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Old 08-03-2014, 06:57 PM   #1
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1991 29' Excella
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Sewer Gas Smell in Trailer - Co2 Detector Went Off

I need help with this one . I picked up my Airstream from the dealer on Saturday. It was in for a repair because the black water tank valve was not closing completely, so leakage was coming out the main sewer when cap was removed. You sure can move fast when you have to!

The dealer opened underbelly to have enough room to work to replace back water dump valve, and also did grey water at the same time (no problem with that one, but made sense since they were there). They made up new access panel and tested both tanks with water up to 1/3 full.

This morning I went into the trailer and could smell sewer gases. I opened windows, and left. Rain on the way a few hours later, so closed up windows. Heard a distant beeping noise while outside, went to investigate and it was coming from trailer, opened door and nearly got knocked out by the sewer gas smell. Panicked and shut off propane, still heavy sewer gas smell, but C02 detector stopped beeping after opening windows.

What could the problem be, and how to fix it, I am thinking the dealer should be responsible for fixing this?? Is it something I could fix? I am not mechanically inclined. Or, is it something a SOB RV place would know how to repair?

Has anyone had this particular problem, and how was it resolved?

Thanks again from a newbie- 1 year now
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Old 08-03-2014, 07:05 PM   #2
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I doubt if you have a co2 detector, you probably do have a co detector. Is it possible you are smelling LPG? And the lp detector is going off? Turn off the tanks just to be safe and see if the smell comes back. Is there water in the toilet bowl? This act as a sealant to keep sewer gas from entering the closed trailor. You can also be sure the drains for the sinks have water in them for the same reason. Hope this helps. Jim
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Old 08-03-2014, 07:31 PM   #3
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Not sure about a 1991 Airstream, but our 2005 has three detectors: smoke, carbon monoxide (CO) and propane. Please, check to confirm which alarm was activated and post results.
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Old 08-03-2014, 07:48 PM   #4
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I agree - propane DOES smell a lot like sewer gas. I was surprised at how differently it is "scented" than natural gas.

Turn off the propane at the regulator, close everything up and wait 2-4 hours then open it back up. If you don't smell anything bad it will be time to hunt down the propane leak or pilot light that isn't working.

At the risk of being too graphic, the black tank when neglected will tend to smell more like rotting vegetation (I always think of rotting celery) than like a typical house sewer.

Paula
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Old 08-03-2014, 08:21 PM   #5
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It Was Propane Gas Detector

Ok, I went out and checked what detector went off….the Propane detector! It still smells in there. I shut off propane at both tanks.

Interesting the 'kill switch' behind the couch was buzzing and very hot, this sits behind the propane tanks that of course are outside. I also turned off kill switch.

Any ideas? Smell definitely is not coming from drains, so propane it must be.
What about the 'kill switch' heat and buzzing?

I feel like a worried parent, not knowing what to do.
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Old 08-03-2014, 08:30 PM   #6
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Smell? Like rotten eggs, perhaps? Hot kill switch and noises? Could be you have a bad battery that is making at least some of those things happen. You can check that, if you don't find an LP leak.
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Old 08-03-2014, 08:37 PM   #7
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Gee, a propane leak and an electrical problem. You did it right. Shut everything down until the problems are resolved. Otherwise your neighborhood will look like Gaza! The main switch behind the couch is a pretty heavy duty switch to handle all the amps. Yours is corroded or malfunctioning causing the buzz and heat. That switch needs to come out and get inspected, repaired or replaced. Then on to the propane leak.

A good RV shop should be able to diagnose these problems and get you back to traveling. Most all RVs have propane and 12v electrical systems. A good tech can trace it down for you.

David
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Old 08-03-2014, 08:43 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by breezyway View Post
Ok, I went out and checked what detector went off….the Propane detector! It still smells in there. I shut off propane at both tanks.

Interesting the 'kill switch' behind the couch was buzzing and very hot, this sits behind the propane tanks that of course are outside. I also turned off kill switch.

Any ideas? Smell definitely is not coming from drains, so propane it must be.
What about the 'kill switch' heat and buzzing?

I feel like a worried parent, not knowing what to do.
Unplug power cord and check batteries immediately. I had the very same thing and found 1 battery boiling. Its potentially a very dangerous situation. (explosion, fire, battery acid spilling)
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Old 08-03-2014, 08:47 PM   #9
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I might add to unplug you trailer from any shore power. The 12v converter might be under the couch. Mine buzzes some, and it radiates warm air from its inefficiency. The kill switch kills 12v to the trailer, but you need to unplug to stop 115v from powering your converter. Then your trailer ought to be quite as a church at midnight.

If your dealer dropped some of the belly pan, they MAY have had to open up the propane plumbing to get it out of the way to remove the belly pan and tank valve cover. MAYBE they neglected to check for propane leaks when they finished putting it back together. Unlikely as this is, it is a serious error if they did.

David
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Old 08-04-2014, 03:30 PM   #10
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Today I checked out my Airstream after turning off propane, unplugging and turning off the kill switch. There is a residual odour hanging about from the propane, so I opened all windows and the door for most of the day, then closed up for the rain.

I will try to get her back to the dealer for the repair. Does anyone out there think they could have touched a line somehow and put a hole in it? The repair was for the black water tank lever, and grey water tank lever.

Then I have the concern about the batteries, and the heating of the kill switch. If they need replacing, can they just be replaced with regular type batteries, they are the cell type of batteries now. And what is the purpose of the converter? And is is necessary?

Thanks for your help..newbie is learning lots of new things about my Airstream..lol!
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Old 08-04-2014, 03:53 PM   #11
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It sounds to me like you have two distinct issues, one of which the dealer has already fixed. This second issue, of heat in the kill switch area, buzzing, odor and alarms going off are likely caused by bad batteries which are over charged and have evaporated all their liquid, and causing the heating and odors. This can be very messy and somewhat dangerous. The old stile Univolt single stage converter/chargers commonly cause this issue. If you are not familiar with RV electrical systems, please shut the trailer down, unplug it from the house, and take it to the dealer for further diagnosis.
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Old 08-04-2014, 05:03 PM   #12
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Hi Breezyway. Years ago Airstream was one of the first to develop the "uni-volt" system. Airstream designed everything to run on 12 volt battery power. You can spend the night in a WalMart parking lot with all the comforts of home including lights, water pressure, working fridge, roof vents, hot water, furnace, etc. Usually only the air conditioner and the microwave require 115v AC power.

The converter converts 115volt AC power to 12v DC power to run all your 12 volt stuff. It also charges your battery. You can boondock (no hook ups) for a few days on your battery, and then you need to plug in and charge it. Almost all RVs now have a converter somewhere and use 12 volts for the interior power. It is mostly a step down transformer that also converts the AC to DC.

I think PeterH is right. It sounds like you have bad batteries. They can evaporate the electrolyte fluid (acid) in the battery and then "sulfate" the lead plates. Hydrogen sulfide may be the "sewer" smell. Older style converters can over charge the batteries creating this condition.

The fun of Airstreaming is all the stuff you learn as you use your trailer.

David
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