Every time I am using a gasoline can to fill a mower, chainsaw, molotov cocktail, etc., I am annoyed by the safety mechanisms on the pouring spout.
I know the safety mechanisms are there for a purpose (safety!) but I also know that the real dangers with gas cans are when you take the spout off and fill the thing: if it falls over, or the guy at the pump next to you is smoking (this is Pennsylvania!) a cigarette, or something, you can be in the middle of your very own fuel/air bomb. The most important thing for gasoline safety is to get humanity to stop using the stuff. The second most important thing is to keep it enclosed, and it doesn’t matter what kind of pouring spout or can or whatever you use. In fact, I swear that I have spilled more gasoline dealing with safety pouring spouts than I would if the can just had a straight flexible spout.
All of my various gas and kerosene cans have replacement pouring spouts that are the very simple kind with a screw cap and a flexible tube. No silly spill protectors; I’m not going to drop a can full of gas and stand there while it glugs out. You can buy replacement spouts for very little.
I admit I get a bit grumpy when I have to spend a cent to solve a problem that was caused by a solution to a problem I don’t think I have.
But, even the straightforward spouts have a problem: there’s no vacuum relief. As you pour from the can, the air in the can forms a vacuum and the pouring stops until the can “burps” or you burp it, or lower it so that it can breathe. That’s another way of spilling gas all over the place, thanks to the attempt to make gasoline cans safer.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood there, waiting for the can to burp, thinking, “I wonder if there is some way to build a spout that has an anti-siphon in it? Sure there is – you’d need a tube coming alongside the gas, that carried air and exited above the level of the gasoline in the can. But I’ve never seen one of those. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, it just means I’ve never seen one of those.
The other day, I got a small chainsaw (this is about the 5th chainsaw I’ve owned and this one is small so I can carry it in my truck) and that meant more gas-pouring and standing around fuming in the fumes. So I mentally bookmarked to get some replacement spouts and when I went to find them (at a certain huge online retailer that is gobbling the world) it offered me up, under “people who bought that often buy this” – air pressure relief valves. Holy crap what a great and obvious idea! I feel so stupid! Here I am, having this problem for decades, and someone solved it very simply a while ago. I guess I did not do my research. I have never seen that done before.
It’s a simple valveless valve body, with some O-rings and a washer and a nut. Getting it into the can was a bit of a trick – you drill the hole, then feed a wire through the hole until it comes out the pouring opening. (It helps if the can is empty while you are doing this, btw) (but if you are stubborn…) Then, you position the bottom half of the valve body on the wire and make a knob on the bottom of the wire so you can pull the threaded bit through the hole without having to fumble around trying to catch it.
There you go!
This is going to save me several minutes annually! I am not sure how to quantify any safety-loss in terms of risk. I don’t think my gas can is more dangerous.