How do you repair a leaking propane tank?

stacks of rusted orange propane tanks

Getting Propane Tank Repair

Propane gas is stored in either portable or stationary tanks. You may have one connected to your outdoor grill, or you’ve noticed them outside of homes in rural areas. While these tanks are ideal for storing liquid propane gas, from time to time, propane tank repair is required. While propane gas is a safe way to cook and heat, a leaking tank is not safe. 

So, are propane gas tanks safe?

Propane gas is a petroleum gas in liquefied form, LPG, that is compressed and stored in tanks. It is then delivered in a liquid form by trucks that fill the tanks at homes and businesses. 

With proper use and storage, this colorless, non-toxic, virtually odorless gas is a safe method of energy. At home it can be used on the outdoor grill, for a gas fireplace, and even to heat your home, water, and food. It is essentially a clean and safe energy source. 

However, because the liquid form is compressed and stored in tanks, it is under high pressure. This leads to people unfamiliar with LPG tanks having concerns about them exploding. Each propane tank, whether it is portable or stationary, is equipped with a PRV (Pressure Relief Valve), located within another valve for safety and then incorporated with the propane tank’s main valve.  

If the tank’s pressure increases, gas is automatically released by the PRV to ease that pressure. Until a tank has reached up to 1,000 PSGI (pounds per square gauge), a well-maintained propane tank will not explode. It is for this reason that if you smell any gascoming from a propane tank, immediate propane tank repair is a must. 

Having a complete and thorough understanding of propane gas tanks is always important. Getting immediate propane tank repair when necessary can prevent numerous accidents. Remembering this, you can heat your home, cook your meals, and heat up water with peace of mind. 

Can a propane tank leak make you sick?

The vapor from propane gas is an asphyxiating gas, but not toxic. Propane will displace any oxygen in the lungs, making breathing difficult or even impossible if inhaled for an extended time in a high concentration. This is why as soon as there is any suspicion of a leak, propane tank repair should be sought immediately. 

Breathing will become difficult if you find yourself breathing in propane fumes, and physical activity can make the situation worse. Symptoms of propane gas exposure will depend on how the exposure to the gas happened. Symptoms that may be experienced with low exposure are:  

  • Coughing
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea

Symptoms that may be experienced with significant exposure are: 

  • Asphyxiation
  • Convulsions
  • Diarrhea
  • Heart Failure
  • Numbness or pain in limbs
  • Quick loss of consciousness

When liquid propane escapes from a tank, it is extremely cold and contact with the propane at that point can irritate the skin and cause frostbite. Frostbite can lead to skin blistering, tissue death, and infections. When any chill is felt from a propane tank, it should be taken to the dealer, or the LPG company should be called for emergency propane tank repair. 

Can propane tanks be repaired?

A damaged propane tank cannot be repaired and reused. There are many laws regarding the regulation of propane tanks for sale, rent, or repair. There are also significant rules surrounding propane and propane tanks that must be thoroughly understood, and extensive training is required of any propane suppliers. It is their responsibility to advise the homeowners that rent the tanks for their grills or other home uses on best practices regarding propane tanks. 

Never should a homeowner attempt propane tank repairs or make any modifications to a propane system or tank. This should only be done by a licensed individual or a propane supplier. If a supplier sees that a propane tank repair or modification has been made by someone who is not authorized, they can refuse to service the customer. It is federal law that any damaged propane tank that cannot be repaired should be destroyed. 

How do you fix a propane tank leak?

If you discover that the propane tank you’re using is leaking, it is imperative that you deal with the matter immediately. While propane tank repairs should only be done by authorized and licensed dealers or supplier, there are a few steps you can take that may stop the leak. 

Usually, there is a hissing sound coming from a leaking propane tank. You may notice a smell like rotten eggs or skunk. This is not the odor of the propane gas itself, but is still a sign of leakage. This is because while propane gas is odorless, suppliers add a chemical that creates this odor. 

If you have noticed a hissing sound or an odor, turn off everything electrical or gas nearby to avoid possible sparks that can cause an explosion, and then follow these steps:

  • Turn the Main Gas Supply Valve Off

This should be the first step taken to prevent any damage or danger. Do this by turning the gas supply valve knob clockwise. 

  • Remove Any Potential Igniters

For safety, turn off anything that can be a potential igniter, such as appliances, cellphone, lights, and open flames. 

  • Open the Windows

Open all the windows if the propane leak is inside the house. When too much gas builds up from a leaking tank, it is putting your house at risk. 

  • Find the Source of the Leak

After turning off the propane tank valve, there will typically be enough gas left to help you determine where it is leaking. As quickly as possible, mix one cup of dishwashing liquid with one cup warm water in a spray bottle. Spray until the surface is covered. 

Next, open the valve slowly. If bubbles start forming in the solution, that’s where the leak is located. Small bubbles indicate a small leak. Large bubbles indicate a large leak. Mark each area that has bubbles. 

Turn the cylinder valve back off, and with a Phillips-head screwdriver tighten the screws on the gauge face. 

Let the tank sit for ten minutes and spray the soap/water mixture on the areas you marked earlier. Turn the cylinder valve back on slowly and see if bubbles are still forming. 

If you still see bubbles, propane tank repair isn’t possible. Turn the tank in to the supplier and request a new one. If the propane leak is inside your home, evacuate and call 911 immediately. After that, call a propane dealer or supplier. They will have the equipment and knowledge of how to repair the propane tank valve if that’s the problem. 

What can cause a propane tank to leak?

There are three common causes for propane leaking at the valve. 

Cause 1: Bleeder Valve

The bleeder valve or fixed level gauge is typically opened when a propane tank is filled. If it isn’t closed all the way after the fill is done, propane will begin leaking. 

If the leak is at the valve but it isn’t open, it may be from a clogged coil, which happens when a propane tank has been leaking. It is an easy propane tank repair, starting with turning the bleeder valve off. 

Cause 2: Open the Relief Valve

A propane tank will have a relief valve that relieves pressure in the tank when there is too much. When the propane tank is in heated areas, the PRV opens a bit to relieve any pressure building up.  Sometimes, propane gas will leak from the opened PRV. 

For this propane tank repair, don’t turn the valve. Simply tap on it gently with a screwdriver to encourage the PRV to close on its own. You can run cool water over the tank with a hose to cool the tank down; this will prompt the valve to close as designed. 

Cause 3: Faulty Valve Stem

Now there is a possibility that the tank valve may be damaged and causing it to leak, which can be harmful and dangerous.  In this situation, do not attempt to do your own propane tank repair. Return the tank to the dealer or supplier. 

Will an overfilled propane tank leak?

Absolutely!  Fortunately, a certified and licensed propane supplier knows to leave enough empty space in a propane tank for expansion. When a propane tank has been overfilled, it is putting the tank, and you, at risk of leaks or explosion. 

How much does it cost to replace a propane tank?

There are different sizes and types of propane tanks. They can be installed in the ground or set up above ground. Of course, there are also propane tanks for outdoor grills. Both in-ground and above ground propane tanks cost $1,500 and up to $3,800.  Portable tanks for outdoor grills can cost $40 to $60 depending on the retailer. 

close-up of a man working on a gas tank valve

In Closing 

There are a few more things to remember if you’re planning to get a propane tank for your home. Propane tanks have an expiration date on them to remind you when to replace a propane tank. Generally, a portable propane bottle will have up to 12 years before expiration. When being refilled and recertified, this can range between 5 years and 12 years.