Get Tough on Rust

Posted: October 1, 2013

Stay ahead of corrosion on your propane tanks.

By: Deane Hislop

Rust is a concern in many settings, but it is especially prevalent in the marine environment. Nowhere is it a bigger concern than when it comes to your steel propane tank. If your tank has rust, it doesn’t mean the tank is going to be faulty (as long as it’s light surface rust).

To fix the problem, mask off the valve, and cover any warning labels, so they don’t get painted over. Take the tank (when empty) and sand down the rusty parts with steel wool or a fine-grit sandpaper — don’t use anything that could possibly cause sparks. The goal is to remove any loose particles and smooth the area. You don’t want to dig into the metal. After sanding, use a vinegar-and-water solution to clean the area very well, and rinse it with water. Once the tank is dry, paint it with a high-temperature paint, in either white or off-white, as light colors do not hold as much heat. Remove the coverings for the valve and warning labels, and your tank should be good to go. If there is a lot of rust, it should be inspected by a certified professional.

Propane tanks are rated for a shelf life of 12 years, and once a tank is 12 years old it needs to be inspected and recertified for use. The date your tank was made should be listed on the handle of the tank. There are plenty of conscientious LP retailers who get blasted by an irate boater for refusing to refill an out-of-date container. Don’t be that boater. The dealers are looking out for your safety, and it doesn’t cost much to have a tank recertified. Most propane dealers can take care of it. The propane company will empty the tank completely, then take the tank apart, inspect the interior and exterior, and take measurements of the metal to make sure it’s thick enough and that its structure has not been compromised. A recertified propane tank is good for another five years of use.

If your tank happens to have any dents or if it’s bulging, the tank should be disposed of immediately. It won’t pass the recertification process.

In an effort to slow the rust from forming on the base of our steel tank and bleeding onto the propane locker deck, we installed interlocking modular deck tiles. The vinyl panels raise the tank off the deck, providing a ventilated surface that helps keep the tank dry and any rust off the deck.

Other boaters cut a piece of garden hose long enough to completely enclose the tank’s circular base. Then they slit the hose lengthwise and fit it over the lip of the tank’s base. The hose keeps their deck free of rust and protects the deck from getting dinged by the metal tank.

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