One of the most common fuel sources for tent and RV gear is camping propane. Your gear does you no good if you run out of fuel to operate it, so, you need to know how to tell if a propane tank is empty with a quick and simple method.
In This Post:
How To Check If Propane Tank Is Empty
Some people want to use a propane tank weight chart to determine if their tank is completely empty but that is not totally accurate. So, how much does an empty propane tank weigh?
- Look at the tare weight that is stamped on the collar/handle of the propane tank. That is the only truly precise measurement of that specific tank’s empty weight.
- If you put a propane tank on a scale and the reading matches the tare weight stamped on the collar/handle, then the tank is definitely empty.
If your tank is not empty, you’ll want to know how to check your propane tank level.
How Much Gas Is Left in Your Propane Tank?
How to tell how much propane is left is easy with three different methods … each having pros and cons regarding accuracy and equipment required to perform the test.
- Hot Water, Cool Touch
Method 1: Hot Water, Cool Touch Method To Check Propane Tank Levels
The great thing about using this technique to check your propane tank level is that no special equipment is required … and … that is always great when you are camping!
- Get a small bucket or glass of hot/warm water … about the temperature of hot tap water from a house faucet.
- Don’t trickle … actually pour the water slowly down one side of the tank.
- Run your hand vertically along the side of the tank … you are sensing the temperature change as you feel the tank with your bare hands.
- The tank will be warm at the top where there is no propane inside and it will be cool to the touch at the bottom where there is gas inside. The position on the tank where you feel the difference indicates how much liquid propane you have left. The tank is probably completely empty if you don’t feel any difference as you move your hand across the tank.
Method 2: Gauge Method To Know Amount Of Propane In A Tank
The cool thing about using this system is that you can leave your tank in place (like in the rack on your RV) and just look at the gauge to see how full your propane tank is at the moment.
Because propane is one source of fuel that runs your refrigerator and freezer, this gauge is one of the best RV kitchen accessories to maintain food at safe temperatures … especially when you don’t have access to shore power to run your appliances.
- Attach the gauge between the propane tank and the hose that feeds into your RV or other camping gear.
- Read the gauge to see the amount of propane in the tank.
- The best propane tank gauge level indicators are calibrated to adjust for the outside air temperature giving you a more accurate estimate of the amount of propane in your tank.
This tool is so handy, that’s why we recommend it in our FREE printable RV Tool Kit Checklist.
Method 3: Weight Method To Tell How Much Propane In A Tank
The nice thing about using this process is the accuracy of the information indicating how full your propane tank is. Unfortunately, it is the most cumbersome method that also requires equipment (a scale) to perform.
You need to know some figures and do a little bit of math to use this method … here’s how to find and compute that information.
How Much Does A Gallon Of Propane Weigh?
One gallon of propane weighs 4.2 pounds.
That figure needs to be considered in addition to the tank’s empty weight when calculating propane LP gas tank levels using the weight method.
How Much Does An Empty Propane Tank Weigh?
The weight of empty propane tanks is also known as Tare Weight (TW).
This weight is specific for each individual tank.
There is a wide range of portable propane tank sizes that are used in various camping situations.
The TW is stamped on the collar/handle of the propane tank.
How To Calculate Amount Of Propane Left In Your Tank
- Disconnect the propane tank from your RV or camping gear and close the valve.
- Place the tank on a scale.
- Record the current weight.
- Subtract the (TW) tare weight from the current weight.
- The difference between those numbers is the approximate weight of the propane that is remaining in the tank.
- Divide that number by 4.2 (the weight of one gallon of propane) to calculate the approximate number of gallons of propane remaining in the tank.
Example Calculation Of Weight Method
Here is the math example from one of our RV’s 30 pound propane tanks after a week-long camping trip:
40.4 pounds current weight of the tank – 25.1 pounds tare weight = 15.3 pounds of propane remaining in the tank.
15.3 pounds of propane remaining in the tank / 4.2 pounds per gallon of propane = 3.6 gallons of propane remaining in our 30 pound tank.
This means we used about half of the propane during our trip and we won’t need to get more propane until after our next week-long camping trip.
4 Signs Propane Tank Is Low
If you pay attention to your propane levels and heed the warning signs that your gas supply is dwindling, you can avoid running out of fuel.
- Your gauge is reading low. If you use a quality gauge that is installed properly, it will indicate the propane quantity in the tank. Make sure you include checking this gauge prior to your trips.
- The flame sputters when using your propane appliances. If you propane supply is running low, that visual indicator is easy to see when using appliances with visible flames like propane stoves and RV ovens.
- Your gas appliances won’t light. If your propane tank valve is open allowing for gas flow, but you don’t get ignition, you are probably low or out of fuel. Try to turn on the stove so you can see the visible flame vs attempting to light appliances with hidden flames like water heaters and refrigerators.
- The tank feels light. When you buy a new tank that is empty, you know how heavy it feels. If you pick up a partially-filled tank and it doesn’t feel “heavy to the touch”, you know you are dropping below the fill level. The lighter if feels, the lower the quantity.
Where To Take Empty Propane Tanks
You will want to replenish the LP gas in your empty tanks so you can continue to operate your propane camping gear.
If you are camping in an unfamiliar area and don’t know where to get more gas, we’ve got quick tips to help you find propane refill near me no matter where you are camping.
One of our favorite places to get gas while stocking up on groceries is Costco stores. You must be a member and your tanks can’t be expired. Here are tips on how to find stores offering refilling services and the process of how to use the Costco propane refill service.
How Do I Know If My Propane Tank Is Expired?
Most propane refill service providers will not put gas into expired tanks.
The tank is expired if it is more than 12 years after the tank’s manufactured date which is stamped on the tank near the handle.
How To Empty A Propane Tank
In certain situations you may actually want to empty the propane from your tanks.
One example would be if you were already low on propane and you wanted to travel along a propane-prohibited route. It would be simple to empty the propane from your tanks … travel the designated route … then refill the tanks afterwards.
The easiest way to empty the tank is to attach a propane appliance to the supply line and run it until the gas is completely used. My personal favorite: baking big batches of cookies in my RV oven!
We have an entire blog post to show you how to empty propane tanks for transport and disposal using quick, safe and efficient methods.
Get more tips on finding and traveling along RV safe routes for your next camping journey.
How To Tell If Coleman Camping Propane Tank Is Empty
Those little 1lb propane bottles you use for your camping gear are managed differently than larger tanks.
We have tips on checking the levels of those tanks as well as what to do with them when they are empty. You should know how to dispose of small propane tanks properly.
It is also handy to know how to refill 1 lb propane tanks too.
It is important to check the levels of your propane and other fuels before departing on your trips. That’s why we have included it as an item on our FREE printable camping checklist.
Anticipate Your Demand Before Your Trip
If you will be camping in a cool spot with lots of moisture during winter camping trips, you’ll be using much more propane to operate heaters than when camping in hot, dry summertime conditions.
Personally, we pay attention to the changing seasons when we’re camping without fire during Arizona’s wildfire season.
At those times, we use more propane for meals because we can’t use campfires or charcoal for cooking. So, we transition to a menu full of camp stove recipes made on our propane camp stove or on our RV stovetop.
Get More Camping Tips
Managing your propane quantity levels is important but don’t forget to check out all of our other camping tips and hacks!
Use Your Propane To Cook Something New
Don’t know what to cook on your next trip?