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What Is a Jerry Can?

What Is a Jerry Can?

There’s no doubt that most people have heard of the term jerry can before, however, you may find yourself wondering what a jerry can is.

A jerry can is a container, usually made of steel or plastic, that is used for holding and transporting fuel or other liquids, like water.

If you own a car, lawnmower, or any other machine that needs fuel, you may already be familiar with or even own your own jerry can.

Jerry cans are incredibly common items, but the name can often be confusing and is often used to describe any gas can. In fact, there are many people out there who own jerry cans or other fuel cans and simply don’t know the difference.

Since the term is so confusing, what exactly is a jerry can, why are they called jerry cans in the first place, and should you be sure to have one in your home?

What Is a Jerry Can?

Generally, you’ll more than likely hear the term jerry can being used to describe any container meant to store and transport fuel. However, while many people use it as a general term, the term jerry can really refers to fuel containers of a particular design. 

If you’ve seen any war movies or played any video games centered around military conflict, you’ll be familiar with the general look of a standard jerry can, even if you aren’t aware of it. They’re usually rectangular in shape and with the top corner where the opening of the can is being cut flat. 

Most jerry cans have three handles on the top, making them easy to carry. They most commonly hold 20 liters or a bit more than 5 gallons of fuel.

Though designed for carrying fuel, jerry cans can be used to transport any liquid and they’re incredibly useful for transporting drinking water to places where it’s not available or carrying extra fuel in a vehicle just in case your vehicle starts running low.

Why Are They Called Jerry Cans?

One of the most common questions about jerry cans simply has to do with the name. Why are they called jerry cans in the first place? Why don’t we just call them gas cans or anything else that might make a bit more sense?

Why Are They Called Jerry Cans

Jerry can actually comes from the fact that these were a german invention. A long time ago, “jerry” was a common slang term for someone who is German, so this along with the jerry can’s german origins made jerry can a logical and catchy choice of name for the new invention.

The History of the Jerry Can

As stated before, the jerry can was invented in Germany. The germans designed it in the 1930s so that the military could safely and easily transport fuel wherever they needed to and it ended up being widely used by the militaries on both sides of World War Two.

The jerry can was actually a pretty significant advancement in technology at the time. Earlier cans were a lot less convenient and required funnels and other tools to use. They allow the user to fill and empty the can without any extra tools, which made using these jerry cans a lot easier, especially in the stressful situations on the front lines.

The History Of The Jerry Can
The Americans brought the German jerry can back to the US early on in the war and reverse-engineered and redesigned the jerry can for the US military. The new American jerry can was stackable and interchangeable with the german cans, only modifying a few minor details including reducing its weight.

The design of these German and American jerry cans was so good that they are still commonly used today, both in military and civilian applications. In fact, the German design is still the standard design used by all of the militaries in NATO.

Should You Have a Jerry Can In Your Home?

Know that you know all about what a jerry can is, is it a good idea to have a jerry can in your home? Well, while it might not be an immediate necessity, having a few extra jerry cans laying around in your garage can’t hurt as Jerry cans can be incredibly useful in a variety of situations. 

First, if you own a car, lawnmower, or anything else that needs gasoline to run, jerry cans are a great way to store some extra gas in the garage. In the case of a lawnmower, no one wants to have to run to the gas station anytime they need to cut their grass, and if you’re someone who likes to go on long road trips, having an extra jerry can or two full of gas in the trunk can give you a bit of extra security if things go wrong. 

The same goes for transporting and storing water. Natural disasters happen, and it is always good to be able to store a bit of extra drinking water if you need to. The same applies again if you like to drive long distances. Having an extra few gallons of water on a trip can come in handy in the case of an unexpected breakdown.

Key Takeaways to What a Jerry Can Is

The term jerry can is often used as a general term for any container meant to carry fuel. 

The term actually refers to a specific type of fuel can, and can also be useful for storing and transporting water.

They are called jerry cans because they were invented in Germany and jerry used to be a common slang term for German people.

Jerry cans were originally designed for military application but are now commonly used by civilians as well.

Jerry cans can be useful for storing extra fuel and drinking water in your house or your car.

Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!