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Old 03-07-2019, 01:42 PM   #1
2010 Airstream Interstate
 
2010 22' Interstate
Lafayette , Louisiana
Join Date: Sep 2018
Posts: 16
How much of the LP gas solenoid can I take apart before Propane comes out?

Hello all, 2010 MB Airstream Interstate 3500 by Thor.

My LP gas tank solenoid has failed and I was wondering if I can remove the solenoid coil to test and/or replace and how much of that valve I can take apart before I cause a leak. It gets +12v power but it seems to be seized. It looks like the one attached. I got that picture from searching threads and online but there's no details.

If I have to replace that whole valve, I'm wondering if I need to empty the tank or there's a ball valve inside the tank at that connection? The problem is, most of my tank controls are behind the macerator box so I can just barely get in there. I had just topped off my tank too because it was around 30 and I had less than half a tank. I figured that's why gas wasn't flowing before I could actually trace the problem.

Thanks for any insight. I didn't want to remove anything and get flash frozen.

Woodrow
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Old 03-07-2019, 02:00 PM   #2
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2007 22' International CCD
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First off, only the solenoid can be removed and checked without dumping the propane. I'd verify that the all the switches and wiring is good and delivering a FULL 12 volts to the coil when turned on with a multimeter.

If there is good power, then disconnect the wiring and measure the resistance of the coil. If it's an open circuit the coil has burned out. That's the most likely issue. This you could replace yourself if you can get the part.

If the coil is ok, then verify that the manual shut-off knob is turned full on. That will stop everything even if the solenoid is working.

Then, while carefully listening by the valve, have someone turn the propane switch on and off a few times. Each time it is turned on or off you should hear or feel a slight click from the valve as the internal parts move. If it clicks, the valve is moving. No click means it may be stuck.

If gas still does not flow at this point, the valve is probably jammed or clogged up internally.

From the picture it might be possible to unscrew the part of the valve the coil goes onto, after shutting off the manual valve. However, I don't know enough about how it is constructed of if that part is even available as a separate piece. No doubt there is a gasket of some sort in there as well...another good reason to consult a trained technician.

Replacing the valve will require emptying the tank completely, because there is no other shutoff than that brass knob on the valve. The part with the blue thread tape on it goes directly into the tank...at this point, I'd get a trained propane technician to help, because you are now playing with flammable materials in an enclosed space. It takes non-sparking tools and appropriate leak testing equipment to pull this valve off properly and replace it without causing dangerous leaks or a fire...

Wear your personal protective gear--goggles, gloves, fire-retardant coveralls, etc. Flash freezing is just one of the many hazards with propane. Having a front row seat inside a rapidly expanding fireball is just as bad for your morale...
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Old 03-07-2019, 04:07 PM   #3
2010 Airstream Interstate
 
2010 22' Interstate
Lafayette , Louisiana
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"First off, only the solenoid can be removed and checked without dumping the propane."

Thanks, that's all I needed to know. The internal plunger must be seized inside. Like I said, the solenoid (coil) is bad. I was able to remove that (very rusty). I just didn't want to remove it and the plunger go flying out and all the LP with it. It looked removable from the picture just wanted to make sure.

The manual knob valve/shutoff is open. I closed it and reopened it. I wasn't sure if the solenoid switch was a secondary valve to the manual knob. Must not be because with the coil removed and the manual valve open, still no flow.

I tried a strong magnet along the plunger cylinder like another thread had discussed (manual remote switch using a choke cable & magnets to bypass the 1amp draw of the solenoid) and no click. Not even with some tapping.

I'll have to find an propane shop anyways. The tank is nearing 10 yrs and I've read they need to (or SHOULD) be re-certified every 10 yrs.


W
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Old 03-07-2019, 05:14 PM   #4
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It is my understanding, and I could be wrong, that the permanently mounted propane tanks do not require certification. Might be worth looking into.
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Old 03-07-2019, 05:19 PM   #5
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Ah, if the coil was very rusty and hard to get off the valve, the expansion of the rust inside the coil probably compressed and distorted the brass tube the plunger is in. Time for a new valve. Bummer on having a full tank and this valve went sideways on you...

Tank may not need re-certifying. Regular tanks are DOT certified and need a re-cert at intervals, typical ones under vehicles are ASME certified and generally don't need re-cert. Check with propane supplier for the details.
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Old 03-08-2019, 10:33 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tincampers View Post
It is my understanding, and I could be wrong, that the permanently mounted propane tanks do not require certification. Might be worth looking into.
Not to stray too strongly from the OP's question, but there is so much divergence of understanding on this question that I doubt it will ever be resolved with any degree of practicality.

There are many references of 10 years and many other people who say no, the 10-year rule should not apply because of the permanent nature of the tanks.

At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter whether these tanks are subject to recert or not. What matters is -- will the vendors fill them when they get older? And in many cases, the answer will be no. By their policy and general liability insurance constraints, they will not. And their policies effectively moot any regulatory provisions that may apply.

This is a less-common one, where they cite 12 years instead of 10. Signs like this were what helped to convince me to replace our propane tank when we started having issues with it (this is a regular vendor of mine - the one I use immediately prior to crossing the border into eastern Canada).

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Old 03-08-2019, 12:41 PM   #7
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I have yet to see any propane retailer crawl up under my van and check the date, if there is one, on the tank. Naturally, if you are having problems with a tank the smart thing to do is to replace it. These tanks are not treated the same as portable tanks.

Here is a simple comparison between the two types of tanks:

https://www.propanetankstore.com/dot...k-differences/
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Old 03-08-2019, 01:22 PM   #8
2010 Airstream Interstate
 
2010 22' Interstate
Lafayette , Louisiana
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Thanks for the tank comparison. I was ready to go campout on the Mardi Gras route over the weekend at a friends tavern but when I tried the LP switch before I left it wouldn't click. I had read somewhere before that if a tank is less than 1/2 full in cold weather (it was 30) that the LP has trouble flowing or the solenoid valve is slow to open.

I scrambled to find someone to fill the tank and came across a post about certain UHaul stations have "propane" stations. The OP of that thread said Uhaul had a pending lawsuit so his guy did take a picture of the cert on the tank and that's where I started to see postings about the 10yr thing.

Of course, my badge is tucked behind the macerator hose box but I was able to get a partial picture of it. Once at Uhaul however, they didn't check it, but the young kid that filled it, didn't seem to know what he was doing and sprayed his leg with LP (poor connection). His manager came out and filled it but he didn't check either. The tank dial showed 1/2 but it only took 5 gal to fill @ $3 gal. I guess it's only a 15-20 gal tank.

The previous owner of my AI lived across the street from the ocean in Florida so it has a lot of surface rust around the tank. I'll have the shop check it out to be safe when they refit the valve.

The pic is what mine looks like without the coil and how it's half buried behind the macerator hose box. I need to wrap those fittings with grease tape also.

W
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Old 03-08-2019, 01:54 PM   #9
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From the corrosion on the part where the solenoid goes on, I'm guessing my 'jammed plunger' inside the valve theory looks even better.

Looks like time to overhaul the plumbing and clean it up...maybe replace all the original hoses as well.
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Old 03-08-2019, 05:23 PM   #10
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Thanks for that link Tincampers!
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Old 03-08-2019, 05:41 PM   #11
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Thanks for that link Tincampers!
You’re welcome. We used to “live” in Box Elder! At least that’s where our mail went.
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Old 03-09-2019, 05:08 AM   #12
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OK, the additional information is very valuable here.

Woodrow, I predict that you are going to have bigger problems than your solenoid. That tank is in such a condition that I advise you to replace it.

If you decide not to replace it, then I advise you to watch your connection threads very carefully (where the fittings screw into the tank). If that corrosion hasn't already penetrated the threads, it will eventually, because it's obviously off to the races already on the tank itself.

If you lose your thread integrity, propane blow-by will start to happen, which can become a life-threatening condition.

And if you ponder the issue from this perspective, you'll see how ridiculous the whole tank standard really is. It focuses mainly on the body of the tank, rather than on the weak link in the chain, which is the threads. The threads have a very high surface area to volume ratio - each thread ridge is very thin relative to the thickness of the monolithic tank body. If rust takes hold on both, it's the threads that will fail first. Of course the manufacturers try to protect the threads with grease, but that only goes so far.

How do I know these things?? Because I started having propane blow-by from rusted fitting threads. My tank was leaking under my Interstate. I found it quite by accident while tooling around under there doing something else. The leak had not yet grown to the size where it could be smelled by (for instance) standing next to the side of the van. But it had begun. There's a video in my blog post.

That kind of thing can be fixed by re-threading, but the labor costs are so high that the math doesn't work, especially given that some vendors will not fill older tanks. I replaced our tank. And then after seeing several owners develop leaks in their propane lines, we also proceeded to replace our lines.

Sidebar: U-Haul's evolving propane practices derive from its massive lawsuit settlement after a post-propane-filling explosion that killed two people. U-Haul is my primary provider - in fact, I'm making a trip today to fill up. Their prices are reasonable - some vendors in my area have minimum prices that are better suited to the size of tanks one would find on a Class A.

Additionally, if any of the newer forum participants did not see the video of the RoadTrek that went up in flames at the propane station in 2017, here's the link. It's worth watching this for perspective. Lesson learned: Don't take any chances with propane. Something apparently failed on this van - either a valve or a line. Given the failures I've heard about, I'd put money on the main fill line.

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Old 03-09-2019, 05:47 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by InterBlog View Post
OK, the additional information is very valuable here.

Woodrow, I predict that you are going to have bigger problems than your solenoid. That tank is in such a condition that I advise you to replace it.

If you decide not to replace it, then I advise you to watch your connection threads very carefully (where the fittings screw into the tank). If that corrosion hasn't already penetrated the threads, it will eventually, because it's obviously off to the races already on the tank itself.

If you lose your thread integrity, propane blow-by will start to happen, which can become a life-threatening condition.

And if you ponder the issue from this perspective, you'll see how ridiculous the whole tank standard really is. It focuses mainly on the body of the tank, rather than on the weak link in the chain, which is the threads. The threads have a very high surface area to volume ratio - each thread ridge is very thin relative to the thickness of the monolithic tank body. If rust takes hold on both, it's the threads that will fail first. Of course the manufacturers try to protect the threads with grease, but that only goes so far.

How do I know these things?? Because I started having propane blow-by from rusted fitting threads. My tank was leaking under my Interstate. I found it quite by accident while tooling around under there doing something else. The leak had not yet grown to the size where it could be smelled by (for instance) standing next to the side of the van. But it had begun. There's a video in my blog post.

That kind of thing can be fixed by re-threading, but the labor costs are so high that the math doesn't work, especially given that some vendors will not fill older tanks. I replaced our tank. And then after seeing several owners develop leaks in their propane lines, we also proceeded to replace our lines.

Sidebar: U-Haul's evolving propane practices derive from its massive lawsuit settlement after a post-propane-filling explosion that killed two people. U-Haul is my primary provider - in fact, I'm making a trip today to fill up. Their prices are reasonable - some vendors in my area have minimum prices that are better suited to the size of tanks one would find on a Class A.

Additionally, if any of the newer forum participants did not see the video of the RoadTrek that went up in flames at the propane station in 2017, here's the link. It's worth watching this for perspective. Lesson learned: Don't take any chances with propane. Something apparently failed on this van - either a valve or a line. Given the failures I've heard about, I'd put money on the main fill line.
I'm with IB, I would be very concerned about the rust on that tank and fittings. I don't think I'd be able to sleep above all that!
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