By Gail Marsh
Most every child learned to never mess around with guns and matches, but few of us ever received training in the proper handling of propane tanks. Maybe you, like me, learned by watching Dad. Most times we were in the middle of grilling when suddenly the fire would go out. Dad and I would jump into the car and speed off to the nearest gas station. Without much thought of propane safety, we would switch out our empty tank with a new, filled tank. Dad would toss it into the back of the car, and we’d hurry home. Looking back on those times, our dinner seemed more important than our personal safety. Nothing bad happened, but our actions certainly had the potential for trouble. Thankfully, safety features have since been developed.
Propane safety basics
It’s probably safe to say that all of us can use a refresher course in the basics of handling propane. Since many RVs use propane as a source of heat as well as meal prep, RVers probably handle propane tanks more often than other folks. So here’s a quick review for you.
Some state laws prohibit transporting propane tanks inside an enclosed vehicle. Well, you may ask, how do I get the filled tank back to my RV? Roll down a car window or put the tank in the truck bed or an open trailer. Always double check to see that the cylinder valve is closed, and seal the tank with a plug, if required. If purchasing a brand-new tank, ask the dealer to purge the tank of moisture, air, and contaminants for you. Never leave a propane tank inside a hot, enclosed vehicle.
It’s safest to transport propane in an upright, vertical, secured position. You do this so that the pressure relief valve will continue to work properly. If the tank is placed on its side, liquid propane can leak into the valve and potentially cause it to malfunction. If the valve happens to be open, you run the risk of liquid propane leaking out. Liquid propane is much more flammable than propane gas. Use a propane neck collar, propane stand, or milk crate to transport propane tanks in your car. Use ratchet straps for transporting the tanks in your open pickup or trailer. (Note: some propane tanks are made to be filled and used in a horizontal position. If you have questions, ask your propane dealer.)
How much propane can you legally transport
There are specific guidelines for the amount of propane you may transport in your vehicle. When using a car, you may carry a total of no more than 90 pounds of propane, with no one cylinder having more than 45 pounds of propane capacity. In addition, you may not exceed a limit of four propane cylinders in any one trip. If you use your open pickup bed or trailer, you can transfer up to a total of 1,000 lbs. of propane capacity. Be careful though! Those 100-lb. tanks weigh a lot. Get some help and save your back!
Additional propane safety tips
After safely getting the propane tank to your rig, remember:
- Never bring propane tanks inside.
- You can check for leaks by wiping down the entire tank with soapy water. Any leak will cause the water to bubble. If you see bubbles, get the tank serviced immediately.
- Check propane hoses frequently, as cold weather and age can cause a hose to crack.
- Natural propane is odorless. Additives are put into the propane that make it smell like rotten eggs or skunks. If you smell propane inside your rig, get everyone out immediately. If you can do so safely, turn off the propane tank valve and call for service right away.
- Close the tank valve when you run out of propane. This will prevent moisture and air from getting inside the tank where it can cause rust. Not only can rust ruin the integrity of the propane tank, it can also dilute the smell of propane, making it harder to detect.
- Never modify a propane tank or hoses.
- Always use a regulator.