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Old 09-29-2003, 12:14 PM   #1
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CO warning after towing

Here's a strange one ... towing my Caravel about 3 hours this weekend, I noticed (upon arrival) a faint smoky odor, almost as if someone had lit a match inside the trailer. I could find no reason for this odor -- which certainly wasn't there when I started the trip.

The refrigerator was running on propane during the trip, but still lit and with a solid blue flame upon arrival. So I opened the windows to dissipate the odor, and chalked it up to perhaps driving through a smoky area. I didn't notice any further odor over the weekend.

But here's the spooky part: after the return trip, the CO (Carbon Monoxide) alarm was beeping a warning! This time I didn't detect an odor (but I sure didn't hang around to sniff either!) Holding my breath, I opened the door and roof vent, then stayed outside until the alarm re-set about 10 minutes later.

The only CO sources that I can think of were the refrigerator (again, burning a nice blue flame with no indications of malfunction), and the tow vehicle itself. Now, I towed this trailer 2,500 miles on six separate trips in August and September, camping in it a total of 14 nights, and never has there been the faintest indication of smoke, CO, or anything improper.

So does anyone have a theory why all of a sudden I'm getting these strange symptoms?

A bit more data: all windows and vents were closed during towing, as I've always done. This was the first time that I have towed in the rain -- and it was raining heavily on the return trip. I discovered several new wind-driven leaks involving most of the windows, and a mystery leak which manifested itself by water dripping from the curbside forward reading light. Not sure if there could be any relationship between the two events ... but is it possible that wind-driven rain "carried" some tailpipe emissions into the trailer?

Or could my front window gasket be so poor that it is letting in both rain and CO? I checked it and it is a bit stiff.

-- RL

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Old 09-29-2003, 01:04 PM   #2
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If the CO monitor doesn't alarm when the trailer is standing still, I'm betting on CO from the tow vehicle.....


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Old 09-29-2003, 01:05 PM   #3
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I'm no expert when it comes to the older units, but if you only had the fridge on LP and the car running, that only leaves two possible places for CO to get into the trailer. I'd make sure that the fridge vent is clear of obsticles. I'd also make sure that if it was, that the next time you move the coach, that the fridge is off. If you still get CO, then it has to be coming in somewhere from the tow vehicle.

Just a few thoughts.

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Old 09-29-2003, 01:38 PM   #4
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I'm not an expert in this field but I had problems once and I quit towing with any propane on.

What I wonder about is if while towing could the wind create a suction somehow that would prevent the normal vent from working?

I'm not positive but I think itís illegal in some states to tow with the propane on.

My advice is not to tow with the propane on anywhere.
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Old 09-29-2003, 02:07 PM   #5
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Thanks for the thoughts, everyone.

I am going to replace the front window gasket as a leak-preventative measure. Hopefully if the cause is the tow vehicle exhaust then I will have resolved it. If not, at least I might have a little less water on the dinette, and meanwhile I'll be pursuing the refrigerator angle.

-- RL
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Old 10-02-2003, 10:20 AM   #6
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It was the tow vehicle

Turning off the refrigerator while towing did not cure the problem. After a short (10-mile) tow without the fridge on, I could smell the same suspicious smell inside the trailer. So it seems that the issue is exhaust gas from the tow vehicle leaking into the trailer.

Upon inspection, I found that all the window gaskets are old, cracked, and incorrect (previously replaced with the wrong gasket). Four of the windows have leaked rain, also. I've ordered enough gasket material and adhesive from Inland RV to re-do all the windows.

Interesting that no one has had this problem before (on this forum). Is it that a lot of the vintage owners have not installed CO detectors, or is everyone else maintaining their windows better?

-- RL
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Old 10-02-2003, 10:54 AM   #7
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I think I have good seals on my windows. We've never had the CO detector go off, and I keep it in the magazine rack right next to the front window, so if anything was getting in I think we would know it. Glad you think you've solved the problem.

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Old 10-02-2003, 04:41 PM   #8
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Hi RL,
Before our current Airstream, we had a 1968 Globetrotter. I purchased a separate CO detector because I was worried about all the pilot lights and the old style propane heater. The unit I purchased recorded parts per million on a digital screen. It gave readings at far below what was necessary to set off the alarm so I could detect any increase in readings over time. I never got any readings while the trailer was parked. I got lots of readings going down the highway. I always had to reset the recorder after towing. I was shocked by the amount of CO we are all breathing just driving down the highway. If you are sure none of your appliances are malfunctioning, then it's coming from the highway. However, my readings were never high enough to set the alarm off. It may also be that the rain prevented the CO from dissipating as it would normally.

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