Often we are asked: Does a propane tank gauge work? This is a very common question for those who are sick of running out of gas halfway through a cook. The short answer to this is: Yes, if you know how to use it. On this page will go in-depth how to properly install it onto your grills propane tank and how to read and use the propane gauge properly.
To begin we will explain how to install the propane tank gauge on your grill:
Pictured below is an inline propane tank pressure gauge. As you can see it has two different ends. The side with the large black collar will be screwed directly onto your 20 lb propane tank and the hose from your grill will screw onto the brass end.
First remove the tank from under your grill and turn the gas flow off using the knob on the top. Then disconnect the gas line going to your grill by unscrewing the black collar and then gently pulling the hose.
Pro Tip: Because your propane tank and hoses use flared fittings: Pipe dope and/or teflon tape is not needed for a good seal. If fact the use of teflon tape may cause the pipe fittings to become loose over time.
To install the gas gauge onto the tank: Simply slide the end with the black collar into place, while being sure to hold it straight. Then tighten the collar onto the tank. Holding the gauge straight is important here. All modern propane tanks have a safety built into the valve to prevent gas leaks, typically you will hear a click when the gauge is properly tightened down. Sometimes the tank connection here can be quite touchy so slow and steady is the best way to go.
Then take the gas line and while holding the hose end tighten the black collar from the hose onto the other end of the gauge. Once started threading you can hold the gauge to keep it from spinning. Hand tight will be fine do not use a wrench or any other tool you will ruin the plastic sleeve.
Make sure your burners are in the off position and open the gas valve on the top of the tank. Listen for leaks, if you have one it will typically it will be a loud hissing noise but any sound is not good. Once your valve has been opened your gauge should be giving you a reading it won’t be completely accurate but if gas is flowing through it the needle should have moved.
Now turn on all your burners for about 5 seconds and quickly turn them off. This is to eliminate any air that may have gotten into the system. Now the gauge will be giving you an accurate reading. Green is good, yellow means time to change the tank and if its red chances are your tank doesn’t have enough gas to light the grill.
Finally: turn the gas from the propane tank off and watch the needle on the gauge. If the needle starts to drop you have a gas leak. If this happens disconnect the propane tank and do not use your grill until the issue is fixed.
Now does a propane tank gauge work?
Now that the gauge is installed and everything is working properly you will notice that the needle does not move like the gas gauge on your car. You can use your grill over and over and the needle will not seem to move at all. This is because it is measuring the gas pressure and your propane tank is designed to deliver a steady amount of pressure consistently.
When the propane is down to about a quarter of a tank or 5 lbs of propane or so the pressure begins to fall and this is when the gauge will move into yellow.
When the needle on the gauge is in the red the tank is no longer usable. This is not to say that it is empty it still probably has a few pounds of gas in it. There is just not enough propane to provide pressure to deliver it through the hoses.
When your tank is at the 5 pound mark along with the yellow needle you may notice your grill not getting as hot as fast as it used to. Making for longer grilling times. If the gauge just hit the yellow you may still be able to get a few short grilling sessions out of it, just don’t attempt a long cook.
Most inline gauges also have a safety regulator built-in. This senses any strange variation of the gas flow and will automatically lower the flow of gas down to next to nothing. This safety regulator can cause you some grief if you turn your burners up and down to quickly. It can be reset but the regulator must be removed from both the tank and hose for it to reset.
Another problem with this type of gauge is the fact that it will read higher when it is warmer outside and lower when below freezing. This is one reason why it just has zones. A semi full tank will read at the top end of the green zone in the summer and in the winter it will be at the bottom end of the same zone. Both are still green and mean the same thing.
When it is warm out you may get more grilling time out of your tank when it hits the yellow. Yellow means it’s time to fill the tank it really doesn’t matter what the weather.
While some people and websites may say these gauges don’t work they actually do. The problems stem from a gauge that is well into the green can go into the yellow quickly and because they sit under your grill it goes unnoticed.
So the bottom line on does a propane tank gauge work or not is: An inline pressure gauge is inexpensive, easy to install and does exactly what it is supposed to do when used properly.
There is a more accurate option now available and that is a propane tank scale.
I should probably note here that we stopped stocking this item a few years back. This is because you can find many of them on Amazon for a lower price then we can get them.
We know a lot of people have had experience with this so we would like to know if you think. Does a propane tank gauge really work or not? Answer in the comments section
About the author: Mike is the owner of 4thegrill.com, a Certified Food Safety Professional and KCBS member.
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