How to change a propane tank on a forklift

How to change a propane tank on a forklift

Reading Time: 10 minutes 33 seconds


This article discusses how to change propane tank on forklift and all the necessary precautions regarding the change. It also mentions some important safety tips and answers to some frequently asked questions.

Table of Contents

  1. Forklift propane tank: Some basics
  2. Safety rules before changing a propane tank
  3. How to change a propane tank on a forklift: 5 easy steps
  4. FAQs on changing a propane tank
  5. Our recommendation

Forklift propane tank: Some basics

If you visit any decent-sized warehouse, you will definitely see one of those forklifts with propane tanks on their backs. Propane-run forklifts have become a popular choice in many warehouses across the world. Unlike diesel or electric forklifts, these have an external storage tank that stores the propane. Almost always, these tanks are attached to the back with a latch.

An image of a propane tank secured on the back of a forklift

Figure: A propane tank for forklift

Using propane tanks is convenient in many ways. In busy warehouses, electric forklifts may not be a good choice. Charging the battery takes time, and having multiple batteries and a charging station is expensive. While diesel is a more affordable and simpler solution, it is not very indoor-friendly. Propane is perfect considering its much cleaner exhaust and quick refueling. As a result, a lot of big warehouses are using propane forklifts. And hence, knowing how to swap your empty propane tank with a full one properly is quite important.

Safety rules before changing a propane tank

Although changing a propane tank sounds pretty harmless, it can cause many serious issues if you are not careful. Before talking about safety gears, let's look at the dangers of changing a propane tank.

  • Musculoskeletal Issues from lifting propane tanks, especially the steel ones
  • Frostbite from liquid propane
  • Foot Injury from accidental dropping and slipping of the tank
  • Eye injury

An image of a burning propane tank

Figure: Propane is extremely flammable and a potential fire hazard

An image of a man lifting a propane tank

Figure: Lifting heavy propane tanks can cause musculoskeletal problems

Now that we know the possible dangers, let's talk about the safety gears or PPEs we'll need.

Neoprene or rubber gloves: A pair of gloves can protect your hand from all sorts of harm. Propane is kept as a liquid in the tank at -42°C or -44°F. Direct contact with ultra-low temperature propane will cause cold burn or frostbite. Wearing a pair of gloves will protect your hand from accidental propane contact.

 An image of a man changing a forklift propane tank wearing neoprene gloves, safety goggles, and a full sleeve shirt

Figure: Using rubber gloves, safety goggles, and full sleeve shirts is necessary when changing propane tanks

You can buy all types of safety gloves at a very reasonable price from Lift Part Warehouse.

Safety shoes: Safety shoes, especially steel toe boots, are recommended when handling any heavy object. Most forklift propane tanks weigh 32-33 lbs. If one of those tanks falls directly on your feet, it won’t be a very pleasant experience. A steel toes boot will be very useful in such situations.

An image of a man holding a safety shoe

Figure: A safety shoe with steel toe can save your feet from getting smashed by a heavy propane tank

Safety goggles: It is a good practice to wear safety goggles when dealing with pressurized substances. Pressurized gasses tend to throw things around if released accidentally. A swinging fuel hose or a stream of -44°F liquid propane can permanently damage your eyes.

Need new safety goggles? Get high-quality chemical-resistant safety goggles right now at a great price!

Full-sleeved shirt: A full-sleeve shirt will ensure that your upper body is protected from any risky substances or impact to some degree.

You should be careful when lifting a full propane tank, especially one of those steel tanks. Use the correct lifting posture and ask for your co-worker’s help if needed. A herniated disc is much worse than looking weak in front of your co-workers. You can also use a propane tank loader if you have a large operation going on.

An image of a propane tank loader

Figure: A propane tank loader

How to change a propane tank on a forklift: 5 easy steps

1. Secure the forklift

To secure the forklift, shift the gear to a neutral position and engage the parking brake. Some forklifts automatically engage the parking brake when you get off the seat. Lower the fork to the ground to prevent any tripping hazard.

An image of a forklift with lowered fork

Figure: The forks must be lowered all the way down to avoid a tripping hazard

2. Emptying the fuel line

First, close the service valve by rotating it clockwise. Turn it until it feels completely tight.

An image of a service valve on a propane tank

Figure: Close the service valve by rotating it clockwise

Next, turn on the engine and burn the remaining fuel in the line. The engine will automatically turn off when the gas is finished. Some engines are very efficient and take time to consume all the gas. You can hit the gas pedal to burn it quicker. Once the engine turns off, try to turn it on again. If it fails to start, the fuel line is completely empty.

3. Disconnect and remove the empty tank

Now disconnect the fuel hose by turning the connecting nut counter-clockwise. You can do it without any tool.

An image of a fuel hose connected to the tank via a coupler

Figure: The fuel hose is connected to the tank via the coupler

Once it is disconnected, undo the latches that are holding down the tank. Sometimes the latches are really tight and hard to undo. You can simply use your body weight to undo it safely.

An image of a propane tank secured bracket and latch on a forklift

Figure: Propane tanks are secured on a bracket by a latch

Once detached from the bracket, carefully lift the tank. An 8-gallon steel tank can weigh between 30-35 lbs even when empty. To avoid the inconvenience and risk, you can invest in fiberglass propane tanks that are much lighter than steel and aluminum.

An image of a propane tank secured on a forklift by bracket and latch

Figure: Newer fiberglass propane tanks are lightweight and easy to handle

4. Connecting and securing the new tank

Lifting a full propane tank can be risky. A full 8-gallon tank weighs around 70 lbs. We strongly advise you to take ample precautions when lifting a full tank.

Once you lift the tank over the bracket, look for a slot on the top of the tank. The bracket has a bolt that goes into that slot to ensure the correct position. Now rotate the tank to place the bolt in the slot. At this point, the pressure relief valve will point upward.

An image of a slot on a propane tank collar where the bolt on the latch goes

Figure: The slot on the tank collar helps its proper orientation

Check if the service valve is closed on the new tank. Once you've checked, connect the hose and secure it by rotating the coupler. Turn it clockwise until you can't turn anymore.

Now secure the tank on the bracket with the latch. Again, lean on the tank if the latch is hard to close.

5. Safety Check

Turn the service valve anti-clockwise. You will hear a hissing sound that will indicate propane entering the fuel line. If there is no leakage, you won't be able to smell any gas or listen to any hissing after 3-4 seconds. Maintaining the Look, Listen and Smell rule after opening the service valve ensures safety.

Look: Liquid propane has a temperature of -44°F. If there is a propane leak, you will see frost around that leak because of its low temperature.

Image of accumulated frost around a propane leakage

Figure: Frost around propane leakage

Listen: Typically, propane tanks have a pressure range of 100-200 psi. If there is a leak, you will hear a hissing noise.

Smell: Propane is originally an odorless gas. However, a rotten-egg smell is added to it to detect leaks easily. Always smell the surrounding for leakage after turning on the service valve.

If you detect the presence of a propane leak, close the service valve immediately. Also, take it to an open area and tag the tank until the leak is handled.

How to handle forklift propane tanks safely

If you have a fleet of propane forklifts, storing and handing propane tanks is a necessity for you. While propane tanks are usually very safe, they can become a serious threat in specific conditions. Here are some important tips for storing and handling propane tanks:

OPD valves: Only use cylinders with triangular service valve handles. These OPD valves come with a safety device called Excess Flow Valve. The Excess Flow Valve automatically shuts off the flow if too much fuel is being drawn. It helps when the fuel line is broken or punctured or the service valve is open when not connected to the fuel hose.

An image of an OPD valve on a propane tank

Figure: Propane tank OPD valves with the triangular valve handle

Maintain vapor space: Do not fill your propane tank more than 80% of its rated capacity. If your cylinder is rated for 20 lbs, fill it with 16 lbs of propane.

The rest of the space is to allow the propane vapor to expand safely.

An image of an OPD valve on a propane tank

Figure: Propane tank OPD valves with the triangular valve handle

Bleed propane safely: Sometimes, tanks are filled with excess propane. To examine, take it outside and away from any open flame or ignition source. Open the bleeder valve and watch the propane. If the stream is white and visible, it is over-filled. Bleed until the bleeding gas is invisible.

An image of a propane bleeding screw on the OPD valve

Figure: You can bleed excess propane by turning the bleeding screw

Storage: Do not store propane tanks in underground or living space. Use a dedicated location for storage with a lot of ventilation and no ignition source. Make sure the storage is away from a heat source.

Propane tanks should be stored in cages for safety

Figure: Propane tanks should be stored in cages for safety

Please watch this great video on Refueling, Maintaining, and Troubleshooting Forklift Cylinders:

FAQs on changing a propane tank

In this section, we will answer some frequently asked questions changing a propane tank.

What PPE is required and recommended when changing a propane tank?

PPEs necessary for changing a propane tank are Neoprene or rubber hand gloves, steel toe shoes, safety goggles, and long sleeve shirts.

An image showing all the necessary PPE while driving a forklift

Figure: Waring usual forklift PPEs is enough for changing the propane tank

Can a propane tank explode on a forklift?

Technically, a forklift propane tank can explode on a forklift. It can happen when the pressure of the propane is more than the rated capacity of the tank. This kind of explosion is known as Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion or in short, BLEVE. However, these sorts of incidents are less likely to happen. Also, using the new fiberglass propane tanks eliminates this risk completely.

An image of a blown-up propane tank

Figure: Propane tanks can and do explode

What size wrench do I need to change a propane tank?

Changing a forklift propane tank does not require any wrench. Undoing the latch and unscrewing the coupler can both be done by hand.

What type of fitting is on a forklift propane tank?

A forklift propane tank is equipped with several fittings and mountings. Most of the tanks have Fill Valve, 80% Spit valve, Float Gauge, Pressure Relief Valve, Shut-off Valve, and a Coupler or Adapter. You can know more about these fitting in this article.

An image of usual propane tank fittings

Figure: Propane tanks have several fittings and mountings

How long does a propane tank last on a forklift?

Most forklifts use 8-gallon or 33-lbs tanks, which last about 8 hours. However, it all depends on the usage and efficiency of the engine. In most cases, forklifts consume an average of 4-6 pounds of propane an hour.

How do I know if my forklift propane tank is empty?

There are two ways to know if your propane tank is almost depleted. The float gauge shows approximately how much fuel is left. However, the float gauge doesn't give any exact value. You can weigh the tank to know the exact value. Generally, empty tank and full tank weights are stamped on the tank head.

An image of a float gauge on a propane tank

Figure: The float gauge indicates a low fuel level

How much pressure is in a forklift propane tank?

Usually, the pressure inside a full propane forklift tank varies between 100 and 200 psi. It also varies with the outside temperature.

How much does a forklift propane tank weigh?

The weight of a propane forklift tank depends on its size. Most forklifts use 8-gallon tanks that weigh 33 pounds. The slightly bigger 10-gallon tanks weigh about 44 lbs.

When should I replace my propane tank?

Propane tanks do have an expiration date, usually stamped on their collar. They can last for decades with proper handling. Your propane tank needs inspection and re-certification after 10 years and then every 5years after that.

An image of a propane tank with manufacturing date stamped on it

Figure: All propane tank has manufacturing date stamped on their collar

What do I do if my forklift propane tank is leaking?

If you detect any leakage from your forklift’s propane tank, stop the service valve immediately and take the forklift in an open space. This will make sure that the gas in the fuel line is spent and there is no accumulation indoors. Afterward, inspect everything to find out the source of the leakage and change any fitting or seal if necessary.

An image of frosting caused by propane leakage

Figure: A propane leakage can cause frosting nearby

How many gallons does a forklift propane tank hold?

It depends on the propane tank weight. A 20 lbs propane tank holds 4.6 gallons of propane while a 40 lbs propane tank holds approximately 10 gallons of propane.

How tall is a 33 lb propane tank?

A 33 lbs propane tank has a height of 2 feet or 24 inches. It is approximately 1 foot in diameter.

Is it bad to let the propane tank empty?

Yes, you should not let the propane tank empty completely. When it is empty and left open, air and moisture can enter the tank. Moisture causes rust, which reduces the rotten-egg smell of propane. As a result, a leakage will remain undetected in the future.

Our recommendation

If you have a decent-sized operation, having several propane tanks at hand is very important. This will make sure that you can quickly swap propane tanks and resume your operation. However, selecting good quality propane tanks is of paramount importance. We recommend using good-quality propane tanks and accessories for your safety. At Lift Parts Warehouse, we sell high quality 33 lbs 8-gallon steel propane tanks at a great price!

Are you looking for accessories for your propane forklift? Lift Parts Warehouse offers the best quality propane tanks, tank parts, and accessories at a reasonable price. Order now and enjoy same-day shipping and 100% guaranteed fitting!