Propane Tank Valve Stem Leaking? (We Have a Fix!)

Ryan Womeldorf
by Ryan Womeldorf

Propane tanks can be a great alternative energy source, especially when electricity or natural gas are unavailable. These tanks are also often portable, which means you can take them into the great outdoors. Propane tanks are convenient and transportable, but this also means they can be more prone to damage and even dangerous leaks.

If your propane tank valve stem is leaking it most likely needs to be replaced. Valve stem leaks are most often caused by physical damage, but can also be caused by a change in pressure in the tank or even faulty equipment. Test your valve system to find the exact source of the leak and make the necessary replacements.

When you suspect your propane tank valve steam is leaking, you need to address the problem immediately. Any potential gas leak can be serious and even hazardous if not addressed immediately. In order to solve the problem you should first check the tank to confirm there is a leak and discover where exactly it is coming from.

How to Check Your Valve Stem for a Leak

The most likely symptom you will experience for a leaking valve stem is a hissing noise or a burning smell. If you experience either of those, it is imperative that you check the valve for a leak and fix or replace the component. Here is how to check.

Step 1: Smell Gas

Should you smell gas even faintly (and the odor will likely be quite a bit stronger), make sure that you turn off the main supply valve as soon as possible. Next you should vacate the area immediately and contact the gas supplier or 911. A gas leak is nothing to mess with and can be extremely dangerous. Cut off the supply as soon as you smell gas.

Step 2: Testing the Leak

The next step is to find where the leak is coming from. To do this, you need to create a simple homemade mixture. That mixture consists of a cup of warm water and a cup of liquid dish soap together into a spray bottle.

Use the solution by spraying it onto both the gauge and valve of your propane tank. Make sure that you spray quite a bit of solution onto the potential problem areas. Too little and you won’t see bubbles no matter what happens.

Step 3: Looking for Leakage

With the solution in place, you can now look at your propane tank for any leaking. If there is a leak, you will see smaller bubbles. Should you see larger bubbles, and a lot of them at that, then you know that the leak is much larger. In any event, you need to take action and replace the valve. Big or small, gas leaks are dangerous and nothing you want to mess with.

Three Causes Of Valve Stem Leaks On Propane Tanks

So, why does a valve stem leak in the first place? Knowing the different reasons for a leaking valve stem can help you to avoid the problem entirely. Here are the three most common reasons why the valve stem may spring a leak.

1. Damage to the Tank

This is far and away the most common reason for a valve stem leak. The damage can happen in one of two ways. The first is that it can become damaged during refilling. Stores and exchanges that fill them have hundreds of tanks laying around. During the refilling process, it is entirely possible that they are damaged and a clerk misses the leak while checking.

When this happens, you can more often than not return it to the place you had the tank refilled, or where you purchased the tank itself. They should be more than willing to replace the damaged tank with a new one if you ask.

The damage can also occur while you are handling it. Dropping it or banging it into something can definitely lead to a leak. Despite being fairly heavy and made of metal, propane tanks are relatively fragile. You want to avoid contact to them wherever possible to avoid these leaks from happening.

2. Faulty Equipment

Although far less likely, faulty equipment can also be the cause of your propane tank valve stem leaking. You might run into an issue with the equipment being used to operate the propane tank. For instance, if you are getting low pressure from your equipment, then the gas will fill very slowly to the burners. That results in either a low flame or no flame.

That said, it is entirely possible that the equipment could cause a leak to the tank’s valve. Just take a closer look at the equipment before using it. You may be able to spot an issue before you inflict damage to the valve stem.

3. Pressure Release

The final reason that you may have a gas leak at the valve stem is due to a pressure release problem with the tank. For the most part, this happens whenever the temperature in the tank has increased and that pressure begins to build up inside of the tank.

The increased pressure makes gas start to leak out of the valve stem. Give the valve stem a good look when using the tank. Should it open up while you are using it, that means the tank has pressure building up within. Try replacing the pressure release valve first. If you try it again and there is still a leak, then you can probably determine that the valve stem is at fault.

What To Do If You Have A Faulty Valve Stem

Let’s say that your troubleshooting has brought you to the valve stem. When your valve stem is damaged, it will leak. Replace the valve stem as soon as you notice that there is a leak. Propane is extremely flammable and presents a serious fire hazard.

The good news is that you can replace the new valve relatively easily. Replacing the old valve should be done as soon as possible. You will need a heat gun, a pipe wrench, and (of course) a new valve.

How to Replace a Bad Valve Stem

Now we come to replacing the old valve stem. With the right tools in place, this should be a relatively quick fix if you follow the directions provided. Here is what to do:

Step 1: Empty the Tank

A leaking tank is a hazard, so naturally, you would not want to work on a propane tank that still has gas in it. You can do this by opening the valve and letting the gas dissipate outside, just make sure that you close the valve again after the tank has been emptied.

Step 2: Soften the Weld

With the tank emptied completely, you need your heat gun for the next step. Use it to heat up the weld, softening the connection between the gas valve and the cylinder. You should open the tank nozzle here to give the tank regulator the chance to get down to regular atmospheric pressure.

Hold the tank while you open the tank nozzle for optimal stability. You may have to heat up the weld point a few times if it doesn’t turn immediately. Just take your time and keep the heat gun a safe amount away from the metal as it can really get hot and present an issue if you were to touch it.

Step 3: Remove the Old Valve

When you have properly softened the weld and brought the tank regulator down to regular atmospheric pressure, you can remove the old valve. Turn the valve clockwise using your pipe wrench in order to remove it from the tank. Discard the old valve when you have removed it; it is of no further use to you.

Step 4: Attach the New Valve

Now that the old valve has been removed, it is time to connect the new one. Your new valve should include an overfilling prevention device (OPD) when you purchase the valve. If it doesn’t make sure that you get one.

Attach the valve by threading it to the cylinder. Use your pipe wrench to tighten the new valve into place securely. Perform the test from above to ensure that there are no leaks and you should be good to go.

Summarizing Valve Stem Leaks

If your propane tank has a valve stem leak the issue should be addressed immediately. If you smell gas, be sure to turn off the main valve and vacate the area, as propane gas leaks can be very dangerous.

In order to fix the propane tank valve stem leak you should first test for the leak and then identify the source. The most common cause for propane tanks to leak from the valve stem is physical damage, so be sure to handle your tank with care. If your tank is in a hot area, the tank’s pressure can also increase and cause a leak.

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Ryan Womeldorf
Ryan Womeldorf

Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.

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