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Old 09-07-2020, 09:12 PM   #1
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1974 31' Sovereign
Toronto , Ontario
Join Date: Jun 2020
Posts: 19
System Check on Older Airstream

I just purchased a 1974 31' International AS. What should I do to check that the propane system is in good working order? Or should I take it to a professional to look it over?
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Old 09-07-2020, 09:29 PM   #2
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1977 31' Sovereign
Vintage Kin Owner
Vintage Kin Owner
Sunset Valley , Texas
Join Date: Jul 2016
Posts: 715
This may sound, or even be, harsh... but if you have to ask that question, you should probably take it to a professional.

However, a propane system check isn’t that hard.
Items needed:
- a quality spray bottle filled with about a 4:1 ratio of water to dish soap.
- something to crawl around on your back on under the trailer: cardboard, plywood etc...
- a face shield
- a flashlight or head lamp
- fire extinguisher
- propane detector, new

Expert Level
- wrenches
- gas sealant tape (the yellow stuff)
- brass wire brushes

Do not start by just randomly turning on appliances if you question the integrity of the system at all. Start by turning on the tanks, preferably full and new, and start spraying the soapy solution on EVERY joint outside the trailer. Most will be under it. Wait a minute or so and see if there are more bubbles growing. If every joint under the coach checks out then move inside. Open all windows and vents. Start with the range, light all burners. Let that go for a bit, this’ll burn off the bad gas in the line and pull any air out. It may smell funky, but get used to that, you own an old Airstream... proceed down the line while checking every connection with your soapy solution prior to ignition.

If you go about this methodically, with patience and some common sense, you should be fine. Google is your friend.

This is just advice from some random person and shouldn’t be taken as gospel. Assume your own risks. I take no responsibility for your actions.

Have fun!
Ian
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Old 09-07-2020, 09:39 PM   #3
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1974 31' Sovereign
Toronto , Ontario
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Thanks Ian. You're right. If I'm asking the question I probably should take it to a professional. Thank you for your well thought out and easy to follow explanation. The tanks are old so I'll start there and replace them. I think I'll have to replace the pig tails to regulators as well as those seem to be old as well.
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Old 09-07-2020, 10:05 PM   #4
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1977 31' Sovereign
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Itís worth learning the system even if piggy backing on a professional to do it.
Also, it isnít hard or necessarily dangerous unless gas is allowed to build up.

Research is an easy thing these days, yet we must know our limitations.

Best of luck and Iím sure weíll hear more from you soon. These things are an amazing way to improve oneself with knowledge and new skills.

Ask questions, dive in and enjoy the process because itís part of the deal.

Ian

PS- my mom was born in Toronto.
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Old 09-07-2020, 10:06 PM   #5
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2007 22' International CCD
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System Check on Older Airstream

And the rubber hose from the regulator to the copper propane lines if there is one...my 2007 needed new rubber in the entire propane system on the A-frame this year(2020) because of a lot of surface cracking and hardened rubber that could lead to more cracking. Cheap insurance.

Interesting. My dad was born in Toronto.
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Old 09-07-2020, 10:15 PM   #6
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1974 31' Sovereign
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Thank Iansk and rmkrum. Crazy you both had parents born in Toronto. It's a great city. If you haven't ever visited you should.

It's all a bit overwhelming right now as we just purchased the vehicle and there have been a number of modifications but I'm jumping in with two feet and loving it. Lots to learn.
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Old 09-07-2020, 10:34 PM   #7
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System Check on Older Airstream

Plan to visit some day. Need to wait for the COVID-19 thing to settle down a bit so the border opens again.

Dad and his parents emigrated from Norway to Toronto when he was very young. From there they found their way to Chicago. His sister was born in Chicago, i think. In our family, Norwegian, French, Spanish, and German were spoken by the adults. English was a second language at times.

In some ways, my brother and I are first generation American. I was born in New Jersey, and my brother was born in Chicago.

Long and complicated story involving WWII, my American-born mom growing up in Vienna, Australia during the war, her father hiding and smuggling out Jewish refugees, Allied bombings, and her running from the invading Russians after the war. Itís rather complicated, and some relatives in Norway wonít talk about their war years activities in the resistance to this day.
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Old 09-08-2020, 09:43 AM   #8
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1974 31' Sovereign
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rmKrum, what an incredible history your family has. My grandfather on my moms side served in Norway in the Engineering Corp. during the war. My dad's family is from Malta.
His dad was an anti-aircraft gunner, taking down pesky Luftwaffe during the Siege Of Malta. I'm a documentary editor and I've done a number of war docs and I'm always fascinated by the different stories from the war.

Yes the pandemic has put a damper on all kinds of travel. My girlfriend and I wanted to travel the U.S. Hopefully that will happen soon. California is one of our favourite spots. If you ever make it up to Canada let us know. We would be happy to show you around.
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Old 09-08-2020, 04:49 PM   #9
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If you have aluminum tanks it might be worth it to get them recertified, some people that don't camp in cold weather switch to 20 lb "barbecue" tanks.

Another check you can do is turn on the tanks make sure there is pressure in the system then, turn off the tanks wait at least 1 hour and check to see if you still have pressure in the system (second check after 1 day).
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Old 09-08-2020, 07:53 PM   #10
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Propane leak testing can be done safely and quickly. Buy a combustable gas leak detector or a propane pressure gauge if you want to get serious. Otherwise, turn on you bottle valves real slowly so as to not activate the automatic shut offs. Then check that all appliances are off and the green flow indicator is showing on the automatic changeover. Turn off the valves and see if the change over stays green. If it does switch it over to the other bottle if it stays green the change over mechanism is not leaking. If your changeover stays green you have no leaks.
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Old 09-08-2020, 07:57 PM   #11
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Propane RV testing. With a manometer.

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Old 09-09-2020, 08:34 AM   #12
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1974 31' Sovereign
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Thanks Wazbro, guskmg and GCinSC2. All great advice.
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Old 09-30-2020, 08:36 AM   #13
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1974 31' Sovereign
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I just wanted to update this thread. Following some great advice here I rectified my aluminum propane tanks, swapped out the original regulator and pig tails to fit the new propane tank valves. I thoroughly checked the propane lines with a soapy solution and found no leaks. My stove, fridge and hot water tank are all operational. Still need to test the furnace.
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