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Old 05-29-2008, 10:20 PM   #1
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Propane Leak

I think I have a propane leak. 2003 Ford V10 4wd.
We just purchased the van in March. Used the heater for the first time in April on an overnite trip for about 15 min. in the morning. I left the propane tank turned on all day by mistake while parked and smelled something funny. We were in and out of the van all day, being out more than in. Not having smelled propane that frequently in my life I did not recognize the smell. The detector did not go off.
This past weekend we did another trip and I turned on the tank right before we went to sleep thinking we would need to warm up in the morning and 5 mins. later we smelled it again. I immediately turned off the tank, opened all the windows and turned on the heater to use the blower to blow everything out. Again the detector was not going off. No noticable drop in level of propane in tank.

So, where, how, and what, do I check first ?

Bob in Tucson
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Old 05-29-2008, 11:12 PM   #2
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Propane Leak

Hello Bob,

With the propane tank valve "off", move the van to a well ventilated area away from any ignition source.

First, make sure that the stove knobs are turned "off".

Open the propane tank valve and begin to check for leaks using a soapy water solution. A spray bottle works really good. You'll want to check the entire system as this is something that should be done periodically.

Confirm the propane detector has power to it. An LED light (usually red) will glow if it has power. It is very common that the fuse to the detectors has been removed to keep the battery from draining while the van is in storage.

You can always take your SMB to an RV service center for a complete safety check if you don't fel comfortable performing the work on your own.

Good Luck!
John K.
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Old 05-30-2008, 09:57 AM   #3
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John,

I don't have a stove so that won't be an issue. The detector light is on but I read somewhere on this list that the sensor element itself does not last forever and should be changed out every 2 years perhaps. I'll get started with the soap solution.

Thanks for your help,

Bob in Tucson
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Old 05-30-2008, 04:04 PM   #4
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The CO sensor is up high and should be changed out- it's got a date printed on the front of the unit.

The propane sensor should be down low and doesn't need to be replaced (according to SMB Texas). Easy to test, grab a colman anything and turn it on in front of the sensor without ignition*.

*Have not personally tried this, YMMV.
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Old 05-31-2008, 01:32 PM   #5
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Hello Jage,

Will do.

Thanks for the info.

Bob in Tucson
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Old 06-01-2008, 08:47 PM   #6
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Well, I believe I found the where the leak is coming from. I turned on the proane at the tank. I used the soap bubbles on every fitting I had access to. I took out the partitions around the furnace where I assumed the leak was. Those fittings also checked out. While putting everything back together I smelled propane. I took it all apart and used the soap again with no luck. The smell stopped. What the hell ! Then I remembered I used to have a gas detector I used for locating freon leaks. Couldn't remember if I still had it or did I sell it? I found it in an old tool box in the garage. Put some batteries in it and it still worked. Held it to the suspect fitting and it started chattering like crazy and then it stopped. Tried again for 5 min. and it would not chatter. I took it over to the barbecue grill, turned on the propane and it chattered like hell again so I knew it still worked. I'm pretty confident it is the fitting that goes through the sheet metal cover of the furnace. It is wedged very tight against the sheet metal edge right on the exposed threads of the fitting. Brass is soft and I will be surprised if the sheetmetal cut through it. It will have to wait for a couple of days till I can get back to taking all apart.

Bob in Tucson
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Old 06-01-2008, 08:49 PM   #7
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Well, I believe I found the where the leak is coming from. I turned on the proane at the tank. I used the soap bubbles on every fitting I had access to. I took out the partitions around the furnace where I assumed the leak was. Those fittings also checked out. While putting everything back together I smelled propane. I took it all apart and used the soap again with no luck. The smell stopped. What the hell ! Then I remembered I used to have a gas detector I used for locating freon leaks. Couldn't remember if I still had it or did I sell it? I found it in an old tool box in the garage. Put some batteries in it and it still worked. Held it to the suspect fitting and it started chattering like crazy and then it stopped. Tried again for 5 min. and it would not chatter. I took it over to the barbecue grill, turned on the propane and it chattered like hell again so I knew it still worked. I'm pretty confident it is the fitting that goes through the sheet metal cover of the furnace. It is wedged very tight against the sheet metal edge right on the exposed threads of the fitting. Brass is soft and I will be surprised if the sheetmetal cut through it. It will have to wait for a couple of days till I can get back to taking all apart.

Bob in Tucson
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Old 06-01-2008, 09:59 PM   #8
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Is it possible that the leak is elsewhere and the sheet metal is shifting the brass pipes... like it's actually where the line enters the furnace but only when the sheet metal is pressing on the brass and twisting that part?

Glad you've got it narrowed down!
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Old 06-01-2008, 10:33 PM   #9
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Jage,

It may be, but that fitting against the sheet metal is solid. Can't budge it. So I don't see it moving or rubbing as I bounce down the road. But in the past 5 years who knows. May not have been as tight originally but over time... I'll know more in a few days.

Bob in Tucson
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Old 06-04-2008, 08:44 PM   #10
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I finally had some time today to remove the suspect fitting, widen the hole it goes through, reconnect and check. So far so good. I'll leave the tank turned on overnite and check for smell/leaks in the morning. It was only 99 today but still too warm to get the heater to come on. Hopefully it will be cool enough at 5 am. to get the furnace fired up.

Bob in Tucson
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