Wednesday, February 1, 2023



Carrying propane in the wrong place can spell disaster

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

For some RVers there’s never enough room for propane. We had a smaller truck camper years back that had but a single LP cylinder, and once it ran dry, well, we were up the creek. Others find that they have two, but they’re usually 5 gallon (20 pound) cylinders, and if you run in cool country you can use up 10 gallons of LP in a big hurry.

Where can we carry an extra cylinder or two of LP? If your rig is a towable, and you use a pickup truck for towing, well, there’s usually room someplace in the bed of the pickup to stash a cylinder or two. But if you’re towing with an SUV, if your truck bed is already filled up with a truck camper, or if you’re a motorhomer, safe space can be at a premium.

RVers have come up with a variety of innovative places. In looking at some of them, the old saying comes to mind, “Some of the brightest people are RVers, but on the other hand ….” The first rule of where to carry an extra “bottle of LP” is where it’s safe. It’s surprising to see how many folks say they carry that extra LP in the “back seat of my extended cab pickup.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 6.00.54 PMWhat’s wrong with that picture? First, LP cylinders can and sometimes do leak. Mixing LP with oxygen and applying a little heat can lead to disaster. A few years back in Washington state the local newspaper published a photo of a local who stuck an LP cylinder in the back of their car. There wasn’t much left to see, and fortunately the owner wasn’t killed when the whole thing went up in smoke.

In some jurisdictions — Mississippi for example — it’s illegal to transport an LP container in the passenger compartment of any vehicle. In sunny conditions the inside of a vehicle can easily hit 140 degrees. Got a fairly full LP container and the gas inside will expand, possibly enough to blow open the safety expansion valve, releasing LP into the enclosed space.

Even if the cylinder doesn’t release gas, having an LP cylinder in your vehicle is like having the proverbial loose cannon. Say you’re rolling down the freeway at 60 miles an hour and suddenly have to panic stop. That cylinder will continue in forward momentum at 60 miles an hour until something stops it. Imagine your spine being the “backstop” for that heavy, unforgiving cylinder.

Other folks find that the truck bumper is a great place to put a spare cylinder. Fine, but what are bumpers for? To absorb the impact of an accident. If your bumper runs into something in an impact situation, something’s got to give. If it’s a propane cylinder that’s impacted, fire or explosion could be the end result.

Putting it up high on the roof access ladder might be a smarter solution–at least it’s not as likely to be impacted in a “rear ender.” Others put their spare tanks securely in a container like a “milk crate” firmly secured in the roof storage rack. Yeah, it’s really hard to get at that way, but hey, unless you hit the old “low bridge” scenario, it’s a whole lot less likely to go kaboom.

The best advice, though, is manage your propane wisely so you don’t run out.



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