How to Tell if a Propane Regulator Is Bad

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The propane regulator is a vital device for your gas tank. If it doesn’t work properly, you won’t get a steady blue flame with no sounds except a faint hiss. Because the internal pressure of a propane tank is far greater than most propane appliances actually need, the regulator ensures that only the right amount of gas is delivered and keeps it flowing steadily.

The first problem signs of a bad regulator would be a yellow or orange flame with an inconsistent height, popping noises when turning it on or off, as well as flames floating above burner ports and other places. It is highly recommended to check for leaks as well as wear and tear regularly, to ensure that your propane regulator hasn’t gone bad.

How to tell if the propane regulator is bad

Whether your propane tank is connected to your outdoor gas grill, cooktop, furnace, heater, as well as other appliances, you have to make sure it runs properly at all times. Performing regular health checks of your setup is highly recommended, especially if you experience any irregularities with the system.

If your gas grill won’t get hot, here’s 5 ways to fix it.

Step 1 – Visual inspection of all parts

The easiest step is to perform a visual inspection of all parts of the system that delivers the gas to the appliance, including the propane tank, tubes, as well as the propane regulator.

Check for any signs of damage such as cracks, dents, scratches, dirt, and debris.

Should you choose to clean any of the parts mentioned above, we recommend the use of non-abrasive sponges and cloths only. If you use abrasive sponges or cleaning solutions, they may damage the surface material.

You may also want to check that all parts are connected properly, by carefully pulling and/or twisting them to see if they detach or stay in place. If in doubt, refer to the user manual for directions on how to inspect the connections.

Step 2 – Check for leaks

Checking for leaks is an easy task, as described by multiple sources including Hunker. One way to know if your propane regulator is bad, is to apply a mixture of water and regular dish soap to the surface of your regulator and connecting tubes.

Mix one teaspoon of dish soap to a cup of water, and pour it into a spray bottle. Apply the solution to your propane regulator as well as other equipment that could be leaking, and watch for any bubbles. If bubbles are forming on the surface, there may be a leak.

Leaks could cause the pressure to drop, and they’re a major fire hazard. Therefore we urge you to check for leaks regularly, and if you have indoor gas appliances you should have a professional gas inspection carried out at least once a year to make sure that your system works properly.

For indoor gas appliances, we recommend getting a gas detector alarm, which is available on Amazon or your local hardware store.

Step 3 – Look for yellow or irregular flames

Propane burner with an irregular yellow-blue flame
Image credit: Alex Gagareen / Unsplash

One sign that your propane gas regulator is bad is a yellow or orange flame. Normally you’ll only see a consistent blue flame, and if you adjust the flame it should transition smoothly.

A bad propane regulator would cause yellow or lazy flames, which you would normally see with a candle or when burning wood. Because yellow flames are a sign of an incomplete combustion, you’ll see deposits of soot and/or rust on the burners over time.

More often than not, yellow or orange flames have irregular heights as well, which could cause them to reach above the burner ports as well as flames spilling out of the burner.

Step 4 – Listen for unusual sounds

Unusual sounds could also be signs that your propane regulator is bad. Problematic sounds include popping noises when turning the burner on or off, roaring noises from the burner, as well as hissing sounds after the burner has been turned off. Hissing sounds could be signs of a leak, so make sure you’re on high alert if you’re hearing a hissing sound after turning the system off.

The only sound you should hear during use is a faint hiss, which is the gas being lead through the tubes and out of your burner. 

Why propane regulators are important

The LPGas Magazine defines the propane regulator as “the heart of the propane system”, and we think it’s true.

A propane regulator ensures that gas flows safely from the container to the tip of your burner. It provides an over-pressure protection system, which will automatically relief the pressure of the container if it rises above a certain level, hence preventing a potentially fatal explosion.

The propane regulator also makes sure that only the right amount of gas is flowing to your burner. The containers usually have a significantly higher pressure than your average burner could handle, so the propane regulator acts as a “middleman” and only lets the right amount of gas flow through.

How long does a propane regulator last?

According to RVshare, propane regulators last a while, yet they aren’t built to last forever. With regular inspections and maintenance you’re looking at a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, and they even recommend that you replace an old regulator even if it doesn’t show any signs of going bad yet.

The reasoning is that a propane regulator has a number of internal parts that could wear down and wear out over time, and you may not be able to see this unless you know exactly how to disassemble the regulator yourself.

If the internal parts wear out, you could face a series of issues as mentioned above, so even if your 15 year-old propane regulator doesn’t show signs of wear, it is recommended that you replace it anyway as a safety precaution.