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Do BBQ Propane Tanks Expire

Are you concerned about how long you can count on the propane tank for your grill? Here’s what you need to know so you can grill safely.

The typical 20 pound BBQ propane tank expires 12 years after it is manufactured. The manufacturing date is found stamped on the collar of the tank. Maintaining your tank’s condition is vital for staying safe at the grill. Over time, harsh conditions cause corrosion and rust on the tank and valve. Such damage makes it unsafe to use past the expiration.

Let’s look at why propane tanks expire, what you should do when that time comes around, and how to maintain the tank in the meantime to make sure it lasts as long as possible.

Why do propane tanks have an expiration

It might seem incredible that propane tanks can expire. After all, the propane in them doesn’t go bad, so it’s not as if the residue of propane from ten years ago is going to make the new propane work any less effectively. Why then, is it so important to keep an eye on a propane tank’s expiration date?

Well, the fact is that the tank is made out of metal, and metal doesn’t last forever. When it’s exposed to chemicals and elements, the metal can rust and corrode, damaging the quality of the tank. Plus, the valve on your propane tank is more complex than you think. Valves eventually start to fail.

This is a serious safety hazard because these tanks are meant to contain a highly flammable gas, and the last thing you want at your Fourth of July barbecue is for your propane tank to start its own firework show.

How do I know if my 20 lb propane tank is expired

The best thing to do is to make a habit of checking over your propane tank every year. Now, propane tanks last a lot longer than a year, but if you go for a few years without checking and just assume you’ll remember when it needs to be replaced, you’re bound to forget.

You can figure out the expiration date by checking around the neck of the tank. If it’s never been recertified, you’ll want to look for the manufacture date. It’ll give the date it was manufactured in MM/YY format and it is stamped into the metal. The tank will be good for 10 years after that date.

If it’s been recertified before, you’ll instead look for the retest date, which will be in Q/YY format, where Q is a letter that represents which quarter of the year the retest was done: A for January through March, B for April through June, then C and D for the last two quarters of the year. The number of years it’s good for after the retest will depend on the test.

If you don’t want to worry about forgetting when your tank expires, a good way to keep track is to label it with big numbers listing the date of expiration. Try putting a sticker or a tag on it or attaching a note to your grill. That way, you’ll always be able to see the date at a glance and realize when it’s close to the end of it’s usable life.

Do all sizes of propane tanks expire

Propane tanks of all sizes expire eventually. Even the 1,000 lb tanks for houses expire. However, they don’t all have the same expiration schedule and most can last for a long time if they’re properly maintained. Regardless of the tank size, the expiration will be clearly stamped near the fill valve of the tank.

To ensure your tank actually lasts at least until the expiration date, keep your tank out of the elements by protecting it from rain and snow. That will help prevent it from getting rusty. Try to keep it from getting dirty too. Chemicals and minerals in the dirt can eventually wear down or corrode the metal or damage the valve.

Should I exchange or re-certify my propane tank


If your tank is nearing the end of its life, you might just want to change it out and not have to worry about the hassle of re-certifying. Some retailers, like Blue Rhino, will give you a certified tank that’s full of propane in exchange for your empty one for just the price of the propane.

If you make that your practice whenever you need a refill, then you’ll never have to worry about your tank going bad at all.


But maybe you want to take care of your own tank and make it last as long as possible, or maybe you don’t like Blue Rhino’s propane price, or maybe there’s still propane in the tank. If any of these are the case, you might be more interested in re-certifying your tank.

To do that, you’ll need to bring it to an inspector. You might find someone who can do it at your local propane retailer, or you might need to search the internet for an inspector near you.

Once you get it to the inspector, they will perform tests on your tank to make sure it’s up to the DOT standards. After the tests, it’ll be good for another 5, 7, or 12 years (the inspector will tell you which). After that time is up, you’ll want to get it re-certified again.

Can a rusty propane tank be re-certified

If your tank is rusty, you definitely need to take it in for inspection, even if the expiration date is far off. If it passes the tests, then it’s fine to use and refill.

Light surface rust isn’t likely to be a problem, and it might still pass the recertification. However, if there’s a lot of rust, you may have a serious safety risk. Even if the rust doesn’t look bad, there might be more rust inside the tank. So, however rusty your tank looks, get it tested before you refill it.

If the tank passes the recertification process, you should follow up by getting rid of the corrosion. To do this, you’re first going to want to cover up the valve and the warning labels so that they don’t get ruined by the process. You should only do this with an empty tank.

Use steel wool or fine-grain sandpaper to sand down the rusty parts. For safety, make sure you don’t use anything that might make sparks. Scrub until you’ve made a smooth area. Try not to sand into the metal. You only want to get rid of all of the loose particles.

Once it’s smooth, use a mixture of vinegar and water to clean the area, then rinse it off with water. Let it dry, and then paint over it. Use paint that can withstand the high temperatures of your grill. The paint should be white or off-white because those colors release heat faster than other colors. With that, your tank is as good as new!

How can you tell if a propane tank is bad

Signs of a damaged tank include rust and corrosion, as well as dents and cracks. You will also want to look out for signs that it’s been damaged by heat or fire, and if it’s missing any parts, like the collar or the valve cover. In addition, a stiff valve that isn’t opening or closing smoothly can indicate a problem as well.

Signs of leakage around the pressure valve are also a warning that your propane tank either needs maintenance or to be replaced.

If you suspect your propane tank has a leak, use this simple method to make sure.

  • Soak a cloth with soapy water, then wipe the cloth over the place where you think the leak is. If the propane tank is leaking, you will see bubbles forming. That’s propane escaping. Take care of it immediately by moving it away from your house, the grill, and any other flammable objects. Then call the fire department so they can safely dispose of it.

Dents and bulging are other signs of a bad tank. If your tank shows any dents or buglings, you should dispose of it as soon as possible. Tanks with these damages will not pass the recertification tests, so don’t bother trying to get them re-certified.

When should I replace my BBQ propane tank

Replace your tank 10 years after the manufacture date if you don’t want to get it re-certified. Otherwise, replace it when it’s damaged and fails the inspection.

If you don’t want to worry about when to replace your BBQ propane tank or get it recertified, you can just make a habit of exchanging it after it’s empty.

Propane retailers such as Amerigas and Blue Rhino will exchange your empty tank for a full one. They do all the maintenance necessary to keep their tanks in good condition, so you can count on the safety of your tank.

You can also bring these companies expired tanks that still have propane inside. They can remove the propane, recycle the tank, and give you a new one.

Final thoughts

Propane tank safety is an essential practice for anyone who wants to enjoy grilling, so keep an eye on your tank’s dates and take good care of it. Then, you’ll be able to grill with peace of mind knowing that your tank is function properly.