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How do I prevent an RV LP gas leak?

Over the last few years, I have been very active on social media, in particular Facebook groups. My wife and I created a YouTube series called, “What’s in the RV Groups?” Here, we sit down to discuss the various posts and direct messages for our Facebook group members. Recently, we sat down to talk about a post that went viral involving an LP gas leak. Two campers were not aware that their RV had an LP gas leak. One of them lit the propane stove to cook breakfast and it caused the RV to explode and catch on fire.

Check out the post and our discussion:

RV propane detector basics

An RV propane detector is meant to alert you to a possible propane leak. These propane detectors do have an expiration date and, on average, their expiration date is five years. Additionally, these detectors are typically wired into the RV’s 12-volt power supply. Should your power supply go below 12 volts, that alarm will sound as a safety mechanism because it needs to have the right power supply to properly detect LP. If your alarm sounds, it could very well be that the alarm has expired or you don’t have ample power supply. Or you could have an LP gas leak.

Propane itself does not contain odor or color. This is why gas companies add mercaptan to give it a distinctive smell. But a propane leak may be slow enough that it might not produce a strong enough odor to be detected early, which is why a functioning detector is a must! Additionally, should you be sleeping, the smell of mercaptan will most likely not wake you. Even though propane isn’t highly toxic, if the propane leak is large enough it can suffocate you as it forces oxygen out of the unit.

Propane detectors are typically installed low on your wall because propane is heavier than air. When the detector senses a certain concentration of propane, it sounds an audible alarm as well as a light indicator alerting you to possible danger.

What should you do if your LP detector alarms?

As mentioned earlier, your detector could alarm due to low voltage or the detector is expired. Even so, propane is a combustible gas so we do want to be cautious! Should your detector alarm, turn off the propane supply before you do anything. The shut-off valve is located on the LP tank. Turn the valve clockwise (“righty-tighty”) to turn off the propane supply. Have everyone vacate the RV, including pets. On your way out of the RV, open some windows to help ventilate the unit.

True alarm

Should the alarm shut off after you have turned off the LP supply and ventilated the unit, this indicates you truly do have an LP gas leak and it needs to be located and repaired as a priority. The leak could be something simple, such as a stovetop burner didn’t get completely turned off, or the knob got bumped allowing propane to leak.

If your stovetop knobs are all in the complete off position, it could be other RV appliances (refrigerator, water heater, furnace) failing to ignite, also allowing propane to continue to escape. Lastly, your unit goes through an earthquake going down the road. If you are not comfortable working on propane appliances and/or the leak isn’t somewhere obvious, it’s time to seek assistance from your certified RV repair facility.

False alarm

However, if the alarm is still chirping after 30 minutes of having the LP supply turned off and windows opened, it’s possible you have a false alarm. Check the expiration date on your detector, and check your battery voltage.

Don’t pull a “Tim Allen”

My wife is constantly on my case and often reminds me, “Don’t pull a Tim Allen” whenever I am tempted to take on a project that I am not skilled in. We hope this article serves as your reminder to take your LP gas system seriously. Ensure your batteries are in good condition to provide the right power supply to your detector. Set a calendar reminder when your detector is close to expiring. And let the experts step in when a propane leak isn’t obvious. The risk simply isn’t worth it!

LP detectors and more

Do you need a new LP detector? They are available in many different shapes, sizes, mounting and colors. Please measure and find the right fit for you below.

More from Dustin

Read more of Dustin’s articles here.

Dustin owns and operates California RV Specialists, an independent RV repair shop located in Lodi, CA. He thrives on sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm of RV repair and maintenance with his team, customers, and virtual friends.

Be sure to check out his YouTube channel where he shares what’s going on in the shop and the product offerings in the store. Dustin is also very active on Facebook. Join his group, RV Repairs and Tips – What’s in the shop!

Dustin proudly operates the business alongside his wife, Ashley; but the true pair that run the show are their Boston Terriers, Arvie and Hitch.

##RVDT2025

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Cecilia
30 days ago

Unfortunately, I guess we can assume this was a double fatality after looking at the pictures. So sad.

J J
30 days ago

“The leak could be something simple, such as a stovetop burner didn’t get completely turned off, or the knob got bumped allowing propane to leak.”

That is why we always turn the propane tank off when we leave the campground. We may leave the dog inside and while he has never jumped up on the stove that we know of, he could easily bump one of those knobs on. The gas in the lines would still leak out but at least it won’t be the entire tank feeding the leak.

Pets also are why we shut the campground water spigot off when we leave. Friends had their cat bat the sink faucet on. The gray tank filled and overflowed the shower. They came back to water running out the locked front door.

Water OFF and propane OFF when leaving, every time even if the dog is with us. Performing the same routine every time helps assure we do not forget.

Jim Johnson
30 days ago

Our bigger RV trailer is semi-stationary and used seasonally. Shortly after we arrived this past fall we heard an intermittent beep similar to a low battery warning on the smoke & CO detectors. But it was the propane detector. We evacuated and gave the RV a chance to air, but the beep continued. The flashing LED signalled it was no longer reliably working. So far as I could tell, there was no separate fuse. I removed the device from its surface mount and clipped a lead. The date on the back indicated it was just over 5 years old.

I immediately ordered an exact replacement. Upon arrival I just had to connect it with a couple butt connectors and all was well and we were relieved Since this is a dated item, I plan to order a replacement just shy of 5 years down the road and proactively replace the detector.

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