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Out with Old Gas! Quick Car Fixes


How Long Does Gasoline Last?

When I first delved into the surprising lifespan of gasoline, my guide was a piece of research from J.D. Power. It turns out that regular vehicle fuel in your gas tank can remain useable for up to six months. For diesel enthusiasts, the good news is even better – it can last about a year. But how does this time frame really play out from the refinery to an idle vehicle?

Let’s say you have an older car that you don’t often use. You might think the fuel in it is still clean and usable, but here’s the twist: gasoline does degrade over time. It might not be able to fire up your engine as efficiently as it used to. Mixing in some new gas can help, but remember that the chemical properties of gasoline change over time. If you’ve got a few old gallons in your vehicle, you’re potentially looking at operational problems. Always check the quality of the fuel before firing up the engine.

Dealing with Old Fuel

Now, onto fuel in general. We use it in cars, boats, leaf blowers, lawn mowers, and generators. It’s powerful stuff, but when it’s not used, it degrades. This means that the gasoline sitting in idle vehicles, broken lawnmowers, docked boats, and forgotten gas cans in shed corners must be dealt with. How to dispose of it, though? If you’ve ever had a stumble with old gasoline, you’ll know it’s no simple idea.

Old gasoline might still be useable, but it requires precautions. It’s hazardous to simply deal with it without learning how to dispose of it properly. There are variables to watch out for when maintaining a healthy home and environment.

How to Dispose of Gasoline

Dealing with old gas in your car can be complicated. While gasoline is a powerful fuel, powering everything from vehicles to garden tools, it loses its combustibility over time. This is especially true for gas that’s been stored in your garage or in the gas tank of a riding lawn mower through the winter. Such unused remnants of fuel can degrade or become contaminated. The key to disposing of this flammable substance lies in understanding its legal disposal and reuse. Dilution with fresh gasoline can make old gas usable again, but it must be done carefully to avoid any fire risk. Illegally or inappropriately pouring old gas onto land, into storm drains, or toilets can lead to fines and damage to the landscape, not to mention the potential harm it could cause to animals and water sources. Remember, the aim is to ensure safe disposal to protect both our environment and homes.

STEP 1: Inspect the Gas

Before deciding what to do with old gas in your car, the first step is a thorough inspection. Pour a bit of the questionable gas into a glass container and compare it with fresh gasoline. If the old gas appears darker, smells sour, or aged, it’s a sign of losing efficacy. Gasoline that’s been storing for months in your gas station’s tank can degrade and lose its combustibility, potentially inhibiting your engine’s ability to fire up and run. It might inefficiently function or fail to start altogether. If you spot any particles, rust, dirt, or if the gas is cloudy or discolored, it’s likely contaminated. Such gas can clog your fuel lines and carburetors, and it’s best to dispose of it rather than diluting it for reuse.

STEP 2: Diluting Old Gasoline

If you determine that your car’s old gas still retains some potency and isn’t contaminated, diluting it with newer gas can be a practical solution. The process involves adding the old gas to your vehicle’s tank in controlled proportions to maintain the combustion ability. This method is particularly effective for smaller quantities, like in a lawn mower’s half tank. By topping it up with fresh gasoline, the engine firing efficiency is maintained and you can quickly burn through the mix while working in the yard. For larger quantities in a car or truck, first check your vehicle owner’s manual or online resources to understand the tank capacity. Using a jerry can or a gas jug with a pouring spout, carefully add the old gas, keeping an eye on the gas level to avoid spilling. Remember to not fill past the safety flap in the tank mouth to prevent any leakage. In some cases, adding fuel additives from an automotive supply shop can further enhance the effectiveness of the diluted fuel. However, if the old gas is a dark rust-brown or chocolate color, indicating the presence of deposits or impurities, it’s better to consider disposing of it rather than using it.

STEP 3: Research Disposal Sites

For old or contaminated gasoline, the next step is to find a safe disposal method. Begin by searching online for a hazardous waste disposal center in your county, city, or state. These specialized centers are equipped to safely dispose of such materials. If online resources are sparse, call your local waste management agency; they can provide guidance and locations for proper disposal. Don’t overlook the expertise of your local fire department. Due to the flammability of gasoline, these fire experts often have insights on how to handle it safely. Another option could be your auto repair shop. Some shops may agree to take the gasoline off your hands, though they might charge a fee. If you have a good relationship with a shop, they might be more inclined to help, or you could pay the fee yourself to ensure safe disposal.

STEP 4: Transfer Gasoline to a Certified Container

When handling old or contaminated gasoline, it’s crucial to transfer it to a government-certified container. Choose a jerry can or a plastic gas jug that complies with fire codes and can store the necessary gallons of gasoline. Such containers are readily available at home centers, automotive stores, or gas stations. Use a funnel to pour the gasoline slowly into the container, taking care to avoid splashing, static, and spillage. Fill the container to no more than 95 percent to allow space for fumes and minimize the risk of inhalation. Always keep your face away from the spout. Once done, tightly seal the container to prevent any spills or leaks. If you’re driving the gasoline to a disposal location, place the container upright in a second receptacle, like a cooler or bin, to catch any spills in case it topples over or suffers a leak. And don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly if any gasoline has splashed on you.

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STEP 5: Clean Up Gasoline Spills

If you accidentally spill gas on the driveway or on your clothing, swift action is needed. For spills on the ground, soak up the fuel using an absorbent product like kitty litter. Let it sit for a few hours to fully absorb the gasoline, then sweep it up and dispose of it properly. As for gasoline on clothes, first change your clothes and blot the excess gas with a white cloth. Baking soda is excellent for absorbing both the stain and odor; brush it off after it has done its job. Next, rub the area with liquid dish soap to treat the stain. Launder the clothes by themselves in the hottest water the fabric can tolerate. Make sure to line dry them, as putting clothes with any traces of gasoline in a hot dryer can risk combustion. Remember, when dealing with gasoline, the key is to clean thoroughly and dispose of any remaining stains with these cleaning tips.

STEP 6: Transport the Gasoline to a Disposal Center

The final step in handling old gas is transporting it to a disposal center. It’s critical to drive carefully during this process. Never smoke in the vehicle while transporting gas, as even lingering fumes or splashed gasoline can combust if exposed to open flames in a small space. Make sure the gasoline is securely contained in a 5-gallon jug or an approved storage vessel, ensuring it won’t tip or spill while in transit. Upon reaching the disposal center, empty the gasoline from your container into their facilities. This allows you to take your container home, keeping it ready for future use. Remember, the key to dealing with old gasoline is to dispose of it responsibly.

Is Improper Gasoline Disposal Harmful?

Discarding contaminated or old gasoline is not as straightforward as one might trust. It’s important to remember that gasoline is a toxic substance and should never be simply tossed in the trash, dumped down the sink, or thrown into a dumpster rental. This includes not just gasoline, but also other vehicle fluids like oil. When handled incorrectly, these substances can be extremely harmful to humans, animals, and the environment. Whether it’s in the engine of your car or in a can in your garage, safe disposal is crucial. If ingested or released into the environment, it can lead to serious consequences, reinforcing the need for responsible handling.

Don’t Dispose of Gasoline Your Regular Trash Pickup

It’s crucial to understand why you shouldn’t dispose of old gas or any flammable substances through your regular trash pickup. Gasoline in any container can catch fire or even explode, posing a significant risk. When combusted in a trash truck or at a landfill, it can cause types of fires that are not only dangerous to truck operators but also to the nearby environment. Your local government often has guidelines for disposing of such toxic substances, directing you to specialized facilities for safe disposal. Ignoring these guidelines can lead to combustion incidents in your vehicle’s fuel system or even a large landfill fire, which can be difficult to contain and potentially release harmful chemicals into the air and nearby water sources.

Do You Need to Worry About Old Gas in Your Car’s Tank?

If you’re wondering whether old gas in your car’s tank can impact its performance, the answer is nuanced. For a car that has not been driven in a while, the condition of the gas becomes a valid concern. While old gas does not necessarily spell doom, it can have effects on how well your vehicle operates. The fuel might still be OK, but its efficacy decreases over time. In some cases, if the gas is too old, it may need to be removed and replaced with fresh gas. This ensures that your car runs optimally and avoids potential issues related to aged fuel.

Is old gas in the tank bad for your car? The quick answer

Old gas in your car’s tank is indeed an issue to be mindful of. According to John Ibbotson, the chief mechanic at Consumer Reports, gas that sits in a tank does slowly go bad. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Gas that has been sitting for a few months can be redeemed by topping off the tank with fresh gas. When the fresh gas mixes with the old gas, the motor will operate properly. The car’s engine computer automatically adjusts the variance in octane, ensuring that the engine keeps running at normal performance levels. So, while old gas isn’t ideal, it’s not a complete disaster either, especially with the right adjustment.

What happens when gas gets old?

As gas sits in a car’s tank over time, it begins to degrade. One of the key things that happen is the loss of octane, which is the combustible part of gasoline. Higher octane ratings are essential for an effective air-fuel mixture and efficient combustion in the cylinders of an engine. Additionally, old gas also loses its volatility, which refers to how explosive it is. This decrease in volatility inevitably leads to a dip in engine performance. Another issue is the build-up of residues and water from the process of burning old gas, which can adversely affect the overall function of the engine.

What can you do to protect the car if you store it?

Ronald Montoya, the senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds, offers valuable advice for those looking to store their car for an extended period. One key step is topping off the engine with fresh gas. This helps prevent water from accumulating in the fuel system. Additionally, adding a fuel stabilizer can significantly slow the breakdown of the gas and extend its life for up to 15 months. This simple action can make a huge difference in maintaining your vehicle’s health. Moreover, if you’re storing your car, it’s advisable to keep it inside and under an all-weather cover to protect it from environmental elements.

Never Burn it Yourself

When it comes to disposing of old gasoline, one crucial rule is to never attempt burning it yourself. This approach is highly dangerous and can lead to serious injury or even death. Gasoline is an extremely flammable substance, and its combustion can be unpredictable and uncontrollable in an unprofessional setting. The risks far outweigh any perceived convenience of quick disposal. Always prioritize safety and opt for legal and safe disposal methods.

Don’t Pour Down Sink or Toilet

It’s imperative to never dispose of old gasoline by pouring it down the sink, toilet, or even onto the dirt, grass, or a storm drain. Such actions are not only harmful to the environment but can severely contaminate the water supply. It’s shocking to learn that just one gallon of gasoline can contaminate up to one million gallons of water. This type of disposal is not only illegal but also leads to cleanup challenges. Removing gasoline from soil and water sources is both expensive and difficult, creating long-term environmental damage.

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Don’t Let it Evaporate

Contrary to some advice, letting old gasoline simply evaporate is a dangerous method of disposal. Opening a gas container and leaving it in indoor areas or even outdoors to let the gasoline evaporate poses serious risks. The vapors from gasoline are not only flammable but can cause health issues like nausea, headache, dizziness, and in cases of excessive exposure, even unconsciousness or be fatal. This is backed by information from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services which strongly advises against this practice. The risks associated with inhaling these vapors are too great to ignore, making evaporation an unsafe disposal method.

Can Old Gasoline Be Recycled?

The question of whether old gasoline can be recycled is an interesting one. Unlike typical trash collection or landfill disposal, gasoline requires a different approach. In fact, it is possible to reuse or recycle old gasoline under certain conditions. Some local gas stations and recycling centers are equipped to handle this task. They have specific procedures to safely process and repurpose old gas, ensuring that it doesn’t harm the environment. This method not only prevents harmful substances from entering landfills but also contributes to a more sustainable approach to managing gasoline waste.

Find Out if it’s Usable

Before deciding what to do with old gas, it’s essential to first determine if it’s still usable. This can be done by carefully pouring a small amount of the gasoline into a clear glass container to examine its quality. You should look for gas that is clear, free from contaminants, and has a normal smell. If the gas darkens with age, appearing muddy or rust-colored, or slowly develops a sour or pungent smell, it’s an indication that it might not be usable anymore. If unsure, a good practice is to compare it to fresh gas. Be on the lookout for any signs of dirt or if the gas has become discolored, as these are clear indicators that the gasoline should not be used.

Reusing Gas

Reusing old gasoline can be a practical solution, especially if it’s only slightly aged. To start, strain the gasoline through a coffee filter to remove any small particles. For best results in revitalizing the fuel, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recommends diluting the old gas with fresh gasoline. A good rule of thumb is a 1:5 ratio of old to new added gasoline. This diluted gas can then be safely used in small engines, such as lawnmowers or small boat engines. If you’re considering using a diluted mixture in a larger vehicle, it’s advisable to mix in a fuel additive to enhance performance. First, determine your gas tank’s capacity; the old gas should not exceed half of this. Fill up the rest with fresh gas, and don’t forget to top off with the additive for optimal results.

How to Remove Gas from a Car

Removing gasoline from a car, especially if it’s unusable, requires careful handling. While it’s easier to deal with gasoline when it’s in a storage container, extracting it from an idle car, lawn mowers, or a boat can be a bit trickier. The key is to dispose of it safely once removed. To do this, you will need to carefully siphon or pump the gas out of the vehicle’s tank, making sure to avoid any spills or exposure to the fuel. Always ensure you have the appropriate tools and safety equipment on hand, and consider seeking professional assistance if you’re unsure of the process.

Siphon the Correct Way

When it comes to siphoning gas from a tank, doing it the correct and safest way is crucial. Experts strongly recommend using a manual pump and a hose rather than manual suction with your mouth, which is incredibly risky. The dangers of inhaling or swallowing gasoline are serious and can lead to a medical emergency. Therefore, this method should be strictly avoided. It’s important to note that many modern cars are equipped with a siphon-proof filter, making it more challenging to drain the tank. In such cases, it’s advisable to seek professional help, especially with newer vehicles, to ensure safe and efficient removal of the gasoline.

Tips for Transporting Gas

Use a Safe Container

When it comes to transporting gas, selecting a safe container is paramount. The National Ag Safety Database advises using containers made of heavy plastic and marked with either an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) symbol. It’s critical to avoid using plastic milk jugs, glass containers, or small plastic containers that have previously held automotive liquids or cooking oil, as these are not sturdy enough. They can’t handle the expansion of gasoline and might degrade, leading to leaks. Always fill the container off the vehicle, preferably on stable ground, and never in the bed of a truck to ensure safety and prevent spills.

Don’t Let it Move Around

When transporting gasoline in a vehicle, it’s crucial to secure the gas can so it doesn’t move, slide, or tip over. This precaution is essential for safety, as even a small amount of gasoline can pose a significant hazard if it spills inside the vehicle. Make sure the container is tightly secured in an upright position, preferably in a space where it can’t jostle around. When driving, do so carefully and avoid sudden stops that could upset the container. A mindful approach to transporting gasoline greatly reduces the risk of accidents.

Remove from Car Immediately After Arriving to Facility

Upon arriving at the disposal facility, it’s essential to remove the gas can from your vehicle immediately. Gasoline, even when securely contained, poses risks due to the expansion of fumes. Ensuring that the can is not more than 95% full helps mitigate this risk. However, once you’ve reached your destination, promptly taking the gasoline out of the vehicle is a critical safety step. Remember, never smoke near an open gas container, especially when transporting gasoline. This precaution helps prevent any accidental ignition of fumes or spills.

If it Spills, Clean Up ASAP

In the event of a spill, it’s imperative to clean up the gasoline immediately. Do not use a hose to simply wash away the fuel, as this can cause it to spread over a larger area, potentially contaminating the nearby ground or water, and even entering the storm drain system. A practical approach is to use kitty litter to soak up the spill. Then, with a flat shovel, scoop up the contaminated litter and place it into a heavy-duty trash bag. This bag should not be placed in regular trash but taken to a disposal or recycling facility for appropriate handling.

How to Dispose of Gasoline Properly

Disposing of gasoline in a proper and safe manner is crucial to avoid environmental hazards. The best way is to take it to a facility that can handle it appropriately. This ensures that the gasoline is not carelessly mixed with trash or improperly discarded. Use a heavy-duty gas container to transport the gasoline. When you arrive at the disposal site, empty the gasoline into a larger tank provided by the facility. After emptying, you can bring your container back home for future use. It’s also beneficial to familiarize yourself with local resources for recycling and disposal services in your community. This way, you’re not only disposing of gasoline safely but also contributing to the health of your community and environment.


Take it to a Household Hazardous Waste Facility (HHW)

One of the most responsible ways to deal with old gas is to take it to a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) facility. These facilities are specifically equipped to accept and safely handle used gasoline. It’s a good idea to call ahead or check the facility’s website for specific guidelines and requirements. Some HHW facilities might charge a fee for disposal, or they could be restricted to residents of certain areas. By utilizing these specialized facilities, you ensure that the gasoline is disposed of in a way that’s safe for the environment and compliant with local regulations.

Use a Local Recycling Center

For disposing of old gas, another viable option is to use a local recycling center. You can search for such facilities on the gasoline page of Earth911, which is a comprehensive resource for finding recycling centers. Most centers near you will likely accept various vehicle fluids, including gasoline. While some might charge a small fee, it’s a small price to pay for ensuring that your gasoline is recycled properly and safely. This approach not only helps in reducing environmental impact but also supports local recycling efforts.

Bring it to a Community Collection Event

Many municipalities host periodic collection events where they accept a variety of hazardous materials, including used gasoline. These events are an excellent opportunity for safely disposing of materials that cannot be thrown away with regular trash. Before heading out, it’s advisable to read through the list of acceptable items on your municipality’s website to confirm that they take used gasoline. These events are typically well-organized and offer a community-centric solution for disposing of potentially dangerous substances like old gasoline.

Give it to Your Local Fire Department

An often-overlooked option for disposing of old gasoline is to give it to your local fire department. Some fire stations offer the service of accepting old gasoline for disposal. They typically have the means to send it to a proper recycling facility. Before you decide to drop off your used gasoline at a fire station, it’s a good idea to check with your local station to confirm if they provide this service. Fire departments are well-equipped to handle hazardous materials and can ensure that the gasoline is disposed of safely and responsibly.

Check with Auto Repair Shops and Garages in Your Community

For used gasoline that is free from contaminants, consider reaching out to an auto repair garage in your area. Many garages are often happy to take off this type of gasoline from your hands. They can use it for various purposes, including running some of their equipment or vehicles. This is a practical way to ensure your old gasoline doesn’t go to waste and is handled responsibly. Always check with the garages near you to see if they can accept your gasoline, as policies may vary.

Can I Still Use Gasoline with Water in It?

When gasoline becomes contaminated with water, it generally renders it unusable and poses a risk of damage to your engine. Water in gasoline affects its ability to burn efficiently and can cause significant mechanical issues. However, there are methods to remove the water, which can make the gasoline usable again. But, if the contamination is extensive, it’s safer and more practical to simply dispose of the gasoline rather than risk potential engine damage.

Let it Separate in a Container

If you suspect water contamination in your gasoline, a simple method is to let it settle in a clear container. When you pour the gasoline into the container, just let it sit for a while. The water, being denser, will naturally settle at the bottom. Once separation occurs, you can siphon off the clean gasoline from the top. Be sure to leave some gasoline in the container to ensure that no water is accidentally removed with the gasoline. This method is a practical way to salvage usable gasoline from a water-contaminated batch.

Use a Fuel Dryer

For water-contaminated fuel, a fuel dryer can be an effective solution. The key chemical in this process is isopropanol, which, when added to the gasoline, helps in separating water. The isopropanol or similar alcohol-based products sink to the bottom of the tank and absorb the water. This creates a liquid that can then be safely removed, preventing damage to the engine. It’s important to use a pure isopropyl alcohol product and not rubbing alcohol, as the latter contains too much water itself. This method is best used when there’s only a small amount of water in the tank.

Make Your Gasoline Last Longer to Protect Our Environment

Use Less Gas

A fundamental environmental approach to dealing with old gas in your car is to use less of the substance to begin with. By reducing the amount of gasoline you buy and use, you inherently have less to dispose of. This practice not only minimizes potential issues with old or unused gasoline but also positively impacts the environment. The less gasoline we use and store, the fewer chances there are of needing to manage its disposal, making this a proactive strategy in environmental conservation and responsible vehicle maintenance.

Store Properly

If you need to store gas for a period of time, perhaps for use in a small engine, outdoor power equipment, or a lawnmower, it’s critical to do it properly. The key is using a tightly closed, government-approved fuel container. This ensures that the gasoline is kept safe and is in a condition that’s usable for as long as possible. Proper storing of gasoline not only extends its shelf life but also minimizes risks associated with gas fumes and potential spillage, ensuring both safety and efficiency in its use.

Use Fuel Stabilizer

To further extend the life of gasoline, especially when stored, it’s advisable to add a fuel stabilizer. This simple addition can significantly extend the usability of the gasoline for up to 12 months. A stabilizer helps prevent the chemical breakdown and contamination of the fuel, ensuring it remains in a state that’s usable when you need it. Using a fuel stabilizer is an effective way to maintain the quality of gasoline, especially for those who don’t use their vehicles frequently or have spare gasoline stored for emergencies or occasional use.

How to Handle Old Gasoline Safely

Handling old gasoline requires several important precautions, as it is both toxic and flammable. When transferring or disposing of gasoline, always work outdoors. This reduces the risk of inhaling fumes, which can be dangerous. If you must be indoors and experience a burning sensation in your lungs, move to fresh air immediately. In case of accidental ingestion, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 and drink milk while you await further instructions. If gasoline gets on your skin or in your eyes, flush the area with cool water for at least 15 minutes. If discomfort persists, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention. Safety is paramount when dealing with a substance as volatile as gasoline.

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