris

– Inspect propane system for rust, corrosion, or wear and tear

– Make sure you have properly installed carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers!

In the Rare Event of a Leak

Ok, it could happen. And if it does, here’s what you do:

1. If you smell gas, leave immediately, only stopping to put out any pilot lights or smoking materials.

2. Leave the door of your RV open to air out.

3. Turn off the supply valve on the propane tank.

4. Call 911 or the local fire department.

5. Do not turn the system back on until it has been repaired and inspected by a trained professional.

For a real-life demonstration of some of the things discussed above, check out this episode of Everything RV. Happy Camping!

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