How Dangerous Is It To Drive an RV With Propane On?


One of the most common questions that plague both new and experienced RV owners is whether or not to keep their propane running while they’re on the road. It can be hard to find a concrete answer to this with most major RV brands and authorities, and people online seem to have a wide variety of opinions on the subject. But can it be a problem for van life?

It can be very dangerous to drive an RV with propane on as there’s always a fire risk involved. Many authorities and experienced RVers also advise against it. However, other drivers may find that this risk is minimal enough to ignore and will keep their propane running while driving. 

Keep reading as I go over the following:

  • Reasons why some people recommend turning off propane before driving an RV. 
  • Why some people will take the risk regardless. 
  • A few safety precautions for driving with your propane on.

The Risk of Leaving Propane on While Driving an RV

There is a small potential danger with having your propane or any van appliance that uses propane, such as your heater, turned on while driving your RV. 

According to a TripSavvy article, keeping your propane on while driving can lead to leaks or ruptures that can quickly ignite. This can leave you in a dangerous situation, especially when traveling through a closed or isolated area, such as over a bridge or through a tunnel.

For this reason, many authorities, such as the National Park Service, completely warn against using any propane whatsoever. 

Still, for many drivers, this risk isn’t nearly enough to be worth considering.

For example, in this message board thread on the Keystone RV Forums, many users claim that they keep their propane on while traveling, and have done so for years without any issues. Others go a step further and assert that people who turn off each propane-reliant device as soon as they start moving are the exception, not the rule.

For drivers like these, the idea of shutting off their van’s propane entirely during a trip is simply impractical. 

For example, turning off the propane would also mean turning off the vehicle’s fridge, which could spell trouble on longer, hotter trips where food may be more prone to spoiling.

Whether you end up deciding to heed the advice to shut off your propane when driving your RV is up to you. Maybe the risk is great enough for you to justify taking the extra precaution, or maybe it’s not!

Minimizing Propane-Caused Fire Risks in an RV

No matter whether you decide to keep your propane on while driving or not, there are other safety issues that any RV driver should be aware of with regards to propane. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the major tips that any RV owner should know.

Never Keep Your Propane on While Refueling

Even RV owners who choose to keep their propane on while driving their vehicle should still shut the propane off while refueling their van.

AmeriGas recommends shutting off all propane valves and having everybody exit the RV during the refueling process to avoid a fire hazard. Keeping any open flame present during refueling, including an RV fridge, is a huge danger and can quickly lead to a fire starting.

For extra safety, make sure your RV windows are working properly. If not, you should at least have one window that is working in case of an emergency. 

Examine Your Propane Systems Regularly

RV owners should consistently check their propane systems before, during, and after any trips they take.

Leaks, cracks, and breaks in any valves, tanks, or appliances can easily turn sour fast, so it’s best to ensure that your equipment is up to safety standards. This will work out for the best anyway, as keeping a constant eye on your furnace and fridge is one of the best ways to ensure that they last for as long as possible.

AmeriGas recommends not painting propane cylinders or hardware so that you can keep a better eye on any issues as they pop up. 

When it comes to taking care of yourself and your RV, being proactive, not reactive, will be your best bet. You need to be willing to keep an eye out for any safety issues before they get worse.


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Pay Attention To Propane Leak Smell

If you suddenly notice any odd scents in your RV (especially that telltale, rotten egg smell of propane), you should take action as soon as possible. Even the tiniest of propane leaks can have disastrous endings if they’re not promptly taken care of.

Open all of your windows to flush out the gas as much as possible, extinguish any open flame whatsoever, and close all propane valves that you still have open. If possible, you’ll want to evacuate the RV to someplace where you can better assess and fix the situation.

During an emergency like this, do not use your cell phones, lights, or appliances. You should have a technician inspect your propane and the connections that go into your RV, which will ensure that your propane is safe to use again.

If you don’t trust your own nose to sniff out propane, you may want to consider getting a propane leak detector that can accurately do it for you. 

For example, you can buy this MTI Propane Gas Alarm available on Amazon.com to add an extra layer of security to your propane ventures.

Final Thoughts

RV drivers are somewhat split on whether or not to keep their propane on while driving. While it poses a risk, whether or not that risk is ultimately great enough to worry about constantly will depend on you. 

More than anything, the most important thing for an RV owner is to be aware of the potential problems that can go wrong. Doing this will allow you to make smart, educated choices that work for you rather than blindly jumping into potentially dangerous situations. 

RV safety is nothing to ignore, after all!

Here are some of my favorite van life essentials:

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful as you’re experiencing your life on the road. Here are some tools and gadgets I use on a daily basis that made my van life a lot easier. I hope you’ll also find them as useful as me. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to purchase any of them, I’ll earn a commission.
But in all honesty, these are the exact tools that I use and recommend to everyone, even my closest friends and family.

Kitchen: I’m cooking a lot and I’ve finally found my perfect cookware set: The Magma Cookware 10 Pcs that you can nests and store in less than 1/2 cubic foot of cabinet space is really handy. Since I’m also spending a lot of time working at my desk, I use my favorite coffee mug from Yeti. For more, check my list of kitchen accessories I can’t live without.

Outdoor: Even though I’m spending a lot of time in my van working, I do enjoy getting out and explore my ever-changing neighborhood. This sometimes requires me to take my portable solar battery with me. And when I just want to chill outside and take a nap, I use the Winner Outfitters Hammock.

Clean/Tidy: Space is precious and therefore I used these heavy-duty storage bins from Homs to store my material. They’re robust and you can stack them together. Regarding showering, I like to use this portable solar shower from Advanced Elements when it’s hot outside.

To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations about van life, check out this resource that I made for you!

Martin

As an independent traveler, I try to share my positive and negative observations about van life as well as tips and tricks to make your life on the road easier. I travel and work in my old RV and would greatly appreciate a coffee from you if you find my content useful.

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