Tuesday, October 26, 2021


Propane leak tests — Here’s one from the Darwin Awards!

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

St. Amant Fire Department

Here’s another reminder from the Darwin Award files. A 79-year-old RVer in St. Amant, La., had a problem with his motorhome. Somewhere there was a gas leak, and he just needed to find it. You know the rest of the story — take out a cigarette lighter, strike off a flame, and KABOOM! While the RVer only flew 20 feet, some of his motorhome rocketed off nearly five times as far, damaging three nearby homes.

Amazingly, the unnamed man wasn’t seriously injured. A responding fire official is quoted as saying, “I don’t know how this cat walked away from that, it was unbelievable.” The fireman estimated the blast strength as equivalent to a half-dozen pipe bombs.

So, for the record, kids, how do we check for gas leaks?

Old faithful: Mix up a solution of liquid dish soap and tap water. Here’s the recipe: 1 teaspoon of soap to 2 cups of tap water. Put the liquid in a spray bottle — don’t shake it up, just gently swizzle it to mix the contents. Spray on any suspect area and watch for bubbles.

Commercial: Camco makes a liquid gas leak spray solution, and it comes in its own little spray bottle. It’ll fit in your toolbox or junk drawer. It works the same way as the old faithful brew.

Portable electronic detectors: We have one of these, and it’s right along the lines of the neatest thing since sliced bread. We keep ours tucked in the door pocket of our tow vehicle so we can check for leaks when we reconnect an LP bottle after filling. We also use it whenever we make up a new connection on a gas line, or “think” we might have a leak. Here’s one you can pick up on Amazon that gets good reviews and costs less than $35.00.

Yes, I know some who use the old, “light a match and hold it near the joint” method. They’re entitled to their choice of testing methods, but I simply ask them to call me at least 15 minutes ahead of a test cycle. That way I can make sure I’m FAR away from ground zero.

##RVT797 ##RVDT1329


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1 year ago

Galvanized pipe has a bursting pressure of about 8,090 psi.

1 year ago
Reply to  Tom

Chinese or USofA made?

4 years ago

My wife and I have been thinking that our propane tank is leaking a little bit, and I think that your tip to make a solution and look for bubbles would be helpful! We don’t use our propane a ton, but we want to make sure that we’re safe when we do. I’m going to have to make some dish soap solution and see if our propane tank is blowing bubbles or not! Thank you!

4 years ago

“The fireman estimated the blast strength as equivalent to a half-dozen pipe bombs.”
I would like to know what the strength of one pipe bomb is, then I can calculate the strength of six of them.
This tells us absolutely nothing. I just wonder how many pipe bombs this fireman made to know their strength?

RV Staff (@rvstaff)
4 years ago
Reply to  Jim

Hi, Jim,
That news item was from quite some time ago, and was just used as an illustration of what not to do to find a propane leak. Why do you need to know the strength of one pipe bomb so you can calculate the strength of six of them? “This tells us absolutely nothing.” Really?! The point being made was to not use a flame to find a leak — not how to build a pipe bomb. We’re trying to keep our RVing readers safe — not turn them into bomb makers. And I’m sure the fireman who made that statement had a pretty good idea of the strength of an average pipe bomb. I’m also sure you could find everything you need to know about making bombs online, if you need to know that badly, but not at RVtravel.com. —Diane at RVtravel.com

1 year ago
Reply to  RV Staff

I know this is old, but I do agree with Jim. Why did the fireman use a pipe bomb for a comparison, it tells me nothing. He could compare to the amount of methane that 10 full grown steers produce, or the amount of energy spent at a frat party “Blue Flame” night. And where did the comment “..not turn them into bomb makers” come from? Who started talking about making them?

RV Staff (@rvstaff)
1 year ago
Reply to  WEB

I agree, WEB. When I read Jim’s remark two years ago, for some reason it sounded like he wanted to make a pipe bomb. I got pretty defensive, didn’t I? Sorry. 🙁 —Diane

Bob Wexler
4 years ago

You missed another approach. Use a gas pressure meter and a pressurized leak down test. I just found it very effective at finding 3 leaky gas valves in my home that I never suspected after changing some gas pipes at the opposite end of the home.