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Old 04-14-2017, 07:14 AM   #1
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Testing Propane System for Leaks


Getting closer to THE DAY!

We are closing in on completing all the tasks we have assigned ourselves to prepare our MH for its' true shakedown.

As related in another thread, we acquired a '92 Pace Arrow Vision a few weeks ago. The PO had not really neglected the poor thing, just never really used it for the last 8 years. For instance he has not had any propane in the system in recent memory.

Before we attempt to use all the onboard systems , we want to test and fine tune anything we have to. One of them is the stove/refrigerator/water heater operating off propane.

* Can I connect a regular propane bottle in place of the monster in order to pressure test the system?
* I used to use soapy water to check for leaks. Do we still do this?
* What kind of tubing.pipe interconnects each component? Is it copper, vinyl, other?
* If I find a leak, are repair parts readily available considering the age of the system?
* What would be your best advice to avoid deep doo-doo when checking it out. What should my priorities be?

You guys have been a great resource to us so far, and we look forward to hearing what you have to say about this.

Linda 'n Jim
'92 Pace Arrow
We're right behind you!
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Old 04-14-2017, 08:50 AM   #2
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Unless there actually is a leak you probably still have propane in the RV's tank. If not I would get some put into it. The propane supplier should be able to tell if the tank is good. Soapy water can still be used to check for leaks. I'm sure you have a copper propane system. Parts for LP haven't changed much over the years. You may have problems with bugs that set up house in some of the propane powered equipment, especially the furnace and water heater, in which case you will want to clean out the burners.

Steve & Nancy
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Old 04-14-2017, 09:43 AM   #3
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I would source out fittings to use compressed air to test the system for leaks rather than propane. Pressurizing the tank would be best if possible. Actual propane gas pressure will change (as it boils off from a liquid) with temperature but at around 70 degrees it's around 100 PSI so running off a basic shop compressor will be OK as long as your injection point is between the tank and the regulator. Pump in 100 psi AFTER the regular and you'll make leaks. Pretty much you'll be able to test everything except the tank relief valve using a shop compressor.

I would start with a leak down test. You'll need a pressure gauge to do it. With all the propane appliances off but not isolated, pressurize the system with air, disconnect the compressor and let it sit for a few hours. If there's no pressure drop you should be OK. I would let it go over night just to be sure. Any pressure loss means time to soap, which includes the temporary fittings, the gauge and potentially the shut off valves at the appliances.

Soapy water works well. Make your own with dish soap. I've found Windex or non-bleach basic house hold cleaner works pretty well. Either paint if on with a brush or use a pump sprayer.

Most, but not all, of the distribution piping might be basic black iron pipe. To the individual appliance might be softer copper. You should be able to resource replacement material from you favorite big box store. Specific fittings you might need to search out a plumbing or propane supply house. Shouldn't be anything too exotic but no telling what past owners might of added over the years or how the coach was build those many years ago.

If you want to dig deep into the propane system acquire a pressure gauge the reads inches of water. The appliances will specific a range of gas pressure in inches of water which the regulator will control.

Look into a piping tee called an Extend-A-Stay. It's a fitting that goes between the tank and the regulator to allow you to connect a more portable bottle or to connect accessories such as a propane grill.
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Old 04-15-2017, 02:28 PM   #4
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Propane tanks may hold 100 PSI propane but as soon as it gets to the regulator, which is usually about 6" outside the tank, the pressure is reduced to about 1/2 PSI. I don't think I would go and put 100PSI on the propane distribution system.

I don't know how the appliance control valves would react the pressure 200 times their normal working pressure but wouldn't be surprised if they died as a result.
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Old 04-15-2017, 02:39 PM   #5
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Regarding soapy water - I had much better luck with a commercial leak detection liquid. I got mine at an RV store and have seen it at propane companies.
Clay WA5NMR - Ex Snowbird - 1 year, Ex Full timer for 11 years - 2004 Winnebago Sightseer 35N Workhorse chassis. Honda Accord toad.
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Old 04-15-2017, 02:41 PM   #6
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I take my MH to the company I buy propane from for my home. They will perform a check for no charge. In fact they do a check each time they refill my tank.
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Old 04-15-2017, 06:01 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by LETMGROW View Post
I take my MH to the company I buy propane from for my home. They will perform a check for no charge. In fact they do a check each time they refill my tank.
This ^ ....more than likely the gas company will have a small combustible leak tester, a "sniffer" that will make short order of the task. I do natural gas fuel system inspection on CNG/LNG powered equipment.

You'll need to leak check it with the on board tank hooked up as you'll use it.

People, please don't skimp or short cut this. High school I teach at had a student last year die in a camper due to LP gas leak....
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Old 04-15-2017, 06:07 PM   #8
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