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Old 05-11-2013, 03:35 AM   #1
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2008 25' Classic
Full Time , Texas
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Hard to Light Fridge After Storage

Maybe this is just normal for a longer trailer but I didn't seem to have this issue on my 17' Casita 4 cu/ft fridge.

I normally turn off the propane tanks when in storage but I've notice even after a week if I try to start the fridge up on gas it takes several attempts of lighting the fridge on LP. I'll turn the fridge on and set it to gas, then go outside and open the fridge vent and hear it trying to light, then it will stop. I won't see a flame. So I'll go back in the trailer and turn the fridge off then on and check again. This seems to take several iterations.

So then I tried turning on the stovetop burners. They took a few seconds to light.

So when you have the trailer in storage with the propane tanks shut down where does the propane in the lines between the tanks and propane using devices go? Do I have a leak? I can never smell propane other than the little bit lighting up the stovetop burners.

What do you do after you have shut down the tanks for a few weeks. Do you turn on the water heater, stove top burners before trying to light the fridge on gas?

Could this happen? Your trailer is in storage and the tanks are off. You decide to go on a weekend trip and you turn the fridge on to electricity, it cools down, you load up the next day and just before you hitch up you turn on the propane tanks and unhook the shore power. The fridge detects loss of AC and tries to switch to gas. However, because the lines don't have propane in them yet the fridge never lights. You hitch up and 4 hours later you notice the fridge isn't cold anymore.

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Old 05-11-2013, 03:51 AM   #2
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2005 19' Safari
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Difficulty starting the refrigerator and hot water heater on propane is normal. When you are hooking up to leave on a road trip, you need to switch your refrigerator from electric to propane and purge the propane supply lines so those appliances will light reliably.

You probably didn't have this problem with your Casita, because the propane line was significantly shorter; and it didn't take as long for the propane to make it down the line to your refrigerator and hot water heater.

There are already several other threads on this same subject on AirForums. See link below for a more detailed explanation, and/or use SEARCH for others' experiences with your specific Airstream model.
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Old 05-11-2013, 06:33 AM   #3
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2012 25' Flying Cloud
Battle Lake , Minnesota
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If the gas has been turned off, I start with lighting the stovetop burners to fill the lines with propane. Then fridge and water heater soon light on their own.

But I seldom turn off the propane bottles, only to change out an empty one.

doug k
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Old 05-11-2013, 06:47 AM   #4
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1993 30' Excella
Lakeland , Florida
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There is seepage and you may go nuts trying to find the joint, but always good to check anyway, could be more of a leak than you want (zero).The propane bottle valves themselves can be the culprit so start there soap them up when closed, sometimes they leak. Mine if not opened all the way to close the upper seal would leak a 40lb tank in a week. Otherwise whenever I left my rig dorment years ago I'd fire up the stove top to purge the lines and everything worked fine, the fridge uses very little propane (a thimble full) compared to the hot water heater.
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Old 05-11-2013, 06:50 AM   #5
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Theoretically when you turn off the gas at the tank the lines between the tank valve and the appliances should remain pressurized. It sounds like you have a small leak somewhere. If it leaks off over time then it equalizes with outside air and then with air in the line it won't light until the system is purged of that air. The quickest way is to light a stove top burner. Take the time though and purchase a bottle of leak detector liquid and start by checking all fittings inside and under your AS. I know you can mix a soapy solution at home but its nice to have the applicator that comes with buying it. You won't necessarily smell a small leak especially outside. For now just make sure it's lit before you roll each time and be safe!
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Old 05-11-2013, 07:52 AM   #6
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2008 25' Classic
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Aren't most of the gas lines under the belly pan which is riveted in place? If there was a leak wouldn't I be able to smell it once the system was pressurized with the hot water heater, furnace, fridge, stove top and oven being used? It will be worth looking at the fittings I have access to on these devices.

The dealer filled both tanks on delivery and they have gauges on them plus the monitor panel and they still both indicate full. I've only been out once and we used the furnace for a few hours, have used the stove top and oven, checked out the water heater and did notice it had to be relit the first time after opening the propane tank valves.

As part of my check list starting a trip from storage I'll open the tanks, turn on the stovetop burners and water heater then try the fridge for gas then switch it to electricity to the load and leave the next day.


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Old 05-11-2013, 08:00 AM   #7
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2013 20' Flying Cloud
Cream Ridge , New Jersey
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I have experienced this situation on every trailer that we have ever owned. Propane somehow just disappears from the lines while the tanks are closed and the trailer is in storage with no telltale propane odor. We have always just fired up the items that burn the most propane first to purge the lines and everything works fine after that. I have never been able to detect a propane leak after testing all the joints with the soapy water method. It's just one of the mysteries of the universe.
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Old 05-11-2013, 08:10 AM   #8
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Sometimes it depends upon how you shut off the gas. I remember with my old SOB, prior to self igniting water heaters, I shut the gas off at the bottle. The water heater continued to run on gas until the gas pressure was exhausted. Lighting that water heater was a bear since it took more time to get that gas from the bottle to the rear of that trailer. I used to hold that safety knob in until I could smell the propane. When I was a newbee I went through a lot of matches and if you remember you had a long rod that held the match that you had to thread back to the pilot light. It was a chore.

I finally learned that if I shut off the water heater first, then the gas bottle, lighting went so much faster.

I remember someone telling me that the poor man's way of gas leak detection was to turn off all of the gas appliances, then turn off the bottle. Wait at least 30 minutes and go back to the stove. Leave the gas bottle turned off. If the burner lights up for a short period it meant you had no gas leaks in the line. If it didn't, you better get out the leak detector solution.

Note that unlike natural gas, propane drops to the lowest point when it leaks. So you can have a leak and potentially not know it. That's why propane detectors are usually mounted low to the floor.

Sounds like you could have a leak. You might want to try this test I described. Maybe even extending the wait period before trying to light the stove burner.

Jack Canavera
AIR #56 S/OS#15
'04 Classic 30' S.O.,'03 GMC Savana 2500,'14 Honda CTX 700
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