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Monday, October 8, 2012

Disconcerting Propane Leaks on RV

My one-year old travel trailer developed severe propane leaks around both service pigtails leading to the trailer's 30# propane tanks. This was discovered after the very first filling of tanks and then remounting them. In one year the original vinyl hose became hardened and was spinning on the hose barbs connecting to the central regulator/tank switch assembly, despite the swaged-on collar. Leaks were also observed where the hose connected to the green knurled-knob tank fitting. These were faint but detectable. I discovered the leaks after putting the hard plastic tank cover back over the tanks before our trip, but began to smell accumulated propane when hooking up the trailer to the tow vehicle. Removing the cover released a large amount of propane into the air. To complete the trip I was forced to cut away the swaged collars and replace them temporarily with automotive hose clamps. Upon return I replaced both pigtails completely. But what I discovered is that the original pigtail hose is not what the label states: UL Listed 6.3mm "Pigtail for LP Gas". Instead it is standard 5/16" or 8.0 mm automotive fuel hose. The 1/4" brass hose barbs simply spin in this hose. The manufacturer (from China, it looks like), must have substituted this hose for the proper LPG hose. Is this legal? The hose is now hard, has lost its resiliency, and no longer seals around the end fittings. My new pigtail hose is embossed throughout its full length: 1/4" LPG hose (345 psi). Should this be a manufacturer's recall? I have an intact system now, but the original pigtails give me a concern for other owners. Philip C., (Ft. Worth, TX) 

Those pigtails are on the high pressure side of the regulator, Philip, meaning the pressure on those hoses is the same as whatever is in the cylinders at any given time. The flexible connectors should be double-braided (when viewed as a cross section), between the cylinder valves and the first stage of the regulator, typically at the changeover valve. Single-braided hose (considered low pressure), is used between the outlet of the regulator and connects to the main piping manifold in the coach. I’m not sure who your hose maker is, but if those were the original hoses that came from the factory, it’s possible a recall is in order. You can report it to the NHTSA website; www.NHTSA.gov, but they'll likely just keep it on file. Here’s a website with current RV recalls listed:


With the apparent demise of Marshall Gas Controls, a large maker of quality propane gas equipment, I’m very concerned about the cheap imports showing up, even on pricey RVs. I’ve seen total garbage on shelves at RV dealerships and accessory stores. 

You can also complain directly to RVIA to their Standards department. The problem is that in most cases these crappy products do satisfy the code requirement so manufacturers get by with the cheap imports. Kudos to those coach makers who still build using US-made products only! 

If you belong to an owner’s group, you may want to contact them too and make them aware of the importance of having the propane system leak tested at least twice per camping season. But I hear you. This is one area you do not want to sacrifice quality!


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