So here's how it started... I had to store my travel trailer for about a month at Sam's Family Spa near Palm Springs California. (They have the cheapest RV storage in the area, by the way.)
Eager to live again in my little home, I drove to pick it up. I unpacked my suitcase, and brought in my groceries. I opened my RV propane valve on top of the propane tank, aaaaand, as life can be a butthole sometimes, the red propane flow indicator did not turn to green. (I have an RV propane automatic changeover regulator.)
So I switched tanks. Still red.
I wasn't off to a good start.
I had to do my own RV propane regulator troubleshooting. After investigating the issue, I decided my RV propane regulator was bad. A new one was needed.
How Did I Investigate My Propane Issue?
First, I tried switching over and using/opening both tanks. Neither worked.
Yes, they were totally full and brand-new.
I tried connecting the spare portable propane tank I use for my buddy heater. It didn't work either.
I tried lighting my propane stove. Nothing was passing through the lines. (You can hear the gas coming through when it does.)
If no air/gas is passing through, you either don't have your connector hooked up to your propane bottle properly, your propane valve isn't open, or your RV propane regulator is bad.
As soon as I could, I bopped down the road to get a new, albeit very overpriced RV propane regulator replacement. I needed it that day, as I had groceries to chill and I was headed out to boondock. (Naturally)
Amazon wasn't going to ship a camper propane regulator fast enough for my needs. After buying one locally that was about $40 over what it would have cost on Amazon, I ACTUALLY INSTALLED IT MYSELF! Shocking, yes. Desperate times call for desperate measures...
This made it especially annoying when I went back inside to try my stove, and...
...still no propane coming through.
Super annoyed that I had just wasted my time replacing it, I knew there must be another problem. And it was beyond my 'expertise'.
I hopped on the internet- looking for someone to fix it before the end of the day. I finally found Benlo RV /motorhome repair in Irwindale, Ca. They were on my way to Borrego Springs, and they were quite helpful on the phone. I could just barely get there towing my house before they closed! Off I went.
Install Per Manufacturer's Instructions
When installing a propane regulator, make sure you follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Most likely they will tell you to install the regulator above, or very close to, the top of your propane tanks. You want the regulator to be above the level of propane, keeping in mind that when full, a propane tank isn't completely full.
They only fill to about 80% capacity or so, allowing for expansion of the propane if the bottle heats up due to being in the sun, etc.
You will also most likely be told to install the regulator's vent pointing down.
And The Problem Was... (Drumroll please)
The technician I spoke to on the phone took ONE LOOK at my regulator and knew what the problem was.
"Yeah, that's a bad RV propane regulator".
'WHAT? No- it's brand new, it can't be bad!' I protested.
"Yep- we've seen this with this brand time and time again" was his answer.
How could a brand new product be bad? But because they were so sure of it, and because I was out of other options, I agreed to try a new one.
They didn't have an rv dual-tank propane regulator, but they had a single one, which would hold me over, so I said go for it. I wish they would have allowed me to install it because I ended up paying them about $50 for installation, which I could have easily done, but I was so happy to just have it remedied, I didn't complain.
The cost for this RV gas regulator plus installation was the same price as the dud regulator I purchased. About $70. This turned into a $140 repair. Should have been about $35, if I had had time to order from Amazon, and didn't receive a dud.
BIG DEBATE! Propane On Or Off When Driving?
This is a greatly debated topic among RVers. Do you turn the propane off at the bottle(s) when traveling, or do you keep it on so that your propane refrigerator can stay cool?
Bottom line is for safety's sake, and to keep your propane regulator happy, turn your propane tank(s) off. Having said that, many people travel with the propane on.
A few things to consider when leaving it on:
Refrigeration Considerations: Are you traveling far/long enough to justify the risk involved with driving with propane turned on? Or will your fridge maintain it's cold temperature while you are on the road? Short distances/times generally don't require the fridge to be on as they are able to maintain cool enough temps for a decent period of time. Use a fridge interior temp gauge to learn how well your fridge keeps cool in situations like this.
Propane Line Damage: Know where your propane lines run down the length of your rig. One of the concerns of traveling with propane on is that the propane lines can be damaged by road debris being kicked up or if you experience a tire blowout. If your propane lines are tucked up inside the chassis or frame and are protected from such occurrences, then these types of risks are minimized (but may never be totally eliminated).
Regulator Failure: Driving causes propane tank movement. This can cause liquid propane to enter the lines that feed the propane regulator. Propane regulators are only supposed to 'accept' propane in a gas state. Liquid propane entry can eventually destroy the regulator. Camp Addict Marshall has been driving with his propane on for close to 5 years and is still on his original propane regulator. Camp Addict Kelly had a propane regulator need replacing in less than a year due to liquid propane finding its way inside. Your mileage will vary.
What's The Verdict?
If you are confident that your propane lines are protected from potential damage they might be subjected to while driving, you could consider leaving them on. (Just remember that most propane lines will never be 100% protected from all possible causes of damage.)
Your regulator still may suffer if liquid propane gets into them.
If you are unsure and/or just like to err on the side of caution, drive with your propane off. This is truly the smartest thing to do. When in doubt, just travel with your propane off!
The Offending RV Propane Regulator
So what's the offending regulator brand? It's the:
Camco double-stage auto-changeover regulator, part number 59005.
(Part number only comes on the packaging, not on the item itself. The back of this particular regulator says model AC201. I called Camco, and the representative didn't have much to say/didn't really know about the reason for the number on the back.)
Its reviews on Amazon are decent, and the fake spot detector gives the page an A rating. Still, this shop worker knew right off the bat that the regulator was bad because he's seen the same issue before with this brand. He was right. We replaced it with another regulator and it 'magically' worked just fine.
The Regulators Kelly Installed
While we have yet to review propane regulators on Camp Addict, we can tell you what regulators ended up being installed on Kelly's rig.
The RV shop that helped Kelly out didn't have a dual-bottle regulator in stock, so they ended up installing a Marshall Excelsior MEGR-230 single stage propane regulator that takes the input from a single propane bottle at a time.
This meant having to unscrew the pigtail from the empty bottle and screw it into the full bottle, every time a bottle needed to be switched. In other words, there was no automatic switchover of bottles.
Marshall had purchased the exact same unit that came on his rig from the Lance factory: a Fairview 2-stage propane regulator, as a spare. He opted to purchase the one that came with two new pigtails (the parts that screw into the propane bottles) because having new propane hoses is a good thing.
Because he is such a nice guy (says Marshall... ), Marshall installed his newly purchased spare propane regulator on Kelly's rig so she could have her two propane bottles hooked up at one time, and take advantage of the automatic switchover feature.
Fingers crossed that this newly installed regulator is trouble-free for years to come. *We will keep you updated if otherwise.
*UPDATE 2/7/19- The Fairview regulator failed to show proper changeover in January. It was stuck in between green and red. Why? Well, Kelly often travels without turning off the propane tanks. Why is this bad?
According to the manufacturer, the jostling that happnes when driving can cause LIQUID propane to get up into the propane lines of the regulator if left open. The regulator is not designed to receive liquid propane, only gas propane.
We could see what we thought was condensation inside the switchover green/red section and thought water was inside. Instead, it was propane.
This is another good reason to turn off your propane tank valves when traveling.
We sent the failed regulator back and we were happy that they sent us a new one after inspecting the failed regulator.
So that's my personal story about this particular RV propane regulator. I won't buy the same Camco propane regulator ever again. Will it work for you? Possibly. Still, I got a reportedly 'known' bum product, and don't want to make the same mistake again. I thought I would share my misfortune with you.
What would be a good RV propane regulator replacement? Unfortunately, we can't tell you just yet as we haven't reviewed any regulators.
Still, what we CAN tell you is that we had one not work, and an RV shop told us that they have seen this issue more than once with the Camco double-stage auto-changeover propane regulator, model 59005.
At this point in time, you will have to decide for yourself if you want to purchase this RV gas regulator or not.
And Now For A Quick Tip...
If you have an RV propane regulator in your RV that runs your refrigerator or your furnace, it's a good idea to carry around a spare propane regulator for RV if you camp in rural areas. This way, if yours dies, you have something on hand to replace it with so you don't lose all of your groceries! Or avoid freezing your butt off on a cold night.
Thanks for reading, and Camp On, Addicts!
Author: Kelly Beasley
Kelly Beasley is co-founder of Camp Addict and loves sharing her enthusiasm for the RVing lifestyle. As a full-time RVer since May 2015, Kelly's playful writing style helps make learning about the sometimes dull subject of RV products a bit more interesting.