Important Things You Need To Know To Keep Your Propane Regulator Working

You're probably making two bad decisions when it comes to your propane regulator.

  1. Leaving your tank valves open during travel
  2. Not mounting the regulator high enough

Seems harmless to leave valves open, long as you aren't in an accident, right?

Wroooooong.

Turns out, I discovered this the hard way and ended up with a bad regulator. Consequently, I no longer travel with my propane tank valves open. (This is also safer in the event you are in an accident).

Here's why.

If Possible, Don't Travel With Propane Valves Open

If you aren't going too far, maybe 3-4 hours, your propane refrigerator should keep your goods at a decent temperature, and you can turn off your propane tanks to travel.

Additionally, if you have a residential fridge and a whole-house inverter, no problem. You can turn off your propane to travel without worry.

My absorption fridge runs from propane or 120 volt electricity only. (I don't have a house inverter.) If yours runs that way, it's ok to turn them off for a little while.

That said, what happened to my regulator?

During travel, the jostling of the road caused liquid propane to jump into the regulator hose lines.

Only propane in gas form is meant to go into the hoses. Liquid propane is not meant to go there.

Buddy heater hose with regulator

No liquid propane belongs in here! Only gas propane. 

How did I know liquid was in the lines?

There was moisture in the propane regulator window that shows me if the tank is full or empty.

Only propane in gas form is meant to go into propane hoses. Not liquid propane.

At first I was perplexed.

I wondered โ€œhow did water get in thereโ€? Then, naturally, I told Marshall about it.

He informed me it was liquid propane.

No bueno.

It would eventually kill the regulator.

My First Bad Propane Regulator Experience:

May as well also mention this one so you don't make the same mistake. My first experience with a bad propane regulator was an anomaly.

That regulator was bad from the start.

Turns out I got a brand and model you want to avoid. It is quite often bad from the start. Don't buy the Camco double-stage auto-changeover regulator, part number 59005. 

Read the entire story about the propane regulator you don't want to buy.

Camco Propane Regulator

The Bad Camco Regulator. Bad Right Out Of The Box!

The Propane Regulator I Killed:

Meantime, I read plenty about how one should turn off the propane tank valves when traveling in case of an accident.

Sounds like a good preventative thing to do.

I didn't religiously close my propane tank valves during travel. And I killed my regulator

But one day I saw liquid in the propane regulator window.

(As you can see in the photo below, it's only supposed to show green or red. It's showing both and has moisture in it.)

Having to replace ANOTHER regulator was enough to train me not to leave it open during travel anymore.

Liquid propane in propane regulator

What's Wrong With This Picture?

However, in addition to this, if your regulator is not mounted above or close to the top of the propane tank, traveling with tank(s) open can cause liquid propane to get into the lines, causing trouble.

Mine was probably a little low. That has been corrected. (And I simply close my tanks now during travel.)

All in all, make sure your regulator is mounted high enough.

Conclusion 

Therefore, for the health of your regulator and for safety, itโ€™s best to:

  • Turn off your propane tank valves when you are traveling when possible
  • Make sure the regulator is mounted above the propane tank outlet

Do these things and you won't prematurely be the cause of death of your regulator.

Stay safe!

Kelly Headshot

I dedicated myself to living the full-time RV life for over 6.5 years, immersing myself in the unique quirks and joys of the boondocking lifestyle and gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience along the way. In December 2020, my business partner and I made the transition to part-time RVing, but in January 2023, we hit the road once again, this time in our trusty vans. My mission is to help others embrace the RVing lifestyle with confidence and excitement, armed with the knowledge and resources needed to make the most of their adventures. I believe that the more you know, the more you can truly appreciate and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the open road.

  • I subscribed to your newsletter on the advice of a friend. I do enjoy the information you put out there for all of us to use or at least contemplate. This article on propane regulators. We do travel with our bottles open. I know its not the safest. However with out it we would loose everthin in our fridge. We dont usually travel only a couple or a few hours a day. We usually travel at least 8 to 12 hours at a time. Since the beginning of our travels with the 5th wheel we have now we have noticed that we cant cook anything without having our regulator turned to the center position opening BOTH bottles for use. It seems not to feed from one or the other, only both. Could that be a bad regulator valve or somethin else entirely? I did replace the hoses from the regulators to the tanks with the steel braded lines and I no longer leave them connected to the tanks in storage. The regular rubber lines had dry rotted and cracked causing them to leak when I turned the tanks on. I sure would like to any advise from your or your readers. Anythin would be helpful. Thank You in advance and know that people DO read and take to heart your columns.

    • Hey Dan,

      Thanks for subscribing to our newsletter (and thank you to your friend for the recommendation)!

      Totally get the need to drive with propane on so the fridge keeps cool. I suspect most people do this. That is no longer an issue for Kelly or I as our vans have 12-volt fridges. These solve a lot of the propane fridge issues, but they are an expensive upgrade if you currently have propane.

      Anyhow, to your question. I’m no propane expert, but it sure sounds like the regulator is the issue. What else could it be? The hoses are new so they should be fine. And you can ‘fix’ the problem by putting the regulator on the both tanks setting.

      I’d sure look at replacing the regulator as the next step. Really that’s the only thing left that I’m aware of.

  • Kelly never explained the reason why liquid propane in a regulator is a problem;

    In short; When liquid propane vaporizes inside the regulator, it freezes rubber parts and the rubber breaks.

    In more detail; At room temperature (~72F), propane is at 115psi. Propane in the tank is a ‘saturated’ mixture of liquid and gas (meaning they coexist in both states at the same temperature/pressure). This is why you can also see droplets of liquid propane inside the sight glass.

    Normally, when (only) gas is drawn off, the liquid boils on the (large) top surface of the tank, creating more gas, and drawing the heat (from over a large area) needed to make the phase change from the rest of the liquid propane, the steel tank and (more slowly) from the atmosphere. The large mass available to provide heat for vaporization prevents the tank from cooling below freezing but it is frequently cool enough to cause condensation in high humidity (typically low 40s).

    If the liquid is drawn into the (very small passages of the) regulator which reduces the pressure from 115psi to ~1/2psi, the temperature of the liquid (at 1/2psi) drops to -42F as it tries to draw heat to evaporate. Since the regulator has a small mass and holds very little heat to vaporize the liquid, the temperature of the entire regulator (now containing -42F propane) drops to well below freezing. When the rubber parts, freeze, they become inflexible but are still forced to move by the balance spring and 115psi propane entering, breaking them.

    It is not very common to see liquid propane come out of a cylinder unless; 1) the tank is not upright, 2) there is a lot of gas being consumed. Under high use (much more than a propane fridge consumes), propane bubbles bursting on the surface of the liquid throw liquid droplets everywhere and some will be caught up in the vapor rushing out the tank valve. Vehicle motion alone will typically not be enough to slosh liquid into droplets, or high enough that the ‘wave’ reaches the outlet, but it can (and Kelly can confirm, it has).

  • If you hear a high whistle sound you might have liquid gas in your valve. Before you run for a replacement take the valve off the hoses and set it in the sun or take it indoors and open one side of the valve then the other give it a few minutes for the liquid to turn back into gas and evaporate.

    • Hi John,

      I sometimes hear that sound, I think. There’s some whining sound that has happened. Perhaps this is the cause. I’ll try your trick in the future if it ever happens again.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. We may even have learned something from this one! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ โญ๏ธ

      Cheers!

  • Very good advice, I’ve always traveled with my tanks closed. I usually freeze a few 1/2 gallon milk jugs full of water and I can travel all day no problem as long as I leave the fridge closed. I usually put 2 in the fridge and 1 in the freezer. Works great for longer travel days. Happy trails!

  • Kelly, A friend turned us on to your site. Have been a little short on time to read all the good information, but do appreciate the emails. I especially like the ones about maintenance and safety. Will keep you on my radar.

    • We get it! It takes time to read and absorb so much info, doesn’t it? We are here to help whenever we can and we are expanding our content as much as possible (It’s just us, we don’t use writers!) so we can cover more and more needs/questions.

      Glad you like the emails and thank you for being a Camp Addict subscriber!

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