What is an RV propane or gas leak?

Adventure 3 min read

Propane leaks in an RV can happen for many reasons. Often a propane leak in an RV can be due to cracks in the propane line, which can occur over time due to normal wear and tear. It’s important to identify when something is wrong with your propane tank and act. An ignored propane leak can cause damage to your RV or result in breathing problems or a potential explosion.

What are the signs of an RV propane leak?

There are some telltale signs that your RV leaks, according to Arnold Chapman, founder of online automotive magazine ELDFocus. When trying to find a propane leak, Chapman says you might notice the following:

Propane smell

The easiest way to detect a propane leak is with your nose. Propane is naturally odorless, but gas companies add something called ethanethiol for safety purposes. It has a distinct smell like rotten cabbage, which can alert you to an RV propane leak. Note that you may not smell a leak if it’s small or occurs in an enclosed compartment, so this shouldn’t be your only method of checking for RV propane leaks.

Unusually high propane consumption

When an RV propane tank leaks, it runs out of propane faster than it should. A propane leak can be hard to catch if you’re new to RVs. Chapman recommends monitoring your propane-heated appliances, like the stove and water heater. You may need clarification on what level your tank should be. Also, note how much propane you go through each week. If you go through half a tank one week and two tanks the next week while your usage has remained stable, there’s likely an RV propane leak.

DSI error code on water heater or refrigerator

A DSI (direct spark ignition) error code can show up when the propane gas tank is empty. An error code may indicate that a leak caused the propane to drain out. Even if you don’t see an error code, you may want to check for a leak if you notice your water heater or fridge isn’t operating as it should.

How to find a propane leak in an RV

One of Chapman’s top recommendations is to install a propane leak detector. They operate similarly to a carbon monoxide detector and will alert you if propane gas is present in your RV’s air. You can also use an RV propane leak detection solution to confirm whether there’s a leak. Chapman recommends the following three steps.

1. Turn off the propane tank

First, find the tank service valve and turn it to the right until it’s firmly in the “off” position.

2. Apply a propane leak detector

You can buy these solutions from your local hardware store. Apply the leak detector solution to your regulator outlet and cylinder valve connections. If you cannot find a leak detector solution, you can also use a mixture of equal parts dish soap and water.

3. Open your tank service valve

Slowly open the valve and look for bubbles. If there’s a leak, the solution will bubble up to show you where the leak is coming from.

Tighten and close the cylinder valve

Close the cylinder valve, tighten the connection, and then check for bubbles again. If they still appear, Chapman advises calling emergency services for assistance.

What to do if you detect an RV propane leak

If you discover a leak in your RV’s propane tank, Chapman says the following steps can minimize potential danger and damage to your RV.

  • Call 911 immediately: Your local fire department can respond to situations and are trained in how to handle propane leaks.
  • Step away from the RV: Make sure everyone exits the vehicle and leaves distance between themselves and the RV.
  • Schedule an inspection: Get an RV inspection and determine the best action to prevent any future leaks.

Now that you know how to identify an RV propane or gas leak, and what to do if you find one, you might want to get some tips about RV hookups for beginners.

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