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Butane Lighter Shelf Life Study

Copyright February 1, 2017 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.



In the year 1999 I purchased several butane lighters with different brand names made by different companies and I put them into storage for emergency use. All of the lighters were stored inside my home.

Bic Lighters Calico Lighters Cricket Lighters Scripto Lighters Vesta Lighters
11 Tested, 0 Worked 4 Tested, 4 Worked 3 Tested, 1 Worked 12 Tested, 0 Worked 6 Tested, 2 Worked

In the year 2017 (after eighteen years in storage) a few of the above butane lighters still worked but most of them did not.

Bic Lighters: (11 tested, 0 worked) None of the Bic lighters worked. Every Bic lighter had a striking wheel that I could not rotate regardless of how much pressure I applied to the wheel with my thumb. None of the Bic lighters had a child safety feature. None of the Bic lighters had an adjustable flame height slide control. The lighters were made of dark plastic and I could not see how much butane was still inside the lighters.

Calico Lighters: (4 tested, 4 worked) All of the Calico lighters worked as if they were new. None of the Calico lighters had a child safety feature. All of the Calico lighters had an adjustable flame height slide control. I could see through the clear colored plastic cases and the Calico lighters appeared to have about 70% of their original fuel.

Cricket Lighters: (3 tested, 1 worked) Only one of the Cricket lighters worked. After pushing the child safety button into the lighter as instructed, one of the lighters ignited the first time I spun the striking wheel. One had a striking wheel that I could not move even after correctly depressing the child safety button. One lighter would not produce sparks even though the striking wheel would rotate after I depressed the child safety button. None of the Cricket lighters had an adjustable flame height slide control. The lighters were made of dark plastic and I could not see how much butane was still inside the lighters.

Scripto Lighters: (12 tested, 0 worked) None of the Scripto lighters worked. All of the Scripto lighters would strike and produce sparks but they would not produce a flame. Ten of the Scripto lighters had a child safety button and two did not. All of the Scripto lighters had an adjustable flame height slide control. I could see through the clear colored plastic cases and the Scripto lighters appeared to have about 80% of their original fuel.

Vesta Lighters: (6 tested, 2 worked) Two of the Vesta lighters worked the first time I tried them. The other four had butane fuel and they would strike and produce sparks but they would not produce a flame. None of the Vesta lighters had a child safety button. All of the Vesta lighters had an adjustable flame height slide control. I could see through the clear colored plastic cases and the Vesta lighters appeared to have about 60% of their original fuel.

The butane lighters that are made of clear colored plastic are nice because you can easily see how much butane fuel is still inside the lighter.

On some of the above lighters the child safety control was very difficult to operate after 18 years in storage. It is possible that the child safety control may have been the reason some of the lighters would not produce a flame even though they would produce sparks.

I could not fix the lighters that had a striking wheel that would not rotate. I tried to move the striking wheel with a hand tool and it would not budge. I put a very small drop of lubricating oil on the striking wheel and then I waited three hours. The striking wheel still would not move.

When I purchased the above lighters in the year 1999 I did not know which brand name lighters would last the longest in storage. That is why I purchased a variety of different brand name lighters. I was simply following the old saying, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."

In my area in the year 2017 I found five different name brands of butane lighters for sale and none of them had the child safety feature. Some of the lighters do have a flame height slide control on the front of the lighter. However, the Bic lighters still do not have this feature.

In the year 2017 a standard size butane lighter can be purchased at many stores for less than one-dollar and it will start about 2,000 fires before it runs out of fuel. If you light one fire per day then the lighter will last about 5.5 years before it stops working. If you smoke tobacco and you light 20 cigarettes per day then it should last about 14 weeks before it stops working. If you don't use the butane lighter and you simply put it into storage for a future emergency, and if it is an average quality lighter without any unusual "invisible" defects, then after 18 years there is approximately a 19% chance it will still work. If it does work then it will probably still contain approximately 70% of its butane fuel inside the lighter. This assumes the average quality of today's butane lighters is similar to the average quality of the lighters made in 1999.

With the passage of time most companies make changes to their products for a variety of reasons. The changes may or may not improve the quality of the product. In the year 2017 it is highly unlikely that the butane lighters currently being made by the various companies are "exactly" the same as they were in 1999. Therefore if you are considering the purchase of some butane lighters to put into storage for a future emergency then you may wish to invest in several different brand names to increase the probability that one of your butane lighters will still work when you remove it from storage at some future date.



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