Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Unless you have one of the new all-electric Roadtreks, you have a propane tank installed on your Roadtrek. The propane is used for heating your hot water, heating your Roadtrek with your furnace, running your refrigerator if you have a three way standard Roadtrek Dometic fridge, and cooking on your stove. If you have a Sprinter Roadtrek your electric generator is also powered by propane. This article will give you some basics about the propane system in your Roadtrek.

First I will share some very basic knowledge about propane. Propane is also called LP Gas. The L P is simply Liquid Propane. When propane is compressed it condenses into a liquid form. It is a property of propane that when uncompressed it changes into a gas. This is what makes it possible for propane to be carried in a tank. Natural gas cannot do this. So - basic number one - the propane in your propane tank is a LIQUID UNDER PRESSURE.

The propane tank in all Roadtreks that I am aware of is located in the rear, under the van chassis, behind the rear bumper.  A reader has shared that in older Roadtreks the propane tank is under the driver's seat floor with access to the fill and gauge is under the flip up step. At some point in change of year, Roadtrek moved the tank and access to the back of the van. To turn on the propane there is a valve located behind a cover right in the middle over the bumper. The valve that you see is a grey knob and like most valves is turned to the right to turn off and to the left to open. Clockwise to turn OFF. Counterclockwise to turn ON. In the compartment behind that cover there will be other components of the system - other than the on/off knob and a connection on a flexible hose to allow you to attach a portable gas grill to the Roadtrek's propane tank for outside barbecuing, don't touch anything else that is there. You will see an analog dial meter that will tell you how much gas is in the tank - though you can also find this out inside your Roadtrek on your monitor panel on the wall. There will be a place for a certified propane person to fill the tank and a pressure relief valve used when filling the tank. Propane is highly combustible. This is not something to fool with.

Let's take a tour of the propane system.

Here is where to look for the propane valve ->

 It is behind this cover ->

Open the cover by turning the white tab on each side to clear the cutout on the cover.
Here is everything "propane" for your Roadtrek ->

What you are looking at above is where to turn on the propane to use it in your Roadtrek and where a certified propane distributor will fill your propane tank for you. The yellow cap is the connection for the propane fill - DO NOT TOUCH THIS.  The red ring to the middle right is the overflow pressure relief valve for the propane. DO NOT TOUCH THIS. The grey it all goes into is the propane tank. What is not seen in this photo is the auxiliary barbecue connection hose which is to the left side and in this photo is tucked down behind the bumper. THE VALVE THAT YOU TURN IS IN THE VERY MIDDLE WITH THE BLUE LABEL.

Here is the ON/OFF VALVE that you will turn ->

Let's get to the systems that you have on your Roadtrek that use propane and what you need to do to get them to operate.

The first thing that you are going to do whenever you first turn on your propane is to light the stove to make sure that the propane is actually flowing through the system. You always want to do this so that you know that the propane has filled all of the gas lines. It is only at the stove that you can actually see the result of this first hand. So we will start with the stove.


The stove is the only appliance without a self-lighting pilot light. You must light the stove with a flame that you produce with a match or a lighter. The best thing to get to light the stove is one of the extended reach butane lighters used for barbecues. This lets you get close without getting too close.

Open the glass cover that is over the two gas stove burners. Each has a knob. Look around the edge of each burner and you will see a small, thin brass tube coming up. This tube will be the pilot that will ignite the burner.  With the propane valve on in the rear of the Roadtrek, light the lighter in your hand. You only want a small flame. Turn on either one of the burners by turning and pushing its knob. Bring the flame to where that brass tube is (you will probably hear and smell gas flowing) and the gas should ignite. Adjust the knob to a low flame and let go. The burner is lit. Let it burn for a few seconds and then shut it off. Light the other burner the same way. Your propane is flowing through all of the propane system in your Roadtrek. Turn off the stove. Of course, if you are planning to cook right then and there, your stove is lit and ready to cook. In any case, when you are ready to cook on the stove, do the same thing to light it.

Let me just repeat again why this is done each time you turn on the propane. If you do not do this and go to start your hot water heater or start your 3 way fridge on propane, you cannot see the burner that lights with the burning propane. If the water does not get hot or the refrigerator does not start to cool (most likely with an ignition trouble light on the fridge control panel) you will not know why. By lighting the stove first you eliminate the problem that the propane may not be flowing. Once the stove lights you can be sure that there are no clogs along the propane line. Do be aware that this tells you nothing about leaks.


Most Roadtreks come with a Dometic three way absorption refrigerator. These work using propane, 12 volt battery power, or 110 volt shore power. Since I do not have this type of refrigerator I can not tell you any details about its operation. A detailed manual should have been included with your Roadtrek just for the refrigerator. I can tell you that this refrigerator does not work like your fridge at home which is a condenser system. An absorption refrigerator has ammonia running through it that must be heated and one of the ways it is heated is with a propane flame burner. To ignite that flame you need to have battery power and you should put your battery switch on before trying to turn on the fridge even when using propane. Do read the manual for your refrigerator. If you don't have one, you can download one for your model fridge on the Dometic website.


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