Why Some Products Suck

This came to me via a reader.  Apparently, after working to make sure that toilets, shower heads, and washing machines no longer work as well as they used to, government regulators have ruined the gas can.  I still (thankfully) use my old plastic can that is about 20 years old, but apparently two changes have been mandated

  • There is a self-closing mechanism at the end of the spout that work fine in modern cars designed for this technology but don't work at all in lawnmowers and boats.   By my own observation, most gas cans are used to fill machinery other than cars.
  • There is no vent.   Yes, there is no way to let air smoothly into the can as gas is poured out, meaning for gas to pour at all air must come in through the spout.  This results in slow and erratic flow rates.

Users report that they are spilling far more with the new design than the old.

Readers may remember my showerhead hacking.  Though I had not heard of the new gas cans, several of my employees had.  It turns out that to run a business, there is no way you want your folks filling a boat motor with one of these new cans, it takes forever.  Fortunately my folks have already figured out how to hack the cans.  It is easy to drill and tap a hole in the soft plastic, and insert a screw plug.  Then, this plug can be removed to vent.  Of course this is less safe than the old cans with a simple, non-removable snap on plug cover -- it is easy for someone to forget to plug the vent.


  1. Broccoli:

    Add bathtubs to that list.
    Here in Texas I just purchased a new home. I noticed that my bathwater would never get hot, and I figured there was a plumbing problem so I called in the builder for a warranty repair. Turns out there is a buildig code change now where the hot water line to the bathtub must have a device in it that mixes cold water into it so that it can never get above lukewarm and potentially burn the occupant of the tub. I was unaware there was an epidemic of bathwater burns that necessitates a reduction in personal freedom and an increase in plumbing costs. (I am sure that is the reason and not that some plumbing supply company had friends in the government.)
    I had the plumber remove the device and it works like bathtubs have worked for the last 100 years, but I was informed I was in violation of the law and would have to reinstall the POS if I ever sold the house.

  2. Joyce:

    You may want to erase this post. If there's ever an accident at one of your facilities, you've just given the plaintiff's attorney a golden key.

  3. gofer1:

    I bought one of those disasters and spilled gas everywhere. IT's dangerous and needs to be done away with.

  4. schlew:

    I work in a remote outside environment that requires the use of portable generators. One big problem with the new cans is that after a while, the spring loaded shutoff valve gets gummed up, preventing it from closing when the spout is removed. To prevent that from happening, I have to have my hand on the nozzle to make sure it closes as I extract if from the generator gas cap. So now, I am bringing my hand in direct contact with gasoline. And even then, I have still spilled 100 times of what I would have with the old approach.

    I am guessing a manufacturer was able to use their influence to get these things mandated. Just guessing...

  5. aczarnowski:

    Ran into these after I picked up my chainsaw and wanted a small can to go with it. WTF is this dumb f***ery? Thankfully I found a few classic cans in Dad's garage he was willing to part with.

    So now we have "vintage" gas cans on eBay. *shakes head*

    Thankfully eBay can also help you with the vent issue pretty cheaply. Just search for 'gas can vent".

  6. dc:

    I was perturbed that I was unable to buy a traditional gas can recently, but after using them, I havent really had any problems. Minor protocol difference, use the hand to assist the pushdown mechanism when filling the weed whacker for instance - all in all, not as bad as I thought it was going to be.

    Actually since I drive so little, half the time I'm raping my 5 gallon to drive around town when my tank gets low and I dont want to bother going to the station, I kinda like the button-mechanism - but the only problem I've found with that is when the 5gal gets low, if you turn it in funny directions it will spill out the stop mechanism.

    Unnecessary...but I have a million other pains in my ass I'd put before this in severity, heh.

  7. Jake:

    Look at No-Spill gas cans. It vents, flows at very high rate if desired and doesn't drip or spill a drop. BTW, legal too.

  8. dullgeek:

    OMFG!! That explains it! I had to replace my gas can recently, and that explains why the spout sucks so bad. I have one that basically looks like this:


    And the mechanism requires you to push down on it in order to get gas to flow. The little twisty green thing on the bottom jams easily. In the 15 years I had my previous gas can I had no issues. In the year that I've had this one, I've had to replace the !#%!#$% spout 3 times!

    Mother !#$%#

  9. MingoV:

    I was driving and ran out of gas . A gas station and a Pep Boy were nearby, and I bought a one gallon gas can at Pep Boy. The can had an "environmentally friendly" spout. The short length and angled shape of the rigid spout kept it from reaching the gas tank's filler pipe. I had to curl a piece of cardboard into a crude funnel, remove the top from the gas can, and pour (with dribbles and spills). I estimate that this fiasco released at least one hundred times more gasoline fumes than a regular spout.

    The spout's open and close mechanism failed after just three uses. I became a criminal by purchasing a "non-compliant" replacement spout that works perfectly.

  10. David:

    I'm curious what the stated reason for this regulation is. It's clearly dumb, but there has to be something that sounded good to someone for at least a few minutes.

  11. Clay Hamm:

    How timely. I took my 25 year old metal gas can to the station last weekend and discovered the bottom had finally rusted through - time for a new can. I went to Menards but they all had "safety" features that I didn't want. ACE Hardware had the same thing, only more costly. Home Depot - more of the same. I ended up not buying anything and using an old plastic can with a broken spout. I'll replace the cracked spout with a piece of garden hose and it will be just fine.

  12. AnInquirer:

    I have spilled more gasoline with the new gas cans than I ever did in 30 years with the old gas cans. Maybe there is an education issue, but I cannot get gasoline to flow out of the new ones unless I accept a large amount of spill.

  13. gregnullet:

    I bought one of those awful new gas cans. I modified it as best I could and then wrote to the manufacturer, Blitz, in Oklahoma. But they went out of business in 2012 from the cost of defending product liability suits.

  14. tomw:

    Just another way to reduce 'evil' petroleuml consumption.

    Product improvements will go on until sales tank.

    Epa regulations written by people that live in apartments, and take public transportation, eschewing gas powered outdoor equipment and normal autos.

  15. rxc:

    The CARB did a calculation of the amount of gasoline that was released into the environment by the use of these cans, and determined that it was a significant caus of air polution in California. It is not clear what assumptions they made, where those assumptions came from, or how they determined the effect on air polution levels (another model), but this is a common progressive method. They cherry pick data, take quotes out of context, misuse analytical and statistical techniques, spin, and just plain lie, in order to justify the collective punishment they impose on all of us. They believe that we are all sinners and we need to repent and suffer, together.

  16. mtwzzyzx:

    That safety gas can is awesome. So is the $66 price tag with a spout. Part of this whole complaint is that we used to be able to get a gas can that works for under $5, now they're $12-14 and suck.