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Old 04-30-2011, 02:14 PM   #1
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Default Fire from overfilled propane tank, need advice.

Greetings!
It was last year when I scoured this forum for information while I was looking for information on a RoadTrek well we found one late last year and parked it over the winter and took it out last weekend (1987 dodge roadtrek). The weekend started bad and went to worse.
Unknown to me the attendant way overfilled the tank after the incident and using the propane stove and heater it was still filled more than the red zone would register. we kept on smelling propane and my daughter was ill on a drive for the first time in her life. The smell disappeared when we parked and we stopped to camp ( I had not checked the tank at this time and assumed that it may have been trapped gas from the filling) we used everything without incident and settled in for the night and turned on the heat after about three cycles the cabin filled full of smoke and the smell of burnt wiring and I assumed it was an electrical problem with the heater and shut if off for the night and as it still was getting below freezing at night it was a little cold. I could not run the vehicle because it burns a little rich at the moment ( pre tune up).
In the morning I went out and saw that a bunch of plastic had melted off the regulator and the fridge was no longer working.
I opened up the fridge compartment and it was a mass of burnt wiring melted together and the condensor was a nice carbon color. I was dumb founded and when I looked at the propane guage I noticed it was way past the over fill mark and assumed that it bled off ignited and then heated up the tank to create more ignited propane. we cut our trip short and headed back into town after shutting the propane right off. After going to one RV dealer they said we were lucky that we never lost our out rig or our lives. this was verified by another outfit as well later that week. The first estimate is $ 2400 to replace the fridge, regulator and fix the wiring, the other guy said that was conservative and likely be much more but he would not even touch it as as things come out more damage could show up and with the season just beginning could not even get to it for weeks even if he decided to take it on. Now I have a rig I cannot use with a overfill tank and even if I could get it in could cost thousands and not even have it for a least a month. I went to the gas station owner and he said his deductible is 2500 and does not know if he can fix it, I was upset at the time and left him with the bill last Tuesday and told him to contact his insurance and get back to me. I have not heard back from him. We have decided to try and get it fixed asap and then bring the bill to him so we can get out before the season is done. I feel he should at the very least fix it and compensate me for the time of getting estimates etc.
I could fix most of it myself although I am not licensed to handle propane but could do the other stuff. One RV fella said that the 110 has to be run back to the junction and you cannot just splice like you can splice 12 volt so this means there might be some major work involved in pulling out the cabinets to get to the end of the line.
But then I have so much other work to so do I tie up my evenings and weekends and swallow the cost or do I pay a RV repair place to fix it and hope that I can get the station owner to pay for it. My insurance will cover it but my premiums will increase for five years. I also have to pay someone to bleed off the tank right away as well because the regulator is shot and can just burn it off. Any advice on how to proceed?
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Old 04-30-2011, 05:50 PM   #2
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Default Re: Fire from overfilled propane tank, need advice.

Sounds like too many things you don't have experince with and that could be safety issues. I'd pay for having it done right and chalk it up to learning what to watch for next time.
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Old 04-30-2011, 08:21 PM   #3
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Default Re: Fire from overfilled propane tank, need advice.

Sorry about the terrible things happening, but I feel you got out without injury or loss of life, these things we can be grateful for. Like mentioned, don't try to affect any repairs yourself, unless you are throughly familiar with all the systems involved and any other systems or equipment that could have been damaged. If you have the gas station attendant owning up to the overfill, I would think you have a reasonable expectation of getting made whole. I wouldn't use my insurance for this; I would think about small claims court, if necessary. You could have an Attorney draft a letter to the Station Owner that legal action will be forthcoming if this is not addressed with dispatch. Oftentimes a letter from the legal parasites gets you some action; if it don't, try and make your case in court. Don't let this incident ruin your dreams of having a great time in a B - they are just derailed for now. Safe travels.
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Old 05-03-2011, 03:02 AM   #4
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Default Re: Fire from overfilled propane tank, need advice.

I'm confused here. The tank in my Roadtrek is a Manchester model 68001 which has a built in
OPD (overfill protection device) to keep what you've described from happening. How was a gas
station attendant able to defeat the function? Here's a couple of links that describe what I'm
talking about.
http://www.propane101.com/opdcylindervalves.htm
http://www.mantank.com/products/rvproducts.htm

Could the diagnosis possibly be bad wiring and a faulty propane tank gauge?
Again, I'm no expert, but I don't think these things can be overfilled, and either your tank was older
than the requirement for the OPD (possible?), or somehow the attendant defeated it's functionality.
Not terribly comforting in either case, but may give you some additional info or food for thought.
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Old 05-04-2011, 02:51 PM   #5
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Default Re: Fire from overfilled propane tank, need advice.

What Mike offers sounds correct. Liabilitity issues would dictate a nearly fool proof inability to over fill a propane tank. But then my propane guy was killed when it all went wrong during a refill.

I'm confused here. The tank in my Roadtrek is a Manchester model 68001 which has a built in
OPD (overfill protection device) to keep what you've described from happening. How was a gas
station attendant able to defeat the function? Here's a couple of links that describe what I'm
talking about.
http://www.propane101.com/opdcylindervalves.htm
http://www.mantank.com/products/rvproducts.htm

Could the diagnosis possibly be bad wiring and a faulty propane tank gauge?
Again, I'm no expert, but I don't think these things can be overfilled, and either your tank was older
than the requirement for the OPD (possible?), or somehow the attendant defeated it's functionality.
Not terribly comforting in either case, but may give you some additional info or food for thought.[/quote]
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Old 05-05-2011, 06:43 PM   #6
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Default Re: Fire from overfilled propane tank, need advice.

Thanks for the replies.
Mike what year is your Roadtrek. Mine is a 1987 and perhaps does not have a ASME Code tank with overflow protection. I really know nothing about propane and on a learning curve here. When the attendant filled it he did not have the bleed off valve open. The way to fill these tanks is you open the spit valve a small degree and then fill it until liquid comes out the spit valve then you have your 80% fill. he filled it then opened the spit valve and liquid came out. Of course liquid would come out of it as it was overfilled. The tank continued to spit out the valve while we were driving and that was the smell and was not trapped gas from the fill. the attendent kept on filling and started an stopped it a number of times adding a little bit more each time. I have no idea what the hell he was doing but when he was filling it he was spraying propane out the filling nozzle a number of times. I asked him how many tanks has he filled and while I don't speak what ever language he speaks, he was clear in saying 1 time by holding up his pointing finger.
I followed up on the owner and he said that he trained the attendant, which means nothing here because you need several different kinds of courses to deal with different aspects of propane. He also told his boss that he did open the spit valve but that was after it was filled and at my repeated request because I thought that it had to be open although, like I said I know nothing about propane.
We are talking it was wrapped past the overfill red mark and still is, I am not sure how he got it that full but he did succeed. The general thought is because I was smelling propane on the drive and it was still leaking and later on that evening when parked. Heat from the day and the drive there was expansion it was still warm and leaking and the leak ignited.
Its is not to say that the wiring problem is impossible but we had the unit and used all the electrical and components without issue until the tank was filled. My wife has asked me if we had to fill the tank and could we last the night without it, I should just left it because we likely would have. The woman was right again!


skcyclist. Your propane guy was killed during a refill? holy crap your scaring the hell out of me.

I booked an appointment for the repairs anyway and will for sure have it before the may long weekend which better than I expected. I just have to figure out who is footing the bill, so far it looks like my insurance will cover it if the gas station owner will not. So far this has been a pain mostly for my wife because she is not well and stressed out and having to take this thing all over town while I am working.
I do have the engine running like a top though Air bags and maybe new shocks as soon as I get it back from the shop

Thanks all!
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Old 05-06-2011, 02:32 AM   #7
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Default Re: Fire from overfilled propane tank, need advice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gexter
Thanks for the replies.
Mike what year is your Roadtrek. Mine is a 1987 and perhaps does not have a ASME Code tank with overflow protection. I really know nothing about propane and on a learning curve here. When the attendant filled it he did not have the bleed off valve open. The way to fill these tanks is you open the spit valve a small degree and then fill it until liquid comes out the spit valve then you have your 80% fill. he filled it then opened the spit valve and liquid came out. Of course liquid would come out of it as it was overfilled. The tank continued to spit out the valve while we were driving and that was the smell and was not trapped gas from the fill. the attendent kept on filling and started an stopped it a number of times adding a little bit more each time. I have no idea what the hell he was doing but when he was filling it he was spraying propane out the filling nozzle a number of times. I asked him how many tanks has he filled and while I don't speak what ever language he speaks, he was clear in saying 1 time by holding up his pointing finger.
I followed up on the owner and he said that he trained the attendant, which means nothing here because you need several different kinds of courses to deal with different aspects of propane. He also told his boss that he did open the spit valve but that was after it was filled and at my repeated request because I thought that it had to be open although, like I said I know nothing about propane.
We are talking it was wrapped past the overfill red mark and still is, I am not sure how he got it that full but he did succeed. The general thought is because I was smelling propane on the drive and it was still leaking and later on that evening when parked. Heat from the day and the drive there was expansion it was still warm and leaking and the leak ignited.
Its is not to say that the wiring problem is impossible but we had the unit and used all the electrical and components without issue until the tank was filled. My wife has asked me if we had to fill the tank and could we last the night without it, I should just left it because we likely would have. The woman was right again!


skcyclist. Your propane guy was killed during a refill? holy crap your scaring the hell out of me.

I booked an appointment for the repairs anyway and will for sure have it before the may long weekend which better than I expected. I just have to figure out who is footing the bill, so far it looks like my insurance will cover it if the gas station owner will not. So far this has been a pain mostly for my wife because she is not well and stressed out and having to take this thing all over town while I am working.
I do have the engine running like a top though Air bags and maybe new shocks as soon as I get it back from the shop

Thanks all!
It's a 2002. Perhaps the 1987 is too old to have the automatic safety equipment, I'm not sure.
You certainly are learning quickly, I didn't know about spit valves, but you've got that mastered
already.
I would double check with a certified propane service, like Superior Propane or some other reputable
dealer, and ask them how it could have happened. Once you determine where the failure was, whether
the attendant screwed up, or there is some other possible cause, then take the compensation issues
from there.
If there's no way the hardware or wiring failed, and the fire was caused by overfilling, then I'd say you
may have grounds to ask for compensation from the place that filled your tank. I'm not a lawyer though, this would be my opinion only.
You might try emailing service@roadtrek.com and explain your situation and ask them if they have any specs on the safety equipment that was on the propane system in your year of Roadtrek. They will need
to know the VIN and year/make/model to even start to assist you. If their records go back that far.
They might be able to help.
Good luck,
Mike.
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Old 05-06-2011, 07:02 PM   #8
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Default Re: Fire from overfilled propane tank, need advice.

Refilling the propane tank is becoming my biggest hassle. I drive a 95 PleasureWay and the tank doesn't have auto shut off when full (at 80%). The last 2 filling occasions I've told the station attendant to stop filling when the gauge reads 75 to 80% full. Both times they overfilled - once when he tried to close the "spit valve" (basically a vent near the top of the tank that should be opened on filling to check when liquid reaches that level in the tank) with his bare fingers when liquid propane started spurting, he yelped, danced around, and managed to shut off the pump after the gauge had redlined. The second time, he forgot to open the spit valve and again overfilled the tank. It takes hours to safely vent the excess (very, very carefully and not recommended environmentally), or to run the furnace with the thermostat cranked up (the better option). The principal dangers of overfilling are getting liquid propane into an appliance, or overpressure if the ambient temperature increases significantly. I always light a stove burner for a couple of minutes before using any other propane appliance, just to check the lines are OK.
On related note, I'm finding it harder to find stations that have auto propane pumps. Many now just have the scales to fill BBQ tanks.

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Old 05-06-2011, 10:37 PM   #9
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Default Re: Fire from overfilled propane tank, need advice.

Good info here. Newer vans have some safety measures built in re: propane tanks. Older vans you have to know more what to expect. Timely info for me - I might look at a '94 Coach House this weekend.
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Old 05-06-2011, 11:55 PM   #10
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Default Re: Fire from overfilled propane tank, need advice.

I think it seems to come down to check the credentials of the filling station thoroughly before
letting them touch your propane tank.
1) 80% should be the max fill on these things whether they have automated safety devices or not.
2) not all attendants seem to know about 1) or how to ensure they don't overfill your tank.
3) bad things happen when 2) happens.

I think there are licenses required to operate a propane filling station. Those licenses are supposed
to keep us from blowing ourselves up after we get a propane system refill. If the person who approaches
you at the refill pumping area looks like they haven't got any experience, you may want to stop the
proceedings before you have a more serious problem than, you can't run the stove, or water heater,
or furnace.
I always go to a place that specializes in propane. In other words they don't do anything else. If I were
desperate on the road somewhere, and couldn't find a propane company, I'd probably try a truck stop,
but I'd be in their face watching the process.
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