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Who doesn’t love an awesome RVing hack? Today we’ve got a great one for you: how to check your propane tank level without a gauge. This tip will save you time and money if you don’t have a gauge, or if your current one has failed, or is inaccurate, and will make it less likely that you’ll run out of propane at the worst possible time.

So, let’s get to hacking!

How to Check Your Propane Tank Level Without a Gauge

Checking your propane tank level is important, particularly if you’re not fond of running out of propane in the middle of making dinner or in the middle of a chilly night.

Follow these simple steps to check your propane tank level even if you don’t have a gauge on hand:

Fill a Container Full of Hot Tap Water

All you’ll need for this simple RVing hack is your propane tank and a container of hot water. We’re talking hot tap water, not boiling water. As long as your water heater has been on for a little while, the water should be plenty hot enough to do the trick.

Pour Down the Side of Your Propane Tank

Once you have your container of hot water, pour it generously down the side of the propane tank.

Pouring hot water down the side of a propane tank to check propane tank level..
Pouring hot tap water down the side of a propane tank can help you to determine to what level the tank is filled (or not!) with propane.

Feel the Temperature of the Tank Wall

After you’ve coated the side of the tank with water, run your hand along the side of the tank. Start at the top and move down until you feel the tank’s temperature change.

Using a hand on the side of the tank to detect warmth or cold to figure out the level of propane in the tank.
Hold your hand on the wall of the tank and run it down the side. The spot where you notice the temperature change from warm to cold will indicate your current propane level.

The hot water will heat the side of the tank anywhere the metal isn’t in contact with liquid propane on the inside of the tank. The spot where you notice the temperature change will indicate your current propane level.

Pretty simple, right?

Why This Propane Tank Level Trick Works

This reaction occurs because the propane inside the tank is cold. VERY cold. The hot water can heat the metal where there’s vapor on the other side of the tank wall. That is of course at the top of the propane tank. But the hot water that flows over the lower part of the tank… the part where there’s liquid propane in contact with the other side of the metal is a different story. The temperature of the propane is so intensely cold that it will prevent the metal from warming up.

That dividing line where the tank temperature goes from warm to cold will be a very clear line, which you will be able to feel with the palm of your hand. That line between hot and cold is the exact location of the level of liquid propane inside the tank.

Keep in mind that propane tanks can only be filled to about 80% full. So if you find the level to be about 3/4 of the way up the side of the tank, it’s basically full.

This hack gives you only a general idea of where your propane tank level is but can help you decide if you need a propane refill ASAP or if it can wait.

Check Any Propane Tank Level with the Hot Water Trick

While RVers can use this tip as an RVing hack, it’s not specific to propane tanks in RVs. This hack will work on any propane tank you’re using, whether it’s a barbeque propane tank or propane for your home generator.

Can You Install a Gauge on Your Propane Tank?

If you want a more accurate way to keep an eye on your propane tank level, you could install gauges on your tanks.

A built-in propane tank gauge
There are many types of propane tank gauges. If your propane tank doesn’t have a gauge, you can buy one to install on the tank.

Some meters easily screw into any propane tank, while others have magnets that mount to the side or bottom of the tank. Some gauges will even connect to your phone via Bluetooth, alerting you of low propane levels.

Propane tank level gauges range in cost from under $15 to $50. Keep in mind that if your RV has more than one tank, you’ll need more than one gauge.

Sale Camco Propane Gauge/Leak Detector, Type 1 Connection for Gas Grills, RVs and Boats - 59023 , Black
Accu-Level Magnetic Removable Propane Tank Gauge
Sale Gaswatch TVL220-AVC Bluetooth App Enabled Wireless Scale with Integrated Display Propane Tank Level Indicator, Black

Knowing your propane tank level can be really important, especially since so many RVs rely on propane to cook, heat your rig, or run your refrigerator.

We hope this simple hack will come in handy to keep you or a friend from running out of propane in the middle of an epic boondocking trip or family barbeque.

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Even though we're handy RVers, we're not professional technicians. So although we're happy with the techniques and products we use, you should be sure to confirm that all methods and materials are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

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