How to Protect Your RV’s Propane Tanks from Theft


Propane Tanks Locks and Security for RV’s and Travel Trailers

In a world of diverse opinions, we can usually all agree on at least one thing: gas is not cheap. But, it’s a necessity in most people’s lives and needs to be purchased one way or another.

A propane tank is a very common way to store, use, and transport gas. You can use it for fuel in a variety of ways – heating, cooking, or in my case, an energy source for barbecues, portable stoves, or motor vehicles.

Many campers like to use propane tanks to fuel their cooking, heating, and lighting, but some may worry about leaving it out in the open during the night. Believe it or not, folks will try to steal propane tanks for their own use or to make a quick buck. In fact, the number of propane tank thefts has risen in recent years.

It’s important to learn the proper way to store your tanks during a camping trip.

There are several different kinds of tank locks, valve locks, tank covers, and do-it-yourself techniques to help prevent theft. Read on to learn more about them and see some excellent products.

Tank Locks

Propane tank locks keep your propane tanks secure on your trailer or RV. They are uniquely designed to attach to the threaded rod that’s located at the middle of your trailer or RV’s propane tank holder. These locks will secure two propane tanks together while they are mounted on your vehicle.

Propane Lock(Dual)
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Many tank locks that you can buy are very easy to install. They typically only require a pair of pliers or a wrench and come with one or two nuts. You can replace what was in place on your trailer before—often a wing nut—with the parts included.

Once the lock is in place, you can use a padlock of your choosing to secure it permanently. The propane tanks will stay securely on your trailer or RV until you unlock them. These locks keep your propane tanks safe from thieves looking to make a quick grab.

Valve Locks

Valve locks, also called valve lockout devices, are locks that are designed to close off a variety of pressured valves. While some of these valve locks are simply to ensure the valve stays off while you move or carry pressurized machinery, others complete cover the valve and prevent access.

To use a valve lock, you most often will place two pieces connected by a hinge over the valve. There’s then a place to lock it off using a padlock. By using these devices, you render your propane tank useless to others because they won’t be able to use it.

There are a few different kinds of valve lockout devices:

  1. Gate valve lockout device
  2. Ball valve lockout device
  3. Butterfly lockout device

The gate valve lockout device is most similar to the description above. It resembles two half moons that come together over the entirety of the valve. Once in place, you put your padlock through the connecting hole, and you’re good to go; no one will be able to access the valve and therefore can’t use the propane.

A ball valve lockout device is one that clamps over the valve lever. While the valve is still accessible, blocking the lever means you can’t get to the propane inside anyway. This produces the same result: the tank is useless to thieves.

Finally, the butterfly lockout device is very similar to the ball valve, but instead of clamping the valve lever, it fits between the compression handle and the lever. When you slide the wedge of this lock between the compression handle and the lever, you can’t squeeze the compression handle to operate the valve.

All three of these options have proven to be highly effective. While they don’t technically secure your propane tank itself, they make it unusable to anyone who doesn’t have the key. These locks discourage thieves from going through the trouble of stealing a tank because, in the end, they won’t be able to use it anyway.

Single Tank Covers

Tank covers are a great way to not only keep your tank hidden and secure, but to protect them from things like debris, sun exposure, and animal curiosity. Single tank covers come in soft and hard vinyl material and various sizes. They also give you easy access to your valves.

Generally, single tank covers are designed to blend in with your RV or trailer. Since they are sitting out in the open on the back, it can be pretty obvious that you’re carrying propane. For both legal and safety reasons, it’s good to keep your propane on the outside of your camping vehicle and in obvious sight, but when you have reached your campground, you don’t want them to stand out to criminals. “Hiding in plain sight”

Outland Firebowl UV and Weather Resistant 740 Propane Gas Tank Cover with Stable Tabletop Feature, Fits Standard 20 lb Tank Cylinder, Ventilated with Storage Pocket
  • DRESS UP YOUR TANK - Transforms ugly standard 20 lb (5 gallon) propane tank into a functional tabletop and attractive outdoor feature for your...
  • CONVENIENT DESIGN - Perimeter zippered top allows for quick access to valve, elasticized stretch bands on both sides ensure easy & effortless...
  • DISTINCTIVE ATTRIBUTES - Draw cord on bottom ensures a tight fit for a stable tabletop, six ventilation grommets provide ample air flow, and...
  • WEATHERPROOF AND WATER-RESISTANT - Durable UV & weather resistant fabric adds an insulating layer to help prevent tank freeze. Use anywhere...
  • PERFECT COMBINATION - Perfect for use with your Outland Firebowl propane fire pit, outdoor grill, camp stove, heater or any other outdoor propane...

Single hard tank covers are made to be highly durable, handling flying debris when you’re on the move and when you’re parked at your campground. Easy to install, anyone can tackle this project.

The soft vinyl covers don’t offer as much protection, but they require much less installation. With Velcro closures, these covers just slide over your tank and stay in place as a weatherproof, inconspicuous cover that hides what you’re carrying.

Duel Tank Covers

In the same way that you can get single tank covers—both in soft and hard vinyl—you can also get them in duel sizes to cover two tanks at once. With the same protection and easy access as single covers, duel covers an excellent solution when you’re packing twice the propane. Covers are just that, a cover. Not a box. A solid trailer tongue box and lock is what you’ll need for putting your tanks in.

Duel tank covers are especially important for a few reasons. For one, you are carrying a larger amount of propane and therefore may be a bigger target for theft. At the same time, a duel tank cover prevents thieves from seeing whether your tanks are locked or not.

While we highly recommend locking your two tanks together onto your hitch, we also understand that schedules are busy, and some things are left forgotten—like buying that new propane tank lock.

With a duel tank cover, a thief would have to undo the cover first to find out if you have a lock or not. By the time they do that, someone is bound to notice. With that risk, there’s a good chance they won’t try at all.

Soft vinyl covers allow your propane tanks to blend in with your vehicle, but they also provide excellent weather protection. However, the hard covers offer additional protection from animals and flying debris that might hit your tanks while you are on the road.

The hard covers require more installation, but they are usually pretty easy to attach, and the security you get from them is very much worth it.

DIY

If you’re a frequent outdoor visitor like myself, you’ve probably tried to tackle quite a few tasks and problems with the do it yourself method. If you know what you’re doing, this method can be extremely useful and save you quite a bit of money. Additionally, a successful DIY project tends to make a camper feel pretty proud of themselves.

Here are some of my favorite DIY propane tank security measures.

Cable Locks & Chains

Cable locks and chains are both very popular ways to secure your propane tank. In fact, you may already own a bike lock—whether it’s a chain or a cable—that will fit right through the top of your propane tank. As long as your hitch has a secure and strong place to loop your chain or cable through, you can lock your tank to it.

Most cable locks have combination codes, whereas a chain will require you purchase a combination or key lock to put through the links.

Drill & Lock

You probably already know where to place your propane tank on the back of your RV or trailer. When you place your tanks, there is a bar that sits right on top of both tanks (given you have two). The threaded rod in the middle usually has a large wing nut. We mentioned this earlier when we discussed propane tank locks that you can purchase.

However, instead of purchasing an expensive lock to replace this wing nut with, you can actually drill a hole between the wing nut and the crossbar.

With this hole in place, you’re able to place a padlock right on your hitch, securing both of your tanks.

Or just put a large Master-lock all the way around the spinning “wing” portion of the clamp.

The Fake-out

This last tip is certainly not full-proof, but it’s always made me chuckle and is something I would recommend using in addition to one of these other methods, or a purchased lock.

Some campers like to label their tanks as “empty.” There are two ways of doing this.

Empty Tanks 🙁 

One strategy is to print a very official looking label that says “empty” with a date on it. An official label makes it look as though you have taken your tank to a company to get it tested and it turned up empty, so that’s how the company has labeled it.

The other strategy is to make your label look extra unprofessional, as though you were camping one night and ran out of propane, so you grabbed a marker and scribbled empty on it so you would remember when you got home.

Both of these strategies depend on the level of intelligence and naivety of the thief you’re up against, so as I said—I highly recommend only using this method in addition to one of the others.

Happy Camping!