How To Carry A Generator Behind Your Trailer’s LP Tanks
In the last entry, we looked at how I reinforced my travel trailer’s battery rack in preparation for carrying a heavier generator behind my LP tanks. Several readers requested information on how I mounted and supported the generator over the battery boxes, which I will cover in this entry.
First, a short recap on why I carry my generator where I do. For years, I carried the generator in the bed of my pickup truck as many RVers do. However, as I began to carry more items in the bed of my truck (motorcycle, ATV, ramps, fuel cans, firewood, etc.), it became inconvenient for me to get the generator in and out, or the generator was in the way when I wanted to access other items.
Plus, being a boondocker, my campsite is seldom level, which created problems with the oil alert system on my Honda generator when the unit was run unlevel (either on the tailgate of the truck or on the ground). With the generator on the tongue of the trailer, it is never in the way, and the oil alert system is happy because the trailer is level.
Our DIY method
Here is the simple way I built a “table” that spans my battery boxes to support my generator above them, and how you might do the same:
- Determine how wide and high the table needs to be to span the battery boxes and where the feet of the table are going to rest on the battery rack. In my case, the table legs slide right in next to the “wire port ears” on the battery boxes, keeping it from sliding in any direction.
- Weld up the table using steel of your choosing. In my case, I used ½” rebar for legs and angle steel turned up to connect the four legs and accept a plywood top.
- Cut a piece of plywood or other material to form a top to the table to support the generator. Fasten in place.
- Determine where the generator will need to rest between the front of your trailer and your LP tanks. Then cut a second piece of plywood or other material to form a perimeter for the generator base to drop onto the tabletop to keep the generator centered where you want, and fasten the perimeter piece to the top. Not only will this keep the generator in position between the front of the trailer and LP tanks, but it will also prevent it from sliding off the table in transit. (If you are tight for space, you may have the option to move your LP rack up an inch or two for added clearance.)
- Place the generator on the table.
- Route a ratcheting strap over the generator and under the battery rack with the table sandwiched in between and gently tighten the strap to keep everything in place.
- Add a cable and lock between the generator and trailer frame as a theft deterrent.
- To protect the generator from rain and dust, place and secure an inverted Rubbermaid container over the generator.
- To secure the cover, I drilled the flanges, cut a bungee cord in half, and placed each half through the hole in the flange, using a knot to keep the cord from pulling back through the hole. The bungees hook to a small crossbar I welded to my battery rack. The crossbar also helps keep the table legs from sliding side to side.
Now I have a convenient, out-of-the-way place to carry my generator without getting it in and out of my vehicle when needed.
Considerations and observations
- Carrying your generator on the tongue of your trailer is much safer than the rear bumper, where it is likely to be damaged by collision. (Someone rear-ending the trailer or you backing into something.) In addition, it is less likely to cause your trailer frame to separate from the box of the trailer due to the weight of the generator bouncing up and down on the bumper.
- Consider the extra weight on the tongue of the trailer and be sure not to exceed the rated tongue weight of your vehicle’s hitch. (Very unlikely, but better to be safe than sorry.)
- Carrying the generator on the tongue is a great option for those that use an SUV as a tow vehicle, as it is never safe to carry a generator (or anything with combustible fuel) in the passenger compartment.
- Be aware of the possibility of carbon monoxide gaining access to the living portion of your RV. Keep windows and vents near the generator closed and always have a working carbon monoxide detector inside your rig. Know the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and immediately shut your generator off and vent the interior of your RV if you experience them.
- I aimed the panel of my generator to the roadside (driver’s side) of my RV, which gives me greater access to the pull start, choke, and on/off switch. It also makes it easier to extend my shore power cord to the generator outlet.
Carrying your generator in a less obvious spot, just another adventure in RVing! For more tips, check out our previous post on How To Reinforce Your Trailer’s Battery Rack To Carry More Weight
Dave Helgeson’s many roles in the RV industry started before he even had a driver’s license. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership before the term “RV” had been coined, and Dave played a pivotal role in nearly every position of an RV dealership. He and his wife Cheri launched their own RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest. The duo also spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as President of a local chapter of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), worked on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college, and served as a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. Dave’s reputation earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently roam in their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.
For those like me that have a trailer the bulges out above the battery and doesn’t have the space like the one above, there is a ready made mount that can mount the generator above the LP tanks. The only thing to be mindful of is that if you have a hard cover over the tanks, then the stand has to be removed to gain access to the tanks.
Mounting the generator as in this article is the safest and best way to carry one. For one, you can see it, two it won’t create a sway condition as it can if mounted on the tail of the trailer if the weight distribution is wrong, and three it is easily accessible and out in the open air where it can vent.
Hersh, or is it Harsh says
Pure genius Dave!!!
Ted Fryman says
That’s great if your battery is behind the propane tanks, but most trailers have the battery in front of the tanks just due to the A-Frame of the tongue.
Huh? I’ve owned several travel trailers and none have had the propane tanks behind the batteries.
No doubt a few aren’t that way but it is uncommon IME.
Jerry B Robison says
I agree, both of my TT’s have the batteries mounted on the A-frame between the body of the trailer and the propane tanks. Plus, on my current trailer, there isn’t enough clearance above the battery location to place anything above it.
Robin slikkerveer says
Probly the worst build I’ve ever had to look at , being a fabricator for 40+ years , about a crude as it gets , you could have been a little more creative ( REBAR ,common man ) if you could afford to pay for thr Honda genset you can afford the proper steel to build a custom rack , scale of 1–10 I’ll give you a 4 for creativity 👍
Bill J Mulhall says
If your handy< it's an easy swap. I've done it.
Wayne quick says
I purchased and installed the tray that mounts over the propane tanks. Removed the hard cover and put on a SOFT cover. Works well so far.
Im looking at 200 trailers right now, and not 1 is set up that way? Batteries are behind propane.
Is it a concern having a running gas combustion engine engine located inches away from the propane tanks?
The concept makes for a nervous combination…
I would be worried about it getting stolen when stopping to eat, or getting groceries… or even at the campsite. We’ve had so many things stolen at night while camping in Oceano Dunes (aka Pismo Beach) in California
Dave Helgeson - Adventures in RVing says
As noted I cable the generator to the frame of the RV and secure it with a padlock. With it covered and out of sight nobody knows there is a generator to steal.
If the little cable i see in the picture is the lock I strongly urge you to upgrade that to a heavy square link chain. I had a bike stolen with a cable lock like that. It took the guy 3 seconds, I basically saw him do it and chased him but he got away. I’d like to think the best of people but that generator is easy money to anyone at a truck stop or rest area. I understand you have it covered and i agree that helps, for sure. But having been bitten, the chain is cheap insurance.
Cool install, by the way!
Dave, great idea. As a retired cop I should tell you those cable ties are only secure IN YOUR MIND, and crooks see them as fishing line. I pocket knife and a small cable cutter would make about a one minute job to steal your gen. Having it covered is the only true security you have in place here. But if you use the gen at a campsite it will be in full sight and Honda gens like this are gems for thieves. Do what I did for my Yamaha gen mounted with straps and a heavy duty chain to a hitch hauler behind my truck. But it was enclosed in a dog crate made of steel just the right size for the gen. The gen could not be removed from this dog crate as both were secured with the chain to the frame of the hitch hauler. Just FYI. Short story: put the gen in a dog crate just the right size and chain it all to your trailer tongue. Then put a cover on the dog crate where no one can see it. Works for me.
Barry Thomas says
Dave, great article, liked the pics. Know of any articles on. Safely storing chemicals while RVing. What is OK to be stored next to ??? Just a thought and wondering ??
Dave Helgeson - Adventures in RVing says
Barry, I don’t think it would be much different then the same type of chemicals you have at home,
JOSEPH FIORENTINO says
Great article. I wondered what I might do with my generator. OK so what do you do with gasoline?
Dave Helgeson - Adventures in RVing says
Gas cans go in a vented storage compartment in the back of the truck, although I often fuel the generator from the pumps at a gas station when fueling the truck negating the need to carry extra fuel.
Tom Horne says
Step one is to spend the money for Type 2 Safety Cans. If exposed to fire the contents will burn to empty without the can exploding. There is a fine screen in the openings to keep any spark or flame from passing into the inside of the can. Both the fill and pour openings of the can as self closing and meet child resistive opening requirements. Type 2 Safety Cans have the flexible filling hose built in. Together with a ventilated fuel storage compartment you have a reasonably safe way to carry Gasoline.
If you have not purchased a generator yet consider getting a diesel fueled generator. Gasoline is a Flammable Liquid. That means that all it takes to ignite it is a spark at normal temperature and pressure. Diesel fuel is a Combustible Liquid. That means that it cannot be easily ignited in it’s liquid form. To make it burn you raise the pressure or it’s temperature well above ambient, or you put it on some solid combustible that will act as a wick such as paper or cloth. When it burns in an engine or a furnace it is first atomized into tiny droplets. As liquid fuels go diesel is pretty hard to ignite.
Very ingenious but I guess I don’t want a combustion source (generator) within inches of a combustible (propane) if I an avoid it.
Don’t you have combustible gasoline inside your generator?
Edward Wood says
Very interesting thoughts!
Batteries and potential sparks, generator and potential sparking, propane and periodic release of gas vapor for several reasons.
I guess you take your chances and hope for the best.
A great idea, but remember you must remember you are adding the weight of the generator directly to your tongue weight. OKAY if your hitch can handle it. This is a consideration many overlook when adding items like bicycle racks, tool boxes, etc.
I pull a 7500 lb trailer (CAT weight) which loaded comes close to the 910 hitch max rating on my Expedition EL. Tongue weight was measured with a tongue scale.
I am not saying not to, just use caution.
Don Wood says
I really like the idea of having the generator tied down to the frame. I had never thought of doing that. Now I no longer have that pull behind and own a 5th wheel, I have looked and have not seen a good place to make my generator pretty much stationary. I do not want to have to keep putting it (generator) in the bed of the truck, but would like to have it where it can be easily gotten to. Glad I saw this article and will be looking for somewhere besides the truck bed (we have enough stuff with her and myself 5 grandkids and 2 dogs and sometimes 2 of our three kids and families going with us). Thanks for your article.
Rock hound says
I LIKE THE GEN IN THE SPOT BEHIND THE BAT’S
iv see it done be-for and they put it up real hi also ?
my TT it’s tanks bat TT so this would be easy to do i just cant make up my mind wair to mount it at the rear bumper or over the Bat ..
I like this set up however I would be interested in weight and balance. Putting 200 more pounds on the tongue could be an issue. I am looking at mounting my hundred pound 3.5 KW generator on the rear bumper bike rack.
Better to have the weight on the tongue than the tail. You can induce sway by putting it in the back.