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I'll be traveling in remote areas where diesel fuel/fuel in general might be sparse at various points. I'm going to bring empty plastic fuel containers with me to fill only during those sparse sections.

I have a "bike rack" that the previous owner built. It's metal but might be painted. (It's at the mechanic so I can't confirm atm.) The rack is basically 2 tubes parallel, the width of the vehicle.

I was going to store the empty and filled containers back there (bungeed and/or ratchet strapped). But I was thinking of attaching a plastic tub to the bike rack to maybe better secure the containers to the back. The 2 diesel containers will be in the plastic tub. It seems like this might be more secure than just attaching them to the bike rack and, should anything spill, would catch spillage.

Is this a bad idea because of potential static electricity from the containers rubbing against each other (I have 2) or from the containers moving around and rubbing against the plastic tub?

Actually, even without the plastic tub, if I had both containers attached to the bike rack and in contact (so they might rub together), would that be dangerous? I'm guessing no, since they are both touching metal and the metal is connected to the vehicle.

Any guidance on safety would be appreciated.

Planning a trip to Mexico and would rather not have my vehicle and mobile home combust.

PS: I read How do I safely fill and use an external diesel can? Totally helpful, but wondering specifically about (1) having two plastic cans rubbing and (2) having them in a plastic container while driving.

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  • Welcome to Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair! Dec 11, 2023 at 22:18
  • If you secure a layer of sponge between the fuel cans, they won't rub together. The sponge will flex instead. Pack the empty space in the holding tub too, to prevent the cans moving around. The secret of packing (anything) is not just to protect but to prevent any movement. Dec 11, 2023 at 23:34
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    If you want to store your fuel cans outside all the time in direct sunlight that will degrade the plastics over a suprisingly short time, you should think about metal cans like the Wehrmachts-Einheitskanister ("Jerry Can")
    – arne
    Dec 12, 2023 at 8:16
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    Static will not and can not ignite diesel. You can throw a match next to it and it won't burn. It's diesel, not gasoline.
    – Mast
    Dec 13, 2023 at 3:09
  • Are you sure the racks and how they are fixed to the vehicle are strong enough? Might theft be a problem? Dec 13, 2023 at 14:09

2 Answers 2

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Fuel cans contains carbon in the plastic. This is a large part of why traditional fuel canisters are black. This dissipates static charges by bringing the plastic from perfect insulator to the megaohm resistance range.

Furthermore diesel fuel has low vapour pressure. It's hard to ignite diesel fuel with a flame, let alone with a spark - unless you let vapour build up. Ventilate the area to avoid combustible vapour concentrations.

If the containers are not leaky I don't see any reason for a spill tray during storage.

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  • I was pretty much going to write the same thing. +1 Dec 11, 2023 at 22:21
  • Thank you, vidarlo. I think I might still use the plastic bin to help secure it to the rack (and maybe cover it all with a tarp to protect against sunlight - per @arne's response). Based on what you and others have said, even though the plastic bin doesn't have carbon in it, whatever static amount builds up or sparks, I should be safe... Please let me know if that isn't the case! lol
    – trblq
    Dec 13, 2023 at 22:57
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The flash point of #2 diesel fuel is about 125F, so you can stop worrying about sparks from rubbing plastic causing an explosion.

Flash point is the temperature at which a liquid when placed in a cup will ignite from a point source of ignition such as a spark. If the bulk diesel fuel's temperature is below about 125F, there is no way that a spark can ignite it.

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  • In the old days it was not unusual to see mechanics throwing still-lit cigarette butts into a small barrel with diesel fuel in it. Nothing happens.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 12, 2023 at 17:03
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    125F isn't real hot. That's lukewarm coffee temperature. Dec 13, 2023 at 13:30

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