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Old 02-13-2004, 10:43 AM   #1
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Propane - What to do?

We just bought a 1972 23' Safari. It is in great condition, but the propane tanks are not OPD and after reading many posts, I have decided to replace the tanks.
Aluminum tanks cost more and steel tanks weigh more. I'm trying to decide.
My question is this: if I decide to go with steel, what color are they? I'm only familiar with gas barbeque tanks that are white. Can I purchase steel tanks that are a similar color to the airstream? Are they going to rust?
My owners manual (the trailer actually came with all of the original manuals AND bill of sale!), tells me that the tanks are 20# - what does that mean? Are they 20 gallon tanks?
Any help would be appreciated - Beckie

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Old 02-13-2004, 11:08 AM   #2
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Hello Beckie. Welcome to the forum!

Typically, "20#" on the bottle refers to 20 pounds in terms of the capacity of the tank. I've seen 20, 30 and even 40# tanks on some units, depending on how much capacity the owner believes they will need. In a great many cases when dealing with propane bottles like yours and mine, the tank is placed on a scale and filled. Based on the weight of the bottle plus propane is how they are able to determine how full/empty the bottle is. Most bottles I've seen at Home Depot or Camping World are either white or gray, and made of steel. Many folks simply paint them their color of choice. There is a company called Worthington that makes aluminum tanks which can be polished to a bright shine, and these are often chosen by Airstream owners because they can really spruce up or add to the look of a vintage unit. most I've seen are usually just painted, though.

Hope this helps!


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Old 02-13-2004, 11:10 AM   #3
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Regarding color-you can paint them whatever color you like. I prefer silver. Use any rustoleum or krylon paint, just follow directions. Mask off the valve assembly. Throw away the plastic band that comes on new tanks. I will cause the tank to rust because condensation forms between the plastic and the tank.

20#, the # sign is an abbreviation for pounds.
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Old 02-13-2004, 11:19 AM   #4
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Propane weighs 4.24#/gal.
A 40# tank has the theoretical capacity of 9.43 gal. HOWEVER because of the OPD valve, a fill up will be only 8.8 gal.
If you prefer a smaller tank, simply proportion down the above numbers.
Strongly recommend Aluminum tanks. You do not have to scrape rust and paint Aluminum, and it will be easier for you to manage.
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Old 02-13-2004, 11:22 AM   #5
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Regarding gallons, 30# I believe is 7.5 Gallons and 40# is 11 gallons. I may be wrong, but those are the numbers stuck in my head.

If you are going to replace what you have, I would say go with the aluminum tanks if they are in your budget. I have several trailers and have both types. I much prefer the aluminum. 40# tanks are heavy! Steel ones are heavy even empty.

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Old 02-13-2004, 12:35 PM   #6
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Propane - What to do?

Greetings Beckie!

It is in great condition, but the propane tanks are not OPD and after reading many posts, I have decided to replace the tanks.
I can understand your desire to replace the tanks if they are steel rather than the aluminum tanks that were often installed on Airstreams. If your tanks are aluminum, I would encourage you to consider having your local propane dealer re-valve and certify the tanks. The steel tanks are much heavier, and a real nuisance to lug to the re-fill station - - especially after you have had the opportunity to get accustomed to the lighter-weight aluminum tanks. I had the original aluminum tanks on my '78 Argosy Minuet re-valved and certified just over a year ago and have no regrets (they are 20 pound tanks) the cost was less than $100 for the pair with a fill of propane included. You will never regret sticking with the aluminum tanks if you choose to polish your coach - - the polished aluminum tanks really compliment the coach (I had my Overlander's tanks polished by the Ruth's when they polished and Plasticoated the exterior nearly two years ago).

The tanks are 40 pound Worthingtons and were purchased from AirstreamDreams as my coach's original aluminum tanks disappeared between the original owner and myself (third owner).

Good luck with your decision!

P.S.: Steel tanks are generally available only in colonial white or almond depending upon the vendor involved. It is possible to paint steel tanks virtually any color you desire - - it is a project that was necessary nearly every year on my Overlander before I purchased its new Worthingtons a little more than two years ago.

Kevin D. Allen
WBCCI (Lifetime Member)/VAC/Free Wheelers #6359
AIR #827
1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 02-13-2004, 01:00 PM   #7
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Worthington Aluminum tank specs

The total capacity of a propane tank is measured in pounds of water. That is stamped on the tank.

Fresh water weighs 62.4 lbs per cubic foot

There are 7.480519 gallons per cubic foot

So fresh water weighs 8.34 lbs per gallon

The water capacity of a 40 lb tank is 95.2 lbs or 11.4 gallons

The OPD limits fill to about 82% of 11.4 = 9.4 gallons

9.4 gallons of propane times 4.24 = 39.856 lbs

and that's why a 40 lb cylinder holds 40 lbs of propane.

I watched the guy fill mine on the scales and that's what they held. He also recommended forgetting about using gallons in btu calculations and to just remember it's 21,560 btu/lb.

Stick with aluminum.
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Old 02-13-2004, 06:21 PM   #8
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Thanks for all of your responses and help.
I'm fairly new to this site, and can see that there is an abundance of information and experience and I know I will be asking many more questions.

In fact, I do have one more now.

How do I tell if the tanks I have are aluminum or steel? I tried a magnet and it stuck. But is there steel inside of the aluminum?

Thanks again for all of your help.
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Old 02-13-2004, 07:15 PM   #9
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Magnet=steel tank. An Aluminum tank is just that, Aluminum, a magnet will not stick
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Old 02-21-2004, 11:11 AM   #10
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Propane Tank Recert & OPD Valve

Hi Beckie,

I just went thru the same thing that you wish to do on my 30# propane tanks . The PO said they were "updated" but that was in 1995! They must be recertified every 5 years - in my case just a visual inspection was required. They also had the old style valves. Everyone said that it was just as expensive to re-valve a steel tank as it was to throw away and buy new but my tanks were AL (magnet test) and worth a LOT more than steel tanks so I opted to find someone to change out the valves.

NOT SUCH AS EASY TASK IN CINN!!!!! Every single propane supplier either said they did not fool with such work or that they would do it but just would send them out to be done by someone out of town. Since I'm heading for Sarasota next Wed. on my first aistreaming adventure, I was in a hurry.

I just kept calling around. FINALLY, a good fellow in Dayton told me that the cylinder guy that he uses is RIGHT HERE in Cinn!!! An outfit by the name:

Cylinder Processors, Inc.
1223 Budd St.
Cinn, OH 45203

He's right near downtown and had the valves changed out for me in one day. Two valves plus 2 recerts for fifty bucks. I thought that was reasonable. That won't do you much good in CA but I thought local AS owners might like to know a source for the service. He said that he gets AL tanks occasionally for resale but doesn't have any right now. I told him he ought to advertise on this forum because AS owners want AL tanks!

My only experience to share with you is to be persistent if it turns out that you DO have AL tanks. If you're nice about it, someone will tell you who they're cylinder processing service is.

Good luck and let me know how things turn out for you.

Bob Hastings
'06 Classic 28'
'04 Ford F250 V8

Remember :
Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.
Margaret Lee Runbeck

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Old 02-21-2004, 11:46 AM   #11
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Thanks from me too Bob! I had no idea the standards had changed in May 2003 ( at least here in ga) and the tanks needed a vent type valve. I took one to have it filled and ended up buying a 74# tank to use until I could decide what to do with my original tanks. I decided the large tank that is sitting on the ground would help get me through the winter and cold be stored when not needed. Just tried your magnet test and they are Al. I got the same run around about it being cheaper to buy new tanks that to retro the old. From my research, 1 new tank can cost what you paid.

I will keep looking for someone in Ga to retrofit mine!

Thanks again
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Old 02-21-2004, 03:41 PM   #12
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Originally posted by coriolis1
Hello Beckie. Welcome to the forum!

In a great many cases when dealing with propane bottles like yours and mine, the tank is placed on a scale and filled. Based on the weight of the bottle plus propane is how they are able to determine how full/empty the bottle is.
Yep, using a scale (filling by weight) is the preferred way of filling, though opening the little value on the side of the main valve (filling by volume) is also acceptable. Basically, every tank has figures stamped into it:

WC (water capacity)
TW (tare or empty weight)

To fill, the filler calculates from WC to propane, then adds in the TW and the weight of his/her own equipment in order to know how to set the scale.

Oh, also stamped into the bottle is the year of production, from which one can tell if the bottle is up to date.


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