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Old 06-18-2021, 04:50 PM   #1
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Catalytic Converter / Propane Smell / Towing

Just got back from my first road trip with a new camper, moving every day up and down mountains. Iím pulling a 3400 pound dry weight 22Ē TT with a 6 cylinder AWD KIA Sorento, rated for 5000 pounds.

Knowing my weight limitations I was very conservative with what I put into the camper - plastic plates and cups, no appliances save a coffee pot, minimal clothing, small sizes of everything. I realize my 30 gallons of water weight about 240 pounds, but that should still put me way below my 5000 pound weight limit. I also have a weight distribution hitch. I have not had a chance to weigh my camper fully loaded. Itís on this weekendís bucket list.

About halfway through an 8 day trip, I started noticing a propane smell every time we stopped after a long and steep uphill grade. Of course I first suspected the camper, but there was no smell anywhere near the camper or tanks. The smell was towards the back of my car, and eventually slightly IN my car - only noticeable when stopping, and only after a very steep and long uphill grade.

Concerned, I googled propane car smells, and discovered that a bad catalytic converter will give off a similar smell, my understanding due to inefficient burning of fuel.

My car is under warranty and I have an appointment to check it out next week. I canít duplicate the problem unless Iím towing. My question is - is the camper too heavy for my car? Hope not - I intentionally bought this car to tow this trailer, and I really like them both.

Since the catalytic converter is under warranty, Iíd much rather the problem be a faulty converter, which can be fixed, not a car too light for my camper, which will be a much bigger problem!

Any thoughts?
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Old 06-18-2021, 04:57 PM   #2
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You should look up the towing guide for your car. A 5000 lb travel trailer is not the same as 5000 lbs of bricks in a low utility trailer.

What does the cargo capacity sticker on your door jamb say?

I'm guessing you have way too much trailer. Brakes, transmission can easily overheat...
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Old 06-18-2021, 05:52 PM   #3
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if the check engine light did not come on. I don't think the dealer will do anything with out the CEL

You should have the camper weighted. The dry weight of the camper specifications normally list the camper without any options, no battery or propane tanks.

It use to be add the awning, AC unit, 55 lb for each battery, 60 lb for each full 30 lb propane tank. Thats about 400 lbs

You need to get the TVand camper on a scale. We use a CAT scale at a truck stop.
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Old 06-18-2021, 09:10 PM   #4
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if the check engine light did not come on. I don't think the dealer will do anything with out the CEL

You should have the camper weighted. The dry weight of the camper specifications normally list the camper without any options, no battery or propane tanks.

It use to be add the awning, AC unit, 55 lb for each battery, 60 lb for each full 30 lb propane tank. Thats about 400 lbs

You need to get the TVand camper on a scale. We use a CAT scale at a truck stop.
Going to a truck stop this weekend with the camper and car loaded with our typical load. I thought I was being so careful in all of my research, and that I had asked all the right questions before buying the car or the camper.

The truth is - I probably know more than both the car and camper salespeople, and I now realize they just want to sell units. Shame on them.

I thought I knew how much weight I was carrying, how much weight I could carry, and I thought I knew how to distribute it. I now realize I wonít know any of that until I weight the camper and find out itís gross weight loaded as well as tongue weight.

The check engine light has NOT gone on, in spite of the propane-like smell, which I will point out happened only three times over an 800 mile trip and only after going up three very long and steep inclines (Mountains of northern VT and NH). The rest of the trip was fine.

I just spent a ton of money on a 2020 car and 2021 trailer and it would be a challenge at this point to replace my vehicle. I thought the V6 engine would be fine with a 22í TT with enough weight wiggle room if carefully loaded. If my answer is donít go up and down mountains I can live with that.

Iíll have more answers - and maybe more questions - after I weigh my setup.

My husband is a former truck driver and is familiar with truck stop scales. But at this point, Iím becoming the trailer expert in the family. I know there are different variables that can be weighed. Can someone tell me what weight variables I should get when at the scales?
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Old 06-19-2021, 06:39 AM   #5
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What you are smelling is 'Demand Enrichment'...

It is normal... (Not nice, but normal)...

As you guessed, it is the engine computer throwing more fuel than necessary into the combustion chamber...
This unburned fuel has to be dealt with by the catalytic converter... Hence the stink...

There are a few feedback loops that the ECM uses when running...

It measures the amount of air being sucked into the engine, and adds roughly 1/14th of that mass in gasoline...
It then measures the amount of oxygen in the exhaust, too much oxygen, and you add more fuel, too little add less...

This is what happens normally, to maintain fuel economy and emissions..
When you are working the engine hard, either by accelerating or towing, the ECM throws emissions and fuel economy out the window... For maximum power, you want as much fuel burnt as possible, even if it's at the expense of wasting unburnt fuel...
So you throw almost twice as much fuel into the engine as what is needed for a chemically balanced reaction, so all of the air is used up...

This also helps with engine cooling as gasoline evaporation cools the engine, as well as pre ignition (knock)...

Try running premium when towing, see if you can smell the difference...

If the smell remains when you're not towing, be concerned... If not... Buy more gas...
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Old 06-19-2021, 07:10 AM   #6
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That's a LOT of trailer for your Sorento, too much in my opinion. It appears salespeople always win the 5000lb argument, which is ridiculous in my book. You really NEED to get your setup weighed as I'm almsot certain you exceed max payload.

The Sorento doesn't have a huge cooling system and trans cooler. The catalytic converter is sufficient, but maybe not for the load you"re hauling. BTW those converters are super high theft items here. They are stolen in 30 seconds and fetch over 1000$ on the black market right now.
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Old 06-19-2021, 08:01 AM   #7
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That's a LOT of trailer for your Sorento, too much in my opinion. It appears salespeople always win the 5000lb argument, which is ridiculous in my book. You really NEED to get your setup weighed as I'm almsot certain you exceed max payload.



The Sorento doesn't have a huge cooling system and trans cooler. The catalytic converter is sufficient, but maybe not for the load you"re hauling. BTW those converters are super high theft items here. They are stolen in 30 seconds and fetch over 1000$ on the black market right now.
True story of the Cats...
The guy where is store my trailer won't rent space to gasoline powered motorhomes because he doesn't want the headaches of everyone's Cats getting stolen...
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Old 06-19-2021, 08:13 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sirtate View Post
What you are smelling is 'Demand Enrichment'...

It is normal... (Not nice, but normal)...

As you guessed, it is the engine computer throwing more fuel than necessary into the combustion chamber...
This unburned fuel has to be dealt with by the catalytic converter... Hence the stink...

There are a few feedback loops that the ECM uses when running...

It measures the amount of air being sucked into the engine, and adds roughly 1/14th of that mass in gasoline...
It then measures the amount of oxygen in the exhaust, too much oxygen, and you add more fuel, too little add less...

This is what happens normally, to maintain fuel economy and emissions..
When you are working the engine hard, either by accelerating or towing, the ECM throws emissions and fuel economy out the window... For maximum power, you want as much fuel burnt as possible, even if it's at the expense of wasting unburnt fuel...
So you throw almost twice as much fuel into the engine as what is needed for a chemically balanced reaction, so all of the air is used up...

This also helps with engine cooling as gasoline evaporation cools the engine, as well as pre ignition (knock)...

Try running premium when towing, see if you can smell the difference...

If the smell remains when you're not towing, be concerned... If not... Buy more gas...
BIG thanks for soothing my heart with a practical explanation, at least until I get my TT weighed this weekend. Iím thinking three times over 800 miles and only after huge uphill climbs is something to be aware of, but doesnít necessarily mean I have to ditch either a vehicle or a TT that I like. Plus - Iím only 9000 miles into a 100,000 mile warranty - one of the reasons I bought the KIA.

Weíre taking everything out of the TT that we donít absolutely need, although we were pretty prudent with weight all along. Those 10 cans of soup must be pretty heavy! Just kidding - I only have 2. 😉

Iíll avoid the mountains for now. One steep incline I canít avoid is my very long and steep driveway. That was one of my three problem areas. Any suggestions for how to tow up it and put less strain on my vehicle?

Iím going to try premium gas for sure and see if it helps. Btw - my gas mileage while towing was about 50% of what I normally get. Is such a reduction within the realm of usual, or one more indication that I have too much trailer for my vehicle? Although more expensive to begin with - will a premium fuel improve my gas mileage?

Thanks again!
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Old 06-19-2021, 08:27 AM   #9
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What weight variables should I be measuring at the truck scales to get an accurate picture of what I’m towing and the impact it’s having on my vehicle?

TT with my car?
TT without my car?
Tongue weight?

I also can’t seem to find specs for my vehicle, other than a 5000 pound towing capacity, and the maximum loaded weight of my vehicle. What other numbers do I need to know?

Thanks again!
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Old 06-19-2021, 08:30 AM   #10
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Looking on Kia’s web site, I’ve only been able to find 2000 and 3500 lb towing capacities. How do you know it has a 5000 lb tow capacity?

I also failed to find a GCWR (gross combination weight rating), which is the max weight of the vehicle plus trailer. Tow ratings can sometimes look very good, but you can’t carry anyone or anything in the vehicle while towing that. In fact, all I could find on their site was the curb weight, not even the GVWR.

Edit: Looking some more, all trim levels only show 4-cylinder engines, so maybe I’m missing something.
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Old 06-19-2021, 09:38 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Souljourner View Post
What weight variables should I be measuring at the truck scales to get an accurate picture of what Iím towing and the impact itís having on my vehicle?

TT with my car?
TT without my car?
Tongue weight?

I also canít seem to find specs for my vehicle, other than a 5000 pound towing capacity, and the maximum loaded weight of my vehicle. What other numbers do I need to know?

Thanks again!
������
Find a CAT scale. Weigh the unit attached to the vehicle so we will know all axle weights. Disconnect the unit, weigh your tow vehicle (Sorento) all by itself as it sits ready to camp. Mention whether or not your weight distribtuion hitch is still on the Sorento when weighing, they are heavy.

Take a pic of the axle weight ratings at the driver's door jamb. Post this all here and we'll help.

Many/most people don't read the owner's manual. Typically, on a vehicle like this Sorento you'll have a mention of maximum frontal area of a trailer in the towing section. Usually the max rating will be 40 to 50 sq feet, which excludes most any TT.
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Old 06-20-2021, 06:34 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by KanzKran View Post
Looking on Kiaís web site, Iíve only been able to find 2000 and 3500 lb towing capacities. How do you know it has a 5000 lb tow capacity?

I also failed to find a GCWR (gross combination weight rating), which is the max weight of the vehicle plus trailer. Tow ratings can sometimes look very good, but you canít carry anyone or anything in the vehicle while towing that. In fact, all I could find on their site was the curb weight, not even the GVWR.

Edit: Looking some more, all trim levels only show 4-cylinder engines, so maybe Iím missing something.
Thank you for doing that research for me. I have a 2020 AWD Sorento with the upgraded 6 cylinder engine. It has the same engine as the larger telluride with a towing capacity of 5000 pounds. Iím realizing that number is not all the info I need. In the process of gathering all the other weight variables.

I have to say Iím more than a bit disappointed that I thought I was being such a careful shopper with both car and camper. I asked lots of questions to lots of salespeople - both car and camper salespeople - and I now know they had no idea of the information I needed to make a safe and appropriate decision. All I heard from everyone was 5000 pound towing capacity. One camper salesperson even told me that with a 5000 pound towing capacity and a 3500 net weight camper we would Ďt even need a weight distribution hitch. I bought a good one anyway.

Very sad that I tried to do my due diligence and was possibly led down the wrong road by the ďexperts.Ē I know their bottom line is sales,but they should still be knowledgeable about their product.

The adventure continues.
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Old 06-20-2021, 06:35 PM   #13
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Went to the CAT scales today. What an interesting experience. Everyone should do it. I realized what valuable information it gives you, information that many people towing vehicles probably have no idea about. Iím very relieved with what I found! Every number was below the maximum, per the Kia ownerís manual.

Hereís what I found:
Maximum Trailer Weight per manual - 5000 pounds
My TT fully loaded - 4520

Maximum tongue weight per manual - 350 pounds
My TT - 300 pounds

GVWR - 5622 pounds
My GVW (including 300 pound tongue weight and 40 pound hitch - 4860

Maximum Gross Axle Weight
Front 2976 (manual) 2440 (actual)
Rear 3075 (Manual) 2120 + 300 tongue = 2420

Maximum weight cargo, passengers, tongue weight, and hitch
1120 per manual
759 actual

I am very relieved that I am below all maximum weights in every category!

Back to my original post about smelling propane - since it only occurred three times over 800 miles, and each time after climbing an actual mountain, and hasnít occurred since - I think Iím going to continue driving my setup - and simply avoid mountains!

Thanks to all who gave me input. Iím feeling way more confident with the additional information I now know about my setup. It was an excellent exercise in information gathering.
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Old 06-20-2021, 09:23 PM   #14
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How did you weigh/figure your tongue weight?

Your goal should be 12-15% of your trailer weight for a stable tow. With light trailers you often don't actually need weight distribution, rather just sway control...

The burning smell still might signal that you're overworking your driveline somehow. Most truck towing guides specify a maximum exposed frontal area of a trailer - these are essentially large parachutes. To help with this, make sure you're in tow mode if available or even manually downshift to lower gears so that you're not putting too much load on the engine (lugging the motor). Sounds like this is only on big hills though. Slow down if necessary/safe.
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