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Old 08-26-2015, 09:41 PM   #1
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What is this obnoxious sulphur smell inside our trailer?

We are traveling in Colorado and Wyoming. Last night, after setting up our 2004 Classic 28, and going out for awhile, we returned to a distinct sulphur or rotten egg smell in the trailer. It wasn't the water or our tanks or the trailer park sewer system.....we checked that out. It was most evident in the living area and in the front half of the trailer, but during the night with the windows closed it permeated everywhere. This morning my husband saw liquid dripping from the battery compartment. He left that open and we thoroughly aired out the trailer today and the smell seems to be gone. Tonight, we have closed the windows again and there is so far no smell. My husband thinks maybe it was battery acid that had expanded and leaked out as we gained altitude going into the Rockies. I would like to confirm that and do anything else that we need to do to in light of the incident. Any ideas? Thoughts?


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Old 08-26-2015, 09:43 PM   #2
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That's your propane. Something is leaking. Is the oven or range on and unlit? Shut everything down and find the source of the leak.
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Old 08-26-2015, 09:59 PM   #3
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Ok. Do they add that bad smell to propane like they do to natural gas?


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Old 08-26-2015, 10:04 PM   #4
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Yes, pure propane is essentially odorless as is natural gas. A tiny amount of methyl or ethyl mercaptan is added as a safety warning precaution.
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Old 08-26-2015, 10:15 PM   #5
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I would check the batteries. We had that sulphur smell once and it was a battery going bad or being overcharged / overheated. It was quite strong!!!

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Old 08-26-2015, 10:27 PM   #6
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I second the battery theory!

You might need to replace a battery (or two.)
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Old 08-26-2015, 10:53 PM   #7
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Propane and over cooked batteries have very different smells. Either way, not good to breathe. Shut off the gas and unplug the electricity. Check the battery.
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Old 08-26-2015, 11:24 PM   #8
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We have not had the propane on since starting the trip. However, I failed to turn the refrigerator off that morning before we started out. It is the type that automatically switches to gas if there is no electricity. I wonder if that had something to do with it.


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Old 08-26-2015, 11:40 PM   #9
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Important question, do you have an LPG detector in your Airstream? And if you do, is it working?

I ask this because if you had propane leaking to the point that you could smell it, then the LPG detector should have gone off as well. NFPA 58— and by extension the fire codes of 49 of the 50 states that have adopted some edition of NFPA as the basis for their own propane gas codes— requires that the odorant added to propane be detectable by smell when the propane concentration reaches 20% of the lower explosive limit. Of course, not everyone's nose is the same, and smokers in particular might not be able to smell propane until the concentration is much higher.

Anyway, your LPG detector is supposed to sound an alarm when the concentration of propane in the air reaches 10% of the lower explosive limit. In other words, unless you've got the sensitive nose of a perfume maker, the LPG detector should sound an alarm long before you could smell the propane.

Which is is pretty fair indication that the smell you smelled was not a propane leak.

The sulfuric acid smell of leaking battery electrolyte has nothing to do with the electrolyte expanding with altitude. Otherwise airplanes never could have used wet-cell batteries before other types of batteries were invented. Airplanes reach higher altitudes and stay there longer, and if they lost acid due to electrolyte expansion at high altitudes every plane would have landed with ruined batteries and acid-etched wings or fuselages at the battery location.

However, it is possible that a battery leaked because it overcharged. When a 12v wet-cell battery reaches 13.8 volts or higher and stays that way, it will boil, and there will be a distinctive acid smell given off. This normally happens when there is one or more bad cells in the battery, and the battery will typically show signs of bulging or other damage to the battery case.
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Old 08-26-2015, 11:59 PM   #10
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Yes. We have a detector, it is working, and it did not sound an alarm.


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Old 08-27-2015, 12:01 AM   #11
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We do not see any bulging or other visual indication of a problem with the batteries, but it sounds like we should get them checked out.


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Old 08-27-2015, 04:16 AM   #12
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Yes. We have a detector, it is working, and it did not sound an alarm.


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Don't rely on that! I just checked a brand-new Airstream that had a leaking LP connection at the stove. The LP detector never went off, but the whole inside of the trailer had that "LP smell".
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Old 08-27-2015, 05:53 AM   #13
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If the propane is turned off at the tank it must be the battery.
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Old 08-27-2015, 06:17 AM   #14
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Don't rely on that! I just checked a brand-new Airstream that had a leaking LP connection at the stove. The LP detector never went off, but the whole inside of the trailer had that "LP smell".
That tells me the detector is defective and needs to be checked and/or replaced. Seriously. If you can smell propane, the concentration is at least twice as high as the detector should warn you about, and probably more. While you're standing, your breathing zone is five feet off the floor, and the LPG detector is less than a foot off the floor. So if the concentration is 20% of the lower explosive limit five feet off the floor, how high is it at floor level?

Also, long before propane becomes an explosion hazard, it's toxic to breathe and can cause permanent nervous system damage. The level at which it becomes dangerous to breathe is about 10% of the lower explosive limit— the same level at which the alarm is supposed to go off— so if you can smell it, it's already hurting you.
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