When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

What Does Oil In An RV Propane Regulator Mean? + How To Fix

Oil In Propane & How It Affects Your RV

If you’ve recently started experiencing issues with the propane appliances inside your RV, like occasional popping and even issues with lighting, the first thing you want to check is the RV propane regulator.

The propane regulator is the little gadget the propane tank or tanks connect to. For more information about RV propane regulators, check out this article here.

To check the propane regulator for oil, first turn off all the propane tanks connected to it and disconnect them.

Then, using a wrench, unscrew the main line coming out of the bottom of the regulator.

Related Product: Did you know RV Propane Detectors (click to view on Amazon) need to be replaced every 5-10 years? Make sure yours is still up to date before your next camping trip.

oil in an rv propane regulator
Dual tank RV propane regulator that can fill with oil.

If oil immediately starts coming out of the RV propane regulator and gas line, that is most likely the source of the problem with the appliances.

Oil in the propane lines clogs things up after a while. It makes it hard for the propane gas to flow at the correct pressure to make everything run as it should.

It can take a while for enough oil to build up to come out of the gas orifices of the fridge or water heater, but it can happen if the issue isn’t taken care of fast enough.

Why Is There Oil In My RV Propane Regulator?

Propane or LP gas is liquid petroleum that is a byproduct of crude oil. Because propane comes from oil, there is always going to be a bit of oil in it, even when refined properly.

Normally, this small amount of oil isn’t an issue, but it can slowly become one over time for several reasons.

Overfilled propane tanks are the number one cause of oil in an RV propane regulator and system. When a tank is overfilled, the liquid propane may not have enough space to become a gas before entering the propane regulator.

This can cause liquid propane to get into the regulator, which can damage the sensitive diaphragm inside. It can also leach more oil than normal into the system.

If you add overfilled propane tanks to cold temperatures, the odds of getting some liquid propane and lots of oil trapped inside the regulator increase.

Propane turns to gas at a slower rate in cold weather and using an appliance that uses lots of propane like a furnace with a super full tank could cause some issues.

See Also: 7 Signs That Your RV Propane Regulator Has Gone Bad

Another less likely cause could be from the source you bought your propane from. RVers can get propane from all over the place from traveling around and sometimes the propane mix just isn’t the greatest.

There is some speculation that Ethyl Mercaptan, which is added to propane to create an odor, could also become an issue if too much is added to the propane.

If the stuff leaking from the RV propane regulator is really smelly, that may be what it is.

Either way, if there is any kind of oily liquid dripping out of the propane regulator, it could become a serious issue if not fixed.

What Do I Do If There’s Oil In My RV Propane Regulator or Propane Lines?

Unfortunately, getting oil out of a propane regulator and even the propane lines isn’t always possible.

For an RV propane regulator, the easiest thing to do is to replace it. You won’t be able to properly clean out the oil inside without damaging it.

Luckily, replacing an RV propane regulator isn’t very difficult and can be done by most people who are used to fixing a few things around the house and RV.

Click here to see how to replace an RV propane regulator

Now for the trickier part, the propane lines.

What To Do If There’s Just A Little Oil In The Propane Lines

If you’ve just noticed the oil dripping from the regulator or propane tank connection, you may have caught it early and there won’t be too much oil in the RV propane lines.

You may be able to drain it by leaving the main propane line pointed down overnight.

Then, after reinstalling the replacement RV propane regulator, you can try to clean up the system by purging the lines a few times.

This is done by slowly turning on the propane tank to get the propane flowing through the lines.

Once filled with propane, light one burner on the RV stove.

Then turn off the propane tank and let the stove continue to run until it has burned away all the propane left in the line.

Do this a few times to get the lines back to normal again.

This method will not be as good as a full replacement and if there’s a ton of oil, you may need to do some more major cleaning that I’ll talk about next.

See Also: Propane Tank Recertification: How & Where To Get Recertified

What To Do If There’s A Lot Of Oil In The Propane Lines

If the propane appliances inside your RV are having issues because of the oil, you may have some serious buildup inside your RV propane lines.

After removing the RV propane regulator, work your way down the propane line to see how far the oil buildup has gotten.

Note this only needs to be done if there is a lot of oil build up. This chore can be quite a bit of work. If you aren’t comfortable working with propane lines, I recommend getting a professional to do it instead.

If the oil has gotten far enough down the line, you may even need to clean the gas lines in the RV appliances as well.

When there’s a ton of oil in a gas line, it’s easier and more thorough to just replace the clogged line than trying to clean it.

If you’re lucky, the worst of the oil won’t be very far down the line and you will only need to replace a few parts.

single stage rv propane regulator with oil in it from a dirty propane tank

Conclusion About Oil In RV Propane Regulators & Gas Lines

Oil in RV propane regulators and lines is a more common issue than you might think.

It’s a good idea to add checking the propane regulator for oil to your regular maintenance list to help stop propane oil from becoming a major problem.

Also, make sure your propane tanks aren’t being filled above 80% regularly.

Propane dealers aren’t supposed to fill the tanks above 80% but it happens a lot because the seller is trying to get more propane into the tank to sell or they think they are doing you a favor.

See Also: How Does An RV Propane Regulator Work?

Overfilled propane tanks aren’t good for your camper’s LP gas system. It’s also a safety issue since there is no room left for gas expansion if the propane tank heats up.

It’s going to be easier to not overfill a propane tank than it will be to replace the regulator, or possibly all the pipes later on.

Have any more questions about oil in RV propane regulators and gas lines? Leave a comment below.

by Jenni
Jenni grew up in a small town in Idaho. With a family that loves camping, she has been towing trailers since a very young age.

7 thoughts on “What Does Oil In An RV Propane Regulator Mean? + How To Fix”

  1. is there any liquid I could pump from rear through lines to disco nnected regulators up front. obviously I would disconnect any other appliances.

    Reply
  2. This is an excellent article, having been through this myself many years ago. I would add one simple potential fix, that took me too long to get to. At least on my rig, the flexible hose from the regulator to the hard plumbing on the rig sags below the hard line to provide a low point, which is where the oil had accumulated, blocking the line. Disconnecting both ends and laying the low/hardline-connected end on a sheet of cardboard, I used lung pressure to successfully blow the line out from the regulator side. YMMV. – g^2

    Reply
    • Hi Rob,

      Ask a propane provider if they offer propane tank oil removal services. Usually propane companies can do it for a small fee.

      Reply

Leave a Comment