Do you want to know “how to tell if a propane regulator is bad in the first place?” Perhaps your propane appliances are not working properly, and you suspect that the thief is sitting inside your propane regulator.

And, you might also be wondering, what are the signs of a faulty propane regulator; how to troubleshoot propane regulator issues; and when is it time to replace a bad propane regulator?

How do we know that these questions have worried you? We receive these questions frequently from our readers, and it’s time to answer them in detail, one by one. 

And by reading this article for the next 10 mins, you’ll know what to do next to come out of this distressing situation caused by a gas flow problem with your appliances. So, here we come…. 

How to Tell if Propane Regulator is Bad: 9 Major Signs 

There are several telltale signs of a faulty propane regulator. In the following, we’ll discuss some of the most common signs that indicate that your propane regulator is malfunctioning.

1. Yellow or orange flames instead of blue

Yellow or orange flames on your gas burner may result from incomplete combustion or low propane

signs of faulty gas regulatorpressure. Blue flames, on the contrary, indicate high gas pressure and complete combustion. There are many reasons for yellow or orange flames, a faulty regulator being one of them.

Blue flames indicate temperatures of about two thousand degrees celsius. Yellow, orange, or red flames, on the other hand, show a temperature of one thousand degrees celsius. 

If the flow of propane through the regulator is proper, the gas should always burn blue. Yellow or orange flames tell us that propane pressure is low, which might be because the propane regulator fails to do the job.

2. Soot on burners

If you notice soot, a black powder consisting of amorphous carbon, there might be some problem with your propane regulator. Soot appears on burners due to the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons and doesn’t necessarily mean that the regulator is the cause behind it. 

Sooty burners indicate that propane flow is being interrupted, either due to a faulty regulator or blocked hose or burners. You can troubleshoot this issue by cleaning the burners and hoses. If the issue persists, it means that the problem is with the regulator and not burners.

3. Unusual sounds

Unusual sounds are a common indicator that your gas regulator is underperforming. However, they’re specific too. Here is the list to tell you what kind of sound you can hear: 

  • Popping noises when you turn on the burners, 
  • Roaring sounds when you set burners to high heat, and
  • Hissing sounds after you turn off the burners. 

In ordinary conditions, burners shouldn’t make audible noises. If the burner noise is too high and causes discomfort, it’s a sure sign that the regulator is malfunctioning.

However, before replacing the regulator, make sure that all burners on your grill, stove, or fireplace make such sounds. Remember, if one of the two burners makes unusual sounds, you must understand that the problem is with the burner and not the regulator. 

It’s normal for burners to hiss when on, but it’s a slight hiss instead of a roaring sound. The reason for this slight hiss is the gas flowing through the hose and burners.

High burner sounds indicate high gas pressure. If a regulator fails to mediate the high gas pressure from the propane tank, it causes the burner to roar and the flame to become inconsistent.

4. Reduced or no gas flow

If your grill burners won’t light up even if you change the propane tank, it can be a faulty regulator. In most cases, it’s because the regulator’s safety feature called “bypass mode” has been activated. To resolve this issue, you’ll have to reset your gas grill regulator.

This problem happens when the regulator assumes there’s a leak in the system. You can turn off all the burners, disengage the regulator from the tank, and after waiting for at least 30 seconds, screw the regulator back to the tank. 

After doing this, wait for a few seconds to let the pressure build in the hose. Then slowly turn on the burners. You’ve successfully reset your propane regulator.

The safety mechanism of the regulator consists of a valve. If there’s a low gas pressure inside the hose due to some leak, the safety valve trips, and the regulator enters bypass mode. In this case, the regulator reduces the gas flow from the propane gas tank to the burners or completely shuts down.

For the regulator to work correctly, there should be downstream gas pressure in the hose. When a gas leak occurs, the downstream pressure becomes low, causing the safety mechanism to engage. Since the regulator’s safety mechanism is delicate, it can mistakenly assume a gas leak and consequently trip.

If resetting the regulator doesn’t work, it may be that the regulator needs replacing. In this case, the regulator permanently blocks gas flow from the propane tank to the burners.

5. The smell of a gas leak

Since propane is colorless and odorless, gas companies add mercaptan (methanethiol), a foul-smelling gas that renders propane its characteristic smell. It acts as an odorant and smells like rotten garlic, cabbage, or eggs. 

The purpose behind adding this chemical is to make leakage detection easier. If you sense this odor, it’s time to change the propane regulator.

However, like other signs in the list, the smell of a gas leak doesn’t necessarily mean the problem is with the regulator. Sometimes, the hose that connects the regulator to the grill can also develop leaks.

To detect the point of the gas leak, you can use soapy water spray to mark the surface where bubbles develop. You can apply soapy water to the regulator to ensure that the fault is with the regulator and not with the hose.

6. The automatic changeover isn’t working.

The problem is specific to dual propane tanks regulators, commonly called two-switch regulators. The two-switch propane regulator sits between two propane tanks and automatically shifts to the other if one propane tank is empty. 

If your RV or outdoor gas grill isn’t receiving propane supplies from either of the tanks, it means that the automatic changeover of your two-switch regulator isn’t functioning. Usually, in this case, you’ll have to replace your two-switch propane regulator.

7. It’s frequently freezing.

A propane regulator can freeze because of liquid propane flowing out of the tank. The propane in the tank is so compressed that it becomes liquid. When propane leaves the regulator, it causes the temperature of the regulator to drop. 

A slight drop in the regulator’s temperature is normal, familiar, and expected, but it becomes a problem when propane abruptly leaves the regulator, causing it to freeze.

Wondering why propane leaving out the propane tank causes the tank and regulator to freeze? It’s because when we compress a gas, we have to force gas molecules to come closer. 

The compression of gas generates heat. When these gas molecules are released from the container, they produce cooling. It’s similar to saying that the energy escapes from the container, rendering the container cooler. The same principle creates cooling in refrigerators and air conditioners.

When does the regulator freeze?

  • Propane enters the regulator abruptly.
  • Liquid propane enters the regulator.

What causes the problem of a frozen regulator?

  • An overfilled container results in a frozen regulator.
  • The propane tank service valve communicating with the vapor surface of the container isn’t upright with the container.

If your propane regulator freezes frequently, you don’t have to change it. The problem is usually due to container overfilling, improper positioning of the tank, or a faulty propane tank service valve. You can prevent propane regulators from freezing by placing the cylinder in an upright position.

However, there’s still a scenario that can have catastrophic results. Have you observed the phenomenon of condensation? Those tiny drops of water appearing outside an ice-filled glass? 

Now, imagine a frozen regulator with a lot of humidity in the atmosphere. In this case, you can observe similar tiny drops of water on the regulator. Water vapor can also enter the regulator through vents and cause damage to the spring area and diaphragm. It, in turn, can lead to gas leaks, overpressure, or reduced gas flow into the system.

8. It’s been submerged in water.

If your propane regulator has been in the water, it’s more likely that it’s permanently damaged. If water finds its way into the regulator’s spring area, it eventually leads to rusting or corrosion of the delicate metallic parts. This way, the probability of the regulator getting wholly or partially blocked increases.

If the regulator becomes blocked or clogged due to rusting, its efficiency is decreased. In this case, it won’t allow more gas to flow, limiting the gas pressure. You can’t fix a regulator that has once been submerged into the water; instead, replace it.

9. It has expired now.

Propane regulators aren’t immortal; they have a service life. There’s no gold yardstick to ascertain the average service life of propane regulators, and for a good reason.

A propane regulator that comes from a reputed company can last as long as 15 years or more. If you buy one from cheap manufacturers, it’ll hardly last for a year. You can learn about the service life of your propane regulator through the documents that came along.

How to Tell if  Propane Regulator is Bad: Testing Methods

It’s essential to diagnose the problem first and then solve it correctly. Here are some of the crucial tests you can perform to test a propane regulator.

  • Water and Soap Leak Test

As already described, you can take a dish soap-water mixture in a spray bottle and apply it to the regulator, especially on the connecting points. Now turn on the gas and burners. If bubbles form, it’s where the problem lies. This test will tell you about the wear and tear of your regulator too.

  • Simple Leak Test through Blowing Air 

One of the simplest tests is the blowing air test, just like you bowl air in a balloon. Doing it is pretty straightforward. For this purpose, you have to disconnect the gas regulator and blow air through it through a hose. On the open end, you place a candle or mud lamp to see if that air is coming through the hose to affect that burning flame.

Indeed it’s an easy way to check whether the propane regulator is clogged or not. Yet, it might not tell you the exact pressure like a pressure gauge.

  • Flow-pressure test

To perform this test, you’ll need a water column manometer and a pressure gauge. 

  1. Install the measuring device, say a water column manometer, in the test tap of the gas appliance’s shutoff valve.
  2. Set all the burners on the appliance under test to their highest settings.
  3. Note the flowing gas pressure on the manometer or pressure gauge.
  4. Compare that pressure to the appliance’s required pressure specified on the data tag attached to the appliance.

If the pressure-flow readings don’t correspond to those specified by the device’s manufacturer, there can be two reasons for that. First, it may be that the regulator’s output capacity is inadequate. 

In this case, you’ll need a regulator with adequate output capacity. Second, the regulator may be outdated, is malfunctioning, or is wholly or partially blocked.

  • Lock-up (static) test

The following is the procedure to read the static gas pressure:

  1. Turn all propane appliances off.
  2. Turn off the gas supply at each propane appliance’s gas shutoff valve.
  3. Now turn the propane tank valve open to allow pressure to build up in the gas delivery system.
  4. Note the gas pressure on the pressure gauge. Remember that the static gas pressure shouldn’t be more than 30% of the flowing gas pressure.

FAQS about Propane Gas Regulator Troubleshooting

  • How does propane regulator work?

A propane regulator is a device that controls the flow of gas from a propane cylinder to a propane-operated appliance. It reduces the propane tank’s high gas pressure to the much lower pressure required by the appliance.

  • Why causes your propane tank regulator to leak?

Here are the possible reasons for a gas leak. In the case of a regulator, it happens through the vent. A regulator vent is a small, meshed opening that allows the regulator to breathe. 

  • The regulator’s diaphragm works in conjunction with the regulator’s vent. A faulty diaphragm usually causes gas leaks. Since it’s connected to the vent, gas finds its way into the atmosphere through the vent.
  • Regulator vents are facing downwards to prevent water or other chemicals from falling upon them. They’re also covered in metallic mesh, further enhancing their security. However, they can catch dust, debris, and insects. 

If vents are clogged due to any dust or residue, they stop communicating between the atmosphere and internal parts of the regulator. If the vent is obstructed, the regulator’s diaphragm is unable to move up and down. It can cause a gas leak, lock-up, or overpressure in the system.

  • How do you test propane regulators?

Testing the propane tank regulators can be simple or complex. By conducting simple to complex tests, you can detect your gas regulator’s health and performance status. 

We’ll advise you to conduct the simplest tests, e.g., of water and soap spray or blowing air through the disconnected regulator first, as mentioned above. If you find those tests not helping, then you can go for other gas pressure tests.

  • How do you clean up a clogged propane regulator?

A clogged propane regulator is almost impossible to clean at home. There’s no DIY way to do so. 

It shouldn’t imply that no one can clean a clogged propane regulator as a technician should be able to do this. However, propane regulators don’t cost much, and it’s better to replace a clogged regulator instead of fixing it. 

Cleaning a clogged regulator isn’t worth the effort, time, and possibly money if you get it cleaned by an expert. So, it’s better to replace your underperforming, worn-out regulator for $$ than affording $$$$ damage.

  • How do you clean a clogged hose in a propane system?

If the hose that connects the propane regulator to your gas grill is clogged, you need to detach it from both ends to clean it.

  1. Turn the propane tank valve off by rotating it anticlockwise. Doing this will cut off the gas supply.
  2. Unhook the hose connecting the regulator to the grill.
  3. Submerge the hose in a dish soap-water mixture for about 30 minutes. Soap will remove debris, grease, and other impurities from the hose. Let it dry in sunlight for a few minutes.
  4. Carefully clean the connections between the gas grill and hose, the hose and regulator, and the regulator and tank using a dry toothbrush.
  5. Connect the hose back to the regulator and grill and turn the valve on the tank clockwise until it stops.
  • Does the propane regulator wear out?

Like everything on the face of the earth, propane gas regulators are also subject to entropy. They age, start malfunctioning, and come to a point where they cannot do their job. 

It’s because bbq regulators consist of internally moving parts that become exhausted after a 10-15 years of use. 

Propane companies inform their users about the service life of their regulators, what to do if they start malfunctioning, and when it’s time to change them. The industry norm is to replace a regulator every ten years. However, if your regulator came from a cheap manufacturer, it may need replacing even sooner.

Sometimes, the problem is minor, and only a licensed mechanic can fix it. Sometimes, a regulator needs resetting because its safety mechanism has mistakenly detected a gas leak. 

But certain conditions demand a complete replacement, such as when the regulator has been submerged underwater.

  • What happens when the gas regulator fails?

A failed gas regulator or automatic RV propane regulator can lead to many hazardous situations, such as a gas leak and the release of toxic gases into the environment, fire, and even a deadly explosion. For these reasons, it’s best to keep an eye on your propane gas regulator and keep in mind the signs of a faulty regulator.

Final Thoughts  

A propane gas regulator is an essential part of your gas supply setup. Once gone bad, it can be hazardous. By detecting the faulty gas regulator, you can ensure the health and safety of your appliance and yourself and save your time and money. However, when finding something wrong with the regulator itself, the best practice can be to replace your propane regulator instead of looking for DIY solutions.

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