Be super-careful with gas can usage

photo: Pixabay (public domain)

By Greg Illes
Gas cans aren’t dangerous, but gasoline certainly is. It burns with furious heat, runs all over the place when spilled, and can explode under some circumstances. It can be touched off with even a small static-electricity spark. Despite the dangers, many people elect to carry gas cans (with gas in them) for various reasons – generator gas, spare gas, ATV gas, etc.

If you are going to carry gasoline in containers, there are some safety precautions that will help you avoid some of the most common accidents involving gasoline.

• When filling or transferring, always electrically ground the gas can. Use a length of chain or metal cable so that static electricity cannot build up, or set the can on the ground. NEVER fill a can while it’s sitting (insulated) in a pickup bed.

• Don’t carry your gas can(s) in places where they might be easily struck and ruptured in a vehicle collision.

• Don’t use containers not intended for gasoline.

• Don’t use containers that weep or leak. Even though they don’t lose much gas, they build up pockets of explosive fumes.

• Keep gas cans secured, not just stowed away in a cargo bin.

• When (not if) you spill, use cat litter or similar absorbent to help clean up. DO NOT use water to try to flush the gas away.

If you are going to keep gas around for a while (more than a couple of weeks), you will want to add a fuel stabilizer in the correct ratio. This is essential to preserve the gas in its intended formulation and prevent it from degrading. This helps prevent rusting in metal cans, and makes your engine(s) run much healthier.

DISCLAIMER: Please understand that this short article is not intended to be a comprehensive set of instructions. and the author cannot in any way be responsible for your safety in handling of gasoline. You alone must choose how to store, carry and use gasoline in a safe fashion. Be safe, not sorry.

Greg Illes is a retired systems engineer who loves thinking up RV upgrades and modifications. When he’s not working on his motorhome, he’s traveling in it. You can follow his blog at


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Barry Beegle
3 months ago

If I may, gas cans are dangerous. With these new OSHA cans, I spill more fuel during the transfer than I think I get into the vehicle. Also, can’t get it all out of the can.

3 months ago

I fail to understand how a plastic 5 gal. gas can being filled in the bed of a pickup could spark. Possibly a metal can could, but plastic? Please explain this to me. I have been filling plastic cans in truck beds for many years and I’ve never had any indication that “sparking” is a real thing. An Urban Legend” perhaps? Thank you!

Sink Jaxon
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom

I’ve always wondered the same thing…the gas tank in ANY vehicle is plastic, but IT doesn’t have to touch the ground when being filled, right? So what’s the difference??

Bob Robinson
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom

Impossible for plastic to create a spark…period..But using your head when handling a fluid that can kill you ..take all precautions so filling on the ground or concrete is no big deal..I connected a nitro-us Oxide male to my fuel pressure line check connection [already there by GM to check fuel pressure problems if any so no drilling or anything just connect the threaded fitting and done}under my hood and a female to a 8 foot rubber gas line hose with a brass ball valve plus 9″ more inches of hose and just start my truck and the fuel pressure delivers gas to my plastic container for my generator..Male & Female quick disconnect fitting were about $40..made in Buffalo area and bought the rubber gas line at NAPA..Brass valve at a plumbing I have a 35 gallon gas tank on my Chev.2500 P.U. so with a full gas tank protected in the chassis of my truck by GM all is I carry 8foot of rubber hose and anywhere we go we got gasoline to help a fellow camper or ourselves..Nitous fitting are rated at 1100 psi but not necessary other than never will leak or seep..

3 months ago
Reply to  Tom

I agree with the confusion. If I use a plastic can sitting on the ground, how is that “plastic” can grounded. The plastic itself insulates it from the ground.

Ron V
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom

Spark can be generated by plastic p/u bed liner.
I have not seen it or have it happen but always sit can on the ground.

Tommy Molnar
3 months ago

Remember the old days when gasoline tankers all had a chain dragging on the ground? Guess that wasn’t such a good idea because you NEVER see that now.