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Where to store spare fuel?

Hello. I have recently purchased a 1993 VW Eurovan “Weekender.”

I am getting it ready for lots of fun trips away with the family. As most of these will be in isolated places in the desert (Mexico and the SW USA), I want to bring some spare fuel just in case. I’ve run out of gas before and it’s not fun in the middle of a city - I can’t imagine doing it in the middle of a desert.

I’ll probably bring about 2 gallons. However, I’m not sure where best to store the fuel. Here are some options:

1) On the back of the vehicle. This requires buying an external jerry can holder. It would make the rear of the van a hassle to open/close. It would invite thieves. It’s dangerous in case I get rear-ended. It’s a bit “off-roady” for what is usually used as our family car.

2) On the roof of the vehicle. This also requires some kind of rack, but I’m convinced I could easily build something nice. But I need to be concerned about weight since the roof pops up for camping. Again, it makes me a target for theives. I don’t know if I need to worry about the hot sun beating down on cans of gasoline (it’s generally over 100 F where I go to play). I’m not really concerned about aerodynamics - the van gets lousy mileage as it is and if I went down this route, I would get low profile fuel containers.

3) Inside the van. Clearly, this is the easiest option. However, I don’t want fumes escaping into the van - this is where we’re going to sleep at night. The most sensible place to put it is right underneath where my kids sit. And there is also an unsealed leisure battery under the front seat of the van powering various electrical goodies.

So what do folks think? Any advice would be appreciated.


Rear door is the best. They make brackets that hinge with the door and with locks.
Check jeep and camping supply sites for ideas.

When storing spare gas in a jerry can it’s tooo easy to forget the fuel stabilizer ( Sta-bil is a brand ) so the gas will be useable when the time comes. Or keep close tabs on the age of the gas in the can and be sure to pour it into the truck twice a year even if you go nowhere.
I have fallen prey to that mis-realization in the past when storing fuel for lawn mowers and such AND my 79 pickup which carries 30 gallons but gets driven only 50 miles a year.

Outside ONLY. In a STEEL jerry-can. lockable mounting bracket. Don’t fill it unless you feel you may REALLY need it.

Thanks. Why is steel preferable to other materials? Because it’s stronger?

Probably because it won’t go flying off by itself on a bumpy spot.

If you’re concerned about thievery, a plastic can is an easy target even when locked onto the bracket. With an ice pick or pocket knife, one stab and you have a gas faucet.

Newer vehicles with plastic main fuel tanks often fall prey to gas thieves in this manner.

I don’t have an answer, but instead I have a question for Ken Green and Caddyman.

If I have a plastic fuel can that seals air tight, why not store it inside the van?

I understand the need for storing fuel cans that are not air tight outside the van, but what about an airtight plastic can? Can’t it be stored inside the van safely?

Few gas cans are “air tight”… After a few hours in the Sonora Sunshine, NO plastic can is safe. In the event of an accident, even a minor one, you don’t want a gas can tumbling around inside a vehicle. Plastic containers, strapped down outside in desert conditions, quickly deteriorate, become brittle and crack…In a minor accident, they rupture very easily, turning bumps and bruises into a funeral pyre…

If you MUST, investigate a MARINE fuel tank, properly installed inside the van. Check the West Marine catalog for a suitable shape and size. But you WILL have compromised your safety somewhat…

The gas can is going to be flexing a little bit each time the car heats up and cools down. That could eventually crack a seam.

If you happen to have the misfortune to be in a serious accident, you want two gallons of gasoline spilled around your kids? Are you serious?

I have personal experience with two different plastic cans, niether of which was odor free, ever.

On occasion I would carry a 5 gal can of gas, inside the car/truck ( Ford Escape ), to make a complete round trip without having to buy high priced gas at the other end.

First can was plastic with the good ol’ snap-on vent cap on the backside of the handle. Even with both caps tight you could always smell gas in the car, albeit tolerable with the a/c on. This worked fine but only if you never stored the can in there overnight. If we spent a sufficient number of hours at our destination and the car was parked in the ninety degree sun the jug would be bloated and the car reeked until vented out.

In an attempt to continue to carry cheaper gas with us I tried a newer plastic 5 gallon jug that has the self-venting neck, therefore only the one cap that, in theory, when kept tight would not vent fumes.


Even with the windows down a tad in the noon-day sun, the bloating of this can was even more. Scarry rounded out sides that really made you wonder and when carefully loosening the cap, whoosh. And still the car smelled of gas inside. The odor was dissipated while driving with the a/c or heater fan on , but when hauling rear seat passengers, they could always smell gas. So it wasn’t long until I decided to just bite the bullet and buy gas at the other end.

–Don’t store extra gas inside the vehicle—( And I don’t even know the medical implications of prolonged exposure to gas fumes, but in my shop when there’s strong gas odor, I can feel it in my teeth/gums. )

If more gas is always/often needed, outfit the vehicle with an auxiliary tank, perhaps in that prefered location, which will then be vented outside. ( I’ve seen Jeeps with under-seat aux tanks. )

I have a fun road trip in the mountains I’ve done for the last couple of years that’s about 150 miles in from the nearest gas station. Going there and back is cutting it a little close with the truck I have now so I have to bring some gas.

While I generally don’t disagree with what the others have said, I think doing a plastic can inside the car can be manageable if you’re only going to do it once or twice. First off, this may seem obvious, but the trick is not to keep the gas in reserve for your whole trip, but to drive enough miles to make room in the tank and then refill it (I only realized this about 200 miles into my trip the first time I did it). So you’ll only be driving around with the full gas can for about 50 miles and if you have the can secured somewhere that it won’t tip over or go flying in a crash, it should be reasonably safe.

As for the smell, the first year I did it the truck pretty much reeked of gas the whole trip. On later trips, I found a trick that worked for me was to strap some rags around the nozzle/cap thing with some heavy duty rubber bands I had lying around and duct taping the vent shut. This made the gas smell acceptable with the can full and once I drained it and let it air out for a half hour or so before bundling it up and putting it back in the car, I couldn’t even tell the can was there for the rest of the trip.

I would definitely agree with getting a heavy duty metal exterior jerry can setup or even some sort of marine/offroad fuel cell if you make a frequent hobby of long autotreks, though.