Even if there’s no expiration date, it won’t last forever.

By Melinda Page and Ashley Tate
Updated August 23, 2006

Manufacturers say most extinguishers should work for 5 to 15 years, but you might not know if you got yours three years ago or 13. So how can you be sure it will fire away? Atlanta fire chief Dennis L. Rubin recommends checking the pressure gauge monthly. “If the needle is in the green area, it’s functional,” he says. If it falls anywhere else, the extinguisher is unreliable and should be serviced or replaced. For an older model without a gauge, have it checked by a pro. Rubin recommends annual servicing for all models. To find companies that refill and service extinguishers, check the Yellow Pages under “fire extinguishers.”

Replace or service an extinguisher right away if it’s been used or if you notice any of the following:

  • The hose or nozzle is cracked, ripped, or blocked with debris.
  • The locking pin on the handle is missing or unsealed.
  • The handle is wobbly or broken.
  • The inspection sticker or hang tag, with a record of checkups and maintenance, is missing.

See How to Replace Practically Anything to learn when to replace other items.