Do Camping Propane Tanks Expire
If you’ve camping propane canisters sitting in your garage for a while, chances are you’re already worried about whether they’re good for use. It’s a legitimate concern since propane tanks are indispensable accessories in a camper’s checklist. Plus, improper storage of propane is a fire hazard.
Fortunately, bottled propane doesn’t expire, so you shouldn’t be worried about it.
But don’t be too quick to assume that any bottled propane canister stashed for a while is good for use.
In this guide, I’ll explain everything you need to know about propane, propane tank expiry date, how to transport & store propane tanks safely, and much more.
Do Propane Tanks Expire?
Propane gas doesn’t expire, and it never goes bad.
Allow me to take you back to science classes. Propane (isobutene-propane) is an inert gas that doesn’t decompose or break down even after years. It’s a stable gas, existing in equilibrium with no chemical reactions.
Propane is C3H8 now, it was C3H8 for millions of years underground, and it’ll be C3H8 for years or decades in your propane canister/tank. Like most refined petroleum products, propane has a shelf life on the order of multiple human lifetimes.
While propane can last indefinitely, propane tanks have a limited lifespan. The propane containers can go bad, thus compromising the entire setup.
The rubber O-ring seals are the biggest weak points in a propane canister setup. They can harden over time and crack. If the valve seals are brittle or dried out, they may present a slight risk of the fuel leaking out.
Another major weak point with most propane tanks would probably be from the canister rusting through. See, with time, when the metal tank is exposed to elements, especially air, and water, it starts to react form rust, compromising its integrity.
Otherwise, you’re good to go if your propane tank is mechanically sound and maintains its integrity. And 9/10 times, your propane container will start to break down and result in leakage before anything resembling “propane expiration.”
Fortunately, most leaks resulting from a typical failure in the tank’s integrity are usually slow leaks; very slow, and not like enough to blow up your house.
How Long Do Propane Tanks Last?
Propane tanks have a limited shelf-life, and they do expire. They behave like any other tank that holds compressed anything, including propane canisters, SCUBA tanks, air tanks for paintballs, guns, and anything holding compressed stuff.
Typically, propane tanks will last between 10 to 12 years from the date of manufacture. And the good thing is that most manufacturers usually imprint the manufacturing date on the collar of the propane tank, so it’s easy to know when they’re set to expire.
And yes, refilling a tank over 12 years old or past the expiry date is illegal and a safety threat unless it’s re-certified or has a new date stamped on it.
What to Do With an Expired Propane Tank
If your propane tank is already past the manufacture date, you can take it for recertification or exchange it for a newer tank.
Propane Tank Recertification
Propane tank recertification is just that- a propane depo re-certifies your tank for further use. Recertification includes visually inspecting your tank to see whether it’s cracked, rusted, or dented. They also inspect the valves to see whether they’re leaking.
Some recertification locations will even perform comprehensive testing using proof-pressure testing or volumetric expansion. The former testing methods are beyond the scope of this article but are superior in determining the worthiness of a propane tank than the simple eye test.
The U.S. Department of Transportation regulates all locations supporting propane tank recertification, and you can check their websites to identify a location near you.
Even then, I’m not a big proponent of recertification, and the simple reason is the cost of recertification is usually high. In most cases, you’ll require a new valve, and when you add the recertification cost, you may as well buy a new propane tank.
The other thing is new tanks are good for 12 to 15 years from manufacturers, but a re-certified tank is only good for 5 years. In my opinion, these costs can quickly rack up since you’ll require a re-cert after every five years, and it’s not worth it in the long run.
Propane Tank Exchange
The second option, probably the cheapest than a re-cert, is swapping your expired propane tank at the exchange service providers.
Blue Rhino and U-Haul will allow you to swap the expired tanks for a full new one. You give them the old tank, and they exchange it for a full new tank.
Lowes and Walmart also care less if your tank expires because they simply send it back to the propane supplier. However, they may perform inspection and recertification or take it out of service if it’s in bad shape.
How to Dispose of Old/Expired Propane Tanks
If you’re not interested in re-certifying or swapping your expired propane tank, here’re a few other methods to dispose of your tanks safely:
Emptying a Propane Tank
You must empty your expired propane canisters before you consider disposing of them. It’s for safety purposes. Furthermore, some propane canisters aren’t meant to be refilled.
Here’s how to empty a propane tank:
- Remove the top valve
- Depress and hold the bike tire valve-looking thing
- Allow the propane inside to escape
It’s important that you only empty the propane tanks in an open, wide space and away from anyone or any buildings.
Once it’s empty, fill the tank with water to displace any remaining gas. Then pour it out.
Drop it at your local propane distributor
An easy way to get the propane tank off your hands is to drop it to your local propane distributor. They’ll take the propane tanks off your hands for free,
Depending on your municipality, you could drop your expired propane tanks and other hazardous waste at a designated drop-off location for free.
Many cities usually have such programs and a list of things you can dispose of.
Alternatively, you could choose to repurpose your expired propane tank.
I can already see how I can use an expired propane tank in many ways. I could cut it into half and use it as a smoker/burn barrel, cut it into a trough for pigs, forge it into a drum, or hook it up to a grill for an outdoor fire ring.
Of course, none of these methods solves the problem of removing the propane tank from your RV/residence, but it’ll allow you to make your tank more useful.
If the tank is still in good working condition, you could sell it on local market sites such as FB or Craigslist.
Also, a business that provides exchangeable tanks will often want unwanted/expired tanks. They refurbish the tanks for sale.
Orange Drop Waste Disposal
Finally, some campsites have orange drop recycling bins, which allow you to dispose of your propane canisters.
Propane Canister Storage
Proper propane tank storage is crucial. It’s more than the safety element but also about extending your tank’s longevity. As we’ve seen, how long your propane tank setup remains useful directly correlates to your tank’s integrity.
With that said, here’re some handy and safe storage tips for your propane tank:
Store Propane Tanks in a Well-Ventilated Space
The ideal location to store your propane tanks is in a well-ventilated space. Ideally, it should be in an unoccupied space like a garage. It should also be away from direct sunlight, where rain can’t reach, or snow doesn’t accumulate.
With propane, it’s always a good idea to assume that the tanks will leak over time, so they shouldn’t be stored inside a building. Of course, the 1 lb. canisters are allowed inside the building since they can’t leak enough to become explosive. The chances are small, but I would not store and forget them.
Basements, in particular, are a hard no-no. Propane is denser than air, so it sinks to the lowest point, forming a puddle. It gets concentrated, and if your propane tank happens to leak, it can build up to dangerous levels and explode.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is it safe to use a 20-year-old propane tank?
No, it’s not safe to use a 20-year-old propane tank. Federal regulations require that you exchange or rectify your propane tanks once they expire, typically after 10 to 15 years.
Q: Do propane tanks ever expire?
A: Propane gas lasts indefinitely and doesn’t expire, but the propane tanks are prone to structural breakdown, which may result in leaks.
Q: How long does propane last in a tank unused?
A: Propane is a highly stable and inert gas that can last very long. It doesn’t expire, provided the propane tank maintains its integrity; you could use it for a lifetime.
Q: Why do propane tanks expire?
A: Generally, propane tanks expire due to natural causes. Wear and tear is the leading cause, but other causes, such as rust, may also lead to propane tank breakdown.
Q: Is it safe to store your propane tanks in your garage?
A: The ideal location for storing your propane canisters should be well-ventilated. It should also be in a cool, dry place and away from flammable materials.
This video has been included for its clarification of the topic matter. Credit goes to
Propane tanks are a life-saver and a convenient upgrade for any camper. And the best part is that the gas doesn’t expire so you can use it indefinitely.
The only key thing you need to be aware of is the structural integrity of the tanks holding propane. If the tank is mechanically sound and shows no signs of rust, you can use your propane as long as you like.