Fuel Cans / Tanks, Their Evolution - Good / Bad




Over the years we have experienced numerous "IMPROVEMENTS" to our fuel containers, both automotive/lawnmower and boating types.  And somewhere along the line gasoline cans now have to be RED for identification purposes, kerosene cans will be blue and diesel cans yellow.


It seems that between 2008 and 2012 the governmental EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) had to have been influenced by Al Gore's global warming and the greenhouse gas created by us humans, and followed California's "Clean Air Act".  This essentially solved a problem for which there was NOT a problem, but created headaches for many of of the US population.  Can you just imagine all the spilled and evaporated fuel or fumes that was created every day by humans, and they (EPA) had to devise a method of saving us from ourselves.  "I'm from the government and am here to help you".


There was way more air pollution after the large forest/brush fires in the US during 2015 than fuel vapor created by boaters or homeowners mowing their lawns for the last 20 years.


Apparently the Federal EPA gives guidelines as to the new law involving fuel spill/vapor emissions and the manufacturers have to come up with their own designs, which leads to many different "Solutions".  Part of their requirements are  "There shall be no fluid leakage from any point in the spill-proof system or spill-proof spout.  The spill-proof system or spill-proof spout shall automatically close when the spill-proof spout is removed from the target tank, seal and remain completely closed when not dispensing fuel, as specified in Air Resources Board Test Procedure".


 Automotive Type ;    There are so many different styles of cans AND spouts that it would be about impossible to show all, but of those I have come in contact with will be described below.  My type description may not be in a actual time frame, but just what I have seen in the evolution and different manufacturers.  


(A) For many years we manages to stumble along using 2 1/2 or 5 gallon metal gas cans that could only have had just a threaded cap on one of the top ends.  Some of the 5 gallon cans may have had a short built in metal spout.    (B) Then AFTER WWII the 5 gallon GI cans became available as surplus.  These used about a 12" flexible metal spout that snapped into the threaded can outlet that used a screw in cap for transporting.   (C) Then along came the "Plastic", polypropylene cans in many sizes and shapes from round to rectangular, with Blitz being the manufacturer.  These usually had some sort of plastic flexible spout that could be pushed down into the can, then capped with a small cap.  These usually had a small vent that could be opened or closed on the opposite side of the can.  (D) Then we say again the polypropylene type cans, but these came with a convertible cap/pour spout that could be reversed so the spout went inside the can and the cover acting as a cap for transporting, again from Blitz.  These usually had an internal small vent tube inside the spout that functioned, sort of. 


(E) Then in 2012 along came the new EPA compliant can spouts, probably because of numerous lawsuits against the Blitz company, partly because of stupid user practices and greedy lawyers.  Most of these "Solutions" came with some sort of either internal or external stopper to prevent fuel vapors from an uncapped can from allowing vapors to escape and if under the wrong conditions lead to a fire.  Here an internal spring loaded stopper located at the outer inside end of the spout, which was activated by a small tab protruding on the tip of the spout when you push it against the receiver tank you are filling.  This spout could be set for a non fuel exiting safety devise by slightly rotating part of it.  This was the downfall of this system because on filling and as you got the tank full that you were filling, as you pulled the can away, IF this spout got even slightly rotated, the fuel going out kept on pouring when you removed the pressure on the tab. This could actually be dangerous.  (F)  Here we see another company's design, where the fuel stopper was moved to the inner end of the spout.  The problem with both #5 and #6 was that if you left the can mostly full of fuel AND it was a WARM day, the fuel, expanded and the tank also expanded, then if you tried to release this tab, fuel sprayed all over outside.  It also worked in reverse if the weather cooled down from being warm, as the can partly collapsed if it was only partly full, and again sprayed fuel out if you tried to pour more.

I had heard from a person who lived in California where a company was making fuel tanks and with the EPA's entrance into the fuel can/tank situation, that they closed this plant's doors because they figured that they could not effectively build a gas can spout that would work. 


In the "OLD DAYS" most fuel cans were simply some from of metal can, either 2 1/2 or 5 gallon motor oil cans.  Then after WWII ended we were blessed with lots of "War Surplus" items, metal fuel cans included (type A) .  These were well designed, being made to be in a shape that could be stored easily and were very durable.  They had a screw on spill proof cap and a flexible metal spout that had a rubber bushing which when the spout handle was activated, compressed the rubber into the cans threaded hole.  It also had a small 3/16" hole near the threaded can hole that vented the can. They also made a metal carrier that the can could be strapped into securing it for transportation.


Type A, old style, usually just a old bulk oil can Type B, the original WWII GI can
photo coming



Type C, utilizing a pull up nozzle, Blitz manufacturer Type D, this was probably the best before the NEW 2012 ones, Blitz manufacturer


Type E, also known as Spill Proof Spout model 4230, made by Midwest Can Company and only to be used on their model numbers 1200, 2300, 5600, 6600, 7600 and 8600 is designed with a protrusion tab on one side of the spout, usually on the underside which as you push the can/spout down on the lip of a fuel tank, it releases a O-Ring seal/stopper on the outer end allowing fuel to flow out of the can.  However it is so badly designed that so many times if you are filling a Chain saw, lawnmower etc. that when you get the fuel tank full and pull the can back and away, this end stopper does not shut the fuel off, spilling fuel all over.  This is really dangerous.  I do know two businesses who actually tell their customers to not buy these fuel cans.


The problem with both E and F systems was that if you left the can mostly full of fuel AND it was a WARM day, the fuel, EXPANDED and with the can sealed (no vent) the can also expanded, then if you tried to release these tabs, fuel sprayed all over outside.  It also worked in reverse if the weather cooled down from being warm, as the can partly collapsed if it was only partly full, and again sprayed fuel out if you tried to pour more.


They are made so that there is a smaller vent tube passage down the spout, which is good, however it restricts the actual flow of fuel going out. But the early models did not come with a rubber seal on the inner large part of the spout that allowed some leakage at the can juncture.  This was later remedied.


Many users have taken the spout, cut the inner white part off behind the stopper on the end, removed the inner plunger and spring, then epoxied the inner white part to the outer red part of the spout making it leakproof, doing away with this EPA "Spill Proof" BS.

Then along came type F  from Ameri-Can which moved the spring loaded stopper to the inner (can) end of the spout.  This can does have a vent system built into the spout.  The lock and protrusion tab to activate the stopper/seal needs to be pushed inward and then the tab rested on the receiver fill hole, then pushed in to separate the stop from it's mating surface in the spout, allowing the fuel to escape.  The can that I have seems to be generic in that no name is cast into it, only a stick on label identifying it as Ameri-Can.   The new style "Spill Proof" spout does not have a name of the manufacturer, only an arrow and "PRESS TO UNLOCK" on the spout near the latch and again an arrow and "REST ON RECEIVER TANK / PUSH CAN TO POUR".  This version does not have a outer cap on the end of the spout.


The one thing I see as an improvement over the old metal cans is that these new 5 gallon polypropylene tanks have another handle molded into the opposite side as the spout, which aids in the filling process.


Type E, one of the first NEW style Spill Proof Spouts also comes with a small red cap that threads onto the end of the spout,
by Midwest Can manufacter
Type F, here a different style that also has it's problems made by Amari-can

OK, shown on the left below is a different version, sold on Blitz cans, utilizing a hand operated lever that stops the fuel at the screw on can's opening.  This appears to be the best I have seen of these "Spill Proof" types.

Type G, a newer version & possible the best so far of the Spill Proof Spouts also from Blitz Type F, after a warm day, & some of the fuel being used, then a cool night, could partly collapse this can

OK, some American non governmental genius came up with a new spout system, being universal, which has two threaded nuts (both course & fine) to allow it to be fitted to the two most common threads now being used on cans.   This kit also contains an easily installed can vent that by drilling a 1/2" hole in the can and snapping in the vent.  But since the EPA's fuel requirements prohibit any variation of these bad EPA designs, this kit is labeled for water container usage only.  It is sold for about $13.50 by EZ Pour Spout as a "Replacements Spout and Vent Kit" that "fits most old style water jugs and cans", shown installed on a can in the left hand photo below.

Shown in the right hand photo below, of type F can/spout, you can see how this can being a closed, sealed spout until being released for filling, that after a warm day and the gas expanded, gas was used, then a cool evening when the gas returned to normal, that this polypropylene can collapsed because of vacuum.  But if you tried to release the internal vacuum by pushing the release button, this can spit fuel out the end of the spout.  The only way to get it back to normal size was to wait until a WARM day and set it outside in the sun so the gas would again warm/expand, pushing the sides back to normal.


Type H, aftermarket EZ Pour "WATER" spout can conversion   Type I, another try


Boating Related Type ;    (1) For many YEARS most small boat users had metal 6 gallon fuel tanks.  Depending on the brand of the motor, these tanks could have been pressurized or vacuum operated by a fuel pump on the motor.  The old pressurized OMC tanks (prior to about 1959) could not be vented.  There was usually a quick disconnect on at least the motor end and again this varied by motor manufacturer.  These vacuum tanks had to have a vent in order for the motor to pull fuel into the motor.  Here the motor's vacuum created by the 2 stoke motor (pulled off the intake manifold which acted like a fuel pump) sucked the fuel from the tank and then into the carburetor.  Or (2) later when the motors were equipped with a fuel pump, these tanks required a vent so the fuel could be sucked into the fuel pump, which pressurized the fuel and pumped it into the carburetor. 


Larger boats that use built in tanks also have to have a vented system, which could be separate or incorporated into the filler cap.  This is now changed.


Here you see the typical post 1959 OMC portable gas tank   Here is the typical aftermarket 6 gallon outboard motor portable gas tank


Below is an information sheet for NMMA Boat Manufacturers Division Members

Re: Guidance on the EPA Evaporative Emissions Regulations for Boat Fuel Systems (2nd Revision) March 31, 2009

The portable fuel tank manufacturers are aware of the evaporative emission requirements and the need to certify their product for diurnal emissions if the tank is built after January 1 2010 and permeation emissions if it is built after January 1, 2011.  And permanent gasoline tanks will need to be compliant with the new system as well.  However diesel tanks appear to be exempt.

for the 2012 EPA fuel requirement for boats, which in essence is the EPA's ruling of a new safety venting system.
Now all the new polypropylene aftermarket 6 gallon fuel tanks are required to be automatic venting.  A main criteria is that all fuel tanks have to be vented to operate, therefore they have be vented either automatically or manually.  These new tanks have a spring loaded automatic vacuum one way venting system in the filler cap.  The EPA says this fuel venting for the multitude of boaters out there is part of the US air contamination problem.  BULL SHIT, it's just like the doctors prescribing another medicine to counteract the previous one's side effects. 


However one of these that I have as a spare on my larger boat where I have all the fuel lines constantly connected to a valved manifold, these new tanks act on vacuum from the motor, but do not take into account for pressure building up inside the tank in hot weather if not connected to the boat's fuel line to the motor, so that quick connector from the spare tank to my manifold leaks a small amount of fuel when it the weather warms up.  I had to go into the tank's auto vented cap, and remove a light spring loaded check valve.  This valve was designed to open only when the engine drew fuel, but caused the tank to expand when warm enough so pressurized fuel constantly leaked out of my quick coupling at the manifold.


Carbon canisters that have been used in automotive fuel recovery applications for decades are now having to be used on new boats being built.  Boy, the large number of boats in our country sure are contributing to the greenhouse gasses/global warming issue, but Big Brother is here to help us.


Now you may also see another twist to this which is the Moeller company is currently making a new fuel line assembly with the ends and priming bulb that has a different quick connector at the tank end.  It is toted as a cure for pressure build up when you disconnect from the motor where this new IMPROVED unit is supposed to stop any leakage here.  However it replaces the tank connector fitting, so if you have more motors than the one that you are going to use this new tank on, you will have change all your tanks over OR buy the old style quick connector and replace the one on this new style tank with the older style connector. 



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Originated 10-07-2015, Last updated 01-18-2017
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