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Propane Smell in Trailer


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A couple of days ago I heard a ringing sound coming from the tanks at night when the heater would kick in. I switched to the other tank and the sound disappeared but the night after that the heat failed. I checked out the regulator and it showed all red - both tanks empty. I thought there might have been a strange smell in the trailer. 

 
We drove quite a ways to get the tanks filled. I filled up one but noticed the other one was quite a bit heavier than the empty tank and did not refill it.  I turned on the furnace for a brief period (we were on the road) but this time it really stunk and we didn't sleep in the trailer.  We tried turning on the furnace the next day and we both could smell something. 
 
Oliver advised us to get the trailer tested at an RV shop and we will on Monday. 
 
In the meantime, I got a little gas detector, washed the smell out, turned on the furnace and everything was normal!?
 
  • Was it just low propane levels combined with the gauges perhaps left open? 
  • Should the system have worked with one completely empty tank and one tank that was probably a third to a quarter full?
  • Are there better regulators out there?
  • Is something else going on?

2023 Chevrolet Express 4x4 - 2019 Oliver Legacy Elite II - Hull 529 - Roaming the Western US with Skye (my dog) (and at times my Canadian partner). 

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39 minutes ago, Cort said:

s something else going on?

like you actually had/have a propane leak somewhere between the tank and the furnace?  Tomorrow when the system is pressure tested you should know the answer to this question.

How cold was it when the problem first came to light?

41 minutes ago, Cort said:

Should the system have worked with one completely empty tank and one tank that was probably a third to a quarter full?

yes as long as you had the regulator on either "automatic" or pointed towards the tank that was 1/3 full.  There are circumstance's when this statement is not true but for the most part, those circumstances are rare.

 

51 minutes ago, Cort said:

Are there better regulators out there?

probably, but unless there is a reason to suspect that your current regulator and/or gauges are faulty - why change them?

 

It would be helpful if you filled out your "signature" line such that members of the Forum had a better idea about the age of your Ollie and, therefore, be in a position to give you better advice.  You also might want to review the "proper" way to "open" your propane tanks.  Also, yes, there are gauges that will reasonably show you the level of propane left in a tank (look up Mopeka). 

Bill

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Thanks - it was in the 40's at night. The question about the regulator is that it showed that the tank was empty when it wasn't. Right now the regulator shows that full tank is only partially full and it looks about as full as the partially full tank even though that tank is a lot lighter. 

Thanks for the Mopeka idea. 

I put the information (year of trailer, type)  in my profile...Is there another place it should be?

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1 minute ago, Cort said:

I put the information (year of trailer, type)  in my profile...Is there another place it should be?

Yes - look at the bottom of my post above and you will see information about my tow vehicle and my Oliver listed.  You can put this same information in all your posts by left clicking your mouse on your Avatar.

Then left click on "Account Settings".

Then scroll down a little bit until you see "Signature" on the left side of your screen.

Then left click on Signature.  When the new window pops up you can fill out any detail (such as you see at the bottom of my posts) regarding your tow vehicle and Ollie.

If you have problems - just PM me.

Bill

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11 minutes ago, topgun2 said:

Yes - look at the bottom of my post above and you will see information about my tow vehicle and my Oliver listed.  You can put this same information in all your posts by left clicking your mouse on your Avatar.

Then left click on "Account Settings".

Then scroll down a little bit until you see "Signature" on the left side of your screen.

Then left click on Signature.  When the new window pops up you can fill out any detail (such as you see at the bottom of my posts) regarding your tow vehicle and Ollie.

If you have problems - just PM me.

Bill

Got it - thanks 🙂

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2023 Chevrolet Express 4x4 - 2019 Oliver Legacy Elite II - Hull 529 - Roaming the Western US with Skye (my dog) (and at times my Canadian partner). 

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First, see if testing reveals a leak in the system.

42 minutes ago, Cort said:

The question about the regulator is that it showed that the tank was empty when it wasn't. Right now the regulator shows that full tank is only partially full

There is no "partially full" indication on the regulator. The indicator just tells you if an auto switchover has occurred. It should be either green or red, but not both. What position is the little arrow lever on the regulator in? It should be pointed at one of the tanks, not in the center. Our lever got accidentally knocked into the center position once, resulting in a "1/2 full" indication when one tank was actually full.

For automatic operation with one tank full and the other partial, point the lever at the partial tank. When it empties, it should auto switch to the full tank. Switch the lever, fill the empty tank, and proceed normally.

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All modern propane systems have a safety feature that will shut down the flow of propane if there is a surge beyond that which is normal.  

I was in a hurry and fired off the refer, stove and furnace after storage.  The combination shut down the regulator.  Simple solution is to turn off all propane users, disconnect the tank hoses. Reconnect, and crack just a bit your tank valve and light off one stove burner.  it will purge any air and you can ignite the burner.  Let it burn for a few seconds and then  fire off the refer and furnace and hot water heater.  This process assumes that your regulator was sized to fire off all your propane appliances sequentially and to use them at the same time with some surge capability (but not much). 

That said, if the regulator was changed out to one of lesser capacity, then all bets are off.  Regardless give the system 15 seconds or so between light offs.

Other consideration:  The colder your tanks are the less their flow capability is.  

Concerning auto change over valve.... I never use it.  I would rather get up on a cold raining night and manually change over when a tank runs out.  That way I KNOW what my tank status really is. 

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4 minutes ago, Geronimo John said:

Concerning auto change over valve.... I never use it.  I would rather get up on a cold raining night and manually change over when a tank runs out.  That way I KNOW what my tank status really is. 

I was like this too, but now I leave it in auto and just check the tank when I know one is getting low. Then I’ll pull it and have it filled. I have the optional 30 gallon tanks on mine. 

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1 hour ago, Steph and Dud B said:

First, see if testing reveals a leak in the system.

There is no "partially full" indication on the regulator. The indicator just tells you if an auto switchover has occurred. It should be either green or red, but not both. What position is the little arrow lever on the regulator in? It should be pointed at one of the tanks, not in the center. Our lever got accidentally knocked into the center position once, resulting in a "1/2 full" indication when one tank was actually full.

For automatic operation with one tank full and the other partial, point the lever at the partial tank. When it empties, it should auto switch to the full tank. Switch the lever, fill the empty tank, and proceed normally.

We did keep the arrow level pointed to one tank or the other. This is what it looks like right now. The tank on the right is the full one. 

IMG_4868.jpg

2023 Chevrolet Express 4x4 - 2019 Oliver Legacy Elite II - Hull 529 - Roaming the Western US with Skye (my dog) (and at times my Canadian partner). 

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35 minutes ago, Geronimo John said:

All modern propane systems have a safety feature that will shut down the flow of propane if there is a surge beyond that which is normal.  

I have been in a hurry and fired off the refer, stove and furnace after storage.  The combination shut down the regulator.  Simple solution is to turn off all propane users, disconnect the tank hoses. Reconnect, and crack just a bit your tank valve and light off one stove burner.  it will purge any air and you can ignite the burner.  Let it burn for a few seconds and then  fire off the refer and furnace and hot water heater.  This process assumes that your regulator was sized to fire off all your propane appliances sequentially and to use them at the same time with some surge capability (but not much). 

That said, if the regulator was changed out to one of lesser capacity, then all bets are off.  Regardless give the system 15 seconds or so between light offs.

Other consideration:  The colder your tanks are the less their flow capability is.  

Concerning auto change over valve.... I never use it.  I would rather get up on a cold raining night and manually change over when a tank runs out.  That way I KNOW what my tank status really is. 

" Simple solution is to turn off all propane users, disconnect the tank hoses. Reconnect, and crack just a bit your tank valve and light off one stove burner.  it will purge any air and you can ignite the burner.  Let it burn for a few seconds and then  fire off the refer and furnace and hot water heater." 

Great idea! Thanks :). I wonder if we did something like you suggested to tweak it. We were without any heat with some propane left in one bottle (the other was as bone dry as propane canisters get) but maybe the levels were too low at that temperature to get the system going. I was getting frost on some things. 

Another learning experience! 🙂

2023 Chevrolet Express 4x4 - 2019 Oliver Legacy Elite II - Hull 529 - Roaming the Western US with Skye (my dog) (and at times my Canadian partner). 

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Posted (edited)

As GJ points out above - there are a number of things that can cause "issues" with propane - and  - these issues tend to be more prevalent when the temperatures are low - and - the lower the temps go the even more prevalent things become.

This is at least one of the reasons that it is a good thing to teach yourself about EXACTLY how your propane system works.  Not only follow GJ's advice above but also learn the proper procedure for exactly how to open the valves on your tank(s).  "Sniff" a small bit of propane at least once a year or so such that the distinctive smell gets burned into your brain - I would say refreshed but somehow that just doesn't seem right.  Propane, methane, some smells from your grey and/or black tank can all smell similar, but, they are certainly different.  And, by all means, don't take any of this lightly (no pun intended).  If you even think that you smell propane DO NOT even turn a light on or off.  I don't mean to scare anyone but knowledge is a good thing in most cases.

Bill

p.s.  Please let us know what the results of your pressure test are come Monday.

Edited by topgun2
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It may also be time to replace your lp monitor. You have a 2019. 

Logic tells us if you smell the rotten egg smell of propane, even if the sensor doesn't go on, turn off propane, and find the cause.

 

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18 hours ago, Cort said:

In the meantime, I got a little gas detector, washed the smell out, turned on the furnace and everything was normal!?

I recently installed GasStop devices on each of my propane tanks. It is designed to perform a ‘minor gas leak test’ by following a simple procedure; very useful feature when a gas smell is detected to determine if you have an actual leak in the lines or supplied systems (appliances). With this feature, one can troubleshoot and perhaps save time, money and more importantly their camping adventure, by not having to shut down and have the system otherwise checked out. However, if an appliance is suspect and a problem not obvious, precautions should be taken and any service performed by trained professionals. As some have stated, the gauge on the pressure regulator is not a gas level indicator, whereas the GasStop does indicate tank ‘pressure’ and useful in knowing when a tank is near empty. The GasStop also has a ‘purge’ feature to prime the system prior to use. 

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16 hours ago, Cort said:

A couple of days ago I heard a ringing sound coming from the tanks

I’ve heard tank sounds, as well, more of a ‘high-pitched whistling’ rather than ‘ringing’; probably a difference in interpretation. Mostly detected when a tank is low and drop in ambient temperature; thinking maybe coming from the tanks safety cutoff valve. Briefly switching the pressure regulator to the other tank and then back again after a short period usually resolves the issue.  Not a concern unless there is a propane smell, that very distinctive mercaptan odorant that has a sulfur-like smell. 

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15 hours ago, Geronimo John said:

Reconnect, and crack just a bit your tank valve and light off one stove burner.

I just opened a tank valve for the first time since installing GasStop devices. To my surprise, the ‘prime’ feature worked great; 5 pumps to purge, then straight to the stove burner and it lit immediately. Yahoo, liking this!

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1 hour ago, Ronbrink said:
18 hours ago, Cort said:

A couple of days ago I heard a ringing sound coming from the tanks

I’ve heard tank sounds, as well, more of a ‘high-pitched whistling’ rather than ‘ringing’

That's the high/low pressure regular diaphragm. They can do that, especially in cold weather with high propane flow. Our last fifth wheel did it and the regulator was mounted right under the bedroom. 🤨

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Stephanie and Dudley from CT.  2022 LE2, Hull #1150: Eggcelsior.

Tow vehicle: 2016 GMC Sierra 6.0 gas dually 4x4.

Our Oliver journey: Steph and Dud B's RV Screed

Where we've been RVing since 1999:

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18 hours ago, Cort said:

Great idea! Thanks :). I wonder if we did something like you suggested to tweak it. We were without any heat with some propane left in one bottle (the other was as bone dry as propane canisters get) but maybe the levels were too low at that temperature to get the system going. I was getting frost on some things. 

When we first got our OE2, I too ran out of propane, more than once honestly.  Stupid mistake on my part.  My problem was the auto change over valve and my inattention.  Certainly there are not some nice monitoring systems, but they are not infallible for sure.  My solution, which would not work well for a trailer not attended in extreme weather, but works for us, is to not use the auto change over valve (as suggested above).  And to pull the tank out and leave it in the TV for ASAP refill.  

Although we are warm weather campers, I have insured that should we find ourselves in a situation where heating of our Ollie is essential, I have options that independently can do so:

  • Use the furnace.
  • Use shore power or generator to run our Houghton Heat Pump
  • 3000W Inverter and lithium's to run the Heat Pump or other options.
  • Use shore power or generator to fire off an old fashioned 1500 watt electrical induction heater
  • Get into the TV and fire off it's heater
  • Go to a hotel!
  • And if dire, crack a window and MaxFan and heat with the stove top.  (Dire emergency Only due to dangers of CO)

I strongly encourage all owners to access their heat options.  The more options, the better.

GJ

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On 1/6/2024 at 1:06 PM, Cort said:

Was it just low propane levels combined with the gauges perhaps left open? 

Propane is odorless.  But, the odorant that is added to propane, mercaptan, settles in the bottom of propane tanks.  When you get down to the last bit of fuel in a tank, the odorant is more concentrated, so you smell it much more readily when using a propane appliance.  That could explain the strong odor you "washed" out.

Like you, we have had similarly confusing readings from the gauge on our stock two-tank regulator.  That is why we now have a Mopeka tank sensor installed on the bottom of each tank.  They have proven reliable for us.  $66.29 for the pair from Amazon.  Tanks levels are reported to a smart phone via bluetooth.

image.thumb.jpeg.8e75784afec2ace3baeb15fe8a3d89fa.jpeg

I also carry a handheld combustible gas detector in our Hull #1291. 

The one pictured below, $27 right now from Amazon, has worked well for me.  It is very sensitive.  The siren sound it emits grows louder the closer you place it to a combustible gas leak.  Should one of our noses detect the odor of mercaptan, I can quickly isolate the leak and address it.  The great majority of leaks in RV propane lines occur at fittings, which loosen over time as you drive down the road.  Often, all that is needed is to tighten a fitting.

Not only is it worth the peace of mind, but even if only used once, it is less expensive than a motel stay!

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16 minutes ago, Rivernerd said:

Not only is it worth the peace of mind, but even if only used once, it is less expensive than a motel stay!

Or a hospital visit.

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On 1/6/2024 at 6:24 PM, SeaDawg said:

It may also be time to replace your lp monitor. You have a 2019. 

Logoc tells us if you smell the rotten egg smell of propane, even if the sensor doesn't go on, turn off propane, and find the cause.

 

Thanks for that - we are replacing that. 🙂

2023 Chevrolet Express 4x4 - 2019 Oliver Legacy Elite II - Hull 529 - Roaming the Western US with Skye (my dog) (and at times my Canadian partner). 

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On 1/7/2024 at 5:54 AM, Ronbrink said:

I recently installed GasStop devices on each of my propane tanks. It is designed to perform a ‘minor gas leak test’ by following a simple procedure; very useful feature when a gas smell is detected to determine if you have an actual leak in the lines or supplied systems (appliances). With this feature, one can troubleshoot and perhaps save time, money and more importantly their camping adventure, by not having to shut down and have the system otherwise checked out. However, if an appliance is suspect and a problem not obvious, precautions should be taken and any service performed by trained professionals. As some have stated, the gauge on the pressure regulator is not a gas level indicator, whereas the GasStop does indicate tank ‘pressure’ and useful in knowing when a tank is near empty. The GasStop also has a ‘purge’ feature to prime the system prior to use. 

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On 1/7/2024 at 7:28 AM, Steph and Dud B said:

That's the high/low pressure regular diaphragm. They can do that, especially in cold weather with high propane flow. Our last fifth wheel did it and the regulator was mounted right under the bedroom. 🤨

Ha! Good to know - thanks!

2023 Chevrolet Express 4x4 - 2019 Oliver Legacy Elite II - Hull 529 - Roaming the Western US with Skye (my dog) (and at times my Canadian partner). 

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On 1/7/2024 at 11:23 AM, Geronimo John said:

When we first got our OE2, I too ran out of propane, more than once honestly.  Stupid mistake on my part.  My problem was the auto change over valve and my inattention.  Certainly there are not some nice monitoring systems, but they are not infallible for sure.  My solution, which would not work well for a trailer not attended in extreme weather, but works for us, is to not use the auto change over valve (as suggested above).  And to pull the tank out and leave it in the TV for ASAP refill.  

Although we are warm weather campers, I have insured that should we find ourselves in a situation where heating of our Ollie is essential, I have options that independently can do so:

  • Use the furnace.
  • Use shore power or generator to run our Houghton Heat Pump
  • 3000W Inverter and lithium's to run the Heat Pump or other options.
  • Use shore power or generator to fire off an old fashioned 1500 watt electrical induction heater
  • Get into the TV and fire off it's heater
  • Go to a hotel!
  • And if dire, crack a window and MaxFan and heat with the stove top.  (Dire emergency Only due to dangers of CO)

I strongly encourage all owners to access their heat options.  The more options, the better.

GJ

For sure the more options the better - It's pretty darn cold right now in the southwest.  We are on the way to this one - 

  • 3000W Inverter and lithium's to run the Heat Pump or other options.
  • and maybe this one - generator

 

Thanks

2023 Chevrolet Express 4x4 - 2019 Oliver Legacy Elite II - Hull 529 - Roaming the Western US with Skye (my dog) (and at times my Canadian partner). 

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There have been several posts concerning furnaces not working (no flame) and full tanks. Nothing wrong with furnace including sail switch.

 

It turns out the gas stop or emergency cut off were the culprits. They restricted the flow of propane. This provided insufficient flow to allow the furnace to start and operate properly. 

This information came from posts on Oliver Owners Facebook site.

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