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Old 12-29-2012, 10:25 AM   #1
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Newbie propane question

This morning, while boondocking, we noticed the fridge switched from "gas" to "check". The propane indicator at the tanks pointed a red arrow to one of the tanks. According to the manual, this means the tank is empty so I ...
1) closed the valve on the empty tank and opened the valve on the full tank
2) turned the knob on the regulator (from pointing at the empty tank) to the full tank

Is this correct procedure?
The fridge did already switch back to "gas" and the furnace is heating again (it's 27F here this morning).

2nd question: now that I for the first time had to perform an action related to the propane, after opening the valve on the full tank, I can hear and slightly smell the gas when I'm standing over the tank.
Is this normal?

3rd question: I wonder why one tank was closed. I thought we have an automatic gas regulator? If I'm correct, this means we can turn both tanks open and the regulator will draw from one and when empty, automatically start drawing from the full one?

See below a picture of the regulator.

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Old 12-29-2012, 10:37 AM   #2
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It is definitely not normal to smell propane.

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Old 12-29-2012, 10:39 AM   #3
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You are correct.
If you smell gas there must be a leak.
Shut it off and check all connections. When you turn on the gas again soap the connections(dish soap in water) and the rubber hoses. If you see bubbles you have found the leak.
The other thing the regulator does for you is that when one tank is empty and you switch the dial with the arrow to the full tank the empty one can be removed to get it filled without turning the gas off to the trailer.
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Old 12-29-2012, 11:15 AM   #4
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I tested with soapy water. I tested both connections by hooking up the full tank and opening it.
The connection that was being used these past weeks leaks 'a little'.
The connection that I started using this morning is leaking a lot more.
Both connections are leaking right in front of the knob which is connected to the tank.

For now I have hooked up the full tank to the connection that was used before (which leaks a little).

Good idea for now I assume?
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Old 12-29-2012, 11:21 AM   #5
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There are AS'ers out there with much more experience than I but for what it's worth I open the valves on both tanks and leave them open. The pointer on the valve points towards one or the other. That is the tank that your propane is being drawn from. When that tank is empty the switchover valve will automatically switch it's draw to the other tank. The pointer will stay pointing to the empty tank. You now can turn the valve off on that tank and remove it for refilling without any interruption in your propane usage. When you re-install the newly filled tank you can switch the pointer to the other tank and the process continues.

I find I might very briefly smell propane upon disconnecting the tanks but very briefly and only a little bit. If you find a propane smell during usage you must track down the leak and repair it.
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Old 12-29-2012, 11:24 AM   #6
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From your description (a little unclear), it sounds like it's leaking either where the two hoses connect out of the regulator or from the regulator itself.

Short of finding out exactly where the leaks are, it's probably not a shabby idea to replace the regulator along with the two hoses.


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Old 12-29-2012, 12:11 PM   #7
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It is not uncommon for the high pressure hoses that run from the tanks to the regulator to leak and need replacing. You might consider doing that as they are 17 years old now, if original.

Be sure to fully open the valves on the tanks. They sometimes leak around the valve stem if not fully open.
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Old 12-29-2012, 12:55 PM   #8
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Newbie propane question

Greetings jornvango!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jornvango View Post
This morning, while boondocking, we noticed the fridge switched from "gas" to "check". The propane indicator at the tanks pointed a red arrow to one of the tanks. According to the manual, this means the tank is empty so I ...
1) closed the valve on the empty tank and opened the valve on the full tank
2) turned the knob on the regulator (from pointing at the empty tank) to the full tank

Is this correct procedure?
There isn't a "required" procedure, and it seems that most RVers have their own preference. My usual routine when stopping for the night is to first turn on the "active" tank to be sure that it isn't showing up as "red" then turning on the "inactive" tank so that I don't get the unwanted surprise of no hot water or heat from the furnace when needed. If the "active" tank displays as "red", I turn off its supply valve and open the valve on the "inactive" tank and switch the regulator to the formerly inactive tank. When I find that I have an empty tank, I take it to be refilled as soon as I have completed my setup procedure . . . when a tank runs out while I am parked, I add it to my must-do list for the next travel day unless it is during weather where the furnace is needed . . . then it is something to be done as soon as the nearest LP supplier is open. I always travel with the tank valves closed as I don't trust or like natural gas or LP gas appliances/plumbing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jornvango View Post
2nd question: now that I for the first time had to perform an action related to the propane, after opening the valve on the full tank, I can hear and slightly smell the gas when I'm standing over the tank.
Is this normal?
The odor producing chemicals added to LP gas have some variance in strength depending upon the supplier. I find it normal when first opening a valve to get a very brief smell of the LP odor, but it subsides very quickly. I generally carry a bottle of a liquid leak detector that can be brushed on the connections to verify that there isn't a leak when the valves are fully open. The sound of LP Gas flowing is normal in my experience, particularly when the tanks are full or nearly full.

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Originally Posted by jornvango View Post
3rd question: I wonder why one tank was closed. I thought we have an automatic gas regulator? If I'm correct, this means we can turn both tanks open and the regulator will draw from one and when empty, automatically start drawing from the full one?
There isn't a "required" paractice in this regard, and some RVers find it a necessary reminder to open only the "active" tank so that they have a definitive reminder when one of the two tanks need to be refilled. As originally manufactured, your Airstream came with an automatic switchover regulater . . . but as with many things on a Vintage Airstream it is impossible to predict exactly what a previous owner may have done in the way of modifications.

Your coach, if my notes are correct, was produced prior to the time that OPD valves became a requirement. While the valves on the tanks should have been replaced prior to their re-certification, it is something that a previous owner may have "overlooked". I believe the first re-certification for our LP tanks is required at 12 years of age . . . so the tanks on your coach should have been re-certified and upgraded to OPD valves in either 2006 or 2007 depening upon when in the 1995 model year it was produced. The pre-OPD valves can be more difficult to successfully connect without leaks . . . the metal-on-metal connectors require substantial strength to get the connections to fully seat . . . a problem that I often encountered with the pre-OPD valves on my '64 Overlander. The new OPD valves provide the option of utilizing the original metal-on-metal connectors . . . or you can upgrade the hoses on your regulator to the modern acrylic connectors that are much easier to successfully obtain leak free connections (and they don't require the long wrench for leverage). When I had my LP tanks switched over to OPD valves, I also had new regulators installed with the modern acrylic connectors . . . a move that I have never regretted.

You can identify an OPD valve utilizing the photo below:



A regulator with the modern acrylic connectors can be observed in the photo below:



Good luck with your coach!

Kevin
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Old 12-29-2012, 01:21 PM   #9
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Kevin, propane regulations in the US vary by state, but in many of them, one cannot legally fill a vertical cylinder that does not have the OPD valve, no matter what the recertification date is.

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Old 12-29-2012, 01:24 PM   #10
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I interpretted your statement to say they are leaking at the tank, correct? If so I am pretty sure all of the plastic knob connectors have an O-ring, check to see if this is cracked or missing.

The old metal to metal connections are LH thread without an Oring so if this what you have you may need to shut down the propane, and check the fittings for dirt or damage. clean with a dry cloth and reassemble.
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Old 12-29-2012, 01:30 PM   #11
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Greetings Lynn!

Quote:
Originally Posted by eubank View Post
Kevin, propane regulations in the US vary by state, but in many of them, one cannot legally fill a vertical cylinder that does not have the OPD valve, no matter what the recertification date is.

Lynn
My local suppliers have insisted upon OPD valves on my 20, 30 and 40 pound tanks since the regulation went into effect. I tend to forget that they aren't so particular everywhere . . . .

Kevin

P.S.: I was also thinking that re-certification requires the presence of OPD valves, and that it was a US DOT regulation in that regard. It seems that Illinois is usually among the first five states in the adoption of many such regulations . . . .
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Old 12-29-2012, 01:50 PM   #12
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Sometimes a tank that runs empty or is about to run out will smell . The stuff they put in the propane to make it smell becomes concentrated at the bottom.

If the soap test shows bubbles, and tightening doesn't fix it, time for some new parts.

All good advice above. I might add that running both valves open can lead to 2 empty tanks if you don't check the little window regularly. If the empty tank switches over, and you don't keep check, the second one may empty out at the worst time, like the middle of a cold nite. This time of year the furnace can make short work of a bottle of propane. Plus, sometimes getting the gas flowing again after it has run dry can be a pain.

John
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Old 12-29-2012, 01:52 PM   #13
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Something you might want to check. Back in February I discovered a leak where the pigtail lines from the bottles connected to the regulator. (See http://www.airforums.com/forums/f287...nes-87526.html) It was leaking at the factory crimp. The pigtail was only about a year old. All the replacements I got leaked at the same place. I went through every pigtail of every length that my propane supplier had and only found one that didn't leak. I finally got another that doesn't leak at my local Airstream dealer. They aren't the same length, but at least they don't leak.

Now my tanks of propane last a lot longer!

They were all Marshall Brass products. It turned out that Marshall had a production issue. The local propane suppliers have not been able to get replacement pigtails since then.

Marshall is located in San Marcos, by the way. Contact Us

As far as the switching regulator and the bottles go, I leave both open so I have uninterrupted service.

Well, I'm off to have a bottle filled right now. Most of our 6-12 inch accumulation of snow and ice has melted off, but it's still cold. It's about as unusual here in Little Rock as it is in Austin.
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Old 12-29-2012, 04:20 PM   #14
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Lots of good advice given to your question. I am of the school that would replace your supply lines to stop the leaks. If for no other reason, it will save you money on propane.

As far as the running of the tanks I follow the "leave them both open" school of thought. If you are not going to check your tanks then open them one at a time so you won't run completely out. Of course, you might have to get out of bed in the dead of night to go out and switch over.

Sandlapper has pointed out a big issue when you run your line dry. It sometimes is difficult to get things to run again. This is why I don't want to run my first tank dry before I switch over to the second one. The crossover valves are designed to make life easier. Just like running with your fridge on, I would add.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sandlapper View Post

All good advice above. I might add that running both valves open can lead to 2 empty tanks if you don't check the little window regularly. If the empty tank switches over, and you don't keep check, the second one may empty out at the worst time, like the middle of a cold nite. This time of year the furnace can make short work of a bottle of propane. Plus, sometimes getting the gas flowing again after it has run dry can be a pain.

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