One of the most popular questions RVers ask each other is: can my RV propane system explode on the highway? A propane safety expert will probably say that it can and you should leave it off while driving. But ask any RVer if they bother to shut off the RV refrigerator on the highway and they’ll most likely say “Never.” The reality is that modern RV propane systems are safe compared to yesteryear’s models. But the risk of an explosion is still there.
Despite warnings from propane safety experts, most RVers leave their system on while in transit. “I gotta have ice for Happy Hour so I run the fridge,” says iRV2 member Polyian. The vast majority polled in a discussion titled “Run fridge on propane on the road?” agree. Another member, parkerbill, says, “We always drive with our fridge on propane. Our fridge is on the opposite side of the TT and fuel input on my truck and it’s always sticking well back from the gas pumps, so I don’t turn it off when refueling.”
Can your RV propane system explode on the highway?
Old-Biscuit also chimed in about the risk factor in leaving your system on. “Circuit boards have ‘safety’ requirements that must be meet prior to allowing gas valves to operate (DC Voltage thru t-stats, thermal fuses, sail switches, limit switches etc.) RV propane system is a very safe system and if not safe to use while in transit I would not want to use it while sleeping,” he explains.
However as this RV propane tank explosion shows, accidents happen.
This RV caught fire at the gas station. It may or may not be the result of a propane tank explosion. But if this RV driver left the propane system on, they’re not alone. Unfortunately sometimes accidents can turn into disasters when the refrigerator is left on at a filling station.
For example, in a Houma Louisiana gas station explosion incident, a couple’s RoadTrek caught fire at the pump. The RV propane system explosion happened when “the nozzle spewed gasoline, igniting when it came into contact with a pilot light on the RV,” wrote the local newspaper. The couple, their dog and everyone at the gas station barely escaped with their life.
Is it worth the risk to you?
Each RVer must decide if leaving the refrigerator on while driving is worth the risk. Currently there are no laws mandating RVers to keep propane off while in transit (except at gas stations and in tunnels). Regardless, Escapees RV Club’s safety expert Jim Koca suggests driving with it off. He urges RVers to flip the switch because highway accidents can become tragic disasters when propane is on. In his Escapees RV Online University tutorial called “Propane Safety,” Koca says that “If you have a rapid air loss, also known as a ‘blowout,’ the tire could damage a propane line, which might result in a fire.”
Many RVers worry about the food in their refrigerator staying cold if propane is left off while traveling. But to that, Koca says there’s an easy workaround: blue ice. For RVers who prefer to play it safe, they can take comfort in knowing that the relatively low cost of a few bricks of blue ice may just save their home and their life.