How To Tell How Full (or Empty) Your Propane Tank Really Is

Nearly everyone has the typical 20-pound (5-gallon) barbecue grill propane tank. But, how do you ACCURATELY know how empty or full your propane tank really is?

How much does an EMPTY propane tank weigh?

Answer: The “TW” (Tare Weight) listed on the tank’s collar. I have 4 tanks of this size. Two of them read 18 pounds, the other two list 16.6 pounds. Your tank may vary. Read on for more detail.

How much does a FULL propane tank weigh?

Answer: The listed “TW” (Tare Weight) plus 17 pounds (4 gallons of propane). So, two of mine will weigh 35 pounds when full and the other two will weigh 33.6 when full. Your “TW” on your tank may be different from mine. Check the collar.

Propane Tank Weight | Calibrated Gauge

Here’s a quick and easy way to know how full your propane tank really is. Use a weight gauge that’s specifically calibrated for the typical bbq-size propane tank.

Hook, Lift, and Look:

(view on amzn)

Weigh The Propane Tank

Alternatively you could weigh your own propane tank, or other size tanks (e.g. a 30 pound RV propane tank). There’s a little math involved, but not a big deal…

Here’s the most accurate way to find out how much propane is in your tank:

First, you might use this multipurpose luggage scale:

Luggage scale up to 110 pounds

(view on amzn)

 All propane tanks have 2 weights stamped onto the top handle (the collar)

– One is the tank’s empty weight (“TW” – Tare Weight)

– The other is its full weight (“WC” – full with WATER… not propane… see below)


TW (Tare Weight)

This is the weight of the tank itself when empty.

WC (Water Capacity)

This is the weight of the water required to fill the tank (yes, water).

The typical 20-pound (5-gallon) size barbecue grill tank will hold 47.6 pounds of water.

Regulations limit the propane level to not exceed 42% of the water capacity of the tank.

Long story short – Regulations require the maximum weight of propane in a typical barbecue grill tank to be no more than 42% of 47.6, or 20 pounds.

4 Gallons of Propane, Not 5

80% is now considered “FULL” due to safety reasons. Refill stations will only fill a 20 lb propane tank to 80% of it’s maximum, or 4 gallons instead of 5 gallons. Here’s more about it and why they do that:

[ Read: How many gallons of propane in a 20 lb tank ]

Subtract Tare Weight From Measured Weight

So, what do we do with this information regarding a propane tank’s ‘Tare’ weight?

How do you actually discover how empty or full your propane tank is?

Simply weigh your propane tank and subtract it’s “Tare Weight”


>> American Weigh Scale
(view on amzn)

 You can use any scale. A floor scale, or a hanging scale. There are several hanging scales on the market. I’ve been using the one picture above for my 20 & 30 pound portable propane tanks (bbq and RV).

For example, I just weighed my bbq grill tank and it weighs 32.6 pounds. The Tare Weight stamped on the collar is 16.6 pounds.

32.6 – 16.6 = 16 pounds of propane

20 pounds is considered maximum regulation full.
In my example, 16 pounds is 4/5 full, or 80%.

Propane weighs 4.25 pounds per gallon.

 Tip! Depending on the weather conditions you may actually see condensation on the sides of a propane tank. There will be a clear demarcation indicating the level of propane inside the tank!

Here’s a chart where you can check the stamped W.C. on your propane tank and cross reference the maximum pounds of propane that will fill it. A typical bbq tank will be stamped 47.6 or 47.8.

Propane Cylinder (Tank) Filling Chart

“WC” versus Maximum Pounds of Propane

2.39 — 1
4.78 — 2
7.17 — 3
9.56 — 4
11.9 — 5
14.3 — 6
16.7 — 7
19.1 — 8
21.5 — 9
23.9 — 10
26.2 — 11
28.6 — 12
31.0 — 13
33.4 — 14
35.8 — 15
38.2 — 16
40.6 — 17
43.0 — 18
45.4 — 19
47.8 — 20 (typical bbq grill size tank)
59.7 — 25
71.7 — 30 (my RV tank size)
78.8 — 33
83.6 — 35
95.6 — 40
105.1 — 44
119.5 — 50
239.0 — 100

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Fire Steel dot com
EMP Shield
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Peak Refuel authorized distributor


  1. This is good Information. Take your handy hang scale with you to lowes
    Or Home Depot or wherever you do a tank exchange. You may be not so
    Pleasantly surprised how much propane they put into your 20lb tank.

    I find better value at stations that actually fill your tank for you, chances are
    You’ll get more bang for your buck (actually filled to capacity).


    1. Yes indeed….. the tanks in the wire cage sold at Home Depot, Lowes, convenience stores, etc. only have 4 gals. out of 5 gals capacity. A real screw job. Get your tanks filled at the local bulk plant.

        1. Has to do with the public not reading the small print and understanding these box store exchange programs shorted them out of 5lbs of propane which is 25% less than filling the tank at a refill location. Even Lowe’s shows they provide only 15lbs instead of the actual 20lbs capacity.

        2. “Nothing to do” needs to spend some of his time checking facts before posting. The reduced amount of propane in Home Depot tanks was in fact mandated for safety.

        3. Hahaha. Wrong! Tanks are actually 6 gal, not 5. Don’t believe me? Do the math. The tank in the story is 47.6lb ww. And we all know a pints a lb the world around, so 8lb/gal. 47.6/8=5.95. So 5.95*4.2lb(mass of liquid propane/gal)=24.99. Federally mandated safety margin is 42% of the ww
          So 19.992 lb of propane is legal in that cylinder.

          See the hundreds of articles on exchanges changing to 15lbs since about 2008. Read it while eating the new “family size chips” at 10.5 OZ from your local grocer.

        4. 1 gallon of propane weighs 4.2 Lb.
          4 gallons weighs 16.8-17
          5 gallons weighs 21-21.25

          -How can a 20 Lb. tanks hold 5, let alone 6 gallons of propane?
          -Right now, Wall Mart, Blue Rhino and Amarigas are pumping only 15 Lb. in their tanks, or roughly 3½ gallons.
          -Filling station pump in 4 to 4.2 gallons into tanks, which is 17 to up to almost 18 Lb., depending on the OPD/weather.
          -You may have accidentally meant to put another number in place of “6 gallons” on your post.

        5. Mandated by who? If you could, could you please use add a website address. I was not aware that it was federally mandated that they drop down to 15 Lb., unless you mean mandated by their accountant. :-). But seriously, I really am interested in that fact. Thanks.

        6. I actually decided to purchase a new tank rather than go Rhino. I went to the Quick Stop for the first time today and they filled it with 4.2 gallons, which she said was a full tank. As they only charge for the actual gas, they would want to fill it as much as possible for a sale. The cost was $3.30 and came to $13.82. This compares with the cost of $25 for the Rhino return tank. My full tank weighed 36.4 pounds. Also, I have read that the tank needs to have a required space for expansion, which is certainly the case in Phoenix. Good job Jared for being factual and objective.

        7. Has to do with the public not reading the small print and understanding these box store exchange programs shorted them out of 5lbs of propane which is 25% less than filling the tank at a refill location. Even Lowe’s shows they provide only 15lbs instead of the actual 20lbs capacity.

        8. You are 100% correct B.Y.A.U.
          But as you are well aware, you can’t fix you know what!

        9. Amen. GOOD ROR YOU. You’re right, of course. Good thing for readers you posted this.

    2. I couldn’t help but notice all the vitriol being spent and all the spittle flying out of mouths in the reply to the original poster. That being said, here’s my take on it.

      I’ve owned three different brands of travel trailers through my life, and EVERY ONE of them have said the same when it came to filling your propane cylinders. “Never Fill Your Propane Tanks More that 80%”

      As far as the various “convenience” stores selling light weight tanks? You are paying extra for the convenience. I go to a campground that is also a bulk dealer down the street and it’s much cheaper than Home Depot, the local Piggly Wiggly, or the 7-11. But then again, you are paying for not having to wait a whopping 10 minutes to have your own tank filled.

      As always your mileage may vary.
      There you go, my take on it.

      1. Today I filled two 20# tanks. They are stamped TW17.8#. Full, they weigh 37.0. The tech filled them ‘til propane streamed out the bleed hole.

        1. Thomas…maybe you know more than I, or maybe someone on here does. But…—Years ago I had propane tank filled. It did not ‘stream out or anything, but after a few days sitting on my back deck, it started making hissing noises (streaming?), and I could smell it.

          Called the Fire Department, and they told me to wait out front, as it was a serious fire hazard. When they arrived, they “released it”, but also said it was good I called, as they had had several house fires caused by overfilled propane tanks.

        2. Years Ago There Was Not The Over Fill Valve On Tanks.
          When Filling Them They Were On A Scale To Not Over
          Fill. Today The Valve Has The Bleed Hole To Avoid
          Over Filling

        3. Thats pretty funny. Chemistry tells us propane is heavier than air and drops to the ground and drains away and because of this rarely ever to have a chance to pool up and ignite, and if it did ignite was likely intentional.. and unless forced into a hole and match lit would run down the drainage path away from the house like rain into your yard like water and very unlikely creating a fire… totally opposite of natural gas which is lighter than air.. creates blooms of gas in the air that can easily ignite from sparks as it has a more volatile flash point.

    3. I thought the way to tell how full or empty a tank is, is to take the top off and use a lit match to look inside to see the liquid level. I haven’t tried it yet for propane tanks but it works well for water tanks.
      Just kidding—- Kids, please don’t try this at home.

  2. Thank you once again Ken. This is the kind of stuff we all need for our preps. I also have extra propane, but I have a much taller cylinder that holds the same volume as three small BBQ tanks. While I still rotate it through, I like the idea that I could cook a hot meal every day for a year for my family and not run our of gas.

  3. I would also like to add yet another way…

    I have noticed that during times when condensation forms on the outside of the propane tank – that you can sometimes see the fill level – the condensation ‘sweat’ forms a line across the tank. The weather conditions have to be right though (often in the morning).

  4. Thanks for the great info. That’s been our one weakness, trying to estimate the amount of propane left in a tank. The tank would always seem to run out in the middle of cooking on the grill, which was frustrating before we got smart and purchased extra tanks. It was still a guessing game.

  5. When a tank is almost empty shake it or turn upside down to get a little more out of it.In cold weather putting it in a bucket of warm water helps too.It will not vaporize if its to cold.If a tank is 12 years old it cant be refilled.I trade my old tanks in at wal mart and refill my good tanks at the hardware store.

      1. Compressed gas cylinders are tested when they are new and stamped with the date and a symbol showing who did the inspection.

        The date is checked before refilling, and if it has expired, it cannot be refilled. The good news is, it costs 5 to 10 dollars to have it recertified, and it is good for another period of years. Your propane dealer or local welding gas dealer can tell you where it can be done.

        Really old tanks with the round valve handle will not be worth the effort, as they will require valve upgrading. If you buy used, make sure the tank has a three lobed handle- they are the most recent and safest.

    1. Propane boils at 42 degrees below zero. I work in the northern plains Bakken oilfields with thousands of gallons of propane a day. I have been in conditions colder than the boiling point of propane. Makes quite a situation for our big burners. The propane won’t gas out and sprays out in a liquid. Makes a spectacular flame but doesn’t heat for nothin.

  6. When using propane feel the side of the tank fluid level will be cooler than the rest of the tank feel the tank and you can gauge the level


    1. I don’t know if the gauges you’re thinking of are the same as I’ve heard about, but the one’s I’ve heard about don’t work as well as using the weight of the tank to see how full it it. The gauges (that I’ve heard about) measure pressure and that can vary based on temperature. If your grill is out in the sun, pressure reading will be higher than if stored in shade, and so on.

      But my info is all from other people’s posts online, so if folks have different knowledge or experience, feel free to set me straight. :-)

      1. Gauges do not work. They show pressure, which does not reflect how much liquid is left in the tank. Devices are available to indicate liquid level, but weight measurement is more straightforward.

        1. I agree. People are expecting gauges that they screw on, or put on the valve to be accurate. Propane does change with temperature too. Even our big 1000 Lb tanks have a gouge that we allow 10% under over on.

  7. If your grilling and the grill shuts down it’s out of propane. Bring your food in and finish cooking in a skillet or in the oven.Bring your empty tank to get filled wherever is convenient for you.Bring full tank home and start grilling again.

  8. I’m surprised the easier method wasn’t mentioned – the hot water method. Take a cup of hot water and slowly pour it down the side from the top shoulder. Wait 10 seconds and then run the back of our finger down the side where the water was. The steel will be hot above the fuel line, and cold below it (the liquid fuel will absorb the heat).

    The mention above about the pressure gauges not working is true. The vapor pressure will remain constant until the liquid drops below the lower shoulder, and then only under a decent load. You might notice a difference if you happen to be staring at the gauge at that point.

  9. I want to clarify some of your facts, regarding your first paragraph, which is very important, regarding the information you are giving the public:

    “Nearly everyone has the typical 20-pound (5-gallon) barbeque grill propane tank, and many preppers have stocked up with extra tanks for various reasons – but how do you accurately know how empty or full your tank really is?”

    A typical, residential 20 propane tank does not hold 5 gallons of propane. Why? Propane weighs 4.25 Lb., not 4 Lb. I am a professional in the industry, and I get a lot of people telling me that a propane tank should be filled with 20 Lb. of propane. Also, legal propane tanks will have an OPD, which is an Overfill Protection Device, which acts like a float, and will close the valve when it reaches 4.0-4.2 gallons of propane, which is 17.0 – 17.85 Lb. Temperature plays a role, because when the temperature rises, the gas expands, and this will effect the propane. ONE MUST NEVER use a grill tank without and OPD, by law, which is the type of tank, when the valve is opened, propane comes right out, and there is no float, to cut propane, so the tank is not overfilled. If a tank is overfilled, and has rust at seems, it can fail. I have seen a tank leak, due to rust, it is is a SERIOUS THREAT TO LIFE.

    When refilling a propane tank, you are right, basically, when you take the tare weight, and subtract that from the total weight of the tank with the contents (propane), and you get the weight or amount of propane in a tank. For instance, if your scale reads 33.6 Lb., you subtract 16.6 (different tanks have different tare weight, and I am using the 16.6 weight pictured in the website) from 33.6, and you get 17 Lb. Divide 17 Lb. by 4.25 (which is the weight of 1 gallon of propane), and you get 4. (4 is the gallons of propane in your tank). As I detailed above, in regards to your OPD, you can typically only get 4-4.2 gallons in a typical grill tank. It is unsafe to overfill a tank, and they say typically not to fill a grill tank over 80%, but the OPD will usually kick in before 80% in any case. All tanks have their own standards, in regards to thickness, type of material (steel or aluminum, etc.).
    Also, your water capacity, in regards to the average person typically just confuses them. Your propane filling chart, using W.C. to each gallon of propane does not really apply to what you are talking about. Your chart should look like the one below:

    Lb. to Gallon:
    4.25 (1)
    8.5 (2)
    12.75 (3)
    17 (4)
    21.25 (5)

    If you look on the outside label of an old Blue Rhino tank, it will say 17 Lb., while the new tanks say 15 Lb. What they have done is drop from 4 gallons, down to 3.5 gallons. The public does not know the difference, but you can check out an interesting news report about it. Also, the term “full” is misleading. I would say that my tank is full, if I had 4 gallons, or my OPD kicked in a little before or after 4 gallons, because the tank is not supposed to take more than that for the purpose of safety. If you tell people it is not full, they think someone is cheating them, unless you break it down and explain it like I have done here, and they understand that if a tank could actually be filled all the way, and if it did not have an OPD, it would be EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. There are still old tanks running around, even though they are illegal and out of date. If someone got a tank filled all the way, and the temperature rose just a little, propane would be released by the valve, because it is supposed to release propane at a certain pressure, to avoid the tank from rupturing, in the even that it was rusted at a seem, etc.

    You spent time on this website/blog, did a great job, but if you take the W.C. water capacity chart off, redo your propane weight and the capacity of a 20 Lb. propane tank, in regards to the amount of propane it can handle, and a few other changes, your info would be accurate. You could slip in, make the changes, and republish it, and you would be a very helpful resource. I think you did a great job with everything, but please, for the sake of accuracy, make the changes. Thank you!

    1. Jared,

      This is phenomenally great information. You cleared up… everything; Hank Hill is a piker in comparison.

      One question… the place I have been filling my tanks for years has recently stopped opening the vent valve during fill up. They just pump until around 4.0-4.2 gallons is shown on the meter, then they disconnect. Is this some kind of new law, or are they just being lazy?

  10. A comment on Propane Tanks.
    First let me say I’m a cheap SOB, so with that in mind I buy Propane at the cheapest place I can find it. Also Propane Tanks. Being so cheap :-) I buy 20# tanks at the local scrap yard, now follow me here, 99% of them have the “old style” valve or are so old I would not trust them. So why? Because I can get them for about $2.50 each. Again why? I can take that tank to the local Blue Rhino and get a fully reconditioned one with a new valve WITH fuel for around $20 now days. the Propane itself will run %12-$13 a New tank will run ya $25-$40. So I spend $22-$25 on a “new full tank”. So lets say; Buy a tank at $35+ Fuel at $13 = $48 + Tax of the same thing for $23. see I told you I’m cheap :-)

    1. Exactly what I do…let them deal with the old ones. When the bulk dealer tells me the tank cannot be used due to age, I simply exchange it and then re-fill when empty. The cost of this is built into their business model, it is convenient, and 99% of the time, my money stays local. Let the conglomerates eat the cost of the scrap tanks.

      1. Not so much.

        I tried that at a Blue Rhino outlet a couple years ago. The clerk had a handy-dandy, laminated quick-reference chart to compare tank features. They rejected my attempt to swap into a newer tank.

        1. I usually go to the local convenience store, there is only 1 or 2 people working and the cages are always locked…the clerks are invariably in a rush, you have already paid before you go to the cage. Only thing they want to do is get back inside, I have never had anyone check the tank on an exchange.

      1. EXACTLY!

        My dogs enjoy heated outdoor baths thanks to a 2gpm water heater on my outside wall that runs on 1 pound bottles. It’s also a good backup in case our indoor plumbing fails.

        Generators running California gasoline are ruined within 6 months. My propane genie has no such problem.

  11. I buy my propane off the truck. Just bought 200 gallons yesterday to top off my 500 gallon tank.
    Cost bulk delivered $1.00/ gallon. Wholsale price this week is about $.70 / gallon. Up and down.

    So retail delivered is about 23-24 cents/ pound this time down about 40% from previous delivery. Wholsale about $.15 / pound.

    So a 20 lb fill is ony worth about $3 wholesale. Now you know how expensive buying propane in little toss over your shoulder bottles really is.

    Want to save money … Buy bulk and fill your own cylinders. …USE A SCALE SO YOU DO NOT OVER FILL… PLEASE

    BLEVE’s are devasting….and deadly!

    Retired chemical engineer,
    40 years refinery process and instrumentation design.

      1. @ Doc Jackson

        This is a reposting (update) of an old article. The old comments are still attached, hence the older comment date.


      2. Ken has harnessed the power to travel back in time. It is still a work in progress soon he will be able to stop Obama from being elected and the Clintons will still be in Arkansas. As for Pelosi there is only so much time travel a man can undo.

        Adapt and Overcome.

        1. Gadget

          Knowing Ken, he has a ‘Wood Gasifier’ on his computer… HAHAHA

  12. Two suggestions for your excellent article:

    (1) Where you wrote, “WC (W.C. Water Capacity): This is the weight of the tank if it were filled with water (yes, water).” This incorrectly suggests that the WC is weight of the tank plus weight of the water. To make the sentence completely accurate, you could write, “This is the weight of the water required to fill the tank (yes, water)”.

    (2) Where you wrote, “Long story short – the safe maximum weight of propane in a typical barbeque grill tank is 20 pounds (42% of 47.6 or 47.8 pounds)”. What’s the 47.8 pounds referring to? It doesn’t make sense since you never mentioned 47.8 elsewhere. It took me a long time to figure out that you’re referring to the filling chart. Maybe you could write, “(42% of 47.6 = 20 pounds, or which you can also see on the filling chart below where 47.8 is 20 pounds)”.

  13. If the regulation is 42% of the WC which is 47.6 pounds and propane has a specific gravity of about 0.50 then is the “Roughly 80% of the tanks volume guideline” built into the regulation at 20 lbs. (and it’s really 84%)

    Does this mean that most people are filling tanks to 80% of the regulated amount because they don’t understand physics not because they’re cheap?

    If the tank is filled to .42 X W.C. of water it will be 42% full.
    If the tank is filled to .42 X W.C. of liquid propane it will be 84% full, because water is twice as heavy as propane.

  14. I’m checking this all out after a BBQ last evening. I weighed the tank pre and post and used 8 pounds… egad !! half of the stuff? And I had
    it on for about 12 minutes, at most….again – egad !!…

  15. @Tom,

    You failed to mention that your grille has eight burners and three searing plates and that is how you consume 1 gallon every six minutes!


    Director of Engineering
    very large propane supplier

  16. I have been heating my home with propane for the last 25 years and they have always only been able to fill my tank up to 80% due to safety reasons.

  17. So just an FYI. For one year I delivered residential and commercial propane for Associated Petroleum Products. Please do not think that Lowe’s or Blue Rhino are ripping anybody off for not filling a propane tank to the brim. As propane heats up, it expands. As one who used to deliver, we were only legally allowed to fill propane tanks and cylinders to 85%, to allow for expansion. Tanks are only built to withstand a certain amount of pressure, and this is done for safety reasons. Gauges fail, so the way we are able to tell that a tank is at roughly 85% is to open the bleeder valve and watch the behavior of the bleeding product as it comes out. As soon as a steady stream of liquid is coming out of the bleeder, the tank is filled to a safe capacity.

      1. Gotshorted,

        That would leave you with around 5 pounds of fuel. You didn’t notice something when you picked up the tank? Sounds like a leaker.

  18. I have an outdoor propane tank …capacity 250 units… it never gets filled beyond that point.
    The gauge on this tank reads percentages – So if the needle is setting on 5% on this gauge …how much propane is left in the tank?

    1. @ Ichris

      Technically it still has 12.5 “units” in the tank at 5%, (250 X 5% = 12.5)remembering it will never be filled to max of 250, only to 80% of that….

      FYI, 5% in a tank is very little…….. if it runs out most propane companies will have to retest your home. Here it’s state law to do so.


  19. Hi. I don’t know if this OT or not but thought I’d ask for some help. The 1999 Wildwood trailer I’m renting has dual propane tanks, I think they’re 30# because they’re taller than BBQ tanks. Surprise! One just ran out of gas and it’s a hassle getting it refilled. I’m too old a lady to try changing it out myself.

    So, can anyone recommend a tank scale for 30# propane tanks that will fit in the compartment on this trailer?


    1. Hi Lynn,

      Sure, there are palm-sized units with a an S-hook on eBay for around $12. They are designed for weighing refrigerant in jugs, but works just as well with propane.

      You hook the handle and raise the tank slightly until the machine beeps. Read the gross weight and subtract the tank weight (Tare) and Voila! A super accurate weight gauge, cheap, fits in one hand.

  20. Lynn,

    Is the trailer in an RV or trailer park? I ask because most facilities like this have propane vendors who come around, trailer by trailer and fill the tanks on a regular basis. I base this on my experiences when I stayed in one while going to college back in the late sixties, so my advice may be outdated.

    1. Hi Dennis! Happy New Year.

      I live in a park & called a few vendors. Apparently this service isn’t provided anymore where I live. Bummer!

      Thanks for replying!


  21. Picked up a Blue Rhino exchange at Lowes. I said it felt light but was told it had the blue plastic cap on so it was full. Weighed it when I got home and found it to be 20.9 pounds. TW (tare weight) is stamped at 16.6. I paid full price for 4.3 pounds of propane. Quite the rip off.

    1. Recently I have had three tanks go empty and provide only one meal each. This last weekend I picked up another, cooked two steaks and it showed only slight usage of the propane. I am going to test the fittings on the grill tonight and if they are secure I will be convinced that I have been ripped off by the company who fills the tanks. I will be using Uhaul from this point forward and filling my own.

  22. Good info. I seen a neighbor get ripped off on a propane bottle exchange. Up until that time, I had just walked in made my exchange and left – now I have the weight scale, and bought a couple of tanks, I can go to the Propane Co. and fill from there.

        1. I kept returning the grills ’cause I told da guy they were defective, after thee of them da gu fired it up at the store, I took it home and it didn’t work, da guy came out did something and it worked, after a couple of months it quit again, I turned it into a bird bath and grill over wood.

  23. When the tank is full it’s really heavy and I have trouble picking it up. When I can grab it and easily pick it up I know that it’s almost empty. I keep several tanks. I get them filled at a local station and their hose has a gauge on it telling how many gallons they filled. So the receipt will show the total.

  24. I want to thank all of those from the engineering and natural gas industry that posted on this site. Too much info for this redneck to absorb in one sitting. I buy and use the refillable propane tanks and get mine refilled at the local gas station in town. I have tried the Blue Rhino stands before and sometimes found one that did not burn very long. (so scratch that idea.) No Gas! Cooker broke! No Good!

    My tanks get used year round but most heavily in the summer. I inherited a Webber gas grill from my father and refurbished it by replacing the hose and regulator and the old tank was beginning to rust. When the folks at the propane place refused to refill the tank, it is time for retirement. Being a new and loyal customer, they sold me a new tank at discount and took in my old rusted tank.

    I’ve been using propane to slow cook foil wrapped food with the cover closed for years. (whole chicken, porketta roasts, whole shoulder roasts) There is only one weak point about the propane grill, Mine will not work in high winds. I have had good luck working within the limitations and I use charcoal for a really fine pair of steaks, cuts of lamb and when the weather is too extreme to light up my old school gas grill. (Front porch has the charcoal grill. Back porch is south facing and has the gas grill.)

    The only bad idea i’ve seen is fire arms around the propane tanks. I knew of a young man that tried to shoot a squirrel that was sitting on top of the valve of a propane tank. he lived by the way. took himself out of the gene pool in a car accident later.

    Refill or top off your tanks BEFORE the summer trip or the holiday weekends. I remember that the only folks really busy working during such times were the people working at the gas stations/propane outlets.

  25. Ken,

    With the summer season on its way, and you being on the road, Could you write a reminder article about obtaining supplies from larger towns before the trip as opposed to obtaining supplies from “gateway towns” just outside the park entrance?

    In my life and travels, I have observed that the stores within the Gateway towns (like 3 Rivers outside of Sequoia NP, Coursegold outside the south entrance to Yosemite and Grover Beach next to the Pismo Dunes Rec Area) will stock up on/and run out of critical need items like:
    small propane bottles for stoves and lanterns, paper plates, canned domestic beer, canned soda pop, plastic ware, Ice, Coleman Lantern mantles, booze of all flavors, pre-made hamburger patties, hot dogs and deli items, sunscreen and Aloa Vera gel with lidocaine for the sunburn.

    Most on this site are already fans of the big box stores so I would buy in larger towns prior to the trip to the scenic hinterlands. Most on this site are probably already aware so I may be “Preaching to the Choir.”

  26. I purchased some empty tanks at Sams Club that have a magnetic float gauge. Paid less than $20.00 a tank and love them. The gauge is the most accurate I have ever seen on an LP tank.
    Got tired of running out of gas in the middle of a camping trip on the travel trailer. Wasn’t really partical to remove and weigh the tanks but these with the gauges are easy to tell at a glance.

  27. I have one tank on my BBQ,and two full spares.I don’t care what’s in them,as long as my BBQ lights and I can cook my steak.If not,I just swap it for one of the others,and get the empty refilled when I can.

  28. I have 4 spare bbq tanks and got them all free–watch out on trash day and as people set out their one season/broken Walmart grills for the trashman (he’s not gonna take those tanks,sheep)I take them and get them refilled. Wonder how many of these degreed folks don’t realize you CAN refill those tanks lol..

    BTW Webers are expensive but grill more evenly, last forever, and are made in USA!

  29. I happen to work at a place that refills propane tanks, they are pressure regulated to only fill to 75-80%. Our pump shuts off when a tank hits the pressure it’s set at. Gauges on tanks are practically worthless, especially here where temps vary so much. 48 is our low tonight, 90 is the high tomorrow.

    From what I’ve heard different states have differing regulations and regulatory agencies, so check your state’s regulations and get the facts that pertain.

    Semper Gumby

  30. Where do you take a tank when you want to discard it?
    Somehow we ended up with about a dozen obsolete tanks.
    We’re talking really old and I wish to be safe for everyone.

    1. Check with wherever you get your tanks filled. If you’re in an area where a company provides propane delivery services, they might know.

      Larger cities will often have “Hazardous Waste Roundups” where you can bring things like old tanks to be disposed of safely.

  31. These are great tips to make sure my propane tank is full to the correct capacity. Now that summer is starting, I just wish there was a propane gas delivery option. We’re just having way too much fun barbequing and camping.

  32. There is a lot about propane I didn’t know about before reading this article. I’m always wondering whether my tank is full or even if its full when I buy it. Thank you for giving a little bit more info on tares and weight capacities!

  33. To see the level of propane in your cylinder simply heat up a cup of water doesn’t have to be boiling hot but hot to where there is steam coming off of it and pour it over your propane tank you’ll see the beads of sweat form a circle around the tank that is where your propane level is

  34. It would be nice if filling stations would advertise their prices. I always feel like a cheap skate having to call and ask.

  35. The valve on my sam’s club tank leaks unless I really crank the attached device down really really hard. When I look down on the valve you can see a cylinder shaped piece of pipe like “seat” thingy is pushed in farther than my normally functioning tanks. Which causes whatever I attach it to to leak slightly.

    Probably less than 5 years old. Can I take this somewhere and get it replaced for free? Used to be I think you could do this at walmart with a non blue rhino tank.

  36. I’ve updated this article a number of times since its original.

    Today I tweaked and re-posted it again because I had just gone through checking my four bbq-size propane tanks to see how full or empty they are. I want to be sure they’re full for “standby”, just in case, even over the winter. Ya-never-know if you’re going to need that extra fuel during an emergency situation, or if the urge arises to throw a fat steak on the grill ;)

  37. I was given a propane tank, but the valve was not allowed any more. Local propane dealer put in a new valve with a gauge. Cost about 25 dollars. This is a heavier tank than most of the new ones, so i did the valve replacement. The gauge seems fairly close.

  38. Update in 2019:

    I had my tank date expire and the filling station wouldn’t refill it so I took it to the nearby Lowe’s and did a tank exchange for some $26.

    I got a tank made in 2018 so I should be good until some 2028 expiration date. The folks at the filling station said- “oh yeah..its a good tank..Bring it on by when you need more propane.”

    I’ll be refilling it tomorrow and cooking a pork shoulder roast tomorrow night.

  39. Another option is to use a translucent composite propane tank. With these propane tanks, you can actually see exactly how much fuel is left in the tank. I have been using composite tanks for a couple of year now, and I cannot imagine going back to a steel tank.

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