Friday, February 3, 2017

Would You Rather Have a Gas Can Designed by a Lawyer? Or a Law Written By a Gas Can Designer?

I had mentioned some months back seeing a bizarrely drawn warning sign about gas cans in an Oregon gas station.  A reader explained that "too stupid to breathe without guidance" sorts had successfully sued a gas can maker because the user didn't realize gasoline was potentially dangerous.

I don't find that hard to believe; a few years back when I taught as Boise State, there was a car ahead of me as I headed into campus with gasoline dripping out from under her car near the gas cap.  Lots of it.  I finally caught up to her and explained that she needed to get this repaired.  "Is it dangerous?"  From looking at her age and general perkiness, the only word that came to mind was "tenured."

This evening, we realized that the 4x4 with chains that takes down and up the driveway is getting short of gas.  We had decided to fill a gas can in town and bring it back, but forgot our gas can.  No problem, we''ll buy one at Home Depot.  (A spare gas can is good.)

But it wasn't a gas can, except as imagined by a lawyer trying to protect the corporation's interests.  The output spout had some black plastic part that apparently requires fiddling before gasoline can come out.  The instructions were unclear and it failed a tactile UI test.  (I'm not the smartest person in the world, but if I can't figure this out, how will Clinton voters manage it without formal instruction?)

We finally took the safety nozzle off this disaster, used a funnel to empty it into our antiquated 1990s gas can and then filled the 4x4.  We will return this lawyer-designed gas can tomorrow.  Whatever it is, "gas can" doesn't describe it.


  1. I've done the same - poured with a funnel omitting the "nozzle", and then returned the can from the store whence it came.

    In this case it is not actually the lawyers -- all efforts to require flame-arrestor-screens on consumer gas-cans have come to naught, even though they are required by OSHA for anyone using a gas can in the course of their employment. The problem is the EPA, which has effectively outlawed "vents" on new cans, and has actually mandated spouts that close themselves if not actively held open.

    So the new sort of spout is constricted by an inner straw that is supposed to allow makeup air into the can as you pour so that it will pour, and also constricted by a valve mechanism.

    I had occasion to pass a display of gas cans when in a Canadian retail store recently, and as I was driving home it occurred to me that I really need to stop back there on the next trip and buy one.

  2. Those gas cans are like that because of the EPA. Can't have a vented gas can allowing gasoline to evaporate you know. Every place around here that sells gas cans also sells "fix-it" kits, which include a nozzle with a screw on cap, and a vent cap.

  3. YouTube is also full of videos showing how to modify modern gas cans so they are usable.

  4. The "press to pour" feature is actually pretty handy in that it allows you to get the nozzle into the gas tank of the mower before beginning the flow of gas. The "press and slide to unlock the press to flow" feature is actually fairly easy to remove with simple hand tools.

    I also have some fairly entertaining ideas as to what can be done with the removed parts.

  5. Designed by bureaucrats, who have no experience with real life, and no knowledge of human nature. Idiots, in other words.

    the idiotic gas can designs were first mandated around 2000. The shoulders of freeways and roads were and are littered with these things. Any potential vapor containment was never realized, as most people ended up taking the offending spout off, and pouring the gas "at" the filler neck, since no one had a funnel. Lots of gas on the pavement or in the dirt. They would then toss the offending POS onto the shoulder and drive off.

    On average, this gets about 1/2 the can's contents into the vehicle, at most 3/4 of it. The rest evaporates, or enters the ground.

    It could take ten minutes to empty one of those non-vented 1 gal cans while standing on the side of the road, usually on the traffic side of the car. I patrolled the freeways in Silicon Valley then, and saw lots of this.