Gas cans, long-term fuel storage, fuel transport, and the peerless Scepter gas-can used by the U.S. military Reply

Specter-Military_Fuel_Can-36ReadyBlogIf you’ve been in the military, chances are you have seen the Scepter fuel can.  In our experience, these are the best and safest fuel containers available in the general-use market. They are far superior to both the ordinary red-plastic and red-metal gas cans widely in use. In the last decade, plastic gas cans are almost the only type of gas container you can find in retail stores.  The old-style steel “Jerry-can” has become too costly to produce.  Chinese made Jerry-can knock-offs are available, but these are generally substandard in quality– and you don’t want to skimp when it comes to the storage of an explosive liquid such as gasoline. In addition to lower manufacturing cost for plastic fuel cans, they have also become popular because they are less prone to leak over time and exposure to abuse.  The red-plastic fuel cans available today, with semi-rigid sides, are generally better than the old Jerry-cans for this reason. What to Buy:  A fuel can labeled with a U.S. Department of Defense number, indicating that it qualifies as “ mil-spec” is generally your best bet.  The U.S. military has very high standards. Of course, many products claim to be mil-spec when they are not, so be sure to look for a procurement number stamped into the side of the can.  This is the best validation.  (By the way, there is even a brand name “Mil-Spec” which tries to capitalize on the mil-spec reputation of quality, and most of their goods are definitely not mil-spec).  Specter_Fuel_Can-36ReadyBlog-SmoothCapSpecter Fuel Container U.S. military-surplus 20-liter (approximately 5.3-gallons) plastic-looking fuel cans are by far the best choice.  New ones are available, too, but they are oftentimes staggeringly expensive. Positive Features:  1.  Far more durable than consumer-grade fuel containers;  2.  They don’t leak fuel or fumes, even when exposed to temperature fluctuation;  3. They are reasonably lightweight;  4. They have an internal vent mechanism which provides a smooth flow when fuel is poured from the container;  5.  They are far safer in a fire, and in a traffic accident, than consumer-grade fuel containers. The U.S. military gas cans are made by Specter, a company based in Canada.  A genuine Specter fuel container will have the “Specter” brand name, and “Made in Canada,” molded into the plastic on the side of the can.  (It will also say “U.S. Government Property” or “Military Use Only,” but don’t let that put you off.  With the winding-down of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the government auctioned thousands of these cans.) Scepter Military Fuel Containers (Gas Cans) are made out of tough injection molded polyethylene, not just ordinary plastic.  Though Specter cans may look heavy in appearance, they are actually relatively lightweight due to the advanced materials and manufacturing method used. U.S military surplus Scepter fuel cans are usually sand-color (tan) or olive drab (green), but occasionally you will find them in yellow.  The Specter cans made for the civilian market are similar in appearance, but have a high-visibility yellow check-strap attached to the lid. Caution: Blue plastic cans, including those made by Specter, are for water-only.  They do not have the same safety features as the Specter fuel cans. Also, Specter water cans can be found in the same colors as the fuel cans.  These do not offer the same design features and safety as the containers made for transporting fuel.  You can quickly tell the difference between a Specter fuel can and a Specter water can, by the distinctive small-spout built into the larger cap of the water can. specter-water_can-36ReadyBlog-Arrow (2)Photo on Left: Arrow points to distinctive spout on the water can, whereas the Specter fuel container has a plain, smooth cap (see above photo). Negative Features:  The only downside of purchasing Specter fuel cans is that it may be difficult to find a spout.  And, they are apparently illegal for use in the State of California.  Go figure. In any case, it’s easy enough to make a spout for the Specter if you can’t find one to purchase.  Another option is to buy a flexible metal gas-can spout at an auto supply store which may fit the inside threads of the Specter can.  (Unfortunately, this is a trial and error process). If you find a good deal on Specter fuel cans, but can’t get a spout from the same vendor, it is still worth buying the cans.  They are extremely popular and getting hard to find, so don’t delay. If you purchase a used U.S. military-surplus fuel can, be sure to rinse it with gasoline before filling it with fuel.  Let it sit outside for a couple of days with the lid off so the contents can fully evaporate, before you fill it.  Diesel and gasoline cans are made in all three military colors, so if it is important to you to get a can that has only held your type of fuel, follow the link at the end of this post to view a look-up table of model numbers. Other Fuel-Storage  Containers Gas_Can-NATO-wSpoutIf you can’t find a Specter fuel can, NATO fuel cans can be an acceptable alternative.  However, these other “mil-spec” gas cans are a mixed bag, and in our experience, none of them come even close to the quality of Specter.  But whether you a mil-spec NATO can or a genuine Specter, be sure to inspect it closely before making your purchase.  These containers are extremely durable, but they aren’t indestructible.  A can that leaks isn’t a bargain.  Keep in mind that a painted and scratched Scepter can still be very serviceable, and the faded exterior can often be restored using rubbing-compound purchased at an auto supply store. Gas_Can-RustAnother caution:  Most of the surplus mil-spec NATO fuel cans are metal, and used metal cans have a tendency to leak due to internal corrosion, or paint-covered rust along the seams.  With this in mind, it’s best to buy them from a store which will let you return them if they are defective. By the way, these NATO fuel cans are a risky-buy if they are second-hand (used) and you purchase them online.  This is because surplus goods are often sold by the military due to the fact that they are damaged or defective.  You can mend a torn army tent, but repairing a damaged fuel container is more difficult.  Unfortunately, it’s commonplace for resellers of surplus goods to put a fresh coat of paint on a rusty gas can.  Above Photo:  Inside of new NATO gas can nozzle (left), and repainted gas can (right) showing rust inside the freshly painted fuel can. Also, be sure to purchase fuel-can spouts from the same supplier, as it is sometimes impossible to find spouts for NATO fuel cans.  A big funnel may work, but it’s messy. Used cans made by Specter generally cost between $50-100, which is considerably more than an ordinary plastic gas can purchased at Walmart, but there is no comparison in quality.  And, no comparison in regard to safety, either.  This safety-issue is a very real concern if you intend to store gasoline, not just temporarily transport it.  Gasoline and diesel fuel can be stored much more safely in a Specter fuel can than a standard red-plastic or metal gas can. Never transport fuel inside the cab of a vehicle.  The fumes can be deadly. Only transport gasoline or diesel fuel in a container made for this purpose.  It is too dangerous to store or transport fuel in a container that is not specifically made for this purpose.   Fuel Treatment for Long-Term Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Storage PRI-G_Pint-New-LabelIf you store fuel for more than a couple of months, it needs to be conditioned with either PRI-G (gasoline) or PRI-D (diesel) stabilizer.  Be sure to purchase the right PRI product for the type of fuel you are storing. If you know you will be storing the fuel for more than a few months, be sure to add PRI to the fuel container before you fill it.  The filling action will help to thoroughly mix the PRI treatment compound with the fuel. Similarly, if you plan to store a vehicle or fuel-powered equipment, it’s a good idea to add the PRI to the tank and then top it off with additional fresh fuel.  This will not only help the PRI mix with the fuel that was already in the tank, it’s also a safer way to store the equipment.  With gasoline, it’s the fuel vapors at the top of the tank that are combustible.  As a result, a full-tank is generally less of a fire hazard, and a full-tank will also diminish destructive moisture condensation. Another fuel-treatment product, STA-BIL, is more readily available but it does not provide nearly the same level of protection.  In our tests, gasoline treated with STA-BIL was marginal after just 18-months, and completely unusable after 24-months.  Whereas with PRI, independently conducted tests indicate that PRI-treated fuel can be stored for 5-6 years if it is re-treated annually.  Consumers have reported successful use of PRI-treated fuel after 12-years of storage. Also, with PRI, even old fuel can sometimes be brought back to life.  Just give it a double-dose of the appropriate PRI product, and make sure it is well mixed with the fuel before trying to use it.  If the fuel is in a vehicle, the fuel lines need to be purged of the old fuel before trying to start the engine. As to the PRI fuel-treatment product itself, it will remain fresh for decades, as long as it is properly stored and the container remains unopened.  Once opened, PRI should be used within three years. Fuel Transport and Dispensing Remember, if you are transporting fuel, the container needs to be strongly secured. Bungee cord attachment is not enough.  The container needs to be held securely, so that even in a traffic accident it will not become dislodged.  In most States, you can receive a traffic citation if a fuel container is inadequately secured.  But that’s not the main concern.  More important is that traveling on-road or off-road, a loose fuel container may become a deadly missile and cause injury or death. Gasoline weighs around 6.59 pounds (3.9 kg) per gallon, so a 5-gallon gas can that is full of fuel, can easily weigh 35-pounds (16 kg) or more.  So a dislodged gas container can be more dangerous than a duffer with a sledgehammer. Dispensing:  Be sure to test your fuel-can and nozzle, together.  Don’t assume it’s going to work, nor that you can handle the weight of a full can of fuel. Even if you can handle the weight and you are able to pour the fuel into your vehicle, you may want to use a siphon instead. Self-priming siphons (with an anti-static hose), such as the one illustrated here, are an easy solution for fuel transfer.  With minimal training, even a young child can manage this task, but they should be supervised as fuel transfer can be dangerous.  For the syphoning process to work, remember that the fuel container needs to be higher than the tank of the vehicle.  The siphoning process depends on gravity to work. A funnel with a long neck (illustrated in the photo on the left) is also a handy addition to your fuel-transfer kit.   The long neck of the funnel simulates a gas station’s fuel-pump nozzle, and this can help un-restrict the flow of fuel during the transfer process.  This is noteworthy because most modern cars have an anti-theft device in the neck of the filler pipe.  Though some siphon hoses may be rigid enough to bypass this anti-theft device on your vehicle, it may worth having one of these long-neck funnels, just in case. Be sure to test your fuel-transfer method and equipment before you actually need to use it.   Links to Manufacturers and Additional Information: Specter – Manufacturer’s Website:   http://www.sceptermilitary.com/ Specter Fuel Can Look-Up Table by Part #:  http://www.sceptermilitary.com/fuel_containers/product_table_1/ Article with additional detail on Specter fuel cans:  http://www.pangaea-expeditions.com/scepter/index.html PRI Fuel Treatment Products:  http://www.priproducts.com/preparedness.cfm Fuel Siphons:  Only use a siphon device which is actually made for the transfer of gasoline, as other siphons may have parts which can cause a fire-creating spark.  Not all self-priming siphons perform the same.  We recommend that you purchase a siphon with a semi-rigid hose that has a large diameter, as it will transfer fuel much faster. Super Jiggler:  http://www.superjiggler.com/#pro Safety Siphon:  http://www.safetysiphon.net VDP Super Siphon:  http://www.vdpusa.com/universal/super-siphon.php