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gasoline container

Storing gasoline seems to make a lot of sense.  Gas prices keep rising, and if you believe we’ve hit peak oil—which we probably have—prices could go up exponentially.  Conflict in the Middle East continues, and that could lead to diminished supply of oil.

On a smaller scale, if your community experienced an emergency, delivery of gasoline would almost certainly be delayed, possibly at the time when you most wanted to get out of the area most affected by disaster.  Without gas (or if gas becomes prohibitively expensive), our lifestyles will change considerably.

But, what if you could just store a bunch of gasoline, kind of like you’re storing a bunch of food?  Then, in an emergency, life would be considerably easier.  You could leave town if you wanted to.  You could run a generator, and keep power even if electricity was out in your region.  Obviously, this would be advantageous—you could run your fridge, or charge your phone, or keep driving when fuel prices skyrocket.

My husband and I are convinced that storing gasoline is worthwhile, and we have recently added fuel to our emergency preparations.  Today I’ll give you a very basic overview of gasoline storage, and next time we’ll talk about other sorts of fuels.

Here is the first rule of gasoline storage: The very best thing you can do to store gasoline is to be sure that you keep your car’s fuel tank full. Don’t let your gauge get down to a quarter tank, or anywhere near empty; instead, try to keep your tank as full as possible.  Try to gas up every time you get below ¾ of a tank.

This works well for a few important reasons:

1.     Your car gets better mileage when the tank is full, anyway.

2.     Gasoline in your car gets rotated regularly (and effortlessly).

3.     Most areas do not count the gas in your vehicles toward limits on the amount of fuel you can store.

4.     You don’t have to worry as much about containers, safety, and liability.

But you want more than that, don’t you?  We’re talking about serious preparation, right?  Don’t people store more fuel than they already have in their cars?

Well, people do sometimes.

The second rule of gasoline storage is that you will need to check with your local government to determine legal limits for what you are able to store, and how you are required to store it.  Also check with your home insurance, because they often have limits to what they will cover.

If you store more gasoline than you are legally able to, it can become a massive liability.  If, for instance, you happen to experience a house fire (so sorry!), and your excessive gasoline storage ignites, at best you can be sued for damages, or at worst, charged with manslaughter.  It is pretty important to stay within legal limits.

Just to give you an idea, the limit where I live is 30 gallons.

The third rule of gasoline storage is that you need to keep your gasoline in containers made for storing gas.  It is really easy to find appropriate plastic containers—they are available at gas stations, home improvement stores, and supercenters.  The most common size is the 5 gallon jug, although you can get smaller gas containers (which are usually used for lawnmowers and so forth).

If you use another plastic container, the gasoline will gradually disintegrate the plastic, and it can seep out.  This is actually pretty dangerous, so stick to plastic containers made for storing gas.

There are also metal containers for gasoline, and they are generally considered to be better than plastic ones.  I’m not really sure why, but I wasn’t able to find any metal containers to buy anyway, so using plastic was an easy decision for us.  If you do have access to metal gas containers, be sure that you keep the containers “grounded” because otherwise you could have problems with static electricity igniting fumes from your gas.

Never, NEVER store gas in glass containers!  Gas naturally expands and contracts, and it could burst the glass, creating a big hazard.

On a related note, when you’re filling the containers, remember to fill them while they’re on the ground (not on the back of a truck).

The fourth rule of gasoline storage is that you will need to add stabilizer to your gas.  Gasoline simply does not last very long.  Within a couple months, your gasoline can become basically a shellac (or varnish) if you don’t add stabilizer to it, and if it does, you can cause serious damage to your car (or any other engine) if you try to use it.  Stabilizer is inexpensive and readily available.  We use STA-BIL brand, and it has been great so far, but there are a lot of choices and I’m not making a recommendation here.  Even with stabilizer added to gasoline, you’ll still need to rotate your supply periodically.  The recommendations for this vary—stabilized gas should be good for at least one season, and the longest it will potentially last is two years.

The fifth rule of gasoline storage is to store your gasoline in a safe place.  Keep it out of the sun.  Don’t store it near something that ignites (don’t keep it near anything with a pilot light).  Keep the gasoline in a place separate from your house, like a garage or shed. This is important because the containers sometimes emit vapors, and you don’t want to breathe them.  Plus, if you were to have a fire, gasoline that is not stored in your house will lead to much less damage.  In a lot of places, storing gasoline underground is illegal, so don’t plan to bury your gas unless you’ve really researched it and obtained permits.  Never mix gas with other fuels, or try to use gas for things that require other fuels.

So, there you go!  That is a basic summary of gasoline storage.  If you want to store gasoline, start with keeping your car tank full.  If you decide to store more, stick to the legal limits of your area.  Use approved containers, and add stabilizer.  Then, just keep the gas in a safe place, out of direct sunlight.

Are you storing gasoline?  Most people can choose to keep their car’s fuel tank full, but if you live in an apartment, storing additional gas may be difficult.  It’s okay, though, because gasoline isn’t a great candidate for long-term storage anyway.  Next week we’ll talk about other fuel options, and some of the pro’s and con’s of those.

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21 Responses to “Storing Gasoline?”

  1. Rock

    Thanks for a very helpful and informative article, Emily. Although while we are now apartment dwellers and storing gas is not feasible for us right now, I did intend to do so once we’ve moved back into a house. The knowledge that gas does not keep long was a revelation to me, so I’m guessing the extra can I’ve been keeping in my trunk is no good anymore.

    I wonder why it’s illegal to store gas underground? I would think that is as safe a place as any.

    • Emily

      Rock –
      Yeah, if you have extra gas in your trunk, unless you added stabilizer, it’s long gone.

      As far as storing gas underground goes, I think it’s because it can be really dangerous–if your container gets a small crack, or if you use the wrong sort of container, the gas can seep into the surrounding soil and cause huge problems that are really hard to clean up. It can contaminate water, etc. In Utah, I’ve heard there are things you can do to set up a private gas station, and then you are able to store gasoline underground, but you have to follow a lot of regulations and it is extremely expensive, so only a few people have done it.

  2. Norma

    Emily great article.

    It took me a bit of time to find a jerry gas can that is metal. They are more expensive than the plastic versions but well worth it. I bought one but don’t want to say where :-( because I mentioned a homeopathic product a few months ago that I put in my first aid kit that helps calm nerves (which is great during an emergency) and she didn’t post it. But the metal jerry gas cans used by the military back in the day are out there. Thank you for your articles and Rock and Yonis. Have a great day! :-)

    • Emily

      Norma, I’m so impressed with the progress you’ve made! You can mention where you got the gas can if you want. We actually get a whole lot of spam comments, so when we’re going through trying to figure out which ones are real and which ones are not sometimes it is hard to tell the difference, especially for comments that mention specific products. Real suggestions from real people are always welcome :) (Now you have me curious, what was the homeopathic product?)

  3. H8zgray

    Great post Emily.

    Norma, I agree with you regarding the preference for metal gasoline cans; I purchased a couple at a major home improvement chain here locally, (one word name L#$@’s) and I carry a five gallon Eagle brand metal gas can in my car as well as one in the garage for the mower. Also, to agree with Emily, Sta-Bil as a gasoline stabilizer is great, whether for gasoline or diesel (which incidentally stores much longer than gas) and is relatively cheap. Anyway, thank you again for the info.

  4. Billy

    Sta-Bil is great stuff and a must use for E10 gasoline. I use it religously in everything, especially because of the E10 (10% by volume) ethanol used in gasoline today. For gas storage, it’s better to find a station that also sells 100% ethanol free gasoline and use it for your emergency storage fuel and not E10 gasoline. It cost about 9 cents more per gallon, but is well worth it, as it will not go bad as quick- and the key is to store it in a proper gasoline storage container with a tight seal to keep it fresh. Gasoline with ethanol has problems when stored for very long. The ethanol will separate from the gasoline after sitting for a period of time. This is called phase separation or de-mixing. Once this happens, you can shake it until the cows come home, but it will never remix and if used can cause engine damage. Ethanol is a biofuel made from fermented corn and is a solvent. It dissolves plastics, rubber, some fiberglass and aluminum. Ethanol attracts and retains water also. That is one of the main reasons to use Sta-Bil. So, find the station that sells 100% free ethanol gasoline and use it for storage. These stations can be found near boating stores, lakes or marinas because marine engines can not tolerate E10 gas.

    • Emily

      Hi Rick,

      It depends. We realized we were supposed to add stabilizer a couple months after we started storing gas, so we just used it in the car a little at a time so that it was really diluted with good gas, and that worked fine.

      If the gas is really old, there are several places you can check; it just depends on where you live.
      – Many auto shops can dispose of it for you.
      – If you look in your phone book in the government section you can call the hazardous materials people and they would be able to tell you.
      – If you take it to your nearest landfill (or maybe call first) they will either be willing to take it or they can tell you who will.
      – You could also check with your fire department, and they would probably know too.

      Good luck. It’s too bad gas doesn’t keep very well, but better to know it now than to discover it’s bad when you actually need it, eh?


  5. tom

    Glad I’m not the only guy who thinks storing a little gas isnt a bad idea. My every day truck has an aux tank + primary for a total of 80 gals. My boat holds 20, and my second truck holds 15. these are always kept full ( or near full). I usually keep a few fivers around for fueling other stuff, lawnmowers, weedies, blowers, etc. I do use the StaBil in some of it. The bottle says 1 yr storage, but if you double the dose, it says 2 yrs. I have heard that higher octane fuels will store longer too. I usually rotate well before those times come. Also my camping stoves will burn gas, and one is propane. Also a propane camping grill, with plenty of those 1lb propane throwaways. They last forever. Us country folk will survive.

  6. Louis

    I have lived outside of large cities most of my life, and always stored extra gas for autos, generators, snow blower, splitters, and chain saws. A product a friend off the grid down under swore by was PRI. Their website explains what it does to stabalize, and preserve gas, diesel, and two stroke mixes. To put it mildly, it blows Sta-Bil away. I just used some 3yr. old gas for my chainsaw mix, and have kept the same gas in a generator for up to 5yrs without any problems, I start it up once a yr., shut the gas line off, and run the carb dry. Check out PRI Products, or PRI Additives. No I’m not a salesman, just passing on info from a very satisfied user for over 15yrs. Blessings to All!

  7. Ian Law

    Gas will not do you any good if there is an EMP your car will not run anyway!

    • KW

      Unless of course it is an older car with a carb and no fancy computer chips.

  8. Brendon

    Thanks for the writeup. I must disagree with point #1 for keeping your gas tank full. You will notice slightly worse mileage if you keep your tank above 3/4 than if you keep it between 1/4 and 1/2, as it adds roughly 1 to 2% to the total weight of your vehicle, and is more weight you have to accelerate. Although, for the purposes of having that security, 1% decrease in fuel economy may be worth it (and can be recovered by careful driving techniques.)
    Here in Edmonton, AB, the maximum amount of gas you can store is 30 litres.
    Curious as to what the limit is elsewhere.

  9. Jen

    I have two 2-gallon plastic safety cans that I have emptied and now need to get them to the gas station to refill them. I don’t have a station near my home where I could just make a quick trip there and back, but I do pass one on my way to and from work. What would be the safest way to transport my cans in my car and leave them all day while I’m at the office, so I can fill them on my way home?

    • Emily

      Jen, if they’re empty, I think they are all right to just keep in your trunk. Definitely a good idea to fill them on your way home, though, and not on your way to work so that they’re not sitting in your car all day.

      • Jennie

        Why would keeping the gas in the car be a bad idea? I am currently in NYC where Sandy hit last week and gas is still a hot commodity. I finally filled my tank up again but now my question is : Should the 5 gallon plastic container I have in the trunk with gas in in be removed? If so how soon after the gas is placed inside?

        It is a gas plastic container but I don’t want anything to happen to me or the car so I’d like to know. Thanks again

        This article taught me a lot about gas and the storage when living in a house. I live in an apt building btw.

  10. Shim a

    Good write up. There really is no gas saving driving around with extra gas but I like your other points. In my case I plan on buying a couple of 5 gallon jugs but only filling prior to obvious events like an incoming storm. The if it’s good I will just top up the car.

    It should be noted that siphoning gas from modern cars is typically very hard due to a valve in the tank stem.