Should You Travel with Your RV Propane Tanks Open or Closed?

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You’re packing up for a travel day. You’ve secured the dishes, put the plants in the shower, and moved the gadgets to a drawer. Now it’s time to hit the road. You unplug the electricity, and the refrigerator shuts off. 

Now you have a choice to make. Do you travel with your RV propane tanks open to keep the refrigerator running or close them because of the potential dangers of driving with open propane tanks?

Some RVers will tell you nothing has ever happened to them in the twenty years they’ve been traveling. Other RVers will tell you just one accident could destroy everything. So what do you do? Let’s dive into this controversial topic.

Yes, you can legally drive with your propane tanks open in the United States. However, some tunnels and ferries require propane tanks to be shut off, so make sure to pay attention to those notices. 

But just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s safe. Let’s look more closely at the dangers of an open propane tank.

Two propane tanks inside the storage compartment of a truck camper

What Are the Dangers of an Open Propane Tank?

The biggest danger is a leak which could potentially lead to an explosion. Is this rare and unlikely? Yes, but it could happen, and if it does, it could be catastrophic. 

Propane is a highly flammable fuel. Because of this, many RVers get nervous and scared to handle propane. However, when stored and used properly, it’s completely safe.

Even a tiny spark can ignite an explosion if propane is present. Since it is an odorless gas, you don’t always know if there is a leak. That’s why it’s so important to have detectors in your RV.

Why does this matter while driving? If you’re involved in an accident, you could lose everything instantly. And when you pull into a gas station, you should always turn off the propane tanks for the same reason.

Another danger comes from propane leaking into the refrigerator from climbing up mountains or winding through twisting roads, and the RV isn’t remaining level during your drive.

For the propane to work correctly, the refrigerator has to remain level. There is a risk of propane leaking into the fridge, which could result in contaminated food.

Pro Tip: Learn How an RV Propane System Works so you feel more comfortable and safe using yours.

A large propane refill tank with the words "flammable gas" on the side

Are There Any Reasons to Keep Your Propane Tanks Open?

The main reason travelers leave their propane tanks open is to keep their food cold. Propane provides fuel to the refrigeration system. 

No one wants to arrive at their next destination with spoiled food. So on travel days, especially longer ones, many RVers leave the propane tanks open.

Can You Run Your Fridge While Driving Without Propane?

However, you have other options for keeping your food cold without propane. One easy solution is to keep the fridge closed. The food will remain cold for hours as long as you don’t open it several times. 

If you stop at a rest area and want to grab lunch out of the fridge, open it one time and quickly get everything out. You could also just pack a cooler with lunch, so you don’t have to open the refrigerator at all.

You can also turn the refrigerator down to the coldest setting the night before you leave. If you can’t do this because you don’t have electricity the night before, even doing this for just a few hours before you go will work too. The cold air will remain trapped in the refrigerator as you travel.

You can also pack the refrigerator full. Put food bags in the space between jars and stick those long cucumbers between leftovers. Try to pack it tightly, so the food remains cold. 

However, don’t stick ice blocks inside the refrigerator unless you put them in bags or bowls. As they melt, they could leak, and you don’t want to clean up water as soon as you arrive at the campsite.

Pro Tip: If you don’t want to open your fridge when traveling, you can always invest in a good 12 Volt Portable Refrigerators to keep your lunch and drinks cold!

Can an Open Propane Tank Explode?

Absolutely! Propane tanks can explode. This is why you must close propane tanks when entering a gas station. You may drive your entire life and never have an issue with open propane tanks on your RV. 

But the one time something happens, it could be explosive. Remember, all it takes is a tiny spark.

Two older looking propane tanks sitting on the ground turned off

Should I Travel with My RV Propane Tanks Open?

Choosing whether or not to drive with open propane tanks is a personal choice. Some people decide the risk is worth it to keep food from spoiling. 

The likelihood of getting into an accident and possibly having an explosion can be slim. But for others, because that chance is still there, they never drive with open propane tanks. The choice is yours. What will you do on your next travel day?

1 comment
  1. We do travel with our tank open we have installed a GasStop Propane Shutoff so hopefully we are being as careful as we can traveling with it open.

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