Gas system safety
Transcript For Looking After Your Caravan's Gas System
Chris Jefferies: Caravan gas can be a great help on your holidays, cooking your food and keeping you warm but if it's not carefully maintained it can also be fatally dangerous.
To get some top tips on maintaining your caravan's gas system I'm joined today by Neil Greentree of Greentree's Adventure Store.
So Neil - why is caravan gas safety so important?
Neil Greentree: With the gas systems it's a convenient part of caravanning but at the end of the day it is a volatile substance. With a caravan you have a mobile system where you have gas bottles supplying to appliances. So the three key things you've really got to do is those appliances must be serviced and they must be serviced by the right people and regularly.
The second thing to bear-in-mind is ventilation now all caravans have mandatory ventilation. Now I'm not talking about the roof light - I'm talking about vents that are fitted to the caravan which cannot be shut-off. Now those are there for a reason and they're there if you have a problem with your gas or with carbon monoxide - it's allowed to exit the caravan safely and with no problem. Don't block them - they do cause drafts, I know in windy conditions but you always leave them open.
And the third thing - as I mentioned before, the silent killer - carbon monoxide. Now you can't smell it, you can't see it, and it's deadly but with caravans some have flues which are chimneys that take those exhaust gases away from the caravan but we have the ovens and grills and hobs - they are not fluid so that carbon monoxide must go into the caravan and you must ventilate it.
Now in modern caravans it's mandatory that we have carbon monoxide testers. Those are great things - they do look like smoke detectors so please be sure that you don't confuse the two. If you take as a rule of thumb - if you buy a caravan, whether it be private or from a dealer, it's just good practice that you look to see that there are two testers in there and if you have two - you have a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide tester. If you only have one then you need one more ideally.
Chris Jefferies: And how often do you need to check-in your caravan to a service centre to get it serviced?
Neil Greentree: They must come to a caravan dealer annually to have a proper, competent person do certain checks and I think, to maybe expand a little bit on that, they don't just put a little bit of pressure in there and see if it leaks. There's far more to a proper gas check than that - they will monitor how the flame burns, they will monitor where the carbon monoxide goes within the vehicle, they will check to see that in fact the flues are behaving as they should do. So it really is worth spending that money on making sure your caravan is functioning properly because the consequences could be ultimate.
Chris Jefferies: In-between services what can caravanners do to make sure that their gas system is operating properly?
Neil Greentree: There's some real basic checks which you can do - to really give you a heads-up whether you really need to be taking that caravan to a dealer in-between it's annual check. Now the first thing any customer can do is a visual check where you basically look at the pipes, you look at the joints and you look at the contact the pig tail, which connects the regulator to the gas bottle. And those visual checks by bending the rubber tubing, just a little bit, putting a little bit of pressure to see if any cracks appear. Those basic things can give you an indicator that there could be something wrong and the other thing you can do is if you think you are using more gas, and quicker than you think you should be using turn your gas on, take some fairy liquid, put it in a cup, add a little bit of water. Bubble it all up - so aggregate it with a paintbrush and then on all your joints in the caravan - dab that fluid onto there and what will happen is, if you have a gas leak, bubbles will form and if you're seeing bubbles form then you basically book it in for a service to take a look at correcting that fault.
Chris Jefferies: Excellent - Neil Greentree - thank you for your advice today.
Neil Greentree: No problem.
Chris Jefferies: So Lee - you service caravans for a living, how should people know if their gas isn't burning properly?
Lee: The main thing is really to look for yourself - if when you light your hobs and everything, if you have a yellow flame - that would suggest that it's not burning correctly and something's amiss and it could actually be causing carbon monoxide build-up in your van. So it's always worth getting things checked out if you've got a yellow flame like that and it's not a large blue flame you could have a problem there and you need to get it checked out really.
Chris Jefferies: And it's not just the cooker that burns gas - you've also got the gas fridge. How can people tell if there's a problem with their gas fridge?
Lee: The only thing you can really check on is the actual vent on the outside. If you happen to have a build-up of carbon - which would have come up as a black mark on the side of your van that would suggest that things aren't burning quite correctly and that you need to get that looked at and possibly have it serviced.
Some vans would have the fridge on the awning side and if you've got a full awning up on the side of your van and that's not burning correctly you would have a build-up of carbon monoxide in your warning which is not very good, especially if you've got people sleeping in there, some people use it as an extra room when they're out on holiday and things like that - so that's not very good at all.