Lessons Learned

Last Updated 09/05/2004

Don't Mix-up fuel cans

Mistaking a five-gallon fuel can for a five-gallon water can will lead to serious problems, including burns and fires. Please use the following information to help tell the difference between the two cans.

Fuel and water cans have the same footprint and dimensions. Both cans are labeled with an "X" on each side. The "X" has a circle in the middle that surrounds the identity of the liquid in the can: "WATER" for the water can and "FUEL" for the fuel can. Fuel and water cans can be the same color so it is not always useful to identify the liquid in the container by its color.

Fuel cans can be distinguished from water cans in several ways. First, the cap assemblies are different. The water can cap has two smaller caps within it. The fuel can cap is smooth on the top (minus the retaining strap). Second, the number of handles per can is different. Fuel cans have three handles per can while water cans have just a single handle. Third, the marking on the two cans is not the same. "WATER" protrudes from the water can, while "FUEL" is embossed inwardly. Fourth, the odor of fuel is present in used fuel cans. Please be aware of that smell when distinguishing the two cans.

Your senses can be used to tell the difference between the two cans. Please remember to use your senses if you are not sure which can you are using.

  • Sight: Note the number of handles and the "FUEL" or "WATER" label
  • Touch: Number of handles, difference in caps and the embossing
  • Smell: Fuel odor verses water odor
  • Hearing: A fuel can will make a hissing sound when its cap is opened.

Please do not taste the liquid inside the can. Accidental ingestion of fuel can be damaging to your health.

Fuel cans may also be labeled with different colors, according to which fuel they store. Some soldiers use yellow cans and black writing for diesel fuel. Others use red cans and white writing for MOGAS. Please remember to get your CO's approval before painting and stenciling your can.

Ms. Carey Mitchell, Petroleum and Water Business Area, US Army TACOM-TARDEC, AMSTA-TR-D/210, Warren, MI 48397-5000, DSN 786-4154 (810-574-4154).

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