Mad Max vs. the Malboro Man

While watching The Road Warrior today, I was reminded of that old movie cliche of blowing up the bad guy by luring him into a huge gasoline puddle, flicking a lit cigarette into the puddle and watching him burn.

I thought I remember reading somewhere that that could not work, since the flash point of gasoline is above the temperature of a lit ciggie. Or something. Anyone have any hard data proving/refuting this?

I am fairly sure that the puddle of gas itself would not burn or explode, however, if you recall, Max had given the guy a hacksaw and told him that he could cut through the handcuffs in 10 minutes or his wrist in 5. Then he lit his lighter and threw it on part of the gas trail. This was not really a puddle and the fumes that had risen from the leaking gas (it had leaked for a couple of minutes) was probably what originally caught fire and that was probably hot enough to cause the trail of gas to burn.

So if you drop a lit cigarette in a bucket of gas it will likely go out. If you throw a zippo lighter that is lit on a trail of gas, it will probably light the gas and run up to the tank/bucket and explode.


Gasoline has an extremely low flashpoint.
-45 degrees F, to be exact.
That’s minus 45 degrees.

This from the OSHA website:

"Flash point means the minimum temperature at which a liquid gives off vapor within a test vessel in sufficient concentration to form an ignitable mixture with air near the surface of the liquid. The flash point is normally an indication of susceptibility to ignition.

The flash point is determined by heating the liquid in test equipment and measuring the temperature at which a flash will be obtained when a small flame is introduced in the vapor zone above the surface of the liquid. It should be mentioned that flash point was selected as the basis for classification of flammable and combustible liquids because it is directly related to a liquid’s ability to generate vapor, i.e., its volatility.

Since it is the vapor of the liquid, not the liquid itself, that burns, vapor generation becomes the primary factor in determining the fire hazard. The expression “low flash - high hazard” applies. Liquids having flash points below ambient storage temperatures generally display a rapid rate of flame spread over the surface of the liquid, since it is not necessary for the heat of the fire to expend its energy in heating the liquid to generate more vapor."

I’ve seen people successfully plunge a lit cigarette into a container of gasoline without igniting it. The trick, of course, is to be sure there are no vapors hanging around over the top of the liquid, and to get the butt into the liquid as quickly as possible.

Chances are the bad guy in the puddle will be swooning from the fumes and offering him one last cigarette might not be the humane thing to do.

Gasoline ignites fairly easily, though a mere lit cigarette is more likely to be doused by a pool of gasoline than to ignite it.

However, airplane fuel is FAR less readily ignited. So, when Bruce Willis destroyed a jet liner at the end of “Die Hard 2” by igniting its fuel, that was REALLY implausible.

Someone once told me (a mechanic) that oil you put in your car is to heavy to burn. HA. I got my oil changed at a Jiffy Lube and they didn’t put the oil filler cap back on. The oil spilled out on to the engine and WHAM! I saw flames burning out from under my car. The oil had caught on fire.

[Nickrz paste]
the trick, of course, is to be sure there are no vapors hanging around over the top of the liquid

And how, exactly, would one accomplish this?

A quick experiment in my garage shows, gasoline at 90 degrees will not catch fire if a cig is held diredtly over the surface. The cig was held for over one minite then “slowly” pushed in. No flames occured.

Ok. As a former aircraft crew cheif, I
know the answer to my query. Nikrz, I was simply wondering if you did. I guess as of now, I am officially a “troll”.

Uh, EG… I don’t believe you actually performed that experiment, but if you did, you’re a really lucky nut-case.

(In response to your “rhetorical” question, any windy day will do, and make sure the container is full so there is no place for the vapors to accumulate).

You’re going to debunk classic movie scenes, are you? In addition to the MAD MAX scene you cited, there’s a great scene in THE BIRDS where a guy’s cigar drops in the puddle of gasoline.

I said I was watching Road Warrior, not Mad Max. And I said the movie reminded me of of the gasoline-cigarette cliche. I didn’t say it included the cliche.

I am gravely disappointed. Again you have made me unleash my dogs of war.