Jerrycan: Everything You Need to Know

Safewell Jerrycan
Source: Safewell

A jerrycan is a sturdy liquid container made of pressed steel that can also be spelled as jerry can or jerrican (and more recently, high-density polyethylene). It was developed in Germany for military usage in the 1930s and can contain 20 liters (4.4 imp gal; 5.3 US gal) of fuel. Both Germany and the Allies used it extensively during the Second World War.

The invention of the jerrycan was a considerable advancement over earlier designs, which necessitated the use of tools and funnels, and it was packed with novel features for resilience and ease of use. In both military and civilian settings, identical designs are still utilized today for fuel and water containers. Though some are also made of plastic, the designs often mimic the original steel style. In today’s blog, we are going to tell you everything you need to know about Jerrycans.

What is Jerrycan? 

Military green metal Jerry Can 10L
Source: unsplash

A jerry can is a special kind of container made for holding different kinds of liquids, including gasoline and diesel, kerosene, chemicals, lubricants, water, etc. A jerry can’s design makes it possible to quickly attach a hose to prevent spills while filling it. Jerry cans were originally only made of steel, but in recent years, plastic jerry cans have entered the market and have gained popularity due to their affordability.

The History of Jerrycans

German Invention

A similar design was used in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War where they had a company logo for Ambi-Budd Presswerk GmbH. The Wehrmacht had specified that a soldier should be able to carry either two full containers or four empty ones, which is why the triple h was used. The Wehrmacht-Einheitskanister, as it was known in Germany, was first developed in 1937 by the Müller engineering firm in Schwelm to a design by their chief engineer Vinzenz G To achieve the needed filling and draining speed, it was designed with a big spout and flip top closing.

A fastening pin or wire with a lead seal could be fitted through a hole in the closing retainer. Because it was rectangular, it could be stacked. The container was made stiffer and the weld seam was shielded from impact damage by the recessed seam. The indentations prevented a full can from being seriously hurt when it fell from a moving vehicle, and a dip coat of paint on the inside prevented corrosion.

In preparation for conflict, the German military had thousands of these cans on hand by 1939. At the commencement of the Second World War, motorized forces were given cans with lengths of rubber hose so they could syphon fuel from any nearby sources, facilitating their quick advance across Poland.

American Adaptation

American engineer Paul Pleiss constructed a vehicle in 1939 to travel to India with his German companion. They discovered they had no emergency water storage after constructing the automobile. The German engineer was able to grab three jerrycans from the airport’s supply after gaining access to it. The German engineer also provided Pleiss with comprehensive instructions for producing the can. Pleiss kept going to Calcutta, parked his car there, and then took a plane back to Philadelphia to inform American military officials about the can. He failed to arouse any curiosity.

He realized he would be stuck without a sample. He ultimately delivered the car via a detour to New York and sent a can to Washington. Instead, the War Department chose to employ ten-US-gallon (38 l; 8.3 imp gal) cans from World War I, which required a wrench and funnel to pour.

The sole jerrycan owned by Americans was sent to Camp Holabird, Maryland, where it underwent design modifications. The new design kept the handles, the size, and the shape, but it is most immediately distinguished from the German original by the streamlined “X”-shaped indentations on the can’s sides that provide stiffening support. German or British cans might be put beside US cans without any issues.

Rolled seams, which were more prone to leakage, were used in place of the German recessed welded seam. The liner had to be taken off the fuel cans, and a spanner and funnel were needed. A comparable water container with an enamel interior and a flip-top cover was also adopted.

US Army and Marine Corps forces frequently used jerrycans that were US-designed. Fuel and other petroleum products made up around 50% of all supply demands, weighted across all theatres overseas. By May 1945, more than 19 million people were necessary to assist US forces in the European Theatre of Operations alone.

The jerrycan was crucial in assuring the availability of fuel for Allied operations. 875 US gallons (3,310 l) of petrol carried in jerrycans could fit inside a single ordinary US 2.5-tonne truck. US logisticians wanted more than 1.3 million cans per month to make up for losses; US and British manufacturers supplied these cans, but supply could not keep up with demand. Jerrycans were severely lost in units; for instance, 3.5 million were reported “lost” in October 1944. Even though fuel was accessible in the rear areas, at one time in August 1944 a paucity of cans (caused by losses) limited the amount that could be transported forward to fighting forces.

The German version weighed 11.5 pounds (5.2 kg), whereas the US design weighed 10 pounds (4.5 kg). Following then, these fuel containers were utilized in all battle zones around the globe. It was observed by the Roosevelt administration that “without these cans, it would have been difficult for our soldiers to cut their way into France at a lightning pace which equaled the German Blitzkrieg of 1940.” This shows how important the cans were to the war effort.

British Need

The 2-imperial-gallon (9.1 l; 2.4 US gal) container built of pressed steel and the 4-imperial-gallon (18 l; 4.8 US gal) container made of the tin plate were the only two simple gasoline containers available to the British Army at the start of the Second World War. Although the 2-gallon containers were expensive to build, they were reasonably sturdy. The 4-gallon containers, which were mainly made in Egypt, were widely available and reasonably priced, but they tended to leak with slight damage.

In the past, wooden cases were used to store pairs of 4-gallon containers. The timber structure provided protection for the cans during stacking and kept the upper levels from colliding with the bottom layers. The wooden case was eventually replaced with cardboard or thin plywood cases, neither of which offered much protection as the war went on. Fuel in 4-gallon canisters posed a risk to the cargo ships transporting them. The fuel would build up in cargo holds as it leaked. At least one of these ships blew up.

The 4-gallon containers, while adequate for transportation on European highways, were utterly ineffective during the North African Campaign. The crimped or soldered seams are prone to splitting while being transported, especially when traveling off-road through North Africa’s rocky deserts. In addition, the containers were easily perforated by even mild trauma. 

The troops termed the 4-gallon containers “flimsies” as a result of these issues. Up to 25% of the fuel is lost while transportation through tough terrain as a result of seam failures or punctures. Vehicles had a propensity to catch fire due to fuel leaks. The British Eighth Army’s ability to function was significantly impeded by the systematic discarding of the containers after a single usage. The 4-gallon container was more successfully and widely used as a cooking stove known as the “Benghazi burner.”

During the Norwegian Campaign in 1940, the British Army first encountered the German fuel cans, and they immediately recognized the advantages of the superior construction. The three handles made movement bucket brigade-style or with just one or two persons possible. Two empty cans can be carried in each hand using the outer handle thanks to the handle’s shape.

When the can was properly filled, an air pocket formed under the handles as well as cross-shaped indentations on the can’s sides that strengthened the can while enabling the contents to expand. This air pocket allowed the container to float if dropped in water. Instead of a screw cap, the containers had a cam lever release mechanism with a small spout that was fastened with a snap. 

An air pipe connected to the air pocket allowing for easy pouring (which was erased in some copies). Additionally, the interior of the container was sealed with an impervious plastic that was originally created for steel beer barrels and allowed it to be used for either gasoline or water. The can has a gasket for a leak-proof mouth and was welded together.

The British used cans were taken from the “Jerries,” or Germans, therefore “jerrycans,” as much as possible in place of their own containers. Pleiss was in London later in 1940 when British officers questioned him about the jerrycan’s creation and design. Pleiss instructed the airlift to London with the second of his three jerrycans. The Long Range Desert Group, among other forces, was equipped with Axis jerrycans following the second conquest of Benghazi at the end of 1941.

Soviet Usage

The Soviet Union also acknowledged the Wehrmachtskanister’s power. Later, its design was imitated, and the Soviet Army adopted it as the default liquid container. In contemporary Russia, this container is still manufactured and utilized. This container is mostly used in civilian applications for lubricants and motor fuel.

Why is It Called A Jerrycan?

Vinzenz Grünvogel, an engineer at the Muller firm in the Ruhr region, gave the Wehrmachtskanister its name in 1937. This design acquired some slang titles when it was imitated by other states. Because they were mockingly referred to as “Jerries” or “Germans,” the most popular names are “Jeep Cans,” “Blitz Cans,” and simply “Jerry Cans.”

Different Types of Jerrycans

Metal Jerrycan

Military green metal Jerry Can
Source: Safewell

The most popular size of metal jerry can is 20 liters (about 5 gallons). The construction material is a robust pressed sheet of steel, as opposed to other options that were in use at the time and used brittle “tin,” which frequently caused waste or fires.

It includes distinctive “x” ribs on the sides that strengthen the structure and provide a favorable bending point so the container can expand or contract depending on the weather.

Even the handle has a number of incredible features; it is made up of three parallel rods. It can be transported by two people using the two outside ones without them obstructing one another. If you have to move the metal jerryca, a middle handle makes it possible to lift the weight evenly.

Plastic Jerrycan

Red Military plastic Jerry Can
Plastic Jerrycan

Since the 1970s, the production of these items has increasingly switched in favor of the usage of plastics (except for some specific cases where it is still required the metal).

In actuality, plastic weighs far less than metal (a few KG less), is less expensive to make because the raw material is less expensive, and does not require complicated welding techniques. Furthermore, current chains allow for nearly complete automation of the operation, enabling high production rates.

Further advantages are also made possible by plastic:

  • Avoid rusting.
  • It may be colored without being painted, which is important for things like labeling the contents: red is for gasoline, yellow is for diesel, and blue is for kerosene.
  • allows for the perception of the liquid content’s volume due to transparency.
  • Because the material is flexible, it is feasible to add accessories to the device, such as connecting pipes, detachable tongue caps, embedded taps, etc.)
  • Any geometry can be employed, allowing for the improvement of ergonomics.

What Are Jerrycans Made of?

Jerry cans used to be made from pressed steel but they don’t even have to be made of metal these days. Modern plastics are lightweight and more than sturdy enough to transport liquids like fuel securely. HDPE (high-density polyethylene) plastic, which is durable and appropriate for carrying chemicals, is typically used to make modern jerry cans.

Advantages of Jerrycan

red metal jerrycan

Plastic Jerry Cans are a one-stop shop for all of a business’s gasoline and oil storage requirements. The manufacturing sector depends heavily on storage water and oil products like heating oil, diesel fuel, gasoline, acids, and bases. Whether they come from above or below, these liquids need to be preserved effectively. Oil should be processed in a top-notch, UV-resistant container.

Two varieties of plastic Jerrycan exist (Jerigen Plastik). The first is the German-invented steel jerry can that the Americans later modified. The second and most recent iteration is the plastic jerry can, which was created in 1970 by Finnish designer Eero Rislakki.

Although plastic jerry can have a longer history than the original steel one, many consumers now prefer it. Here are a few explanations:

1. More robust  

Steel is more resistant to corrosion and rust than plastic, but it is also more heavy-duty. This increases the likelihood of contamination, especially if the cans contain hazardous substances. Plastic jerry can producers also subject their products to a number of endurance tests to determine their limits. As long as they adhere to the recommended capacity limit set by the jerry can businesses, this guarantees consumers that their containers won’t leak or burst.

2. Less expensive 

Due to the difficulty in locating their basic materials, metal is typically more expensive than plastic. Purchasing a quality jerry can is a better investment because you receive more for your money because it often lasts longer and costs less for each piece.

You might also buy a recycled plastic container, as they are typically less expensive. Just remember to check first what it was originally used for. For instance, even if the container has indeed been cleaned and sterilized before being sold, avoid storing water in a can that once contained a hazardous chemical as this will contaminate your water.

3. Lighter

Plastic is lighter than metal, for example. Because of this, plastic jerry cans are more portable than steel ones. Even though an empty steel can is just somewhat heavier than an empty plastic can, the shipping of loaded containers may be impacted by this weight difference. For example, a delivery truck can transport more Plastic Jerrycans (Jerigen Plastik) filled with gasoline than it can steel Jerrycans since the increased weight per container adds to the overall weight of the shipment.

4. Re-usability

Jerry cans made of plastic have a longer shelf life. Any other form of material, according to studies, may only be used three times in a row before needing to be totally disposed of. This suggests that businesses will have to spend a lot of money on replacement and repair costs. Contrarily, plastic can be recycled and reused more than 50 times before being thrown. The latter approach makes more commercial sense as a result.

5. Moisture-resistant

Water cannot penetrate the can. They experience no negative effects while submerged in water. Because plastic doesn’t need to be loaded and so takes up less space, it often costs less to transport than other materials.

6. Minimizing space

Did you know you could save up to 76% of the space you would need by stacking empty plastic cans? Due to their excellent design, empty cans nest inside of one another, allowing you to save money on the return transit of empty packaging. The bins can be stacked even with the lid shut. The bins nest together when the lid is unlocked, conserving room for storage or transportation.

What is A Jerrycan Used For?

Stainless Steel Jerry Can
Source: Safewell 

Similar styles are still in use today for water and fuel containers, some of which are made of plastic. Although they have also been termed “jerryjugs,” the designs typically mimic the original steel design and are still referred to as jerrycans. In most cases, their use is indicated by the color, and occasionally by labeling that is imprinted on the container itself. This guards against the mixing of various fuels and the contaminating of water containers with fuel or vice versa.

Regulations of Jerrycan

Present-day US Laws

As of January 10, 2009, two new regulations must be complied with by all portable gasoline containers:

  • They must fulfill new federal Mobile Source Air Toxic restrictions, based on the California Air Resources Board’s requirements.
  • The Children’s Gasoline Burn Prevention Act must be complied with.
  • The typical red plastic, portable gas cans are covered by these new standards rather than the metal safety containers that have received OSHA approval. Users are not required to update or discard their current gasoline cans; however, the EPA does provide informative resources for implementing community gas can exchange programs. The requirements only apply to newly manufactured gasoline cans.

Prevailing European Laws

The European Agreement regarding the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (which also covers the transportation of liquid fuels) governs the movement of dangerous goods within Europe (ADR).

The conventional jerrycan is included in the definition of a jerrican found in Chapter 1.2 of the 2011 ADR as “a metal or plastics container of rectangular or polygonal cross-section having one or more orifices,” but it also encompasses a broad variety of other packagings.

The ADR determines what standard of packaging is required for each type of dangerous item, including gasoline/petrol and diesel fuels, and sets performance standards for packaging. There are variations of the conventional jerrycan that are UN-marked authorized and meet the ADR criteria.


The jerry can, also known as the Wehrmachtskanister, was provided to German forces during World War 2 as its name implies. By the time allied troops quickly incorporated seized copies into their own regiments and realized it was a vastly superior design to their standard issue gasoline cans, they had given it the name “jerry can.” We hope that this blog has given you all the information you need to know about jerrycans. You can get in touch with Safewell for further details. Safes factory – Safewell is the best jerry can manufacturer available in the market.

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