How To Hook Up External Propane Tanks To An RV

Living in an RV can open up a literal world of possibilities – you and your family can travel anywhere without leaving the comfort of home. Whether you decide to head to an established campground or go for a cross-country jaunt, the RV has everything you need to make you feel at home wherever you find yourself.

A critical component of the RV’s ability to let you stay over anywhere is the ingenious inclusion of modern utilities in a motor vehicle. For instance, using a good RV will almost certainly give you access to all the same appliances you are used to in your house; even the most spacious of cars is unlikely to have a full-size AC unit or television screen, but your RV can have all that and more.

In a similar vein, most RVs include a full plumbing array, with multiple faucets and other outlets such as a commode or shower. In many models, you can hook directly into the municipal or campground water main, or use an onboard reservoir and pump to ensure a steady and enjoyable water pressure while on the road.

Many RVs also offer the use of a gas-powered stove, giving the inhabitants access to a more reliable and powerful cooking experience than electric coil or induction hobs. As gas mains tend to be fewer and farther between, you will generally find yourself using an internal reservoir of propane gas for cooking purposes; your RV might have a specially built tank to carry the gas or a reinforced bracket on which you can mount tanks similar to those used in many barbecue grills.

The onboard tanks tend to be more than enough for a short stay, especially if one is at a campsite where a certain amount of open-fire cooking is possible. For those that like to make their vacation last a while longer, there may be a need for a larger external tank to keep your stove going.

Attaching such a tank is a common enough piece of RV maintenance, and can be done single-handedly with a certain amount of practice; the main thing is to do it carefully and without skipping any steps. Failing to do so could lead to a disastrous release of unignited propane, which can be both volatile and suffocating.

We’ve put together a simple list of directions to help you get your external propane tank hooked up. These instructions will help you get your gas line fully attached and make your stay as long as you want it to be.

Step One: Safety first isn’t just a catchphrase – you’ll be dealing with at least one full gas tank, so certain precautions are in order. This might make the process slightly more tedious, but it will prevent the numerous accidents that might result without it.

Start by fully closing any open gas valves in or on your RV and switching off the electricity as well. You may want to ground the RV to prevent static electricity from sparking any accidental leaks. It is also important that you scout out where you intend to put the external tank, and choose a level, stable surface well clear of any potential hazards to the tank or feed pipes.

A vital part of turning off the propane and electrical systems is making sure the pilot lights are out. These small flames burn almost continuously to ensure immediate ignition of the larger gas jest when they are turned on; leaving them open while changing over to an external tank could lead to a number of different kinds of unwanted ignitions.

Step Two: Disconnect your RV’s gas lines from the primary tanks. This should be done only after closing the valves on both the tank and the hose. If your RV uses an internal propane tank, you should instead close the shutoff valve, then look for the auxiliary propane line generally positioned outside the vehicle on a portion of the wall nearest the kitchen area.

Step Three: Most RVs have a fairly short primary propane line, which may not allow you to properly reach the valve on your external tank. Should that be the case, you’ll need an extension kit, freely available online from most gas suppliers, known by the colloquial name Extend-A-Stay. It should resemble a gas hose with the same connectors from your tank and RV on either end.

Take your extension kit and attach the matching end firmly to the trailing exterior hookup, making sure to tighten it down firmly to prevent leaks. You may want to test it by using a minimal quantity of water to check if any gets out; if you do, allow ample time for the hose to dry out before continuing.

Step Four: Connect the other end to your external tank, making sure to thoroughly close the seal. If you are using a tandem tank rig, you will need to find a gas pipe splitter to let you choose which tank you want to draw from first; connect the hose to that, and the ends of the splitter to the different tanks.

Step Five: Reopen the valves on your gas system one at a time, listening and smelling for the signs of escaping propane gas. If you detect any such signs, immediately shut down the system until you can find and fix the leak.

As important as it was to turn off the pilot lights, it is similarly crucial to turn them back on; the gas jet to the pilot light is open even when the rest of the burners are not, and without a burning pilot light it could fill your RV with escaped propane. Check that your system is fully restarted by briefly testing each burner or other device that uses propane gas.


Remember that gas tanks have a unique threading system, so they screw onto each other very differently than most threaded systems. Additionally, most tanks have a safety seal that can only be adjusted with a wrench, so make sure you have one handy when changing over.

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