LP level indicators


New member
I recently acquired a '95 eurovan camper and my LED indicator lights always seem to indicate a full LP tank even when the tank is completely empty. I ran out of propane on an island without propane service last weekend and totally drained my aux battery to keep my fridge operating in the process. I am not sure but I think that this inaccurate LED guage is a common problem on the Eurovans. Is there anything I can do about it? I'm a complete newbie and leary of fooling around with the gas plumbing on the outside of the vehicle. Could the problem be something simple like corroded wire contacts to what appears to be the sensor module on the outside of the tank left of the overfill valve? Does anyone have any information about the operation of the LP level guages on the Eurovans?

[This message was edited by Capt. Mike on October 20, 2002 at 05:54 AM.]

Capt. Mike

Sorry for the long delay. I hadn't been able to find anything and just recently got the Eurovan manuals.

According to the Bentley, wiring diagrams X167-X172, there is no LP level indicator shown. The show indicators for the waste water tanks and several other sensors, but no LP electrical connections.

Are you sure you have an LP sensor & indicator? The older Vanagon's panel showed battery condition and fresh water tank level. It did have one other LED that showed when the fridge was on LP or DC.

Please check your owner's manual and be sure you have not misinterpreted the panel. And that any LP level indicator is factory.

Capt. Mike

willboy Junior Member posted August 06, 2002 02:39 PM

I mistakenly posted a question regarding options for a LP level gauge as a poll question. This was my first effort on the message board. I would like to get some information about the options for monitoring my LP level. I have an 86 Westy that doesn't have an LP level indicator light. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to monitor my LP level so that I know when to refill the tank?

A. Cooper Member posted August 07, 2002 10:57 AM

I've never seen a Westy with any kind of factory-installed LP level indicator, so I believe they were not offered. You might want to check with a good, reputable RV dealer who specializes in LP systems; perhaps there is an affordable and easily installed aftermarket in-line gauge available.

My local RV dealer also offers a cheaper alternative which I have been tempted to try: a small self-adhesive plastic strip with a color-coded temperature-sensitive indication, similar to those used on home aquarium sy stems. According to the directions on the package, you simply mount it to a clean spot on the side of the LP tank. Then, to determine the LP level, simply pour a cup of hot water over it; in theory, the portion of the tank which is filled with LP will quickly absorb the heat while the unfilled portion will cool more slowly, turning part of the indicator a different color. So you can clearly determine whether the tank is 1/2-full, 3/4-full, etc.. Perhaps not as accurate as a nice dial gauge, but more precise than tapping on the side of the tank with a screwdriver handle ...

Even cheaper is a simple notepad; next time you fill the tank, jot down the date, then simply make a hash mark for every day you use the LP for cooking and refrigerating. When the tank finally goes empty, count up the number of 'average camping days', and that's approximately how long your next tankful will last. Not nearly as precise, but it should be enough to roughly gauge your LP needs.

I find that even using the LP for 12 hours of fridge operation every night and cooking as many hot meals as we can eat, the LP lasts a heckuva long time; I've only filled mine a handful of times.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.

cps_98 Junior Member posted October 18, 2002 08:23 AM

Has anyone ever modified the LED panel to include a propane level gauge? I know the new Eurovan campers have this on thier LED panels but I was wondering if there was a way to do it for a vanagon. I have an 87 Westy and would love to make this modification so that I could tell how much propane I have available in my tank. Any info would be helpful. Thanks!!


The problem with level gauges for l/p is that the tank is always under pressure, pressure that changes significantly with tempature, but not so much with volume. (Try getting l/p out of a tank at -40!) Most gauges are simple floats that control the dial. (Remember that propane is liquid in the tank, the float floats on the liquid) The Westy tank is so small from top to bottom, fitting a float would have been dfficult.

Also, Capt. Mike, your thought about the tape gauges. They work by pouring hot (very hot in fact)water on the tape. The tape then changes colour due to the relative tempature of the tank where there is liquid vs where there is gas. They work (sort of) for large tanks, but are wholey impractical for the Westy tank (once again because it is so small not to mention the hassle of pouring hot water on your tank.

I just keep a log of hours burned and fill before I should run out.


Capt. Mike

Besides what is discussed above, the only level gauges I've seen basically measure pressure. As the tank level lowers, the pressure out lowers some. Thus a relative full/empty estimate. Notice I say 'estimate'. And adding a gauge into the Westy system between the tank and regulator is another problem . . . and leak/damage risk.

Folks, back up and consider what you're trying to accomplish. This is a camper to have fun with, not obsess about the technical. Daily LP fridge and routine cooking get a couple WEEKS out of a tank. So you fill up every couple weeks and it takes 1.2 gallons instead of 1.6, meaning you could have gotten a few more days. What's the issue? Camping or trying to get the maximum number of days out of a LP refill. Running out is a pain, but why did you let yourself get in that position anyway? I refill before every trip; I then refill every couple weeks during, and maybe top-off if heading into a remote, non-supply area for several days. I've got a Coleman stove because I'm not going to cook smokey/greasy things in the camper anyway and I've got the auxiliary battery for the fridge in a pinch. Sort of like the current cell-phone obsession -- carry one, yes; turn it on, heck no.