Fire extinguishers & plastic jerry cans - how long do they last ?

Submitted: Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 20:10
ThreadID: 133479 Views:4835 Replies:12 FollowUps:24
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Greetings All

Been cleaning out my shed and re-arranging things - BIG JOB over 4 days !

I have 4 black and yellow "Rheem" plastic jerry cans that have had diesel and petrol in them sitting empty on a shelf out of sunlight ( 12 years old ) and was just wondering how long would they last before cracking / leaking ??

They appear to still be in good condition - what do you reckon ??

Also found a 1 kg dry powder fire extinguisher unopened and still in the box which I'm guessing is about 5 years old - still good or chuck it ??

All the best

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Reply By: Dave Trees - Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 20:24

Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 20:24
I would chuck the fire extinguisher .... even if the gauge still shows it's OK, the contents can be partially or fully compacted. For a cost of $20-$25, why take the risk ?

If you are going to carry it inside a vehicle, get one with a metal rather than plastic bracket (often marked as "CAMS approved for motorsport" or similar) and DO NOT secure it with self-tappers ! Use small s/s bolts & washers. Even a 1kg extinguisher could become a deadly missile in an accident (I have witnessed at close range an extinguisher exiting a rally car via the windscreen in a rollover .... )

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Follow Up By: Member - Outback Gazz - Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 20:48

Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 20:48
G'day Dave

Thanks for the reply

I have recently fitted a new extinguisher in my vehicle so all is good there - just thought if the one I found today was still usable I would mount it on the shed wall somewhere ??

All the best

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Follow Up By: Member - ACD 1 - Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 09:42

Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 09:42
Dry Chem fire extinguishers should be inverted on a regular basis and shaken or tapped to loosen the powder. This prevents the powder from compressing.

I do this to my vehicle mounted ones fortnighnly and the ones mounted in my house on a monthly basis.

This is also a part of weekly checks on our Fire Appliances at the station.


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Follow Up By: Dave Trees - Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 18:59

Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 18:59
I've got a couple of "out of date" extinguishers in the shed that still show as being OK on the gauge ... but if they don't work it's not quite as serious as in the car.

Recommended life between pressure testing of the casing under the Australian Standard is only (I think) 6 years anyway - 3 for "harsh environments" which includes being in vehicles. A new one every few years is cheap insurance I think, given that the cost of getting the pressure vessel tested is significantly more the buying a new one ! (Anything under 9kg isn't worth getting pressure tested - cheaper to just replace).

As someone else said, if you have an out-of-date one it's actually worth using it to put out a fire for "training purposes", if you have never used an extinguisher in real life before !

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Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 20:57

Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 20:57
I have a bunch of the Rheems that would be at least 12 years old and they are good - been stored in the shed. To test a plastic jerry can, lay it empty on its side and step on it. Did this to some water jerries recently and they all failed - but they were 20 years old.
AnswerID: 604572

Follow Up By: Member - Outback Gazz - Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 22:45

Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 22:45
G'day Phil

Like that idea mate !

So if I lay my 50 yo missus on her side - step on her and she fails - do you think I should get a new one ?? lol ha ha ha

Thanks for the reply !!

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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 19:37

Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 19:37
My missus is 10 years older than yours - might be more brittle.... will try your suggestion and see what response i get :-)

Checked the age of the jerries - The black Rheem ones used for diesel were purchased around 16 years ago and are good.
The water ones that disintegrated were about the same age and were Willow brand - but they have spent their recent years at my daughters house in the Brisbane heat - I filled one up last Xmas and the side of it cracked and fell apart so I tested the others with my right foot and they did the same!
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Reply By: Member - Young Nomads - Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 21:07

Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 21:07
Hi Gazz

yep...chuck the extinguisher and the Jerry's.

For the price of new ones..upgrade...peace of mind

No need to risk getting contaminated fuel if your jerries have hidden residue/ rust in them.They could let you down

We have Protec plastic jerries for our diesel (yellow) as well a plastic (green)
This brand pour very well with no slop or gurgling

The diesel jerries are fume free..
They are stored in an airtight box in the front box of our any issues would have shown up there.

We have reluctantly just bought a gennie and now are carrying a small (10L) metal jerry of fuel... :(

We discovered our need for this on a recent long trip up north..the heat of the sun rendered our solar panels very inefficient!

AnswerID: 604573

Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 22:02

Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 22:02
I have some Rheem jerries that would be 23 or 25 years old (original, single cap ones).
They show no sign of deterioration.

AnswerID: 604574

Follow Up By: DiggZ - Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 22:52

Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 22:52
If the fire extinguisher has only been sitting in a shed it will hardly be compacted. Don't chuck it, light a campfire and use the extinguisher too put it out. It will be well worth the experience. Just do it safely and report back here on how you got on.
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Follow Up By: TomH - Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 23:20

Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 23:20
Any powder extinguisher will compact if left for an extended period If you shake it and cant hear any movement its unsafe A new 1kg one is about $22 and the time when you actually need one is not the time to find it doesnt work.
Chuck it if its more than 12 months old and buy a new one.
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Follow Up By: Member - Broodie H3 - Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 23:47

Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 23:47
don't know the make of our old black plastic jerry cans they still work and I think I brought them when we first got to Geraldton back in 79 , still work and they don't leak. They sit in the shed year in and out and occasionally go for a ride, and then come home again to sit around some more, they have a good life.
As for the fire extinguisher ditch it to many things can go wrong , better of with fresh blood in the extinguisher.
Broodie H3
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 09:45

Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 09:45
Make sure your plastic jerries are the correct type for the fuel they contain. ...... the plastic is a different compound.

I was under the impression that black or red jerries where for petrol and yellow jerries where for diesel, green or white for water.

Please check that your jerry is correct for what it contains.

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Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 09:59

Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 09:59
Plastic fuel jerries are made from a cross linked high density polyethylene. This material has huge impact strength compared with non cross linked versions of the material.
Colour is of no consequence and is for convenience only.
Water containers would not be made from that material, but there is no reason why a new fuel container could not be used for drinking water - we did so for many years because the containers are simply better.

OKA196 motorhome
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 11:19

Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 11:19
I'll say it again to make it clear ...... there are different plastic compounds for petrol, diesel and water.

The fuel Jerries that I have seen and own, have specific statements about what they are and are not suitable for.

Colour IS of consequence, because it indicates purpose.

Check the manufacturer information concerning what the particular jerries you have are suitable for.

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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 13:11

Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 13:11
I have just been checking some facts and some details.

Rheem ( now "Fuel Safe") made by VIP plastics lists the colour as cosmetic only.

Willow don't seem to provide much details but both petrol and diesel jerries are HDPE.

Then it gets a bit variable ...... get into the marine market and into the larger fuel cells you will find statements like.

"suitable for all fuels"
"suitable for diesel fuels only"
" not suitable for diesel fuels"

I have not gone much further ....... but it is certain many green jerries and most white/clear jerries are not suitable for fuel.

It is very important to check that the containers you are using are suitable for what you carry in them

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Reply By: gbc - Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 05:38

Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 05:38
I've never seen a rated plastic Jerry fail. I've seen them abused and blown up like pillows but not fail. Ive got one that would be older marginally but would not think of ditching it.
If you've ever done fire safety you have to vigorously shake the extinguisher before using it. It's just powder and gas so if you can feel the powder moving I'd keep it in the shed. Serviceable dry powder extinguishers are kept going for tens of years and guess how they get serviced and stamped.
AnswerID: 604576

Reply By: Member - Outback Gazz - Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 08:00

Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 08:00
Thanks everyone for your help on this

I will try Phil's test method today and if they survive my svelte 100 kg body then I will put them back on the shelf !!

Happy and safe travels

AnswerID: 604577

Follow Up By: Echucan Bob - Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 10:04

Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 10:04

just replace the "o" rings that sit inside the yellow plastic lids.

Other than that they will last forever (unless they have been abraded by constant movement against sharp surfaces).


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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 18:44

Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 18:44
We used Rheem jerrycans for close to 20 years, Gazz, carting bike fuel.

They were continually assaulted by rolls of barb wire, motorbikes and sundry teenage employees. Reckon they'd last forever, unless badly punctured.


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Can't remember most of it.

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Reply By: Murray48 - Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 00:26

Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 00:26
Re the extinguishers.
Pretty much agree with everything that has been posted.
Extinguishers have a 5 year life. The month and year of manufacture is stamped on the extinguisher, either on the base or the neck.
After 5 years they must be subject to a hydrostatic test and re stamped.
According to the standard, extinguishers must be serviced every 6 months so any extinguisher which has not been serviced according to the standard is considered out of service.
The price difference between a new 9 kg dry chem powder extinguisher (DCP) and having one serviced is minimal. It would not be worth having a 1 kg DCP extinguisher serviced in my opinion.
DCP does settle, especially if it is subject to vibration. Part of the 6 monthly service is to hit them with a rubber mallet to break up the powder.
Extinguishers mounted on vehicles should be inverted at regular intervals to prevent compaction.
I have seen extinguishers which are within service fail and I have seen out of service extinguishers work fine, there is no guarantee.
I service mine every 6 months and replace them every 5 years.
AnswerID: 604604

Reply By: Member - Outback Gazz - Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 09:23

Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 09:23
Greetings All

I gave the jerry cans the Phil G test and they passed with flying colours so they are now back in my now very neat clean orginised and uncluttered shed !

The fire extinguisher will be disposed of as it is stamped 5 years old and showed no signs of contents movement when tapped, shaken and beaten with a rubber mallet.

Thanks everyone for all your tips and advice - much appreciated !

Happy and safe travelling

AnswerID: 604607

Follow Up By: DiggZ - Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 13:45

Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 13:45
I would be pulling the pin and squeezing the handle, it won't do any harm and you will learn something. Either it works or it doesn't. Just do it outside.
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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 11:24

Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 11:24
I just purchased a new 2kg dry powder fire extinguisher for the OKA.
It came with a 10 year warranty.
I would therefore expect it might actually be good for 10 years, otherwise they might get a few too many claims?

OKA196 motorhome
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Follow Up By: Charlie - Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 12:56

Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 12:56
I swap mine every five years in the boat, I give it a shake every rego time and the old one has always worked fine when test fired before disposal.

My plastic water jerry is twenty five years old and the diesel one ten, both seem fine.
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Reply By: garrycol - Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 14:04

Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 14:04
Just about all the responses have highlighted the issues with dry powder and as a consequence I consider they are really to be considered not fit for purpose in use in vehicles - the issue of mess when used has not been discussed but I guess it is not such an issue when the cost of a burning vehicle is considered - bit does mean I would be reluctant to use one for a minor issue.

I am on some overseas classic car forums and they also have been discussing this issue - mainly the mess of cleaning up a concourse vehicle after a minor incident - many people overseas are moving to small CO2 extinguishers and small foam extinguishers - a type where the foam just wipes or hoses off after use.

So what are the thoughts on alternatives to Dry Powder for use in cars - the alternatives seem to work overseas but I have not seen these freely available in smaller sizes here.

AnswerID: 604610

Follow Up By: Member - Outback Gazz - Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 14:25

Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 14:25
G'day garrycol


I can vouch for that - about 15 of us were staying at a friends shearers quarters many years ago and were having a small party so to speak in the dining room. I went outside for something and couldn't believe the noise coming from the small old building and when I saw the 1kg dry powder extinguisher I had mounted to my Patrol and after consuming copious amounts of amber ale I thought - here's an idea for a laugh !

Went into the dining room and released the entire contents of the extinguisher !

Yep - party ended abruptly !!

And next morning it took 3 of us two solid hours of cleaning that very fine white powder which found it's way into every available space !!



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Reply By: Member - Blue M - Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 18:37

Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 18:37
I have a mate who just had one go off in the back of his car.
Burnt out the motors in 2 Dyson vacuum cleaners trying to suck it up.
Air compressor just deposits it elsewhere.
Have not heard as yet if he has got it all out.

AnswerID: 604615

Reply By: The Bantam - Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 10:17

Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 10:17
Just to hose one thing down ....... dry powder IS the most appropriate extinguisher for use in motor vehicles.

YES they are messy ...... been there and done that.

The problem with CO2 ..... is it simply will not hold a fire down ...... yes they will knock a fire down real quick .... but if there is any heat and fuel there, the fire will potentially pop straight back up ...... especially if there is fuel or oil involved. ... and often worse than before.

Certain motor sport and motoring enthusiasts espouse CO2 ..... and I can see the point ... but the fact remains ..... CO2 will not hold a fire down ..... it might be fine for knocking down a carby fire without killing the motor, particularly on a drag car with no airfilters .... but that is about it.

As far as foam ...... the problem is that foam does not get in everywhere like dry powder does ......... in an engine fire situation, cracking the bonnet and dumping a dry powder thru the crack, or getting up under will get the job done ...... because dry powder will form a cloud ........ the very problem of, it gets everywhere, messy nature is exactly why it is so very effective.

Foam goes pretty much where you point it and nowhere else.

The other problem with foam is size and weight ...... for a given effectivness a foam extinguisher will be a hell of a lot bigger and heavier. ... like twice the size

Back when I was an apprentice, they took us down the paddock a dozen at a time with a trailer load of various out of date extinguishers ...... we lit various fires and put em out.

Let me tell you a CO2 extinguisher is worse than useless on a fuel or oil fire.

The reason dry powder is so strongly recommended is because it is so effective.

AnswerID: 604631

Follow Up By: garrycol - Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 11:25

Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 11:25
"The reason dry powder is so strongly recommended is because it is so effective."

When it works - seems to be a hit and miss case if it has been in the vehicle for a while. Yes may need replacing every year or so but for most people they are are fit on forget - that is reality.
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 15:40

Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 15:40
Seriously ...... Garry ... how many dry powder extinguishers have you discharged or used on a fire.
How many of those when you have pulled the trigger did not work.
How many cases of dry powder extinguishers not working do you have direct knoweledge of.

The bottom line is ALL fire extinguishers require maintenance and inspection ...... in commercial use that is every 12 months minimum.

ALL easily available fire extinguishers these days are stored pressure ... so they must be inspected for that alone.

CO2 is completely unsuitable for oil and fuel fires of any significance.
Stored pressure foam will be at least twice the size and twice the weight AND less effective.
OH .... um show me where you can A/ buy a small foam extingusher readily and B/ compare the price.

Here is the comparison

1kg dry powder $20 ... rated 1A:20B:E .... full weight 2.5Kg
2.5Kg dry powder $40 ... rated 3A:40B:E...... full weight 4.8Kg

9 litre foam $149 .... rated 2A:20B ... not suitable for electrical fires fill weight 12.6Kg

SO ya pissy little 1kg dry powder is rated the same as the 9 litre foam on an oil or fuel fire ........ it is 1/6 the weight and less than 1/6 the price.

Just for jollies
5Kg CO2 $160 ... rated 5B ... full weight 11.9 KG

THERE IS NO reasonable other option ..... dry powder it is.

If people are willingly ignorant or careless ...... that is their problem not the fire extinguisher.

FollowupID: 874424

Follow Up By: garrycol - Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 17:25

Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 17:25
" ... how many dry powder extinguishers have you discharged or used on a fire"

Clearly not as many as the "know all, silly old farts" on this forum :-)
FollowupID: 874427

Follow Up By: peteC - Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 22:04

Sunday, Sep 25, 2016 at 22:04
The official testing of a powder extinguisher is check guage and turn upside down a few times to feel the powder is not compressed.
The comments that they only last 12 months is incorrect. They last many years when checked every 6 months. problem with those that fail is due to the often faulty Chinese imports. Go with a well known brand and the failures will be minimal.
If in doubt over your extinguisher take it to a well known company for test and tag.
I cannot stress enough - a well known company
FollowupID: 874436

Follow Up By: Murray48 - Thursday, Sep 29, 2016 at 11:20

Thursday, Sep 29, 2016 at 11:20
I have used many extinguishers in training and real fire situations and have rarely had a DCP extinguisher fail.
I have seen an in date and in service 9 kg extinguisher fail and use out of date extinguishers for training purposes and can't recall the last time one failed.
I have used Co2 on oil fires and they work ok but in my experience, the problem with Co2 being used outside, it's effectiveness is greatly reduced due to air movement. On small oil fires they are ok but for larger fires, there would not be enough in the extinguisher to work.
I have seen re-ignition with DCP but if the burning material has a good coating of powder then the risk of re-ignition is greatly reduced.
DCP and Co2 work on the fire in different ways.
Australian Standard 1851 - 2012 is the standard which covers the service of fire protection equipment, including extinguishers. It states that once placed in service, extinguishers shall be serviced at 6 monthly, 12 monthly and five yearly intervals.
It also sets out what items are to be checked at each service interval.
At 5 years they must be discharged and internally inspected so a 10 year warranty is all well and good but it doesn't over ride the standard.
In my opinion, DCP is the only way to go for vehicle extinguishers as they are the most effective in most scenarios. The issue with them is that they are messy.
As for the dust, its very invasive and if you try to hose it out of an engine bay, it will get into all of the crevices and set like cement.
Don't ask me how you are supposed to get it out, my job was to put it there not remove it.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Thursday, Sep 29, 2016 at 13:59

Thursday, Sep 29, 2016 at 13:59
Yeah, I would agree with all of that Murray.
Having worked for some years in refinery and petrochemical industries I was trained and (alas) experienced in fire issues.

Co2 is only intended for electrical fire in confined situations such as electrical cubicles. It worked well there and had the advantage of no cleanup required.

DCP is good for small liquid (oil) fires but the powder can only be propelled for a metre or so. Cleanup is best done with a vacuum cleaner. Certainly, as you say, do not apply water if there are any crevices. (I like your final line. lol)

Foam it most appropriate for large oil fires as it can be propelled for large distances (look at aircraft tarmac fires) and it stays in place to resist re-ignition.

I would remark that with vehicles, a single 1kg extinguisher is insufficient. A typical fire may well require more than that capacity. Also multiple extinguishers are insurance over one failing. I have two 1kg at each front door and a 2.5kg with hose on the rear door. Even if the Troopy was on its side I could access two.


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Follow Up By: Murray48 - Thursday, Sep 29, 2016 at 14:43

Thursday, Sep 29, 2016 at 14:43
I agree Allan, multiple extinguishers are good insurance.
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