Cold WX Operations: Propane Flow, Trailer Brake, and Tire Chains - Fiberglass RV
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Old 01-22-2019, 09:31 PM   #1
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Name: Ryan
Trailer: Bigfoot
California
Posts: 17
Cold WX Operations: Propane Flow, Trailer Brake, and Tire Chains

I returned Monday from a 3 day ski trip in Mammoth Lakes California in my 2016 17.5’ Bigfoot Trailer. A major reason for the purchase was Bigfoot’s reputation for cold weather capability, and it has served me well so far- however as I continue travel, I realize how little I know. On my latest trip, daytime highs were between 20-35F, and nighttime lows were around 10F. Roads were packed snow with occasional ice for the first two days, then with 10-12 inches on-road fresh snowfall when I pulled out of the trailer park in the early morning Monday. Trailer weight as loaded is 4300 lb riding on a single axle with Goodyear Marathon 15’’ D rated tires. Pull vehicle is a 2012 Tundra 4x4 with 5.7L riding on BF Goodrich All Terrain TA M/S rated tires. I have chains for the truck, but didn’t use them. Here are my questions.

-Low apparent propane flow?
On the last day of my trip, I pulled from the trailer park (where I used 30A electric the night before and a small ceramic heater as my primary heat source. I left my propane furnace on the lowest thermostat setting, although I don’t know if/when that night it stopped firing), up to the ski resort parking lot (around 9k ft and 10F at the time) where I intended to cook breakfast and wait for the resort to open. As I attempted to cook, I noticed very low propane flow from my stove to the point that it would only sustain a very small flame at the “lite” setting, then would extinguish if a lower setting was selected. I then noticed the Atwood Furnace wouldn’t light (blower would run, electric ignitor would fire, initial “woosh” from apparent light off could be heard, then it would go out and cold air blew). My propane fridge still indicated it was working, although I was not very cold inside. I thought I was out of propane, but upon finding the selected tank nearly empty and switching to my other tank (completely full) using my stock dual tank selectable propane regulator, the symptoms were the same. I drove to lower altitude and warmer temperatures at the end of the day (45F and 2300 ft), and propane flow and full appliance function (stove, furnace, refrigerator) returned to normal.

Here’s my hypothesis:
1. Propane regulator somehow froze. If this is the case, I’m looking for tips to avoid it in the future, and suggestions for “cold-weather” type regulators that would be less susceptible to this issue. Fortunately this occurred on the last planned day of my trip, but it would have been a show stopper had it have been day 1!

2. Is it possible that I received LPG with a higher mixture of higher temperature liquifying gases such that pressure would be low at 10F? Both tanks were filled at Costco in Lancaster CA, and I don’t know if they’d use some type of a warmer weather mixture.


-Trailer Brake settings?

Is it advised to lower the gain of electric trailer brakes when towing on ice/snow? I ask for the following reason. If I keep my “dry surface” braking gains, under full braking on dry roads my trailer brakes should come just short of locking up. In snow/ice, this results in my trailer tires locking while my truck goes into ABS braking. In my mind, this increases the potential of the trailer losing directional control as compared to gaining the trailer brake way down, such that the trailer wheels don’t lock even when the truck is ABS braking on a low friction road surface. Is there any experience/ recommendations from those that regularly tow in these conditions?

-All weather tires?

Does anybody use/are there cold weather specific trailer tires? If not, has anybody experimented with using a snow-rated off road tire?

-Chaining up a travel trailer?

Does anybody do this regularly? I’m told in road condition “R3” up at Mammoth trailer chains can be required, but I haven’t experienced it. Assuming there are those that do, what type of conditions have you found this warranted? Also, any recommendations on a good “trailer friendly” chain setup?

I appreciate the help in advance, and am hoping I can learn a few things!

Cheers,

Ryan
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Old 01-23-2019, 12:24 PM   #2
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Name: Stephen
Trailer: Casita
Tennessee
Posts: 176
Ryan,

Thanks for posting your propane experience. I plan cold wx operations like yours. I will carefully check my propane flow in cold wx.
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Old 01-23-2019, 03:46 PM   #3
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Name: Ed
Trailer: Escape 21
Colorado
Posts: 56
There are two propane issues at play.

Colds temperatures and high elevation.

Combined, your propane appliances won't work very efficiently.

Fridge, furnace, HWH, etc.

Google has lots of info on propane and cold temperature and high elevation.
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Old 01-23-2019, 04:51 PM   #4
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Name: Byron
Trailer: 2006 Scamp 13' towed with a 2005 Dodge Dakota 4.7l Magnum W/full tow package (over kill)
Oregon
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I would suggest you look a California's winter towing laws. The information I think you need could be in the chain laws section. Some states require chains on both the tow vehicle and the trailer under some circumstances.
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Old 01-23-2019, 04:54 PM   #5
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Name: Byron
Trailer: 2006 Scamp 13' towed with a 2005 Dodge Dakota 4.7l Magnum W/full tow package (over kill)
Oregon
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If you were in extreme cold for 3 days and everything work OK I suggest that you ran out of propane.
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Old 01-23-2019, 05:00 PM   #6
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Name: Darwin
Trailer: 2002 19 ft Scamp 19 ft 5th Wheel
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Propane will stop flowing if it gets to cold. I put a heat tape on my propane line.
Did extreme cold camping for 5 years.
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Old 01-23-2019, 05:39 PM   #7
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Trailer: 2009 17 ft Casita Freedom Deluxe
Posts: 781
As Brian suggested, check the chain laws. Washington, and I think Oregon, require them on the trailer when chains are required, but the discussion focuses on commercial trucks. Chains would alleviate most of your braking concern but it seems like backing off the brake pressure is a good idea.

You might see if the snow socks are legal. Although I have a set of cable chains for my trailer, which I'll never use, I would hate to see the mess on the fiberglass if a cable breaks. Our fire department uses the snow socks on the engines, so they are credible.
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Old 01-23-2019, 05:59 PM   #8
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Name: Steve
Trailer: 2018, 21ft escape— 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie
NW Wisconsin
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They make electric heating blankets that you wrap around a 20 or 30 lb propane tank . The blankets , heat tape as Darwin suggested and some insulation works wonders when temps drop well below zero .
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Old 01-24-2019, 10:32 PM   #9
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Name: Ryan
Trailer: Bigfoot
California
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Byron,

Thanks for the post, although I'm certain I didn't run out of propane. The in the situation I described, I had a nearly full 7 gallon tank left.

Ryan
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Old 01-24-2019, 10:34 PM   #10
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Name: Ryan
Trailer: Bigfoot
California
Posts: 17
Darwin,

Are you referring to a passive insulating type tape, or something electric?

Thanks,

Ryan
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Old 01-24-2019, 10:35 PM   #11
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Name: Ryan
Trailer: Bigfoot
California
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Darwin,

Are you referring to a passive insulating type tape, or something electric?

Thanks,

Ryan
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Old 01-25-2019, 05:34 AM   #12
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Name: Stephen
Trailer: Casita
Tennessee
Posts: 176
Cold WX Operations

Ryan,

I talked to an expert about your gas problem. He told me that the head volume for gas in your tank and the surface area of the liquid propane inside is too low to generate enough gas in the cold. He said that Airstream fits a 40# aluminum cylinder to its trailers to ameliorate this problem. Also, an electrically heated pad under your tank will help. Another idea if you have dual 20# cylinders is to connect them in parallel so that both are supplying gas at the same time. I'd also fit these tanks with accurate float-type quantity gauges so you'll know how much gas you have at all times. If you decide to try this idea, please let me know if it works because I'm considering it myself.
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Old 01-25-2019, 04:40 PM   #13
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Name: Ryan
Trailer: Bigfoot
California
Posts: 17
Low Draw Heating Pad

All,

Thanks for the ideas.

As far as an electric heating pad, or electric heating tape, does anyone have a recommendation on one that will be DC and low draw? As far as I'm concerned, this is only a major problem for me when I'm not connected to any electricity. I don't want to run a generator, so in order to use a heating pad, it would have to draw off my battery, which worries me a little.

Ryan
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Old 01-25-2019, 05:11 PM   #14
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Name: Stephen
Trailer: Casita
Tennessee
Posts: 176
Ryan,

You are correct to worry about current drain from heating devices. They are only practical with a good source of AC electricity. To get any meaningful heat requires more watts than stock trailers can provide. The major flaw of the industry is to keep adding more appliances with no concern for where the power will come from to run them. That is why alternative solutions should be tried first.
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Old 01-26-2019, 05:43 AM   #15
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Name: Gerry
Trailer: 1979 Boler 1300 / 1991 Casita Freedom Deluxe
Maine
Posts: 1,766
Never had a problem winter camping with propane freezing but in my home right after I converted to propane from electric stove, The first day it got down below zero my stove went out.
I checked tank and it was still full.
I then poured hot water over the Regulator, heard a "pop" and gas started to flow.

Called the gas Co. and had them install new regulator on side of house.


Next time it has no flow in cold weather try hot water on Regulator.
There may be moisture in freezing and blocking the gas.
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Old 01-26-2019, 05:54 AM   #16
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Name: Stephen
Trailer: Casita
Tennessee
Posts: 176
Gary,

I admit to total ignorance of home propane systems. Are you saying that your home system consisted of a remote tank in the back yard and a regulator mounted just outside the house so that unregulated gas was flowing from the backyard tank all the way to your house? If so, it might be appropriate and easy to run a bit of heat to the regulator, either from an electrical heat strip or an exhaust vent from the house.
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Old 01-26-2019, 06:11 AM   #17
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Name: Gerry
Trailer: 1979 Boler 1300 / 1991 Casita Freedom Deluxe
Maine
Posts: 1,766
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen_Albers View Post
Gary,

I admit to total ignorance of home propane systems. Are you saying that your home system consisted of a remote tank in the back yard and a regulator mounted just outside the house so that unregulated gas was flowing from the backyard tank all the way to your house? If so, it might be appropriate and easy to run a bit of heat to the regulator, either from an electrical heat strip or an exhaust vent from the house.
What you say it true, but as said after the installation of the new regulator on side of house, it has never frozen up again.
Thinking, maybe there was moisture in the Regulator or the 30FT of copper gas line when installed and everything worked fine till first deep freeze.
It has been 25+ years now with this 2nd regulator on the side of house with never another freeze up.
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Old 01-26-2019, 06:37 AM   #18
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Name: Stephen
Trailer: Casita
Tennessee
Posts: 176
Propane cold operations

Gary,

I'm wondering if your house success has lessons that can be applied to achieving reliable propane service in a mobile application in temperatures down to 0F. I'm thinking that an easy way to provide more surface area would be to add a third parallel 20# tank because three tanks in a line would probably not exceed the with of the trailer. Certainly having the regulator accessible for servicing, yet protected is a good idea. Advanced lithium battery systems, which are cold sensitive, contain heat mats that the battery powers in the cold to heat itself up so that it can then supply full power.
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Old 01-26-2019, 06:51 AM   #19
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Name: Gerry
Trailer: 1979 Boler 1300 / 1991 Casita Freedom Deluxe
Maine
Posts: 1,766
Steve, this is Gerry not Gary, Temps here in Maine are down below the 0 mark and I have been camping with my Boler in temp in temps down to -15 F. with just one 20# tank and never had a problem. Do not see were if you have a 20# tank or a 300# tank (as on my house) would make a difference.
There is a 1/2 or 3/8 copper line going to the house or camper, respectively, at High Pressure to the regulator.
After the regulator pipe sizing is important so you have Volume to run your all you appliances at the same time.

Getting off tread here...but getting back on it...It COULD be water freezing in regulator.
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Old 01-28-2019, 10:23 AM   #20
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Name: Jim
Trailer: Scamp 13(sold!) & TDI tugboat
Ohio
Posts: 119
One reason we use propane instead of butane for our campers is because is works well in cold temps.


I think the OPs poor propane performance is due to the reduction in available oxygen at 9000'.
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