RV Doctor – Question About RV Propane Tank Leakage

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August 27, 2009

Dear Gary,

I had my propane tank filled last a couple of months ago while leaving a campground. Two weeks later I went on another campout and noticed my propane level at a quarter tank on the inside gauge. I checked the tank gauge and had the same reading. I don’t smell a leak nor did the alarm go off so I was wondering if I got ripped off for a fill up or what else could have happened. All other propane appliances work fine.
– Jerome Townsend, (Rockford, IL)


Gary BunzerJerome, it may be impossible to tell if you’ve were shorted during your last refill, but you can determine if you have any LP leaks with 100% accuracy. You’ll need a water column manometer to perform a complete LP leak test.

Before that, however, check this; I’m not sure how old your RV is, but some LP ranges have a setting on the thermostat of the oven that allows pilot gas to enter the burner area. If you have a “Pilot On” or “Pilot Off” position on the thermostat knob, be sure it is in the “Pilot Off” position. Typically however, you would smell the presence of LP if this valve is left open. Be sure all four of the LP burning appliances are fully off.

Also, keep in mind a small LP leak anywhere underneath the coach would, most likely, not be noticeable by nose. The LP would expand and dissipate quickly in the outside atmosphere.

I recommend a full-coach LP leak test periodically. (I’ve sent you the complete procedure for leak testing your coach using a manometer in a separate document). If a leak is determined, you’ll have to start eliminating appliances by capping off each appliance, one at a time, then running the leak test each time. In some cases, propane can leak “through” an appliance valve and you’d likely not even notice it.

If none of the appliances are at fault, you’ll next have to bubble test each fitting in and on the RV. It’s not uncommon for flare nuts to loosen over time due to the jostling and wracking an RV goes through while traveling. Take your time; patience will pay off if a leak is indeed present. If no leak is found through the manometer tests, you can perhaps suggest the dealer did not properly fill the container at your last fill-up or you’ve used more LP than you first thought.

(Please feel free to comment, however, please also note that due to the volume of communications I receive from multiple channels I cannot guarantee a personal response in every instance. However, questions of an overall general interest may be considered and published in an upcoming RV Doctor column.)

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  5. Wayne Bernard

    I enjoy your program and thought I’d pass on something I learned about older refrigerators.
    I purchased a 1076 Class C motorhome. It’s a good starter to learn about repairs.
    The refrigerator would not cool.
    I cleaned it up, pulled the unit out and stored it upside down for several hours.
    As long as I kept the rig level, I can maintain cooling.
    Keep up the great work.

  6. Michael Wentz

    I have a water manometer, but I need instructions on how to use it to check for propane leaks.


  8. i have a old lp gas tank about 30 years old and i want to take it off what should i do
    sholud i use all of the lp gas first that is left in the tank

  9. John Jackman

    I am a certified propane filler and I often find that people come in to fill when the tank has some propane left in it. Another aspect is how old is the tank. If it is over 10 years it is no longer refillable. Tanks have a date stamped on them that is month of manufacture and a certification symbol and year of manufacture. If over 10 years it is no longer legal to fill.
    All propane users should look up and understand what is involved with propane filling and usage. Propane is not generally treated as a highly explosive gas so I would urge all users to ask questions when they get fills .

  10. We went on a 2month Alaska Vacation and used only $6.00 of Gas we used the Stove just about everyday we cant understand the low usage.
    The on board LP Lights are for the BIrds thy all read Wrong eveyone of them.
    Iwonder if thy can be fixed so thy read propery other than that we like our 2007 Winnebago Aspect .