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Mark My Words: Should you travel with propane on?

Editor’s note: This information is provided by the Escapees Club.

Q. We have a 2008 Puma travel trailer.  It would be convenient if we could start the refrigerator and let it run while traveling to our destination so it would be cold when we arrived.  Could there be a problem running the refrigerator on propane while traveling?  — Richard

A. Operating the refrigerator on propane while traveling is one of those controversial issues that will always stimulate a lively discussion around the campfire.

Most RV refrigerators will operate quite effectively on propane while you are rolling down the road and will not have problems with the flame blowing out. The constant motion keeps everything flowing smoothly in the cooling system, so, technically, it is no problem to run them.

The key issues are safety-related. There is an open flame in the refrigerator compartment, so it is absolutely critical to shut the refrigerator off before you approach any kind of fuel dispensing facility. In fact, before you approach a fuel station or propane fill station, all appliances that are capable of producing a flame or a spark must be turned off.

Also, the fact that the propane must be turned on at the tank in order to operate the refrigerator may create a hazard in the case of an accident or in the event of a tire failure. If anything happens that creates a hole, crack or leak in the propane supply piping in the RV, you have an instant fire/explosion hazard just waiting for a spark.

It really is safer to drive with the propane supply turned off at the tank. Most folks find that, for the average trip, the refrigerator will maintain a low enough internal temperature to keep your food fresh. It is also possible to freeze some blue ice packs the night before and use them in the refrigerator compartment to help keep everything cold while traveling.

About Mark Nemeth

In 1997, Mark quit his aerospace engineering job and became a full-time RVer. For almost five years he traveled the country while maintaining his website, Mark’s Fulltime RV Adventure (www.marxrv.com) posting monthly travel logs. Mark now travels part-time and works as the RV Safety Education Director for Escapees RV Club providing technical training at Escapees Boot Camp seminars, as well as assisting in many other areas of the club. He is also technical advisor for Escapees magazine. Learn more about Escapees RV Club at www.escapees.com.

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