RV Propane Regulator Troubleshooting & How to Guide

RV Propane Regulator Troubleshooting & How to Guide

Your RV has a two-stage propane regulator to regulate the propane pressure. This component fits between the propane tank and the rest of the propane system, and takes the fuel out the tank at high pressure and brings it down to a manageable level. Being the heart of your RV propane system, the regulator is a crucial component that should be in a perfect condition, working optimally. But this isn’t always the case and sometimes your propane regulator can have issues. In this guide, we give step-by-step instructions for troubleshooting some of the commonly-reported RV propane regulator issues.

How an RV propane regulator works

Propane regulators fueling appliances like what you have in your RV require two stages of regulators. To understand how an RV propane regulator works, you first need to understand what happens in each stage.

Stage 1

The first stage regulates the pressure directly from the propane tank. It takes the pressure from the propane tanks down to a manageable level for the second stage of the regulator to do its job. It lowers the pressure from as high as 250 psi to approximately 10-15 psi.

Stage 2

The second stage of the RV propane regulator takes the “brought down” pressure from the first stage and turns it into the standard propane pressure for appliances. It lowers the pressure to around 11 water column inches.

You must have both regulators on a propane system for it to work. The regulators also need to be a matching set and compatible with each other.  Also, the second stage regulator cannot be placed before the first, it must come after.

How do I Know if my propane regulator is bad?

The propane regulator is a crucial component of every RV gas system and if it is not working properly you will notice problems with your propane appliances. If your propane regulator is bad, there are several signs to look out for and a lot of them can be seen from a burner:

Yellow flames

The flame on your propane appliances should be a strong blue, but if you have lazy yellow flames after lighting one of the burners on your RV stove it indicates lack of enough pressure in your LP gas system. If the flame is blue but makes a roaring sound and is very tall then you have too much pressure.

In such a case, you either have a leak or you need to replace the regulator since it’s rare that an RV propane regulator needs adjusting.

Dark soot deposits

Propane is a fairly clean gas and it doesn’t normally have dark smoke when it burns. A healthy propane flame shouldn’t put off hardly any soot. If you have started noticing dark black marks forming around your water heater or even your RV kitchen by the stove then you either have something in the burner causing the soot or the flame is weak and isn’t burning cleanly.

You could try adjusting the flame strength on a water heater to resolve the problem. But if the heavy soot persists then you have a bad RV regulator.

Popping noises

If you hear popping noises when you turn off the flames on your RV stove burner then your propane regulator could be having issues. This problem can also be as a result of a damaged burner. If you hear the popping noises on one burner but not the others check the problematic burner. It may be dirty or askew.

Leaking or venting regulator

If there is a propane smell coming from your propane regulator it may be damaged or not sealing properly.

Propane regulators have a vent located on the bottom to help the regulator breathe while being used. It is also works a safety feature in case the propane tank is overfilled and the pressure is getting too high. If there is propane coming from the vent, check to make sure your propane tank is not overfilled. If the tank is not the problem, then the regulator has gone bad and needs to be replaced.

No propane flowing through the regulator

A common cause for propane not flowing through the regulator is a safety feature that is inside the regulator. The regulator engages a safety valve, shutting it off when it detects a high propane flow. You can reset the propane regulator by turning off the propane tanks and making sure all your propane appliances are shut off. The regulator should reset after a few minutes.

If resetting the propane regulator doesn’t fix the problem your RV propane regulator is not functioning correctly and may need to be replaced.

Automatic changeover isn’t  working

If you have dual propane tanks and an automatic RV propane regulator and the regulator stopped switching over automatically or your automatic system starts to malfunction, it may be an early sign that your regulator is starting to go bad.

Age

Age can also be a factor when looking to establish if your propane regulator is going bad. These regulators have a life of about 10 years and can start malfunctioning because they are too old.

If you are having issues with your RV propane regulator, you can try to reset the regulator to see if the problem resolves.

How do you test a propane regulator on a camper?

Regular testing is not only crucial for safety but also a great way to ensure that your system works at all times. Here are the top most crucial tests you should always have in mind.

Leak test:

You can test for leaks on a propane regulator by using a dish soap-water mixture.  Prepare a solution of equal parts water to dish soap. Using a paintbrush, generously apply the soapy solution on the propane regulator. The mixture should cover the O-ring and the connecting point of the hose and valves.

Then with the burners in the “off” position, turn the propane valve on. If you see bubbles starting to form, that is where the leak is.

Pressure and flow test:

  • Install a water column manometer or a suitable low-pressure gauge or measuring device in the second-stage regulator test tap or in the test tap in the appliance gas shutoff valve at the gas appliance that is most distant from the gas regulator being tested.
  • Re-light all of the gas appliance pilots and turn the appliance on, confirming that the gas burners are all operating at their highest setting.
  • Read flowing gas pressure at the pressure gauge or manometer with all of the gas-using appliance pilots lit and appliance gas burners operating.
  • Compare to desired pressure. On a manometer, with at least half of the gas appliances working you have to see a total of 11 inches of water (pressure) on the readout scale. You may need to adjust the supply regulator to achieve that pressure.
  • Check the propane gas delivery pressure specified on the data tag attached to your appliance.

If the supply regulator cannot maintain the required flowing gas pressure the problem may be any of the following:

  • The regulator output capacity is inadequate. A larger output capacity regulator is required.
  • The upstream main gas regulator may be the wrong size or capacity.
  • The gas supply piping may be under sized for the piping distance, number of elbows and fittings, or for the flow requirements of the appliances being served or for the regulator being tested.

Lock-up test procedure:

To read Lock-up (or static) gas pressure,

  1. Turn off all the gas-fueled appliances.
  2. Turn off the gas supply at all the individual gas appliances individual shutoff valves.
  3. Leave the gas tank gas valve open or “on” to keep providing gas pressure to the gas delivery system,
  4. Check the gas pressure. You should see the gas pressure increase slightly (above the 11 inches of water column read before) and then the pressure rise should stop. This is the lock-up gas pressure. The lock-up gas pressure shouldn’t be more than 30 % higher than the flow pressure.

Document the regulator measurements made in both of these tests. If after a brief initial pressure rise the gas pressure continues to increase with the appliances off, the regulator is defective and must be replaced.

How to replace a propane regulator

If you are looking to replace an automatic 2-stage dual RV propane regulator, you will need the following items:

  • A replacement propane regulator that is of the proper size and style for an RV
  • Pigtails (optional)
  • Gas line thread tape
  • 2 adjustable crescent wrenches

Turn off your propane tanks and empty the gas lines

Unhook them from the old regulator you are going to replace. Then go inside your RV and light one of the burners on your stove so that you empty the LP gas in the line. Wait until the flame is no longer burning, then turn off the gas on the stove so that it does not start leaking out when you turn the gas back on.

Remove the RV propane regulator

The regulator is attached to the main gas line that is connected to it on the bottom. To remove it, place a wrench on the nut of the main gas line and twist the regulator. Do not twist the main gas line. You can use another wrench on the lower part if you are having difficulties twisting the regulator. The lower part normally has a hexagonal shape for a wrench to be used if necessary.

If your RV propane regulator has plastic rain cover over the front part you will need to remove it to access the nut that is located at the bottom of the regulator so you can use a wrench. Pull the cover off by hand to remove it. The black switch should be pointing down so that it is out of the way when you remove the cover.

Remove the pigtails( lines attaching directly to the propane tanks)

You can also remove the old pigtails if you are planning on using them on your new regulator. Make sure you use the gas line thread tape when attaching the old pigtails to your replacement propane regulator.

Gas line thread tape

Next remove all the old yellow gas line tape from the main gas lines threads and re-tape it. Make sure you tape the same direction you will be screwing on the propane regulator so that it does not move and get undone while you tighten the regulator.

Attach the propane regulator to the main gas line

Now screw the new regulator onto the main gas line. Make sure you use plenty of tape for a good seal and don’t cross-thread nut onto the bolt. For a snug leak-free fit, tighten using the two crescent wrenches.

Attach propane regulator to propane tanks

After securing the RV propane tank to the main gas line, then attach the two pigtails to your propane tanks. If the regulator has a monitor on it, it should change from red to clear when you open a propane tank and point the arrow towards open tank.

Check for leaks

With the propane gas running through the regulator, you then need to inspect the connection between the propane regulator and the main gas line for leaks. To test for leaks, mix water with soap dish and apply it on the connection. If there are no bubbles appearing, it means the connection is tight. If there are bubbles, there is a leak and you need to repeat the steps while making sure you use more gas line thread tape.

RV propane regulator leaking vent fix

The vent is to allow pressure equalization across the regulator diaphragm. It helps the regulator breathe while it is being used and is also a safety feature in case the propane tank is overfilled and the pressure is getting too high.

If you notice propane coming from the vent, make sure you don’t have an overfilled tank. If the propane tank is not the problem, the regular has gone bad and needs replacing.

How do you clean a clogged propane regulator?

You can clean a clogged propane regulator using a mixture of water and dish soap:

  • Shut off the valve on the gas tank and remove the regulator and hose from the tank.
  • Soak the hose in warm, soapy water for a few minutes to clean it. Use a grease-cutting dish soap. Rinse the hose under running water and allow it to dry.
  • Mix 1/4 cup of dish soap and water in a bowl. The solution should contain an equal part of both.
  • Reconnect the hose and brush all connections with this solution. This would include the connection between the regulator and the propane tank, the regulator and hose, and the hose and appliance.
  • Turn on the valve on the tank. Look at the connections. If you see bubbles form anywhere turn off the gas and tighten the connection. Repeat the test until you see no more bubbles.

Propane auto changeover valve not working

An automatic changeover valve automatically switches from one gas tank to another, when one is empty. Automatic changeover valves use a visual indicator to show you when a gas tank is empty and it has switched over to other gas tank.

If your propane auto changeover valve is not working, there could several possible causes for this. The issue may be that the outlet pressure isn’t strong enough to recognize. It may be that the regulator is still sensing the propane in the tank and yet is not allowing it through because of the pressure lacking yet won’t change over because there is still enough pressure to register.

To troubleshoot a propane auto changeover valve that is not working, follow these instructions:

  1. Check to make sure the active gas tank valve is turned on. The active gas tank is the one pointed to by the changeover valve.
  2. Check to see if either gas tanks have any gas left. If the tanks are empty you need to contact your supplier for a gas delivery.
  3. Check the excess flow valve in your propane tank. If the valve is opened too quickly it closes. To reset the valve, turn off the propane tank valve and turn off all the propane appliances. Wait 5-10 minutes and turn the propane valve on exceptionally slowly.
  4. If the problem persists after the above steps, the regulator is bad and needs to be replaced.

RV Propane Not Flowing

If your RV flow propane is not flowing, try the following troubleshooting tips to fix the issue:

  1. Check to make sure the propane valve is ON. The gas attendant may have left the valve in a closed position when you went to fill your propane tank.
  2.  Check the excess flow valve. This is a safety feature on propane tanks that is also known as a flow limiting device. The excess flow valve is designed to stop or reduce the flow of propane gas if there is a leak somewhere in the RV propane system. There are three main reasons that the excess flow valve could engage:
  3. If you have a leak anywhere on the propane system, the valve will engage.
  4. If you open the propane tank valve too quickly the valve can mistakenly sense it as a leak. It will then engage since it detects propane leaving the tank too fast. To troubleshoot this situation, turn off the propane tank valve and turn off all the propane appliances. Wait 5-10 minutes and then turn the propane valve on exceptionally slowly. After you have a flow of propane, you must open the tank valve to the fully open position.
  5. If you don’t screw the propane hose fitting into the tank fitting properly, the valve will remain in the closed position, restricting propane flow. Just unscrew it, line it up correctly and screw it in again.
  6. Check the propane regulator. The propane regulator could have gone bad and needs replacing.

Check this too: Gas Fireplace Troubleshooting and How to Guide

How do you reset a propane regulator?

Before you reset the propane regulator, it is important to understand that it has the same type of safety feature that a propane tank has. Inside the regulator, there is a small valve that will detect propane gas moving too fast through the system. If it senses this, it will stop or slow the flow of propane.

To reset a propane regulator, follow these instructions:

  1.  Turn off the propane tank, and make sure all of your propane appliances are off inside your RV.
  2. Wait a few minutes, and the regulator will reset itself.
  3. Then turn the propane tank on extremely slowly to allow the lines to become appropriately pressurized.
  4. After doing this, you should be able to ignite a propane appliance. If not, it may be time to replace your RV propane regulator.

What happens when a gas regulator fails?

Gas regulators, when not performing optimally or fail, can lead to many hazardous situations such as the leakage of toxic gases into the atmosphere, or even the risk of explosions or fire.