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Old 11-06-2013, 07:36 PM   #1
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Propane Smell

Hello all,

I just purchased a 36' 1990 Airstream Land Yacht and there is a slight (and periodic) scent of propane. Should I call the fire department (not really) or is this normal. Thanks for the continuing education!
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Old 11-06-2013, 07:52 PM   #2
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I will assume you mean inside the coach.
Are the tanks getting close to empty?
Is it propane or the exhaust fumes you smell?
Have you tested for leaks?
Do all appliances work?
What appliances are operation when you have the smell?
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Old 11-06-2013, 09:05 PM   #3
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If the oven pilot light is on, it can give a slight propane smell, especially if you are getting close to emptying a tank.
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Old 11-06-2013, 09:21 PM   #4
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Please clarify, are you inside or outside.
I get a propane smell outside after filling the tanks because the tanks vent themselves when they are completely full and exposed to direct sunshine. This is okay,

I get a propane smell inside when my wife leaves a burner in the "on" position without lighting it, and I drive for two hours.This is not okay.

In your 1990, I believe you still have a pilot light. You must raise the stove top and light the pilot every time you turn the propane on. Otherwise, the propane pilot will emit propane until you light a burner with a wand or a match, that will in turn light the pilot.
In the mean time, you are leaking propane into your Airstream.
In my early Airstreams, I turned the pilot off and used a wand to light the burners thus avoiding the confusing and potentially dangerous riddle, is the pilot lit or is it not lit.
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Old 11-06-2013, 10:22 PM   #5
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I have propane, carbon monoxide and a dual action smoke alarm in my trailer to make sure I don't wake up dead. I don't have one but you could get a propane sniffer.
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Old 11-07-2013, 07:10 AM   #6
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I am not a Do-It-Yourselfer in propane so one of my own first actions after purchasing an older trailer would be to have an RV tech check out the propane system and appliances (as well as the running gear and brakes).

Having said that, as propane tanks get close to empty you will notice a slight odour inside the trailer - this drove me nuts till I found that it was normal.

You are going to love your trailer - and welcome to the forum!!


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Old 11-07-2013, 07:47 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RangerJay View Post
I am not a Do-It-Yourselfer in propane so one of my own first actions after purchasing an older trailer would be to have an RV tech check out the propane system and appliances (as well as the running gear and brakes). Having said that, as propane tanks get close to empty you will notice a slight odour inside the trailer - this drove me nuts till I found that it was normal. You are going to love your trailer - and welcome to the forum!! Jay
I have never smelled propane when "low"....
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Old 11-07-2013, 07:48 AM   #8
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The smell is actually coming from outside the coach in the vicinity of the propane tank.
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Old 11-07-2013, 07:51 AM   #9
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If you've not recently filled the tanks, check all the connections with a spray bottle of soapy water looking for bubbles.
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Old 11-07-2013, 09:28 AM   #10
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What SteveH Said

Do what SteveH said.
Always carry a small spray bottle (mine is about 6 oz) of dilute dish soap. Label it. Test your propane connections for leaks before every trip and after refilling tanks.
Expect some venting when tanks have been filled to capacity.
But venting is different than leaking.
Learn to recognize the difference for peace of mind.
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Old 11-07-2013, 11:26 AM   #11
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I would check the pilot lights first. On our coach, I can turn off the pilot on the stove and oven. Like a previous commentator, we use a long lighter to light the stove and oven. Ditto on the furnace, we just don't turn it on and use supplemental heating if we need it.
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Old 11-07-2013, 09:29 PM   #12
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The smell of propane is outside vice inside, I have made an appointment with a local RV service center to check the propane issue (it is the same shop that recently conducted a state inspection), I will do the soapy water thing tomorrow. I will let you know. Also, when is comes to generators. The previous owner (and the shop) says the generator was working fine but it won't start now (sounds like it is going to but won't). Does it feed off of the gas tank? Will it not start if the oil is low? I intend to conduct some routine maintenance (oil filter change, oil change, etc) and try it again. Any other suggestions?
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Old 11-07-2013, 09:49 PM   #13
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Hey beerob63, I just went through "realizing" a leak myself. This is one aspect of the RV experience that I was concerned about. I would advise to become familiar with propane yourself as you work through the smell per se. The reason is that, at any time you can have a gas situation. Last spring I was camping in 40 degree weather and ran out of gas. I simply went to switch the tank (I leave the auto valve on manual) and there was no gas. I KNEW that I had both tanks filled before leaving so something was wrong- was a valve on the hose. Then later I had a leak, and then a refrigerator install (propane too) and on and on. Recently I found a leak at my right tank's regulator attachment hose. I purchased some of that pink leak detection stuff at the camping store (probably like soapy water) so the advice others are giving is valuable.
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