RV Propane Detector Keeps Going Off? This Is Why

Your RV propane detector keeps going off, but you can’t smell anything and trying to figure out what the cause is?

The most common reason for a detector going off is due to there being an actual propane leak, it can also be due to other chemicals setting it off like cleaning sprays, cooking sprays, and hair sprays. It can also just be due to the detector being dirty, or too old and needing to be replaced.

Here is a complete guide to troubleshooting, resetting, cleaning, and replacing your detector.

RV propane detector keeps going off

Why Does My RV Propane Detector Keep Going Off?

From our experience it usually comes down to one of these four common reasons, here is a summary of each of them, starting from the most obvious/common cause;

1. There’s A Propane Leak

The most obvious reason is simply that you do actually have a propane leak somewhere in your RV. This could be your cooking stove, your heater, tank or anything in between. 

After all, an RV propane detector is designed specifically to detect propane. It could always be the case that it is actually functioning properly and doing its job. If you do suspect that a propane leak might be to blame, then you want to open all of the windows in your RV and get out as soon as you can. 

If you get out of the RV, open the windows, and then the alarm turns off shortly after, then it is probably an actual propane leak that is to blame. If this is the case, you will want to find and fix the leak immediately, or even better, call a professional for help. 

Propane can of course be dangerous to work with, so the utmost caution is required. You may need a professional using a gas detecting wand to find where the propane leak is coming from. A variety of heaters, refrigerators, stoves and water heaters can all be to blame for this.

2. Some Chemicals Can Set Them Off

Unfortunately, propane detectors in RV’s are not infallible, and sometimes there are other chemicals that may set them off. Although these chemicals are not propane, your propane detector might misinterpret things. 

A variety of chemicals including carpet cleaning chemicals, cooking sprays, sunscreen sprays, hairspray, and Febreze may set off an RV propane detector, depending on how sensitive it is. All jokes aside, yes, dog and human farts may actually set off a propane detector if there is enough of that gas present.

What you want to do here is to take note of exactly when your detector goes off, especially if it keeps going off time and time again for seemingly no reason at all. It may be the case that goes off whenever you use a certain chemical. 

Of course, the simple solution here would be to stop using the chemical that sets it off. However, if this just isn’t an option for you, you may have to reset the propane detector, or you may just have to get a new one altogether.

3. The RV Propane Detector is Dirty

Yet another cause is if the propane detector has not been well maintained and is dirty. Propane detectors have a variety of vents, and in these vents, dirt, debris, and dust can accumulate. This debris will prevent the RV propane detector from functioning properly. 

Therefore, to ensure that this does not happen, you want to keep it clean. Take a closer look at the detector to see what kind of condition it is in. If it is exceedingly filthy, chances are that the dirt is to blame. 

You do want to engage in some routine cleaning and maintenance on your RV propane detector. About once per week, you want to use the soft brush attachment on your vacuum to clean the propane detector. 

You then want to use a moist cloth that is clean to wipe down the front of the detector. However, you do want to dry it afterwards. That said, don’t use any chemicals when cleaning an RV propane detector, because as we have established above, chemicals may actually set it off.

Related: Why your Carbon Monoxide detector keeps going off.

4. The Detector is Malfunctioning

Yes, it may just be the case that your propane detector in your RV is just extremely old and doesn’t work right anymore. There could be a problem with the sensors or with the circuitry. Moreover, even some newer models may malfunction, depending on which one you get. 

Do keep in mind that these RV propane detectors don’t last more than six or seven years at the very most. Once they reach their expiration date, or even before, they’ll start malfunctioning. They might beep for no reason, they might continuously go off, or they might not be able to properly detect propane anymore. 

So, if your propane detector is really old and just not working properly anymore, chances are that you’ll just need to replace it. Once these items get way too old, there’s really no way to repair them, and it’s just more cost effective to replace them.

How Do I Reset My RV Propane Detector?

One of the first things that you should do is reset it. Sometimes resetting it can be enough to make it function properly again. What is important to note here is that exactly how to reset a propane detector is going to depend on the exact model in question. 

Therefore, the best thing that you can do is to read your owner’s manual. Your owner’s manual should tell you exactly how to reset the propane detector. With that being said, with most models, there should be some kind of button that says reset on it. This button may also say reset/test. 

Some propane detector models may also allow you to just completely disconnect them from all power sources, which effectively acts as a reset. Once again, various propane detector models are different, so do some research on the specific one you have.

How To Turn Off RV Propane Alarm

If your RV propane detector keeps activating, and you need to turn it off, there are a variety of possibilities to accomplish this. First and foremost, resetting the unit, particularly by pressing that reset but we talked about above, should do the trick. At the very least, pressing the reset button will turn off the audible alarm. 

Now, if actual propane is to blame here, then the little indicator light is going to remain red as long as propane is present. If you open all of the windows and air the area out, that little light should turn green once there is no propane left in the space. 

If you reset your propane detector, the audible alarm will turn off, but if there is still propane present, it won’t take long for it to turn back on. Therefore, you do of course need to take care of the root cause of the problem. That reset button is only going to turn off the audible alarm for around 5 minutes.

That said, if your RV propane detector still goes off, even after having reset it, the only other option you’re going to have to turn it off is to disconnect it from power. 

How To Replace Your RV Propane Detector

If the propane detector in your RV is old and malfunctioning, you will need to replace it. Let’s talk about how to replace an RV propane detector.

  1. Before you do anything at all, you want to turn off the power circuit attached to the propane detector. This might be done by switching the breaker off or by removing the fuse from the power panel. Either way, never do anything when there is still power running to the unit.
  2. You are now going to remove the old propane detector. First, you’re going to unscrew the faceplate using a screwdriver, and then cut both of the wires that lead to the detector. There’s no need to be overly careful here, as you are going to be replacing the unit as a whole.
  3. You are going to need the two wires coming from the wall, so use some wire strippers to remove some of the shieldings on the ends of both wires. You need some exposed wire to attach the new one.
  4. You’re now going to rewire your new alarm by attaching the wires in the exact same way that the wires were attached to the old alarm. Using nylon crimp connectors will usually work best. Make sure that you match the colors of the wires correctly, and everything should work just fine.
  5. You are now going to use your screwdriver to screw the faceplate of the new propane detector back onto the wall.
  6. The final step here is to test everything. You can turn the power back on at this point. You should now press the test button to see if it functions properly. 

How To Find A Gas Leak In Your RV

If you think that an actual propane leak is to blame, then you obviously need to find that leak. Sure, you can always call a professional to do it for you, but this is also something that you can do on your own. Follow the steps as indicated below to find a gas leak in your RV.

  1. If you suspect a propane leak is to blame for your alarm going off, immediately shut off the propane supply to your RV.
  2. You now want to shut off every single device that uses propane in the RV. Not only should you turn them off, but you should also unplug them from power.
  3. Keep in mind that propane is much heavier than air, so it does settle along the floor. On that note, you do want your RV to air out. Open all of the doors and windows, and if possible, turn on some fans.
  4. You can always do a quick smell test. Hold your head to the ground, especially in corners, and see if you can smell propane. If you don’t smell any more propane, move on to the next step. If you still smell propane, allow the area to air out further.
  5. You now want to very slowly open the tank valve. Here we are talking about the RV tank valve that brings the propane from the tank to the rest of your RV.
  6. Mix together some water and dish soap, with plenty of dish soap. Take that soapy water and apply it to all of the propane tank fittings, valves, tubes, and everything else possible. If there is a leak present here anywhere, you’re going to see small air bubbles happening. The air bubbles will occur where the leak is. If you cannot find the leak, move on to the next step (it’s also a good idea to get your tank recertified by professionals).
  7. You want to repeat this soapy water process for all of the appliances in your RV. Of course, in order to find a propane leak leading to your appliances, you’re going to need to turn the propane back on. Simply put, if the propane is not on, then there will be nothing to leak out of the fittings and tubes. Therefore, individually turn on the propane to various appliances as you test them, while also turning the main RV propane valve back on. You’re going to repeat this soapy water process for all of your appliances until you find the leak.
  8. Once you find the leak, you can make the necessary repairs. If you cannot find the leak, at this point, you will need to call a professional.

Related: Where & How To Refill Propane Tanks: Guide.

Can A Fart Set Off A Propane Detector?

Believe it or not, yes, a fart can indeed set off a propane detector. That said, it does need to be one heck of a fart to activate that detector.

Madeline Cooper