Picking propane: How to avoid BBQ blow-ups

MEMPHIS (WMC-TV) - Burgers:  check.

Franks:  got 'em.

Ribs:  marinating.

Propane tank:  bungied to the truck bed, on its way home.

Did you check the shape of the tank's valve?

That's the first sign that your barbecue could bomb.  REALLY bomb.

If the valve has a round or flower-shaped handwheel, it's a discontinued tank. Safety experts say it's a fire hazard because it can be easily over-filled.

Patrick Galphin of propane distributor nexAir (http://www.nexair.com/) says you should only purchase or exchange propane tanks with TRIANGLE-shaped handwheels, etched with the letters "OPD."


It's a float on the end of the valve inside the tank. Think of it like the float inside a toilet's water tank.

"When propane fills to the top, it will shut that valve off, preventing that tank from being over-filled," says Galphin.

Don't accept any tank with rust or corroded valves and fittings, either. "Unfortunately, these come back from a lot of meth labs," Galphin says. "The ammonia that's used to make methamphetamines reacts with the brass in the valves, causing that corrosion."

You should transport the tank in an open-bed vehicle that is well-ventilated, like a pick-up truck. If you have to use a car, Galphin says roll down the windows and make the propane pick-up your last stop.

Check your grill's fuel lines and regulator for dry-rot. When you attach the regulator to the tank, you should hear the gas start to seep into the fuel lines as the regulator snaps into place.

"If it is hard to screw on, back it off, check it for debris. You don't want to have a leak around the valve," says Galphin.

When you're finished grilling, turn the gas off at the tank first, then turn the burners off.  That will keep gas from getting trapped in the fuel lines.

For more propane safety tips, visit the National Propane Gas Association's website at www.npga.org.

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