People panicked and started buying fuel after a cyber attack on a pipeline that supplies 45 percent of the gasoline sold on the east coast. This has led to fights, vehicle fires, and even an emergency bulletin from the Consumer Product Safety Commission urging people not to pour gasoline over an open flame.
This unprecedented surge in demand – reportedly two to four times higher than normal – is even causing some stations to run out of gas. At the time of writing, GasBuddy.com reports that 68 percent of North Carolina gas stations are running out of fuel. In Georgia, it’s 49 percent and in Virginia, it’s 54 percent.
Most worryingly, panicked buyers are using inappropriate containers to store and transport additional fuel or attempting to move these containers in an unsafe manner. There are even Reports of people using buckets and maybe even plastic bags and loading these containers into their cars while they are filled with a flammable, harmful liquid.
At a briefing, Energy Minister Jennifer Granholm compared the situation to “hoarding toilet paper at the start of the pandemic” and said drivers needn’t worry. The Colonial Pipeline resumed operation Wednesday evening and gasoline supplies are expected to return to normal over the next week.
This is a teachable moment. In certain circumstances it may be necessary to bring extra fuel with you or to keep it at home. But you have to make sure that you do it safely. Let’s start with some basic guidelines and then move on to products that allow you to follow them.
How to Use Portable Gas Cans Safely
“It’s really important that we use extreme caution when filling portable gasoline cans with a pump,” said Tim Regan, chief fire officer, National Park Service. “Gasoline is an extremely volatile, refined product. It can catch fire, explode, and burn quickly. “
Use only approved containers
A can or container designed for gasoline has a seal of approval from either the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Gasoline can melt some plastics and similar materials. Even if this does not cause a leak, residues of these materials can destroy your vehicle’s fuel system or engine. And unapproved materials or caps can cause dangerous steam leaks.
Never carry a portable gas can in the passenger compartment of a vehicle or keep it in your home
To maintain a safe internal pressure, approved fuel tanks are designed to vent fuel vapor at high ambient temperatures. This can create fire hazards – a garden shed that exploded a few years ago in England due to leaking fuel fumes – and a dangerous build-up of toxic fumes in enclosed spaces. Gasoline fumes contain carbon monoxide, which can cause drowsiness and nausea even after very brief exposure and can cause brain damage or death over long periods of time. Gas cans can also release steam when empty.
Only fill gas cans 95 percent
The fuel expands with increasing temperatures. Leaving an air gap prevents spillage.
Place the gas cans on the floor before filling
Yes, this prevents fuel from spilling into your truck bed or all over the outside of your vehicle. More importantly, it will reduce the chance of a static discharge, which will create a spark and ignite the gas you put in the can. Many pickup beds are lined with plastic or a similar non-conductive spray material, which will prevent the can from making a ground connection and a fire could result.
Wipe the can clean
When you are done filling, wipe spilled fuel off the can before loading it in or onto your vehicle. Again, even a small amount of gasoline vapor can ignite, and any vapors you breathe are really bad for you.
Secure the can
In a 35 mph crash, a full 5 gallon fuel tank turns into a projectile that flies forward at 1,872 pounds of force. That’s enough to kill someone easily. Whether you’re carrying a fuel can in the bed of a pickup truck or on your roof rack, it needs to be securely attached.
Use the gas
Gasoline has a shelf life of three to six months. After this time, it becomes less flammable and components of it can separate, reducing its octane value. Your engine will have trouble running on stale gasoline. It could shut itself off when idling, using less power, and switching on and off when accelerating. All of this adds up to expensive engine damage.
Trying to transport fuel in cheap plastic fuel tanks, which we all use to fuel our lawnmowers, may be enough to get you home from the gas station. When driving off-road, at high speeds, or over long distances, you need a more sturdy container that can be securely attached to your vehicle.
(Photo: Wes Siler)
Jerry Cans ($ 45)
“Jerry” was the nickname given by American troops to German soldiers during World War II, and this 5-gallon design was developed by that country’s military prior to that war. The name was retained and Jerrys is now the universal solution for transporting extra fuel. These things, stamped out of steel, are sturdy and impermeable. They’re also incredibly common, which means there’s a huge ecosystem of mounts and accessories. I buy my canisters from Harbor Freight. They’re of the same quality as anything else I’ve found, but they’re about half the price.
AT Overland Jerry Can Holder ($ 135)
A good Jerry can The bracket allows you to carry all of the extra fuel on your roof, bed or tailgate in a package that is safe on the go and from theft, but still easily accessible. AT Overland’s solution is the best I’ve found. Simply drill holes to reach the attachment points of the rack or solution used, then secure the top strap with a padlock. Canisters can be carried either upright or standing on their backs, as long as the angled fuel spout stays up and this holder allows either orientation.
RotoPax (from 77 USD)
I used one of these AT Overland holders to carry a canister from Montana to Baja Sur and back on my Ford Ranger. And it rattled every minute of every mile – for 6,000 miles. I’ve always wondered why RotoPax is so expensive and found it out the hard way. As soon as I got home from that trip, I pulled the jerry can off and screwed a couple of two-gallon RotoPax in its place. Despite their name, each carries roughly 2.5 gallons, so both together give me the same fuel capacity. The unique selling point of RotoPax is not the container itself, but the unique screw bracket with which you can screw it onto practically any vehicle surface with absolute security. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes so you can carry several from a motorcycle to an airplane.
Long-range fuel tanks (starting at $ 1,900)
Do you want to talk about real willingness? An additional fuel tank can add 40 gallons or more of fuel capacity to your truck, tripling your range. All in a safe, convenient package that guarantees you won’t have to worry about spills, fire or fumes. I installed a 12.5 gallon Long Range America unit in my wife’s Land Cruiser. That’s two and a half Jerry cans worth extra gasoline, all in a pack that is filled from the vehicle’s normal fuel filler cap and works invisibly to the vehicle’s systems. When the stock fuel tank is almost empty, just push a button on the dash and those 12.5 gallons will pump in and refill the truck while on the move.
Twelve and a half gallons are enough to increase the range of our Land Cruiser from 300 to 450 miles. something we use to make camping trips easier in remote areas. But if we keep it full every day, we’ll be ready to respond to events like the East Coast fuel crisis at any time. The tank is mounted high and between the frame rails and takes up otherwise unused space. Had we chosen to move the replacement part to a special carrier at the back of the truck, we could have included a 40 gallon auxiliary tank. That would be the range of the vehicle over 800 miles.
I can only imagine people equipped with a setup like this watching the long lines for fuel straight from their sofa, content with the fact that the best way to avoid a crisis is to get up on time prepare one.
Main Photo: Elijah Nouvelage, Getty Images