Q: We use ordinary red fuel containers for refuelling brushcutters in the field. They have spouts but we seem to spill a lot of fuel. We've tried funnels but still end up overfilling. Is there anything else we can use?
A: You don't want to be spilling fuel. It's not good for the environment, the soil or your pocket and it creates a fire risk.
Manufacturers of small-engine kit such as brushcutters, hedgetrimmers, blowers and chainsaws recognise that fuelling up can present a problem. That's why a number of them have developed special fuel cans and dispensing devices. A good example is Stihl. This company offers a five-litre capacity petrol canister for £7.87 (ex VAT). For an extra £2.97 plus VAT, you can have a pouring spout to help transfer fuel from the canister into the fuel tank on the tool.
Costing a bit more and aimed at chainsaw users, Stihl offers the Combination canister. This double container holds five litres of fuel and three litres of chain oil. It costs £28.51 (ex VAT). A pouring spout and cap cost £4.26.
What I think is particularly clever, however, is the Stihl filling system. This is available as a fuel or chain oil filling system - both costing £14.04 (ex VAT). The fuel filling system will fit onto the five-litre petrol canister or the fuel side of the Combination canister and makes refuelling a doddle. It's like being at the petrol station. When the tank is full, the flow cuts off. You shouldn't spill a drop with this one.
Husqvarna offers something similar. Developed in-house, the Husqvarna Combi canister holds six litres of petrol and 2.5 litres of oil for around £33 (ex VAT). The fuel container is fitted with an overfill protection device so, when the tank is full, flow is cut off automatically and you can lift the can away without spilling. The fuel container can be separated from the oil canister or can be purchased separately for less than £25.
I have used both the Stihl and Husqvarna fuel canisters and they are good. A fuel/oil canister is also available from Emak, holding five litres of fuel and 2.5 litres of oil. I haven't tried this one but I know it is available with an optional "quick fill" accessory designed for safe refuelling without spillages.
A new fuel can to hit the market this year is the Rapidon. This one is made by Birchmeier of Switzerland and is available in the UK from Dorset-based Central Spares. Although I have yet to use one, this canister promises to make refuelling of small-engine kit quicker, simpler and more convenient. It has a push-button control to allow the fuel flow to be controlled and so prevent unnecessary spillages.
Central Spares marketing manager Colin Gale tells me the fuel can is suitable for all sizes of engine, including mowers and quad bikes as well as handheld kit, and that operation is easy.
"First, the user folds out the half-round spout and then the conveniently positioned push-button control," he explains. "Second, with the spout inserted into the engine's fuel tank, depressing the button ventilates the tank and allows fuel to flow. Finally, when the fuel tank is full, letting go of the button closes the ventilation and stops the flow of the fuel."
Returning the spout and control button to their storage positions prevents fuel being spilt accidentally and reduces evaporation. The Rapidon has a price tag of £22.04 (ex VAT).
- Sally Drury has reported for HW and its forerunner GC&HTJ for 27 years and has spent more than five years testing machinery for HW and What Kit? The advice in this helpline is independent.