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Using Your RV : RV care and upkeep

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Recertifying LP cylinders
Russ and Tina DeMaris

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Having propane (LP) gas available makes the RV lifestyle a whole lot more enjoyable. Imagine no hot showers, cold food, and a non-working refrigerator for your next road trip. Most of us take it for granted that we can just zip into a handy propane gas filling station and "top off" our tanks any time we need.

It isn't always that easy--particularly if the attendant finds that your LP "bottles" need to be recertified. What's it all about, and how can you deal with a situation that can stop your RV travels cold?

First, LP container recertification affects only SOME RVers. If your rig is a motorhome, your propane tank is permanently mounted and falls under a whole different set of safety regulations. For motorhomers, life is easier--your tank doesn't require recertification. For the rest of us, whose LP "tanks" are transportable, our lives are a bit more complicated.

While regulations and laws here are complex, as both state and federal laws are thrown into the mix, we'll speak in general terms that will apply to MOST parts of the country.

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This tank manufactured in 1994; recertification sticker shows inspection date. R&T DeMaris photo.
Every propane "bottle" or "cylinder" manufactured and sold in the US has a manufacture date stamped on it. You'll find these dates on the "neck ring" or protective collar that surrounds the tank valve. When you take your bottle in for a refill, the attendant should theoretically check the date. Twelve years after the date of manufacture is the marker looked for. That's because federal regulations rule that after the twelfth year, the bottle should be carefully examined to ensure it's safe to continue in use.

What's looked for? The outside of the bottle is scrutinized to make sure that it's not pitted, corroded, or rusted to the point that the integrity of the bottle could be questioned. Bulges or dents will likewise "fail" a tank's inspection. Remember, LP gas is under a lot of pressure, so the steel walls of the bottle have a big job to keep it all contained. A missing neck ring or "foot ring" that acts as the bottle's leg will also cause a rejection. It's not uncommon for a recertification inspection to include checking for valve leaks. Finally, if the LP tank requires an OPD (overfill protection device) valve and you haven't got one on it, you can expect a "fail" on the inspection.

If your LP bottle passes the inspection, the dealer will attach a tag to the bottle, showing the date of the inspection. Not long ago, there was no tag, but the inspector would simply stamp the current month and year on the neck ring. Turns out too many folks were stamping their own cylinders without getting a "real" inspection, so the rules recently changed.

Once inspected and passed, your LP bottle is "good to go" for five more years. At the end of the five years, it'll need to be inspected again.

Our own experience proves things don't always work the way you'd think. We've had our truck camper for three years, and never once were we questioned about recertification. We then pulled into a truck stop for a refill and were told our LP bottles were "out of date" by over three years. We'd been to several different refillers before, and always been refilled before.

For us it meant a drive around town to find a certified retailer who could check our tanks and give us the proper tag. Like most who need the service, you'll find that larger LP dealers who maintain a yard and fleet of trucks to make home deliveries will often be able to handle your needs. It cost us $10 a bottle for the recertification. Sure it was a pain in the neck to have to track down a dealer and spend the time it took, and we could have easily used the twenty bucks elsewhere. But if we'd have had to have replaced those two "horizontal" cylinders, we'd have easily been "out" nearly $300.

All of this is just one more pitch for taking care of your LP bottles. When transporting them, keep them upright and secure--not allowing them to bang around and possibly get dented or scratched. If they show signs of rust, wire brush the rust away and repaint them before you find the cost is too much to bear.



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