Tuesday, December 6, 2022

More about those jerrycans...


A few days ago, I posted an article referring to Commander Zero's blog and a discussion there about jerrycans for fuel storage.  It attracted quite a lot of comments and attention, and I thought some of them were worth sharing in a follow-up post.

First, a long-term cyberspace friend sent me a very long e-mail about how he stored his spare fuel.  He signs himself (for publication) "Your Friend From The Mountains".  With his permission, I'll republish what he had to say.

RE: Cmdr Zero's NATO can post. If I may.....

Get extra spouts. Lots of extra spouts, nothing else fits NATO cans. Get extra spout gaskets as well (Lexington Container has them, the ones from Amazon are Chinese and don't fit real​ NATO cans; do not be surprised if a little scalpel work is required on the LexCon gaskets to get a good gasket-to-spout fit). I find gaskets in regular use (about every 10 days) last about 2.5 years, which sounds like a lot but get them now while they're available.

The factory spouts - the ones for the cans at Cmdr Zero's link - have a limited life. The rubber "flexible accordion" section lasts about 18-24 months of use before flexing during use starts cracking up the rubber and they begin leaking. They, as delivered, are also too short to reach most gas fillers. Two solutions: Lowe's home center plumbing department has 1/2 inch gavanized nipples for tubing (they also have plastic and brass, no need to pay extra for the brass and the plastic ones will crack eventually). Insert the galvanized nipple into the rubber flex section on the spout and attach 5/8" ID / 3/4" OD clear plastic tubing to the other end of the nipple. I use 16 inch lengths of clear plastic tubing and have never found a gas filler on a car or truck that I cannot reach with it. I STRONGLY recommend using wire to secure the nipple into the flexible rubber section and the clear tubing onto the nipple - for many years I've used stainless safety wire on everything from racing karts to motorcycles to aircraft, so I always have a supply of various diameters on hand, and a 1-pound container of .041" is about $24 at Amazon and will last a lifetime .032" will work, too, but I would not go smaller and bigger is too hard to work with. Safety wire is very cheap insurance. The 3/4" tubing fits perfectly into the unleaded hole in gasoline fillers. BUT - if it ever comes loose from the flexible rubber section of the spout it WILL fall completely into the vehicle's filler neck. Good luck getting it back out without completely disassembling the entire filler neck assembly ( I had to do that once with a friend's truck - avoid it at all costs. An ounce of prevention is the watchword here, because not only is it a very large hassle taking the filler neck apart, it will always occur at exactly the worst possible time.).

Option #2 is remove the flexible rubber section of the spout completely and use a 16 inch length of 1" ID clear plastic tubing. Heat it a little with a hair dryer to make it flexible and slide it over the metal portion of the spout (when you remove the flexible rubber section you'll see a brass filter screen,  feel free to remove it if you want. I took all mine out). Safety wire tie the clear tubing to the metal spout to make sure it stays in place - if if ever slides off while you're filling a vehicle gasoline will go EVERYWHERE but into the tank. Lowe's plumbing dept also has galvanized adapters that are male threaded on one end and 3/4 inch ribbed on the other - the male threads are for 1 inch threaded connections, the ribbed nipples are 3/4" in diameter. The threaded portion goes into the 1 inch tubing, the 3/4" end fits perfectly into unleaded filler necks. Safety wire tie the threaded adapter into the clear tubing. This is the fastest emptying solution - I can pour 20 liters (5.3 US gallons) of gasoline into a tank in about 45-50 seconds. That's about 9 seconds per gallon which is another reason to take extra steps with safety wire to prevent the spouts from coming apart during use.

Whichever solution you use, the clear plastic tubing will start to yellow from use and become slightly less flexible. I've been using my modified spouts for 5 years now and they still work fine. I do have, however, several feet of clear tubing in both sizes vacuum sealed for long term storage (I use my Food Saver Vacuum Sealer a LOT to vacuum-package long term storage stuff).

I also suggest getting at least 2 extra 20-liter cans, beyond whatever you need for gasoline, to use for clean K-1 kerosene. Over the years I have procured several Aladdin lamps (OK, more than "several"....) and they will require kerosene, as will a couple backup heaters I have for the garage. When "dark" becomes the American standard (no or random electricity) having some light is necessary, and Aladdin lamps do that very well. So do "railroad" lanterns, not as brightly or efficiently, but better than candles. FYI, the railroad lanterns make excellent summertime low-intensity patio lights.  Don't forget spare parts, for Aladdins it's wicks, mantles (LOTS of mantles, they're very fragile once they're used), some glass chimneys. Aladdin makes wall-mounted versions that are very useful; FYI, a LOT of heat comes out the tall Aladdin glass chimney, so be careful how close to the ceiling you place a wall-mounted Aladdin lamp.

For the railroad-style lanterns, a roll or two of wicks and a glass globe or two is about all (it varies from brand and model to brand/model, but probably 3/4" or 7/8" wide wick is what you need. Cut to length, install, let it soak up kerosene for a while before lighting). The glass globes are make and model specific, so get them to match whatever lanterns you get. It's also handy to have a 1 gallon or 2.5 gallon NATO can to use for refilling lamps, lanterns, etc. with funnels. Trying to handle a 20 liter can and fill a lamp with it is a losing proposition. I put about a gallon of kerosene into a 2.5 gallon NATO can and fill lamps outdoors with a funnel that way. FYI, Deitz railroad-style lanterns, in whatever model, are the gold standard on quality.

For gasoline I use PRI-G for long term storage. Cmdr Zero reported good results with it so I tried it, stored 10 gallons of non-ethanol gasoline for 3 years with PRI-G in NATO cans, used it in a mower, a generator and a vehicle, and the gas was fine; the gas was stored in an insulated shed where the summer temperature never went above 88-90F.  FYI, 10 ml of PRI-G per 20 liters is the right ratio. I use a 10 ml "baby medicine measure" and long-term store only non-ethanol gas. I will store some ethanol gas - my local supermarket has their own gas pumps and provides "gas points" when you buy groceries as a sales advertising gimmick. Last month I bought enough on-sale food items to earn 30 cents/gallon discount, so I used it to fill four 20-liter cans with ethanol unleaded, which I will use over the next month and since I will use it quickly there's no point in putting PRI-G in it.

. . .

You want to carry enough gas in NATO cans to refill your tanks once if you have to bug out - may I suggest a trailer hitch-mounted carry basket for that.

I have one for my truck - most require a 2" square hitch, which is common except for the hitches on smaller cars which are 1.5" - and mine is 60" wide so it will hold 4 NATO cans laying flat OR 9 cans laying on their backs (except for one end can - it can be at either end - which needs to be on its front face to fit)  (A NATO can is 18.5" tall, 14" wide and 6.5" thick). This does 2 things - it keeps gasoline OUTSIDE the vehicle and makes the gas cans more readily accessible. They will need to be covered with something to hide them from view. I have never carried full cans in it but I have tested it with empty cans. I have a 15 ft length of plastic coated security cable (Lowe's, Home Depot or Amazon) and a large, heavy high-security Master padlock (keep spare keys in several places) to secure the cans to the carrier but if they cannot be seen it reduces the "conflict potential." During a bug-out I'm sure any truck with a carrier mounted will attract attention.  I will still cover them (dark colored waterproof tarp) and wrap a "spider-type" bungee over the tarp to hide them from view.

RE: spouts. Take one extra spout and test it for fit, then carry it in the vehicle's tool kit, in addition to however many other spouts you have.  Nothing else wil lfit a NATO can and if something happens to your spouts having X gallons of gas but no way to get it into the tank can be a catastrophe. Home Depot does Black Friday sales on Milwaukee headlamps, I buy a couple every year when they do, and put them in strategic places were I think I might need hands-free light. I wrap one around that "emergency spare" NATO can spout in the tool kit. Just in case. I also made a "universal adapter" with some 1/2" EMT electrical tubing (fits through the unleaded gas port in fillers), some 1/2" thin-wall PVC, and the necessary fittings to adapt a piece of 4" PVC on top as a makeshift funnel. The EMT is easily bendable (I have both a 1/2 and a 3/4 EMT manual bender) so I bent it and put it together to exactly fit my truck and sit on the edge of the outer gas door so I can use both hands to pour from a container; I left the bottom end of the EMT long so, worst case, if someone can hold the "funnel gizmo" I can pour into almost any tank from almost any fuel can.

Thanks, buddy.  Useful information and good ideas.  Like my correspondent, I use PRI-G as a fuel stabilizer to preserve my gasoline in storage, and I only store non-ethanol gasoline.  The reason for the latter is twofold:  it stores longer and "cleaner" than ethanol-added gas, and it works much better in small engines (lawnmowers, chainsaws, generators, etc.) than ethanol gas.  There are a couple of gas stations around my area that sell it, for about $1.00-$1.50 per gallon more than regular ethanol-added gas, and there's also an airfield where one can buy aviation-friendly automotive gasoline.  I think it's worth the effort to drive to wherever non-ethanol gas is available, and pay a premium to fill my jerrycans with it.

As for jerrycan spouts, I'm in two minds about them.  Yes, they work well for their intended purpose;  but one can achieve equally good results with a simple funnel, costing a lot less (often no more than a fifth the price of a spout).  Also, spouts may not fit other fuel openings in small tools, etc.  Generally, I prefer funnels.  YMMV, of course.  Gaskets are very important, more so than spouts, IMHO, because they provide the airtight and leakproof seal between a jerrycan's cap and its neck.  A poor-condition gasket means that the gasoline fumes will escape and pollute the air, as well as create a fire hazard.  If you've ever traveled in a vehicle with leaking gas fumes seeping into the passenger compartment, you'll know that this is VERY BAD NEWS.  Get more gaskets (I suggest at least one spare for every two jerrycans you own, if not one apiece, plus a few extras), and every time you open or close the can's cap, inspect the seal to make sure it's in good condition and seals properly.  If there's any doubt at all, replace it.

Another useful tip:  if your hand, arm or upper body strength and/or mobility is limited, consider getting a cheap stool of a height that's close to the gas cap of your vehicle (something like this one, for example).  You can balance the jerrycan on the stool while pouring the fuel into the funnel, thus taking most of the weight off your body.  Given my back injury and lifting limitations, that's a very useful thing to have - and you can take it with you if you have to "bug out", to make handing fuel containers in the small hours of the morning (and possibly very uncomfortable temperatures) a lot easier.

I'm in two minds about trailer-hitch-mounted cargo carriers for carrying gasoline.  I think there are a number of obvious drawbacks:

  1. It's relatively easy to steal gasoline containers from them, no matter how well you try to secure them.  A bolt-cutter will make short work of even a padlock and chain.
  2. There's the collision risk.  What happens if someone rear-ends your vehicle?  The gas cans will almost certainly rupture and spill their contents.  If a spark happens along, that could be fatal.
  3. A loaded hitch carrier can interfere with the opening of the back door of a SUV or hatchback.
  4. There's also the weight and balance issue.  Full 5-gallon jerrycans weigh 35-40 pounds apiece.  In a lighter vehicle (e.g. a small car or SUV), having a couple hundred pounds hanging off the back may affect center of gravity, handling, etc. in unpredictable ways (although larger vehicles are unlikely to be affected as much).
Those issues may or may not be important to you.  At present, because of them, I don't use a trailer hitch carrier for gasoline;  instead, I would rather move other baggage to the hitch carrier to make room in the vehicle's cargo area for the cans of fuel (because jerrycans, properly maintained and used, won't leak gasoline fumes, so they're safe to carry inside a vehicle).  I certainly would not recommend carrying them on the roof of the vehicle, even if a roof rack or carrier is available, because that has many of the disadvantages of trailer hitch carry (and, in a rollover, there's the obvious danger to the occupants).

Commenters on the original post also made some good points.

  • Dov Sar:  "Another thought for those who drive a diesel; many people use home heating oil, and that can be used in an emergency for diesel. Most tanks are 275 gallons;; that is a lot of spare fuel for an emergency."
  • Nick Flandrey:  "I keep a lot of propane on hand too, and have shifted most of my 'first line' fueled preps to use 1 pound bottles of propane. Stove, lantern, heaters, hot water, and now generator. (The gennie uses a BBQ bottle, not a small one.)  Switching to propane gives me a much more stable storage situation, makes it easy to start up my gennie on short notice, and saves my gasoline as a backup (for my bigger gennie) and for transportation.  And for a real world anecdote, during Ike, I ran my generac 4800 gas gennie for 14 days while we were 'grid down'. 10 gallons a day, if run 24hours. Which you don't do, because at night it attracts very unwanted attention. That experience led to adding the inverter based honda, it isn't as capable, but it is very quiet compared to just about any other gennie ... Oh, have some extra empty gas cans so that if gas is available, you can easily get some. During Ike I had spare empties with me whenever I went out, and if I found gas that didn't have a line, I filled them. Never had to stress about finding enough gas."
  • Xoph:  "Don't forget things like bar oil, fuel oil for your chain saw, spare chain, spare bar. Also spare oil, etc. for your generator. Might even want to have a full overhaul kit available.  Get some battery operated freezer monitors and alarms. That way you can run your gen only when needed.  A solar panel, a car battery and an inverter can add extra life to your fuel storage (can't plan on sunshine, but it's quiet and can give peace of mind over night. Also while powering the freezer you can recharge the battery).  Propane is good, not as energy dense as gas, but simpler maintenance wise."
  • Jonathan H.:  "As mentioned above, don't forget about thermal exposure - store gas in as cool a place as possible.  Out here in the desert, the garage get REALLY hot in the summer so stored gas, even with stabil, doesn't last long."
  • Hightecrebel:  "Just so people know, Stabil is for short-term storage - think storing something for a season or two. It's not designed for truly long-term storage.  For that you need something like Pri-G (gasoline) or Pri-D (diesel). There are other brands that are similar.  I've stored gasoline (no ethanol) with Pri-G in surplus Jerry cans for three years, in an insulated shed, with temps the shed ranging from -10F to 118F. And all this about 800 yards from the Atlantic ocean, so plenty of salt in the air. I've seen diesel stored for six years in similar conditions used in vehicles and heaters without issue as well. I wouldn't normally recommend storing it that long, but it can be done if you forget to rotate a can or have so much stuff stored in the way you can't get to it."

Thanks to all of you for your input.



heresolong said...

Aladdin lamps will heat up your room, sometimes uncomfortably hot. Ask me how I know. They are spectacularly bright and very attractive however. Be warned that the one you buy at the antique store cause it's only $75 will cost you $250 in parts to finish. You may need a wick adapter if it's an older model, mantles for sure, a shade holder, and a shade. Aladdin lamps require K-1 kerosene or Aladdin lamp oil.

Kerosene smells quite strong when it burns. I occasionally light my railroad lanterns (Dietz) and the house then smells like kerosene. So I don't do it often.

Dietz lanterns are readily available but don't buy the cheap new ones made in China. Antiques in good condition can be found for $25 or less if you just keep your eyes open.

I have 15 gallons of Kerosene in the 5 gallon cans it came in. Anyone know if there is some advantage to transferring it to the above mentioned cans versus just leaving it in the original cans>

Now I need to go buy some mantles cause it's been on my list for a while and I forgot.

Arthur said...

When using both gasoline and kerosene, be very careful to label both. It is very dangerous to put gasoline in kerosene equipment. The gas will evaporate - potential fire/explosion.

We had a kerosene refrigerator explode on my mother when a mislabeled gas barrel (instead of kerosene) was loaded in the refrigerator. Eventually the gas fumes exploded. Less likely with an Aladin lamp, but still ...

Unknown said...

I highly recommend a fuel transfer pump like this:


Don in Oregon

nick flandrey said...

I forgot to mention, my wife can't lift a 5 gallon can to refuel the gennies, and there are times when I don't feel too good about it for that matter.

I've been using a hand pump for that reason, and it is remarkably handy. Get one for fuel, one for water.

harbor freight has them, but so do other places.


One critical mod, put hose clamps around the connections, that is where the thing fails. And you might want a clothes pin or small spring clamp to hold the hose in place so it doesn't accidentally pull out of the can or tank. Since the hoses are plastic, you could add an inline fuel filter if you wanted too.

I use mine to fuel the gennies, to easily refuel my truck, and to transfer good fuel out of a can that has water in it, as well as for maintenance (sucking out fuel tanks that have some debris or water in them.)

There are more expensive solutions, but I've had my original pump for a long time without issues (other than needing to add the hose clamps.)


Orvan Taurus said...

I have several Dietz lanterns, all of new (Chinese) manufacture. The NON-76 models seem better built perhaps to less-worn toling? For something akin to the 76, it's worth the few more bucks to get a Feuerhand 276 - uses the same wick size and the globes are interchangeable.. but the Feuerhand Suprax (borosilicate) globes are superior.

I have AN Aladdin - wall mounted with measurements taken with great care multiple times. It's great, but finicky. You do have to learn how to start it gently and work it up _slowly_. I'd suggest, despite the maker's listing of things, using Kleen-Heat in such. It's FAR better than the K1 suggested (after their own fuel..) and even (UNTAXED, CLEAR) pump kero beats the jug of K1 for not being eye-wateringly nasty. Recently the mantles have come back into availability can be had for about $25 rather than scalper pricing on ebay ($60+!!). It's best in cooler weather, as an Aladdin at good brightness is also a 1000W heater. Great in a MN Winter. Likely not so welcome in a Southern Summer. The additional gimmick to keep bugs out is a Good Idea, but it make extinguishing a bit trickier. Have a "pot holder" you don't mind getting a bit charred (that, an OLD, WORN one) to tip things back into place or keep from getting out of place. Do NOT use it to actually GRASP the setup. It ***WILL*** char worse - fast. Guess how I know.

Orvan Taurus said...

As Arthur says.. that is why containers are color coded (and hopefully even most case of color-blindness can see the difference).




While kerosene and diesel are close, diesel has stuff to aid engine life, and kerosene (generally?) does not. But you all knew that, of course

Jon said...

Bayou -

Good gouge on fuel storage.

We’ve long used a flexible spout metal funnel for refueling from jerry cans or saf-t metal cans. Cheap and convenient. Good to have several around forhandling automotive fluids of all sorts.

RE: jerry can seals. Yes they go bad. Permatex gasket compound works. We use the black oil resistant type designed for engine heads. A good general product to have on hand. Also good addition to AR charging handles as a diy gas buster.

Steve O said...

Here north of the 49th, several chain stores carry a product called the Pocket Pump ( http://www.pocketpump.ca/index ). Similar to the portable pumps that several others have talked about, this is a great way to save muscles and avoid spills. It isn't a siphon pump, as it can pump 'uphill' the full length of the hose. The big advantage is that it's cheap, so you can get several (and bulk buy some D batteries to power them). One of the best uses I've found is to refill a boat while on the water - no spill inside or out, and fast. I use the same pump for diesel and gas; I wouldn't want to use it for drinking water too - but that's why I have extras sitting on the shelf. Now I just have to get some extra tubing, so that I can repair the inevitable hose cracks. Thanks for the good advice.
I'm not affiliated with the company in any way, just a satisfied customer.

Peter said...

Pictures would be VERY helpful! Thanks!

Night driver said...

UHMmm... That brass screen in the various spouts is a FIRE STOOP screen, designed to stop a flash-back flame from going PAST the spout and explosively igniting the contents of the can. I'm thinking I'd keep them in where they might be.

Night Driver.

Antibubba said...

Dov Sar: "Another thought for those who drive a diesel; many people use home heating oil, and that can be used in an emergency for diesel. Most tanks are 275 gallons;; that is a lot of spare fuel for an emergency."

It better be an older diesel. If you wouldn't run biodiesel through it, don't run this.