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How Do I Check My RV’s Propane Level?

Knowing how to check the propane level in your RV can help ensure you never run out of this vital fuel. Without monitoring how much is left in the tank, you could find yourself in a frustrating and potentially even dangerous situation.

Luckily, you can check the gas supply in your camper in several ways. No more guessing how much fuel you have left in the metal canister.

Today, we’re sharing some easy ways to check the propane level during your RV adventures. By mastering these methods, you can ensure a smooth trip free from unexpected interruptions. 

Let’s go!

What Does Your RV Propane System Do?

Propane is a clean, efficient, and portable fuel source. It’s relatively inexpensive and readily available. When it comes to campers, it serves a variety of functions, including climate control and powering cooking appliances. This convenient system uses stoves, ovens, water heaters, and furnaces. 

These systems typically include one or more tanks, a regulator, and piping. Canister sizes range from 20 pounds (4.6 gallons) to over 100 pounds (23+ gallons). Most towable campers utilize 20 or 30-pound cylinders. You won’t usually see the 80 to 100-pound versions on anything other than large Class A motorhomes.

One great thing about propane is that it’s readily available. You can typically find it at hardware stores, local distributors, gas stations, or truck stops. Some locations may only offer exchange programs, while others will refill bottles. Like gasoline and diesel, prices will vary across the country.

Some owners will save a few bucks by buying from residential suppliers in bulk. However, this may require purchasing hundreds of gallons at one time.

In addition, some of these businesses may offer to come to your location and top off your cylinder regularly. This is a great way to avoid running out or distributing the cost to prevent a massive bill all at once.

propane tank
Runnning out of propane while on the road can have major consequences.

At What Level Is Your RV Propane Tank Considered Full?

If you remember a lesson from your high school chemistry class, you’ll know that gases react to heat and cold. So propane will expand as temperatures increase and contract as they decrease. 

As a result, you can only fill a propane tank to 80% of its capacity. Staying under this threshold ensures enough room for the reaction to occur safely. Many distributors either weigh the cylinder or use an inline pressure gauge to ensure they remain under the 80% limit.

Exceeding the pressure limit can be very dangerous. If there are any imperfections in the materials, it could cause the tank to rupture or explode. It’s also important to know that an overfilled container could result in a pressure loss, reducing the system’s efficiency. The excess could leak out and create a hazardous situation.

What Is an RV Automatic Changeover Propane Regulator?

Manufacturers often install RV automatic changeover propane regulators as a matter of convenience for owners. These devices connect multiple tanks, detect when a cylinder is empty, and switch to the backup bottle when needed. They help ensure a seemingly uninterrupted gas supply to the various appliances connected to the system.

These devices have many benefits, but they’re also potentially problematic. While they can reduce how often you need to check your RV propane level, they don’t alert you when they change bottles. You can quickly burn through a cylinder while camping in cold weather. Ending up with two empty tanks is no fun at all.

Many owners only open one tank at a time to avoid this potentially dangerous situation. This way, all they need to do is go outside, close the empty canister, and open the remaining one when the first runs out of fuel. They’ll then make a note to refill their cylinder as soon as possible.

Pro Tip: Stay safe by uncovering How to Avoid an RV Propane Explosion.

Propane tanks
Use an RV automatic changeover propane regulator to know how full your propane tanks are.

How To Easily Check the Propane Level in Your RV

A sufficient fuel supply is essential for a comfortable and safe camping experience. Therefore, knowing how to check your RV’s propane level is crucial. We’ll look at a few ways to monitor your tanks easily.

The Hot Water Method

One straightforward method to check the level in your RV is to use hot water.  Touch the side of the cylinderand notice its temperature. Move your hand and pour a cup of hot water down the side. 

Let the water sit on the cylinder for a few seconds, and run your hand on the side of the cylinder again. The level inside is the point where the metal feels cool to the touch where the water was poured.

While this isn’t a 100% accurate method and may not work well in cold weather, it can do the job in a pinch. It can help you know if you need a refill soon.

Inline Pressure Gauge

Another easy-to-use method to check your propane level is an inline pressure gauge. These devices connect to the gas line to display the pressure in the system. Most tanks have a pressure range of 10 to 200 PSI, with a full cylinder’s pressure between 100 to 120 PSI. Check the reading on the gauge when it’s full to know how to read a current level.

This is an effective and easy way to monitor the propane level in your RV. However, most motorhomes don’t come with these devices installed by the manufacturer, but you can purchase them online. Be sure to take the proper precautions when adding the unit to the canister.

Magnetic Gauge

It’s also possible to check the status of your tanks by using a magnetic gauge. These devices adhere to the cylinder and typically use a color-coded display to communicate the level inside the bottle. For example, green indicates it’s half-filled, yellow warns it’s half-full, and red lets you know you’re running low.

While this may be a simple and easy-to-use method, you can’t trust it 100%. If you’re looking for an accurate reading, you’ll want to use another way.

However, it can be a great option for giving you a general idea of your RV’s propane status.

Tank Weight

The tank weight method is one of the most accurate ways of checking your RV’s propane level. It involves weighing the cylinder when it’s empty and full to determine the gas remaining in the bottle.

Most have a label indicating the tare weight and how much it weighs when full, making it easy to calculate the remaining level. However, it does require removing the cylinder from your rig and using a scale, which can be inconvenient and time-consuming.

Shut off your propane tank while driving your RV.

Should You Drive Your RV With the Propane on?

Driving an RV with propane on is a hot-button topic in the community. While there are many opinions on this issue, we err on the side of caution. While you may have minor inconveniences of shutting off the gas while traveling, it’s the safest option. If your gas is on and you blow a tire or are in a serious accident, it could impact your fuel system and cause a dangerous situation.

In addition, some places legally require vehicles to shut off the propane system while traveling. Rules and regulations vary based on location, but it’s a good idea to know the state’s laws where you’re driving. As with other situations, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Pro Tip: Always have a full tank of propane by discovering When Do Propane Tanks Expire?

Check Your Propane Level Often

As we’ve discussed, checking your RV’s propane level is essential. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, so choosing the best for you and your RV is critical. Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll want to check regularly to ensure you have enough fuel to meet your needs while on the road.

By monitoring your propane level and performing regular maintenance on your system, you can enjoy safe and comfortable camping experiences for years to come.

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