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Do fire extinguishers expire?

If you have had a fire extinguisher in your car or truck for a long time, you may be wondering “Do fire extinguishers expire? What is a fire extinguisher’s life span? Is my fire extinguisher still good?”

These are all great questions and the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. In this blog post, we answer these questions and clear up some common myths and misunderstandings when it comes to fire extinguisher expiration.

How long do fire extinguishers last?

A UL-listed, rechargeable fire extinguisher does not have an “expiration date” per se, but it contains parts that have a limited life and will need to be replaced. Most extinguishers (including ours) will have a maintenance schedule based on NFPA 10 that must be followed (you can read about extinguisher maintenance in our blog post Fire Extinguisher Maintenance.) This consists of a monthly inspection, annual maintenance, 6-year maintenance, and 12-year maintenance (the last two calculated from the date of manufacture). After the 12-year maintenance, the cycle restarts. A professional fire service company should do the annual, 6-year, and 12-year maintenance. As long as this maintenance is followed, you can continue to use your UL-listed fire extinguisher assured that it will work as intended when you need it to!

The only parts that cannot be replaced are the cylinder and the serialized UL nameplate. Per NFPA guidelines, once the cylinder is too badly damaged or the nameplate is disfigured to the point the instructions are no longer legible, the extinguisher must be pulled from service. This is something the technician will be able to determine when you bring it to a fire service company.
 
Some disposable extinguishers on the market do expire because they cannot undergo the more extensive 6-year and 12-year maintenance. You should check your owner’s manual or reach out to the manufacturer to find out how long a disposable extinguisher is good for. Twelve years is the maximum. H3R Performance does not sell disposable extinguishers.

What happens when fire extinguishers expire?

If your fire extinguisher has passed the 6-year and even the 12-year maintenance interval without having been serviced, a number of things can happen that may cause your extinguisher not to function properly if you should need to use it.

First, the rubber o-ring that helps seal the valve and cylinder connection is replaced during these maintenance intervals. Rubber can crack and break down over time so it is important to have this replaced at the recommended times. If your extinguisher is regularly subjected to extreme, direct heat (over 120 degrees) it is recommended to have this o-ring replaced more frequently. A compromised seal can cause your extinguisher to leak.
Another key component that is replaced during the 6-year and 12-year maintenance is the valve stem. This is one of the most important components for proper discharge and a compromised valve stem may not work when you need it to.

Proper maintenance ensures that all the parts of your extinguisher are in good working order and that it will be ready when you need it. Failing to meet these requirements and allowing your extinguisher maintenance to lapse may lead to failure when you actually need to use it.

Where is the fire extinguisher expiration date or expiry date?
Our extinguishers are not marked with an expiration date for the reasons mentioned previously. Instead, our extinguishers note a year of manufacture. You can find the year of manufacture at the bottom right of the nameplate (four digits within a rectangle).
 
From there you can calculate the 6-year and 12-year maintenance. For example, if your extinguisher has “2020” on the nameplate, the 6-year maintenance is due in 2026 and the 12-year maintenance is due in 2032. Note: NFPA allows the maintenance to take place in any month of the year on the nameplate.

Is there a fire extinguisher that doesn’t expire?

As previously discussed, a UL-listed rechargeable extinguisher can have an indefinite shelf life as long as the maintenance schedule is followed.

Caution: Be wary of any fire extinguisher or fire suppression product that claims to be maintenance-free and never expire. Nothing lasts forever, and as the old saying goes “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Is my fire extinguisher still good?

You may be reading this and thinking “Uh oh! I never read the manual. I just installed my extinguisher and forgot about it, is it still good?” Don’t worry! The good news is you can check it right now. Look at the date of manufacture on the nameplate, and if it’s still recent and the gauge reads in the green, it is most likely still in good working order. However, if it’s more than twelve months from the year of manufacture, you should follow the NFPA 10 guidance and have a certified fire service company do the annual inspection.

If your extinguisher is more than six years past the year of manufacture, and particularly if it has been exposed to extreme conditions and shows signs of corrosion, or if the gauge is no longer in the green, you should take it to a fire service company for the 6-year maintenance. This can still be done even if your extinguisher is older than 6 years.
 
Summary

We hope this helped clarify that a properly maintained, UL-Listed, rechargeable extinguisher can have an indefinite shelf life. Be wary of non-UL listed products, particularly if they claim to be “maintenance-free” or that they “never expire.”

If you have any questions about your H3R Performance extinguisher, or need help finding a fire service company to service your H3R Performance extinguisher, drop us an e-mail at h3rinfo@h3rperformance.com.

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