Can You Put Diesel in a Gas Can?

Let’s say you need to store up on fuel; Diesel, to be specific. However, you don’t have any more diesel containers left to use. What you do have is a couple of old gasoline containers that aren’t being utilized. Now, can you use these gas cans to hold your diesel?

Can You Put Diesel in Gas Cans?

Chemically speaking, there would be no problem if one wanted to put diesel in an empty gas can.

However, you may want to keep in mind that some gasoline containers may not be compatible with diesel and can cause the degradation of this fuel. 

Most fuel containers also come color-coordinated with the fuel that it stores. This ensures that everyone has a more straightforward visual aid of what the container will contain. It’s usually yellow for diesel and red for gasoline.

Suppose you plan on going to a gas station to refill an old gasoline container with diesel. In that case, the station may refuse to do so as fire codes prevent them from filling containers with non-corresponding fuels.

Most everyone who has been dealing with cars and storing fuel has probably done it at least once. However, you have to make sure that you are doing it right and ensuring that the container is as clean as it possibly can.

What Do You Need To Do Before Putting Diesel in a Gas Can?

While you can put diesel in a gas container, you can’t just do it willy nilly. There are some things that you need to keep in mind to ensure that nothing bad will happen to your fuel. This also ensures that your fuel is safely stored and safe to use after.

  1. Check if the Container is Compatible

Some gas containers may contain materials that are not compatible with diesel fuel. Given that, it is extremely important that you make sure that the container is also appropriate for diesel storage to avoid contamination.

Typically speaking, containers containing diesel must not contain brass, zinc, tin, lead, or copper as these materials can contaminate and react with diesel forming unstable compounds.

  1. Make Sure the Gas Can Is Empty

Mixing diesel with gas and using it on any motor device will undoubtedly lead to damage. To make sure this doesn’t happen, you need to ensure that the can previously containing gasoline is completely emptied. 

If it isn’t and you really need that container for diesel, then safely discard the gas inside and allow for the remaining gasoline to dissolve as much as possible. 

  1. Rinse the Gas Container

Suppose the container you intend to put diesel in is used to contain gas or any other liquid materials. In that case, it’s best to give it a good rinse with water before you store your fuel in it.

A small amount of gasoline mixed with a large amount of diesel probably won’t do much harm to your engine. However, it’s best to make sure that you get all that residual gasoline out of the container to make sure that your diesel is as uncontaminated as possible.

Once the container is thoroughly rinsed and dried out, then you can put your diesel inside for storage and future use.

  1. Label the Container

As previously mentioned, the color of the container indicates the type of gas that it stores. This color-coding system was made to prevent the wrong kind of gas from being picked up and used on the wrong engine.

If the can you’re about to use follows the same color-coding system, best be sure to label the can first. If you’re up to the extra challenge, you can grab some spray or regular paint and go over the whole container with yellow.

This is to ensure that you don’t mistake the red container for gasoline and use it on an engine that utilizes gasoline for fuel.

Is There a Difference Between Diesel and Gas Cans?

So as not to confuse one for the other, diesel cans and gas cans are often made to look remarkably different from each other. For functional reasons, they may also have certain differences in structure and fixtures.

  • Color-coding
Can You Put Diesel in a Gas Can?

For starters, diesel cans are color-coded with the color yellow. This is to ensure that no one confuses it with the red color-coded cans containing gasoline or the blue color-coded cans containing kerosene.

  • Spout size

Diesel cans fill spouts also have a greater diameter as opposed to gas cans. The difference usually comes up to 1 centimeter. This is to make sure that one does not accidentally refill a gas tank made to fit a smaller spout with diesel fuel. 

On the other hand, gas cans with smaller spouts can usually refill diesel tanks without problem. 

  • Material

    There are also certain regulations regarding the materials of fuel containers.

Those storing and transporting diesel fuel shouould be made of either Teflon, steel, aluminum, fluorinated polyethylene, and fluorinated polypropylene. 

Gas fuel containers are made up of sturdy plastics such as HDPE or high-density polyethylene. In some cases, PTFE, nylon containers, and tin-coated steel can also be used to store gas.

What Happens If Diesel and Gasoline are mixed?

What happens when one mixes diesel with gasoline depends on how much of each component is mixed. If left and stored in the container, nothing will happen. However, when you finally use the mixture, all problems break loose.

Mixing a small amount of residual gasoline in the container with an entire container of diesel would have extremely little to no effect on the engine you use it on. This is because the gasoline would be diluted enough that the engine wouldn’t be able to detect it.

However, as the amount of gasoline increases, the more it can mess with your engine.

Gasoline and diesel differ in their volatility and flashpoint. Diesel is thicker and more combustible, while gasoline is thinner and more flammable. 

Should a significant amount of gasoline get mixed in with diesel, it can lower the temperature at which the fuel will catch fire. A little as 1% gasoline contamination can lower the diesel’s flashpoint by 18 degrees Celsius or 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

In turn, this can cause the fuel to ignite and damage the engine prematurely. This premature ignition can be especially harmful to the connecting rods and pistons.

Gasoline can also cause some engine components to jam, specifically the injectors and diesel pumps, due to the lack of lubrication that the gas does not provide. 


There is no problem with recycling an old gas can and using it to store your diesel fuel. However, you need to be extremely careful when you do so.

Make sure that your container is as clean, empty, and dry as it can be before choosing to house diesel in it. Avoid confusing it with gasoline-filled containers by properly labeling it. 

Always make sure that your diesel is as uncontaminated as possible. One thing is for sure, the damage brought about by diesel mixed with gasoline will cost you way more than a new fuel container would.

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