Anyone know the life expectancy of the built-in propane tank on an RV?

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Well a lot is dependent on the conditions the tank has been subject to. our MH is a 1987 and it has the original tank. Its been subject to salted roads, dirt roads, and the regular wear and tear of the years and it is still in good shape, the only problem is that the gauge does not work anymore so we have a guessing game about when it needs filling. But the tank itself has only a little surface rust on it in places, nothing that a little sanding and some paint would not fix.  The only real wear out part would be the regulator.  Mine is still has the original regulator. I have read on another forum that these should be replaced every ten years, but there was no qualifying data as to why they should be changed at that time interval.

So with that being said, I would say the life expectancy is indefinite, unless there is physical damage of some kind, they they should be replaced immediately.

Learned something new tonight on the chat. The larger propane dealers that fill motorhome propane tanks can do tests on them. So if you are concerned, contact one and arrange for a test of your tank. The price can range anywhere from free (with fill up) to about $35. 

Thanks for the info Russ, Guess I'll just dust it off & paint. When it is running low does it smell?

I had one trailer that did give off an odor when the propane was getting low, but the MH does not have a smell, everything just quits working, LOL, my tank gauge now, if it will not light, fill the propane tank. Thank goodness for the microwave, we can at least have something warm to eat and the fridge works on propane, 120 volt and 12 volt.

I dunno. Mine's almost 32 years old and is solid. A bit rusty, but solid.

My regulator failed late last year, too. Easy fix.

And yes you can get a "gas" smell when it's low. You can't smell propane - they add mercaptan to make it smelly. I've read that the stuff can settle in older tanks causing an odor when the tank is near empty. My gauge still works, but I know it's really low when I smell "gas" (again, you're not really smelling propane). But, for peace of mind I installed a hard-wired combustible gas detector in my '84.

On Board tanks are built with a thicker wall and end caps, hence, they are better built then the portable (bbq type) tanks. A safety rule of thumb,, After you have a propane supplier fill your tank,, and by chance they dont do it anyway,, ask if they can check for connection leaks, while filling. On the couple rigs I have had permanent tanks, I always had a spray bottle with some soapy water and sprayed the connections and valve assembly,,, I wanted to be safe and not have any leaks, plus its disheartning when your camping and run out of gas, knowing that you had just filled it up, and it leaked out. After shooting shop talk with a few friends with on-board tanks,, theirs are in the 25 to 30 plus yrs old and they all agreed,That as long as you don't let them rust out, get damaged etc,, they pretty much last indefinitly.

A little S.O.S. pad or sand paper and a good coat of paint,, keeps them safe against the elements.

And as with ALL propane systems,, regulators DO GO BAD,, but are a simple fix.

They do have split (dual regulators), to connect (2) tanks to one line. BUT,, You can only run one bottle at a time, NOT BOTH. As with the smell *Mercaptan,(rotten egg smell), does settle in the tanks,, its a liquid additive to propane to give it a tell tale sign and odor. When tanks do run low, a majority will give off the odor, sometimes barely noticable, and other times, really strong,, all depends on how much the tank pick up tube has in it.. I have had the smell with tank running low and stove flame flicker out and die, other times,, no warning, just poof,,the flames out.( usually just shy of having my eggs fully cook).Thank goodness for microwaves.

Hey Thanks for the info, Very informative.

 C

 CH  I don't know how long they last but mine is a 87 Honey and the tank gives me no problems. I did remove it  (quite heavy) and cleaned off surface rust and repainted it silver. Last month when I was getting it filled the seal was leaking as the guy tried to fill it. I just popped it out with screwdriver and rubbed some brake fluid in it to softened up the rubber and it was like new. But again no leaks no problems and its 37 years old.

I'm going to say at least 37 years, that's how old mine is but, the PO was anal about the upkeep of my RV and it was under roof when not out in use so with that in mind a visual inspection is always the best indicator. If yours looks good and there is no pitting, mega rust, chances are it's okay. if your in any doubt a trip to a qualified RV dealership or LP gas supplier is in order. Safety is paramount when it comes to bottle gas, brakes and refrigerators.  

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