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Old 09-12-2015, 08:23 PM   #1
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Propane problem

I went on a trip ,this week,and just 1/2 hour on the road ,I pulled over for the dog pee break.The carbon monoxide detector was beeping,so I push the button and soon the light returned to normal.
I continued to my destination 4 hours further and didn't see anything to be concerned about ,I travel with the fridge running on propane and it was on and no beeping C/M detector.

Now when I went to go to bed ,I turned on the furnace and noticed it was only blowing cold air and soon the C/M detector went off again.The furnace wasn't working ,so I decided to light the burners on the stove to take the chill off,before bed.But there was very little flame coming on the burner and the second burner wouldn't even light.The fridge was still working .So I checked my propane tank even though I new it was full ,having just done that before I left,It was still full.

Then I tried turning the fridge off ,and by doing that one burner on the stove worked in full flame,but the second burner still didn't light.
Then I turned both the fridge and stove off and tried the furnace again ,with no luck just cold air.

So the fridge works alone with nothing else drawing propane and the stove works alone with one burner with nothing else drawing propane.And no furnace not at all,with everything else off.
What possibly could be wrong?
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Old 09-12-2015, 08:31 PM   #2
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When the new propane tanks came out several years ago, I remember being frustrated because I was using one with a flame thrower (weed burner) and couldn't get much of a flame going. It was then that I learned about opening the tanks very slowly or otherwise a check valve would be activated. Now I don't know if that stops the flow of propane or just slows it down. My experience with the flame thrower was that the flow was inhibited but not stopped. Just my anecdotal experience here.

Edited: But NEVER ignore a CO monitor beeping.
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Old 09-12-2015, 09:23 PM   #3
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When the new propane tanks came out several years ago, I remember being frustrated because I was using one with a flame thrower (weed burner) and couldn't get much of a flame going. It was then that I learned about opening the tanks very slowly or otherwise a check valve would be activated. Now I don't know if that stops the flow of propane or just slows it down. My experience with the flame thrower was that the flow was inhibited but not stopped.
It's called an excess flow valve, it's in the hose (not the tank) but became common about the same time as the tanks got OPD valves and the new QCC style outlets, and it just limits flow rate severely. Since Woodie is getting propane, but only at very low flow rate (the refrigerator has a very small burner), this seems like a good possibility.

Another possibility is a frozen-up regulator (which can happen at well above freezing ambient temperatures due to the chilling effect of expanding propane); if that's the problem the regulator would likely be visibly covered in frost.

The last possibility I can think of is that a near-empty tank is being used (rather than the full one), and that the propane pressure is low due to chilling of the tank by evaporating propane - the tank would feel cold and the auto-changeover regulator should switch over.
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Old 09-12-2015, 10:06 PM   #4
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Could it be as simple as a pinched line allowing only a small amount of propane to flow?
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Old 09-12-2015, 10:20 PM   #5
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Could it be as simple as a pinched line allowing only a small amount of propane to flow?
That makes sense, but it is really hard to bend propane hose severely enough to kink it, and the copper tubing under the trailer is tucked out of the way and would take a severe bashing to pinch it that badly.
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Old 09-13-2015, 04:06 PM   #6
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So far I tried to turn the propane tank valve off,then light the stove burners,until they run out of propane and go out ,then run the furnace until no propane should be in the line.Then I disconnected to tank and let it set like that for several hours,hoping that valve would re set itself.Now I shut the stove burners down and reconnected the tank and ever so slowly opened the propane tank valve .No change.

I switched the tanks and just had both tanks filled ,so they are not near empty.

Another thing is it worked for years ,and I have not changed anything to make it all of a sudden do this.
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Old 09-13-2015, 04:17 PM   #7
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A bad regulator maybe?
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Old 09-13-2015, 04:45 PM   #8
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You mention two tanks, but are they both mounted on the trailer, or is it a simple one tank non auto change over regulator? I have never had a single feed regulator fail, though as Jim states, it could be the problem. But I would add that a few years back, shortly after the onset of OPD, l had a similar problem that resulted from a faulty pigtail, probably a malfunctioning excess flow valve. Replacing the pigtail resolved the problem. And when it is working properly, even if the excess flow valve is doing what it was designed to do, if there are no downstream leaks, it should eventually reset itself when the downstream pressure builds to a point that it is equal to the pressure on the upstream side of the excess flow valve.
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Old 09-13-2015, 05:00 PM   #9
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Probably not your problem, but I discovered last year that if I tried to turn on the gas grill before I opened the tank; and then opened the tank, the flow limiter prevented the tank from providing full pressure. Turning everything off and opening the tank first solved the problem.

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Old 09-13-2015, 05:18 PM   #10
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So far I tried to turn the propane tank valve off,then light the stove burners,until they run out of propane and go out ,then run the furnace until no propane should be in the line.Then I disconnected to tank and let it set like that for several hours,hoping that valve would re set itself.
This seems like a reasonable thing to to, but if it is the excess flow valve, this will actually make the problem worse, because there will a rush of propane flow to re-fill the low-pressure plumbing.

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And when it is working properly, even if the excess flow valve is doing what it was designed to do, if there are no downstream leaks, it should eventually reset itself when the downstream pressure builds to a point that it is equal to the pressure on the upstream side of the excess flow valve.
I agree - leaving the downstream system pressurized is the way to get the valve to reset.

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Probably not your problem, but I discovered last year that if I tried to turn on the gas grill before I opened the tank; and then opened the tank, the flow limiter prevented the tank from providing full pressure.
Having the grill's valve open means a big rush of propane flow when the tank valve is opened, so definitely have everything downstream turned off when opening the tank valve.
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Old 09-13-2015, 05:21 PM   #11
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Another thing is it worked for years ,and I have not changed anything to make it all of a sudden do this.
So something broke down...

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Originally Posted by Jim Bennett View Post
A bad regulator maybe?
Bad, or not working properly due to accumulated liquid. Propane often has a bit of oil in it, which tends to accumulate in the regulator. Get enough in there, and it stops regulating properly. I've had this, and poured a millilitre or so (a "thimbleful") of oil of of the regulator after removing it. There should be no oil in a regulator.
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Old 09-13-2015, 05:53 PM   #12
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Bad, or not working properly due to accumulated liquid. Propane often has a bit of oil in it, which tends to accumulate in the regulator. Get enough in there, and it stops regulating properly. I've had this, and poured a millilitre or so (a "thimbleful") of oil of of the regulator after removing it. There should be no oil in a regulator.
I agree, that is definitely another possibility. The fact that it was working when the trailer was last used and suddenly is not now would make me suspect that something has frozen up during a period of non use, whether inside the regulator or the excess flow mechanism. On edit, I should have mentioned that propane is actually a byproduct of the refining process, so it's anybody's guess what contaminants it could possibly contain, such as oil.
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Old 09-13-2015, 07:03 PM   #13
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This seems like a reasonable thing to to, but if it is the excess flow valve, this will actually make the problem worse, because there will a rush of propane flow to re-fill the low-pressure plumbing.


I agree - leaving the downstream system pressurized is the way to get the valve to reset.


Having the grill's valve open means a big rush of propane flow when the tank valve is opened, so definitely have everything downstream turned off when opening the tank valve.
Is the trick then to just disconnect the hose from the propane tank and leave the beyond the regulator full of propane ?.If so that is what I am doing now and will leave it for an hour or so and see if there is any change.I may just go get a new regulator in the morning.
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Old 09-13-2015, 08:50 PM   #14
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Still no change so guess I'll get a new regulator.
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Old 09-13-2015, 10:26 PM   #15
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Is the trick then to just disconnect the hose from the propane tank and leave the beyond the regulator full of propane ?
To reset the excess flow valve, I don't think you even need to disconnect the hose... just shut off the tank valve so there is zero flow, and wait a while.

There is still the trick of turning back on - I just crack the valve slightly, listen for the hissing of flowing propane, and wait until the hissing has stopped (the lines are full) before spinning it fully open. This is very different from steadily turning it open over several seconds, which is what might reasonably be understood from the instruction to "open the tank valve slowly".

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Still no change so guess I'll get a new regulator.
It never hurts to have a spare, even if it turn out to be something else. If the brand of regulator is not the same, the mounting screw holes might not line up... it might be worth checking which brand you have, or what the hole spacing is.

You could also get a spare "pigtail" (the hose from regulator to tank), in case the problem is a stuck or defective excess flow valve in one of the pigtails. This normally has an inverted flare on the regulator end, so it can be changed without dealing with any pipe threads (and so no thread sealant is required). To minimize excess flow valve issues, you might consider a pigtail with the higher-flow-rate excess flow valve, indicated by a green hand nut. The regular size (black hand nut; 50,000 BTU/hr) can flow more than enough for an Escape's appliances, but the the higher-rate (green; 100,000 BTU/hr) valve should be less sensitive to surges in flow.
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Old 09-14-2015, 06:03 PM   #16
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I went and got a new regulator today and started to install it ,but the old one has the base riveted to the trailer and the screws can only be accessed if the base is removed.Escape if you are listening this makes changing regulators very difficult.I had to crawl under the trailer and turn the fittings 1/16th at a time ,being so tight the copper pipe twisted and cracked before I noticed it.So now I had to go to the store and get a new length of pipe.Crawling under again to remove the old pipe ,it runs through the frame and Escape had to of put the fittings on after threading the pipe through the frame ,because now the new pipe with fittings won't go through the same hole.Now I have to bend the pipe around and over the frame of the trailer and now my new pipe is to short.
Since I am going camping tomorrow,I macgyvered it until I have a chance to get back to the propane store,and drill out the rivets to do this properly.
But it now works ,stove furnace,fridge all at the same time.
The old regulator was full of oil.
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Old 09-14-2015, 06:24 PM   #17
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Glad to hear you got it working.

A bunch of years back, previous to owning an Escape, I had issues with propane very similar to yours. What it was, was a waxy white substance, kinda greasy, that was clogging the lines. I had to clean out my regulator, and blow out the lines, and all was well. I got rid of the bottle that caused the grief too. I must have got the contamination when the bottle was filled.
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Old 09-14-2015, 08:55 PM   #18
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When we fill propane tanks that have run completely empty we always purge them. You may have some air in the tank.
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Old 09-14-2015, 11:53 PM   #19
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I went and got a new regulator today and started to install it ,but the old one has the base riveted to the trailer and the screws can only be accessed if the base is removed.Escape if you are listening this makes changing regulators very difficult.
That's surprising, and definitely something to check out when getting familiar with the trailer. Thanks for the tip.

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I had to crawl under the trailer and turn the fittings 1/16th at a time ,being so tight the copper pipe twisted and cracked before I noticed it.So now I had to go to the store and get a new length of pipe.Crawling under again to remove the old pipe ,it runs through the frame and Escape had to of put the fittings on after threading the pipe through the frame ,because now the new pipe with fittings won't go through the same hole.Now I have to bend the pipe around and over the frame of the trailer and now my new pipe is to short.
Regulators are often mounted on the threaded rod which is used to clamp down the tanks, which means it moves when the tanks are moved, which means that the regulator output is connected to the trailer with a hose. The point is that a hose is a valid alternative to copper line, especially if you need something that needs fancy routing and a store is open which sells them. A 3/8" copper line would have a 3/8" SAE female swivel on each end, and that's a common hose configuration.

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The old regulator was full of oil.
Well at least we know what the problem was...
The old regulator may be fine once drained. I think it's at least worth keeping around as a spare.
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Old 09-15-2015, 12:08 AM   #20
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... I should have mentioned that propane is actually a byproduct of the refining process, so it's anybody's guess what contaminants it could possibly contain, such as oil.
Trivia: propane can come out of the well with oil, but is commonly a component of the liquids (they're liquid when under pressure) which come out of natural gas wells along with the gas. The propane is separated from this mix (natural gas liquids if it came with gas), and the heavier parts (butane, etc.) are mostly used as components of various chemicals including plastics. The separation can be imperfect, plus oils can be picked up from equipment along the way.

I wouldn't say that anything is a byproduct of refining - all components are valuable products, and dealing with the balance of those components is one of the challenges of the oil and gas industry... you don't get to pick one part and just get that.
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