By Heidi Bodette
Has your RV propane tank ever been overfilled? Well, it happened to us in January. Here’s what we learned so you can help ensure it doesn’t happen to you.
Looking back, there were warning signs that our propane tank was overfilled. First, when the man came to fill it, he mentioned he forgot to bring his glasses. Second, he had to change the hose adapter a couple times before he had the right one. Third, he didn’t open up the bleeder valve which is used during the refill process to alert when the tank is nearing the full mark (80%). And, last, when he released the connection, there was a stream of liquid propane that came out of the propane tank. Normally, there would be nothing or a momentary spurt.
When we left, we didn’t realize the tank was overfilled. Fortunately, while driving to our next location, it was cooler weather and the propane tank was in the shade at our new site.
What happens when your tank is overfilled?
When we arrived at our campsite, we turned the propane on and didn’t realize anything was wrong. In the evening, we turned on the furnaces as temperatures were going into the lower 40s. When we woke up, the RV was cold and the furnaces wouldn’t come on. Mark checked our propane stove and it came on but wasn’t acting normal so he shut it off. He checked the propane tank and the fill indicator was buried past the ‘full’ line! That isn’t supposed to be like that!
To allow for expansion, propane containers should be filled to only 80% of their capacity. The same amount of propane can take up more or less space depending on the temperature. The extra space in the tank is a cushion against pressure that builds up inside a tank when it is hot outside.
We found this on the Internet
“An overfilled propane tank can explode, causing damage and even injury. The risk of overfilling is complicated by the fact that the liquid in the tank will expand in warmer weather as pressure in the tank increases. The tank may also cause the relief valve to open and spill propane onto the ground.”
When an RV propane tank is filled correctly, it shouldn’t overfill because all tanks have safety devices to prevent this. But, because it actually did happen to us, this is what we did to fix it.
- First, we called Mark’s brother because he has a similar propane tank/setup. We also researched and connected with people in the Tiffin Motorhome Owners FaceBook group. This same situation had happened to a few others as well. Knowing our propane tank had a pressure relief valve to release excess pressure, we felt comfortable moving forward to resolve the situation on our own.
- Since propane is heavier than air, we made sure there were no ignition sources near the propane tank (open fire, someone smoking, etc.). We opened the bleeder valve slowly and shut it off again. When overfilled, you will get a SOLID stream of near-liquid propane. If the tank is at or below 80%, you get a mist of propane that is mostly vapor. When Mark checked the bleeder valve, it had a solid stream of liquid propane!
- We started the propane stove because it is less finicky when it comes to flow pressure. We turned all the stove burners on to burn off the gas. After 15 minutes, the stove burners returned to normal.
- Next, we turned on our propane furnaces and they started working immediately. We turned on the gas water heater and it worked correctly too. Then, we ran everything for quite a while to help reduce the propane in the tank. We continued to do this on/off the next few days. It turns out our propane tank holds 36 gallons.
- We continued to watch the propane indicator that showed that the level was going down on the tank and on our inside panel. It took about a week for it to get down to the 80 percent level.
Be informed and educated!
If this happens to you and you do not have confidence to proceed, we recommend you contact someone that does, i.e., mobile repair technician, RV dealer, or a reputable seller of propane.
This was quite the experience for us and we wanted to tell you how important it is to be educated and informed, especially with regards to propane.
Heidi Bodette and her husband, Mark, own and operate the fine blog Loving the RV Life. Sign up to learn about new posts from this interesting couple.