Ever walk outside and wonder why you have a propane smell outside your RV? Not a good feeling knowing that there is a potential hazard. RV safety is all about being aware of your surroundings. As an RV owner, you will become aware of the signs and symptoms of when something is wrong.
If you smell propane outside your RV, it’s essential to take action immediately. Propane is a gas that can be explosive, and even a tiny amount of it can be dangerous. Here are some steps to stay safe if you smell propane outside your RV.
For propane safety, it’s best first to understand the system so you can better determine the smell and the location of the propane leak.
Table of Contents
- Propane System
- Location of Gas Leak
- How To Detect Leaks
- How To Repair A Leak
- How To Reconnect A Fitting
- How To Check Your Repair
Your RV propane system consists of a propane tank (usually the same size as a bbq grill tank), a propane regulator (adjusts the pressure), hoses or gas line (with fittings), and the appliance (hot water tank, RV furnace, and stove).
Anyone of these locations can be the source of the leak. The system is pressured, and any crack or loose fitting will allow the propane gas to leak. Even with your propane valve closed, you can still have an odor and leak.
The good news is that most of the gas line, propane tank, and regulator are exposed to the exterior and have easy access for you to test and repair.
Location of Gas Leak
The most common place for a propane leak is the fittings where the hoses connect to the tank or a pipe. These fittings can loosen over time or be damaged by corrosion or vibration. Since your RV is mobile and bouncing on the road, connections can loosen over time and be a good place to start detecting your leak.
How To Detect Leaks
Detecting a propane leak is not difficult, but it is important to do it properly. You will need to know the odor of propane and look for clues that a leak may be present.
One easy way to check for leaks is soapy water. You can get a bottle of water and a little dish soap. Or, I sometimes get a wet paper towel and put a couple of drops of soap on it. You can then squeeze the water and soap out of the paper towel onto the suspect area.
The thought with the soapy water is that any air leaking will show bubbles (and a gas leak). I recently did this on my propane tank hose and discovered a leak – see photo above.
How To Repair A Leak
Once you detect the leak, there may be different options depending on the leak’s location. Since most leaks occur at the fitting, I will review how to make those repairs.
First, I suggest that you close the valve at your propane cylinder. Since the line is pressurized, there will still be some propane in the system. It won’t be a good idea to disassemble or losen any fittings with a full pressured system.
If your leak is at a fitting, try to tighten that connection. Sometimes it’s as simple as a connection that has become loose due to vibration caused by driving down the road. Don’t go too tight. The gas line system has flare connections, so it will work as long as it is a firm connection.
Plus, most connections use a softer metal or brass. This helps make a better seat (seal) on the flare connection. But the bad news is that the soft metal can easily be damaged to stripped if tightened too hard.
Sometimes just tightening won’t work, as there may be corrosion causing a bad seal. If this seems to be the case, completely remove the connection and inspect for any debris or damage that may cause a leak to the system.
How To Reconnect A Fitting
Once you take apart and fit, it is important to use a pipe thread sealant. This will help seal the threads and prevent future propane leaks.
There are many brands out on the market. Below are two I have used in the past and just picked up at Home Depot.
- Hercules Megaloc Sealant
How To Check Your Repair
Once you make your repair, it is important to check to make sure you completely stopped the leak. It is best to go around your RV again and use the soapy water method. Pay special attention to your repair and make sure there are no more bubbles.
Knowing you have a propane gas leak is concerning and should get your attention. First, follow propane safety by turning off the valve at your propane tank. Then, check connection leaks using some soapy water. Then, either re-tighten or remove and clean your fitting. Finally, recheck the fitting to confirm the gas leak is fixed.
If you notice any other smells, especially by your RV battery, check out why my battery smells like rotten eggs.
Tony is an avid camper and RV traveler. He fell in love with camping on his first RV trip with his wife over 25 years ago. Tony loves sharing lessons learned and tips about RV maintenance and safe traveling.