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#188277 - 11/14/09 02:34 AM Bic lighters DO have a lifespan!
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2719
Loc: Alberta, Canada
I have a number of Bic lighters that are at least 10 years old. I bought a big box of them when the child-resistant requirement came in.

So far they've been flawless. But I just had two of them fail on me in the last month. Butane and valve are fine. But somehow the flint seizes tight in its tube, so no spark. I tried everything, including cutting the holding tube with an Exacto blade. No luck.

So check your gear regularly. Bics have a lifespan. Who knew?

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#188282 - 11/14/09 03:55 AM Re: Bic lighters DO have a lifespan! [Re: dougwalkabout]
comms Offline
Veteran

Registered: 07/23/08
Posts: 1502
Loc: Mesa, AZ
Well I think your pretty lucky. Most life spans of new bics last as long as they are in your pocket then a day or week later. poof. gone.

I have certainly had fluid evaporate quicker than a decade. I think the heat in my car killed a bic in a desert summer. The opposite side is rust. I do think, and could be remembering wrongly, that if a bic gets wet from a dunking, it will rust around the flint.
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#188286 - 11/14/09 04:29 AM Re: Bic lighters DO have a lifespan! [Re: comms]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2719
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Well, they owe me nothing. I think I paid maybe 20 cents each.

Still, for laughs, I'd like to try to resurrect one.

Some sort of lubricant? Oily stuff would keep the flint from sparking if it ever came loose (WD-40, Liquid Wrench).

Maybe -- irony of ironies -- lighter fluid?

EDIT:
Just checked several others of that batch -- all were seized. But a few sharp cracks on a table loosened up two. And the third, after serious whacking on the bottom and sides, came back to life. I've put a big X on the bottom of all with a Sharpie. Time to use 'em up for the woodstove and firepit.

Pardon the uber-nerd commentary. "How to field strip a Bic lighter?" Oy. But it's still a more practical hobby than stamp collecting.


Edited by dougwalkabout (11/14/09 05:03 AM)

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#188292 - 11/14/09 07:48 AM Re: Bic lighters DO have a lifespan! [Re: dougwalkabout]
Todd W Offline
Product Tester
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/14/04
Posts: 1928
Loc: Mountains of CA
Toss them ALL in the firepit ato nce and take apic laugh
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#188310 - 11/14/09 05:08 PM Re: Bic lighters DO have a lifespan! [Re: ]
scafool Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 12/18/08
Posts: 1534
Loc: Muskoka
If there is dampness the flint itself corrodes. It seems to depend a little bit on the mix of metals in the mischmetal flints, but they swell a bit at first and then turn to dust. I have had it happen in Zippo lighters too.
It is possible to pull the lighters apart and replace flints, but at a dollar apiece it hardly seems worthwhile on a bic.

Something to read from freshpatents.com:
Quote:
In addition, the flints used in the current mode of fire starters are highly susceptible to corrosion and/or deterioration from environmental factors, which limits their utility as a survival tool. Fire-starting rods are typically composed of a mixture of rare earth elements (e.g., cerium, lanthanum, praseodymium, and other elements from that family) in combination with iron and/or iron oxide. The elements normally used in the many different compositions of fire-starting flint rods have high standard reduction potentials and have a great tendency to give up their valence electrons. Also, several of these elements—cerium and lanthanum, for example—not only oxidize very easily but decompose in water (and corrode rapidly in warm water). Under conditions where an electrolyte or reagent is present (such as a salt water environment) a flint rod will completely disintegrate within 24 hours. There have been many occasions in which persons needing to use their fire starters have gone to retrieve it, but found only dust in their back packs where their fire starters had been stored. Also, the rods of many types of fire starters (such as the type that has a flint-steel rod mounted on a magnesium block) will react violently when immersed in salt water producing heat and hydrogen gas. This is hardly a desirable attribute, considering that a wet or marine environment is the very type of environment where a survival tool of this type may be needed, especially for emergency responders and military personnel. A fire starter using any type of flint-steel that is not completely sealed from the elements (especially water) is not a practical survival tool in the real world. While it would seem that the problem could be solved simply by making the tool in a fashion to seal up the vulnerable flint rod to protect it from moisture, this simple solution has to date, in fact, completely escaped the survival tool industry.
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May set off to explore without any sense of direction or how to return.

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#188314 - 11/14/09 06:08 PM Re: Bic lighters DO have a lifespan! [Re: scafool]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2719
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Very interesting. It does seem like the flints have swelled in size, indicating oxidation.

Alberta has a fairly dry climate (low humidity) and maybe that's why these Bics have lasted this long.

For long-term storage, I guess they should be left in the original package or sealed in doubled bags with some silica gel.

As for saltwater, sounds like it could kill my EDC firemakers in hours. Yikes.

Any thoughts on ways to "innoculate" the flint of a new Bic against corrosion?

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#188315 - 11/14/09 06:15 PM Re: Bic lighters DO have a lifespan! [Re: Todd W]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2719
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Originally Posted By: Todd W
Toss them ALL in the firepit ato nce and take apic laugh


That was my first thought, sort of, except I was going to tape the valve open, light them, and see where the point of actual failure (poof!) was. Cool to watch, from a distance.

But having identified a potential point of failure in gear I rely on, I'm going to see if I can light the butane "tinder" with a spark (stainless knife + rock). Shouldn't need a very hot spark.

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#188394 - 11/16/09 12:12 AM Re: Bic lighters DO have a lifespan! [Re: scafool]
Alex Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 1034
Loc: -
Originally Posted By: scafool
While it would seem that the problem could be solved simply by making the tool in a fashion to seal up the vulnerable flint rod to protect it from moisture, this simple solution has to date, in fact, completely escaped the survival tool industry.

I don't know about the bics, but some flint rods are made properly:


dougwalkabout, it's relatively easy to open a bic in the field in order to fix the flint. All you might need is a thin piece of metal which can fit between the grinding wheel posts to hold the flint on the spring deep in it's well while you are replacing the wheel. The tip of a narrow knife works well enough in most cases. Just remove the metal screen and the rest should look obvious to you. The rust on the flint side surface is easy to scrub away with the same knife, just don't overdo it. You don't want it to wobble in the well.

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#188395 - 11/16/09 12:27 AM Re: Bic lighters DO have a lifespan! [Re: dougwalkabout]
Desperado Offline
Veteran

Registered: 11/01/08
Posts: 1530
Loc: DFW, Texas
Originally Posted By: dougwalkabout
Very interesting. It does seem like the flints have swelled in size, indicating oxidation.

Any thoughts on ways to "innoculate" the flint of a new Bic against corrosion?


Sometimes rotating the spark wheel in the "opposite" direction will remove the oxidation without destroying the flint. Thus allowing the lighter to function as advertised.

Notice I said SOMETIMES......
_________________________
I do the things that I must, and really regret, are unfortunately necessary.

RIP OBG

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#188401 - 11/16/09 12:53 AM Re: Bic lighters DO have a lifespan! [Re: Alex]
Art_in_FL Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 09/01/07
Posts: 2432
Quote:
A fire starter using any type of flint-steel that is not completely sealed from the elements (especially water) is not a practical survival tool in the real world.


I think that is a bit of hyperbole employed to make their patentable idea seem more necessary than it otherwise might be.

Corrosion of flints isn't really new. Anyone who is old enough to have owned a Zippo and used it enough to need to replace the flint will remember the old yellow plastic card that the flints came on. And that the flints were sealed with a heavy coat of waxy red paint. Last I checked those flints were still available. Next trip to the store I will look.

Seems to me like if there is still liquid butane in a disposable lighter, and the corrosion isn't too bad, you should be able to pop off the chromed shield; pry off the striker wheel; work the old corroded flint out; and insert a new one.

Quote:
There have been many occasions in which persons needing to use their fire starters have gone to retrieve it, but found only dust in their back packs where their fire starters had been stored. Also, the rods of many types of fire starters (such as the type that has a flint-steel rod mounted on a magnesium block) will react violently when immersed in salt water producing heat and hydrogen gas.


Now I have found flint striker rods, the magnesium blocks with a flint on the side, and ferro rods that have deteriorated. Usually not entirely to dust. And usually only where they were allowed to get, and stay wet for months. Seemed worse in those situations where there were dissimilar metals present.

But I have never seen a Doan's bar, mag bar with flint, "react violently when immersed in salt water producing heat and hydrogen gas". I can't say that I remember keeping one near where it might get wet with salt water. I have had one get and mostly stay damp with sweat, it was riding in my pants pocket for several hot summer days. It was corroded a bit, mostly the magnesium had flaky white corrosion on one side but it didn't get hot or burst into flames. Good thing I guess. Then again it was new and may have been still coated in some sort of sealant or wax.

Which may point out the solution. Heavily wax your flints to keep them protected from oxygen and water. I wonder if silicone might help.

I have kept the same mini-Bic in my front pants pocket for a couple of years and it needs a few more flicks to get it to light if it hasn't been used in a while. Given the warm weather here it probably gets a bit damp regularly from sweat and after two years, maybe more, it still lights. So the corrosion effect wouldn't seem to be an immediate concern. Perhaps just another thing to keep an eye on.

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