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Ask Dave: My LP leak detector is beeping. What should I do?

Answers to questions about RV Repair and Maintenance from RV expert Dave Solberg, author of the “RV Handbook” and the managing editor of the RV Repair Club. This column appears Monday through Saturday in the RV Travel and RV Daily Tips newsletters. (Sign up for an email reminder for each new issue if you do not already receive one.) Today Dave discusses a beeping LP leak detector.

Dear Dave,
My r-pod keeps beeping. I read the manual and I believe it has to do with the propane. Do you think I’m right? How do I fix it? —Janice

Dear Janice,
Per RVIA code, since the early 1990s all RVs are required to have an LP leak detector device. Most are located at the lower level of the kitchen cabinet, as LP is heavier than air and will settle if there is a leak.

This is an early model LP leak detector that was installed in a 1992 Itasca Suncruiser. The sensor inside this leak detector will create an 85 dB alarm if it detects LP present. It also would shut down the 12-volt system in the rig to prevent any LP appliance from trying to light if there was a leak. It would also sound the alarm if the house battery system dipped below 10.5 volts, which created quite an issue with units on dealers’ lots and in storage.

Older leak detectors would go off for a variety of smells

Another issue with the older units is the detector would go off not only with LP present but also from some perfumes, cleaning products, and even tales of a dog passing gas! I did not personally witness it but have had several owners claim it was true. They may need a new dog?

Newer LP leak detectors use advanced microprocessors that not only detect LP, but also butane, gasoline, alcohol, and acetone. These can also be dangerous in an RV. The alarm will sound when explosive gases are present at a lower explosion limit (LEL) – in most cases <25% of LEL of propane.

They also have a “recheck” feature. It is a slight delay to prevent a false alarm if the LP detected is just a brief incident. It will work in low battery situations down to 8 volts. Whichever type you have, if there is an alarm sounding, you need to press the test button and immediately leave the RV. Shut off the LP supply at the outside cylinder on trailers or ASME tank on motorhomes, if it can be done safely. Leave the door open to help ventilate the inside of the rig.

Determine if a certified technician is needed for the LP leak

Determine the cause/repair of the leak to evaluate if a certified technician is needed. It is always a good idea to periodically test the alarm to ensure it is working properly. Most alarms have a 5-year service life.

It is also a good idea to periodically check all LP connections with a handy LP tester to verify the connection to the stove, refrigerator, water heater and other appliances is safe.

Read more from Dave here

Dave Solberg worked at Winnebago for 15 years developing the dealer training program, as marketing manager, and conducting shows. As the owner of Passport Media Creations, Dave has developed several RV dealer training programs, the RV Safety Training program for The Recreation Vehicle Safety and Education Foundation, and the accredited RV Driving Safety program being conducted at rallies and shows around the country. Dave is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club.

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Paul S Goldberg
12 days ago

Instead of $32 for a tester keep a bottle of soapy water and drip a little on each joint. No bubbles = no leak. I have a label I made on the face of my detector with the EOL date, no need to pull it from the wall to look at the back. I had one die early – about a year – and the manufacturer replaced it gratis, only requiring that I return the malfunctioning unit.

wanderer
12 days ago

Very rarely was my propane detector actually detecting hydrocarbons, and that was from a splash of beer spilled near the meter, other times a poorly done fill at a propane supplier.

Many other times, it was just my 12V battery losing its charge, often overnight. As the battery level got low, propane and sometimes other alarms will get set off. There was nothing else to do but use the battery cutoff switch and go back to bed in the dark. In my first rig there was no cutoff switch, so the alternative was to drive to an all-night waffle joint and wait for the battery to die completely and the alarms to finally stop. In this case, you need to get a battery or 2 that will hold a charge overnight.

Dr4Film
12 days ago

What also wasn’t pointed out in this article was that LPG alarms can have an EOL beeping sound along with LED Lights to signify that the owner needs to change out the old alarm for a new one.

Tommy Molnar
12 days ago

The ‘propane detector’ in our old 97 trailer would go off all the time. Mostly because of empty wine bottles stored too close to it.

Scott R. Ellis
12 days ago

To actually answer the question: 1) charge the battery. if that doesn’t work, 2) replace the LP detector.

Bob p
12 days ago
Reply to  Scott R. Ellis

And do not check for leaks with a camper lighter.

Herb
12 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

At the end of their 5 year life they will alarm to tell you it is time to replace the alarm.

Scooter
12 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

^sage advice.

Scooter
12 days ago
Reply to  Scott R. Ellis

As mentioned above, the detector has a shelf life and some of ours start beeping when it is time to replace. Usually the led on the front will flash in a specific pattern indicating that. Read the manual to decipher the flashes and the “born on date” for the unit sometimes is stamped on the back. Sometimes the led will flash that there was an internal fault and need replacement. At any rate read the manual. If the manual was lost or thrown away, google the brand and model number. The manufacturer will have a pdf copy of the manual online.

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