There are many of us who have a can of gas stored in the garage or the shed for the times we need to top off our motorcycles, lawn mowers, snow blowers, or some other tool that requires gas.
As long as you use that gas quick enough, there usually is not problem with it sitting on the shelf waiting for it’s usage. However, if you live in a place that has harsh winters or the climate is just cold altogether, you may wonder if the can of gas you have stored can freeze.
So, will gas freeze in a gas can? Unlike other liquids such as water, gas does not have a specific freezing point. Gas can start to freeze anywhere from -45° F to -200° F. The freezing point of gas depends on the elements and additives that have been mixed in with it.
It seems to be quite difficult for gas to freeze, but for a handful of you it could be quite possible if you live in really cold places. There’s a lot more to freezing gas than the meets the eye and there are several ways to properly care for it so you won’t have to deal with issues down the road.
How Gas Freezes
When you have gas stored in a gas can in either your garage, shed, or carport, it’s easy to forget about it until you need it. When people imagine gas freezing, they imagine it reacts the same way water would: turning into a solid piece of ice. That’s not actually what gas does when it freezes.
Not every gas tank full of gas is the same. There are a lot of additives and mixtures that could be inside and a lot of that has to do with what time of year you get the gas and what gas station you got it from.
For example, oil refineries are allowed to add up to 10% ethanol in their gas and they’re not required to display to their patrons exactly how much is in their gas, only that it could contain up to that much. Ethanol is soluble with water and will mix with it.
Ethanol in gas can be seen as an anti-freezing component, especially if it’s inside the gas tank of a vehicle. The water-absorbing properties it has can prevent water from mixing in other places it shouldn’t. But it may react different if it’s just sitting on a shelf and therefore cause a different freezing temperature for the gas altogether.
When gas freezes, it turns into a gel-like substance rather than a block of ice. So if you’re outside checking on your gas during the winter and slosh it around and hear a few splashes, that doesn’t necessarily mean your gas isn’t frozen. You’ll be able to tell by how easily the gas runs from the spout; if it comes out as easily as it did during the summer, chances are it’s not frozen. If you notice it runs slower and comes out a little chunky, your gas is probably frozen.
How To Unfreeze Gas
If you’re in a cold enough climate where the gas in your gas can is frozen, you’ll probably want to stay away from pursuing any activity that requires that gas until it warms up a little.
You may be stuck in a situation where you’re left with no choice and need to use the gas you have to operate some machinery. Perhaps you need to top off your car because you ran out of gas or you need to use a snowmobile for emergency purpose. There are ways to treat and unfreeze gas if you’re in a situation like this.
Your best bet to thaw out gas is simply bringing the storage gas container inside your home and wait for it to get above -45 degrees. Some may be wary of this since gas has toxic fumes, so you may need to take it down in the basement or put it in a sealed container to prevent fumes from spreading. Make sure to keep it away from any major heat sources such as the furnace or stove.
You can also try warming up the garage with some sort of heater to get the temperature up. This will also be beneficial to the vehicle or machine you’re about to use; it will run significantly better if it’s warmed up from extremely cold temperatures.
Adding an antifreeze treatment to the gas can also help. You can find these treatment at any auto store. Keep in mind that this type of treatment will take hours for it to really start working it’s antifreeze characteristics if you’re adding it after the gas freezes.
How To Prevent Frozen Gas
It’s usually unlikely the gas stored in your gas can will freeze. And even if it does, you probably wouldn’t notice because you were too busy staying inside keeping warm. But when gas freezes, it has the potential to change the chemistry of it permanently, so you may want to take a few steps to prevent it from happening if it has a chance of doing so.
Because ethanol has some antifreeze elements to it, try getting some gas from a gas station that has ethanol in it. But do this to your discretion; if the vehicle or machine you’re using this gas for has a carburetor, it’s best to stay away from ethanol gas altogether because it can easily clog up the carburetor.
If you know the gas in your can doesn’t have ethanol in it, you can add some antifreeze treatments to it like it was mentioned earlier. You can find the treatments at any auto store. Adding a fuel stabilizer may also help as it prolongs the life of the gasoline itself.
What Happens To A Vehicle Or Machine That Has Frozen Gas Inside
You may have some sort of vehicle or machine you need to operate in extremely cold weather and wonder if you’ll be able to start it when it’s cold. Unless the temperature is colder than -45 degrees, the gas inside the machine is not frozen.
However, because freezing temperatures can create more condensation, it’s likely water has built up in the fuel lines and froze. This may give the impression that the gas itself has froze and you may not be able to start your vehicle.
There are several other things that could prevent your machine or vehicle from starting in extremely cold temperatures. Such things may include oil losing some of it’s viscosity and a weak battery.
You can combat this by putting the machine or vehicle in a heated garage for a while to warm it up. This will melt the ice that has developed in the fuel lines and gas will be able to flow through like normal. And once the vehicle is started, everything else will start warming up too.
How Full Should You Keep Your Gas Can Or Tank During Winter?
It’s important to know that if you’re going to have any gas inside a gas can or a gas tank during the winter, you should keep it as full as possible. Leaving any space in the can or tank gives condensation a chance to build up and bring in water which will mix with the gas inside.
It’s also possible to keep a gas can or tank completely empty throughout the winter. Though you will still have condensation build up, there won’t be any gas inside for it to mix with. It’s not recommended that you keep a gas tank in a vehicle empty for very long as that can cause rust inside.
How long does it take for gas to go bad in a motorcycle? Unstabilized gas in a motorcycle can start going bad in about 30 days. The exposure to oxygen changes the chemistry of gas which can lead to gum and varnish deposits. Gas should not be used if it has been sitting for longer than 6 months. Stabilized gas should not be used after 6-12 months. Click here to see my article that has more information.
Can motor oil freeze? Motor oil technically does not have a point where it freezes. However, freezing temperatures can still have a negative effect on motor oil. Oil will lose some of it’s viscosity at freezing temperatures which ultimately makes it more difficult to flow around inside the engine.