Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Turned down when you want propane? For some RVers, it’s happening

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
A few weeks back we recounted the ordeal of a motorhome owner. She’d pulled her rig into a retail store that offered propane service. The pump jockey took one look at the date on her motorhome’s LP tank and declared it to be too old to be refilled. The owner was told she really needed to have the tank “recertified.” In the end, the pumper took pity and refilled her tank anyway. We asked you for your experiences. Turns out, LP refill rejection isn’t uncommon at all.

Bounder bounced!

When James E. bounded into a commercial refill station in Mesa, Arizona, his Bounder got bounced. “That guy said that I needed to have the tank replaced,” wrote James. “That was the first I’d heard of it. He tested it with soapy solution and admitted that all the fittings were working with no leaks.” No soap bubbles, but still, “No soap!” James headed to a rental store that offered LP refills. “Too old,” declared the pump jockey. “When they refuse service, what can you do?” queries James. “I just don’t go back.”

Cat’s not all right

Maveric149 on wikimedia.org

Sometimes it isn’t a date that leads to an LP refill rejection. Patrick G. shares this story from a feed store near Durango, Colorado. “Parked by the tank and walked in the store,” relates Patrick. “Nice young lady said she would do it. As we walked toward the rig, she asked if there was anyone inside. I answered, ‘No, just two cats.’ She stopped and said she couldn’t fill it because of the cats.” At the risk of offending feline lovers, the obvious question is: Are cats (other than in their own minds) people, too?

“Reject” propane pump jockey overfills

Sometimes propane pump jockeys appear to be the “reject.” Richard E. tells us about an “expansive” experience he had with his motorhome. “The person filling it insisted that the pump would shut itself off when the tank was full,” recalls Richard. “I explained to him that the tank was built before overfill protection devices were installed in the tanks. It was imperative to open the 80% valve so that the tank would not be overfilled.” Did his words get through? “He told me that he filled tanks every day and he knew what he was doing. Needless to say, the tank was overfilled and it took me quite a while to get rid of the excess propane. That filling station has lost my business!”

Larry’s cylinder strategy

But motorhome tanks aren’t the only LP refill rejection target. Larry S. wrote us that his strategy is simple. “I usually refill my LP cylinders at a local bulk supply facility, at a campground, or at my local lumber yard.” But what about when those DOT cylinders are getting close to the need for recertification? He does a trade-in. “I try to find an already refilled cylinder that is within certification and appears to be in good condition.” That seems a little overboard, doesn’t it? After all, wouldn’t the “trade in” companies recertify their cylinders before shipping them back out?

Larry responds, “I get some really strange looks from store clerks when I insist on swapping my empty for a refilled one that is actually within certification,” he says. “This is often a difficult challenge … I have seen many, many out-of-date tanks that have been repainted, refilled, and offered for sale.”

Larry’s lesson is simple: If you do go the route of trading in your cylinders, don’t count on the company doing its job. Check the cylinder collar for a stamped date. The original manufacture date will be there. Count out 12 years from original manufacture. Once recertified, LP cylinders will need to be recertified again, typically after five years from the re-cert date. But what’s the advantage of a trade-in? Larry sees it this way: “It’s less expensive than purchasing a brand-new cylinder and then purchasing the gas to fill it. And it solves my own growing collection of out-of-cert cylinders cluttering my garage.”

Can you help?

Had any odd RV experiences at businesses that should know better? We’d love to hear about them. Just fill out the form and put “They should know better” in the subject line.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.


RVer asks: Do we have to recertify motorhome LP tanks?
How to carry extra propane safely


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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Jim Allen (@guest_162118)
1 year ago

On RV with a permanently mounted propane bottle the certification date’s don’t apply. Usually these bottle’s are mounted horizontally in a compartment.
It’s the portable bottle’s the certification applies.
There’s usually one place or other that pays no attention to certification dates. Arab’s, and Indian’s often don’t care

Dennis G. (@guest_153902)
2 years ago

I used to fill all types of propane tanks, at a gas station, 35 years ago. Still remember the filling procedure. Back then the 80% valve was all we had to work with. Sadly, I’ve had to mention to fill jockeys to open that valve and wait for the liquid to come out.

Mike (@guest_153277)
2 years ago

Dates on lp tanks are frequently ignored more often than not and the plain simple fact is they dont mean much given that anybody with punches can stamp a date on there.

david shipp (@guest_154441)
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike

I knew a vintage Airstream, owner who did just that so he could keep his original tanks with the rest of the original equipment.

rvgrandma (@guest_152948)
2 years ago

We have run into those who are not comfortable filling motorhomes. Wonder if some who refuse to fill them saying they need certified really do not feel safe filling MH?

Tommy Molnar (@guest_152861)
2 years ago

When it came time to get new tanks for my home bbq, I took a tip from someone on YouTube (where we all go for how-to’s on everything from roof repair to open heart surgery) and went to one of the places with cages outside. Wifey and I went through a bunch of them until we found the newest ones we could find. Now we’re good for at least another ten years. I won’t go back to swap out tanks. I get them filled at a local propane dealer.

Jesse Crouse (@guest_152830)
2 years ago

My info on the ASME tanks mounted to the frame of the RV are exempt to the DOT removable tank rules. However your state DOT may have a different policy. It has been my experience that over half of the propane tank filling people are neither trained or certified to make that decision. They are simply following company policy. Just like the policy of not letting a RV over 10 years old in the RV park.

Richard Davidson (@guest_152790)
2 years ago

The tank on my RV is located in the center of my RV underneath. Is the pump jockey going to crawl under it to check the date? I think not. If you say he will just go by the age of the RV, if he says it needs replacement I just had it done…

Denny K (@guest_152748)
2 years ago

Someone correct me if I am wrong but to my understanding portable 20-30 lb tanks that you can remove from your camper are regulated by DOT standards and must be re-certified every 12 years. Permanently mounted propane tanks in motor homes are regulated by ASME standards and not required to be re-certified.

tom (@guest_152732)
2 years ago

Two different standards for Propane tanks, one for portable and one for permanent installations. Uninformed owners and pump jockeys. Is a real problem in older coaches with the lack of knowledge on the difference.
Editor could have referenced the rules.

RV Staff
2 years ago
Reply to  tom

Thanks, tom. Check out this link that’s at the bottom of the article: https://www.rvtravel.com/rver-asks-recertify-motorhome-lp-tanks/ Take care. 🙂 –Diane

ROY V BERTALOTTO (@guest_152712)
2 years ago

This is the reason I’d never buy an RV with non portable, installed tanks.

Brian (@guest_152821)
2 years ago

I always try to fill at a place that sells propane as their primary business, not somewhere where it’s a sideline and any employee can do it. Luckily I live close to the largest propane supplier in the area and the guys are all pros.

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