Pepper spray is a popular and commonly employed self-defense implement that is equally effective as a less-lethal option for those who carry a firearm or as a primary defensive weapon for those who are not comfortable or permitted guns.
Pepper spray is legal to own and carry almost everywhere, and is extremely prolific throughout the United States. This popularity means people can keep a can or two stashed in their vehicles just in case. Is this practice a good idea?
Can you store pepper spray in your car? You shouldn’t: most canisters should not be kept at temperatures in excess of 120° F / 48° C or below 32° F / 0° C, both ends of the spectrum possible inside a vehicle. Extremely hot or cold temperatures increase the risk of failure, either by leaking or bursting, or the pepper spray solution could be less effective.
Pepper spray is an excellent self-defense tool, and one that all preppers should consider to help keep themselves and their loved ones safe. But like all weapons, even the non-lethal ones, they have their own special storage requirements, and pepper spray is no different.
Keep reading so you can brush up on your pepper spray facts in order to and store it more effectively and safely.
High and Low Temps Degrade Pepper Spray Solution
First and foremost, you should be worried about extremely high or extremely low temperatures harming the pepper spray solution itself. The ingredients in the solution could begin to separate, or just start to lose that spicy punch that makes them work in the first place.
This can result in such unfortunate mishaps as a weak or erratic spray pattern or variations in expected dispersal. Don’t risk a failure that you can’t afford with such a trusted weapon by keeping your pepper spray in your vehicle for any length of time.
This is a bit of a Catch-22 for preppers, since pepper spray testing is not as simple as test firing a gun. If you test fire your pepper spray, there’s always a risk that you could accidentally expose yourself or someone else.
Not the end of the world, but most pepper spray canisters are very limited on both active ingredient and propellant meaning you could be unnecessarily degrading your canister when this whole fracas could have been avoided if you simply chose to store it somewhere else besides in your vehicle.
Visual inspection of your canister will often not yield much evidence of any failure unless the canister has been catastrophically damaged by freezing or leaking, but that is still the best you can do under the circumstances if you don’t want to waste its precious payload.
Again, you don’t have to go through anything like this if you refrain from storing your pepper spray in your vehicle.
Pressurized Container Hazards
Any decent commercial or law enforcement grade pepper spray will rely on a pressurized vessel for deployment. This is what gives pepper spray its reach and a sustained spray pattern.
No matter if you are using foam, gel or traditional aerosol, the payload is kept under pressure which is not released until the trigger is depressed.
Most of us have probably already learned along the way that you always want to use extreme caution when storing any pressurized vessel in an area where temperature spikes are expected, high or low.
No matter which way it goes a catastrophic failure could occur, but the nature of that failure depends on if your pepper spray canister is facing freezing or steamy temperatures.
Extreme Heat Hazards
The interior temperature play passenger compartment in any automobile will rapidly climb upwards of 30 degrees F hotter than the outside temperature once the vehicle is parked with the air conditioning turned off.
While it is true that shade, whether or not the windows are up or down, and some other variables can affect the internal temp most of us don’t need any convincing when it comes to just how hot a vehicle interior can get. Surfaces like the seats, dashboard, and armrests can get even hotter than the inside air temperature!
The hotter the ambient temperature, the more pressure your pepper spray can will experience. It is possible that temperatures can climb so high your pepper spray canister could leak or actually burst, not unlike a fizzy carbonated beverage left in the cup holder.
This will obviously be disastrous for the unfortunate soul that climbs into the car next, but it also means you are down a defensive weapon.
Extreme Cold Hazards
Just because you don’t live in a place known for sweltering summers or seasonal high temperatures you can let your guard down when it comes to storing your pepper spray in your vehicle. Cold weather can be just as hazardous, even more so.
Virtually every major brand of OC spray will feature water as a primary component of the solution, and water, obviously, can freeze with destructive effects on any container that holds it.
While it is true that other components in the solution such as propylene glycol or even the OC compound itself might conceivably have a positive effect on the freezing point of water, it speaks for itself that no major manufacturer will ever recommend you store your pepper spray in any environment that will reach the freezing point of water, just 32 degrees F.
Freezing is especially destructive for any vessel containing water, and your pepper spray canister will be no different.
In fact, it might induce sort of a “time bomb” effect where your canister has been ruptured by the freezing action, unbeknownst to you, only to be pocketed or placed it in a purse or on your belt for emergency use.
Only once the contents have begun to thaw and leak properly will you notice in the worst way that your pepper spray canister has been compromised.
You might count yourself lucky that you don’t get a blast of the hot stuff in your face as an unfortunate consequence of this occurrence, but you will still be down a weapon and that is even worse should you be attacked.
Avoid Mishaps and Going Unarmed by Keeping Pepper Spray on You
You can easily avoid all of these negative consequences by simply keeping your pepper spray on or about your person.
Pepper spray that is kept out of direct sunlight in a pocket, in a purse or inside a belt case will not get too hot in the vast majority of places on Earth. Similarly, kept near your body it should not freeze in anything but the most inhospitable of cold climates.
Beyond this, pepper spray can only help you if you have it close to hand when you need it to stop an attacker. If you get attacked away from your vehicle and your pepper spray is inside your car it might as well not even exist.
Only by having your pepper spray available for a speedy draw and deployment will you stand a chance.
You can avoid malfunction, ruptured canisters and going unarmed by keeping your pepper spray with you at all times.
You should not store pepper in your vehicle no matter what type of climate or environment you live in. Any time temperatures rise above 120 °F (48 °C) or fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 °C) the risk of catastrophic malfunction from leakage or rupture will be high.
Even if physical destruction does not occur the pepper spray solution itself might be degraded by temperature extremes.