How Long Do Flares Last? Shelf-Life and Burning Time

When using flares, there are two measures to consider: how long you’ve had each flare and how long they’ll burn once ignited.

If flares are left for too long without use, they may not work in your moment of need. Traditional flares can burn for up to 60 seconds and expire three to six years after manufacturing. When purchasing, always be sure to check the manufacturing date to determine the expiration if it’s not indicated.

Flare education is crucial for staying safe whether traveling by car, boat, or plane. To ensure your safety, this article will cover how long each type of flare burns and the shelf-life you can expect depending on the flare you purchase.

How Long Do Flares Burn?

Handheld flares, typically used on roadways, will burn for at least one minute. Aerial flares that can be shot into the sky from the road or water will burn for closer to 40 seconds. Although the timeframe is lower, the vibrance of the flare makes up for the variation.

Handheld flares are half as bright as air flares; however, both flares are visible from an overhead aircraft even with the lower luminosity. With very similar burn times, it’s best to choose which type of flare you need based on your ideal usage.

Pyrotechnic flares can burn for between 10 and 60 minutes and are primarily used as highway flares. LED flares can last for up to 50,000 hours because they utilize lights rather than fire. This to say, there are several different kinds of flares depending on how long you need them to burn and the type of vehicle you’re traveling in.

If you’re primarily driving a car, you’ll have more luck with a handheld flare. Meanwhile, a boat captain will find that air flares are more effective for getting the ship noticed.

What’s the Average Shelf-Life of Flares?

The average flare expires around 42 months after its manufacture date. With that said, the expiration can range anywhere from three to six years after it was manufactured. Most flares will still be effective for a while after their expiration, as they’re known to outlive their expiration.

The shelf-life of a flare will be significantly shortened if you keep it in hot storage space. Your flares should always be stored in a cool and dry location for the best results. Even storing them next to a high heat source, like a furnace, fireplace, etc., may shorten their lifespan.

If the packaging on your flares has deteriorated in any way, likely, your flare will not work. This is regardless of if you’ve already reached the expiration date.

After your flare has expired, if the casing is still intact and you’ve stored it correctly, you can keep that flare as a backup. However, don’t rely wholly on that individual flare because it may not work as effectively as your newer signals.

If you have some expired flares, it can be tempting to test them out to ensure they still work. However, it is illegal to set off a flare unless it’s an emergency.

That’s why it’s best to either get rid of an expired flare or keep it as a backup with no guarantee that it’ll work. If you discharge a flare and it is not an emergency, you may receive a fine.

Different Types of Flares

Flares vary in how they’re ignited and the time of day they can be used. Most daytime flares produce orange smoke, while nighttime flares are often red.

This primarily depends on how easily these signals can be spotted with the varying sunlight. Smoke is often hard to see after the sun goes down, while a red light may not catch a rescuers eye during the peak sunlight hours. Utilizing the correct distress signal can make a significant difference in making yourself visible to speed up rescue time. Since you never know where and when you’ll break down, it’s ideal to carry both a day and night flare in your vehicle.

A few of the standard flares you may use include:

  • The red hand-held flare: can be used day or night
  • The orange smoke signal: used for day use
  • Parachute flare: can be used day or night

These different signal types will cover your basic road and waterway safety needs.

Best Survival Flares

Flares are a vital component of any survivalist’s pack, but not just any flare will do in some situations. Finding the best survival flare is looking at a combination of effectiveness and how easy it is to ignite.

For those using flares regularly, it may be helpful to ditch the traditional flare and go for an LED instead. These do not have to be lit like a match and work for up to 50,000 hours! LED flares are made up of lights rather than fire but are proven to shine just as bright as the traditional flare.

Related Post: Will a Road Flare Work Underwater?

These are the best way to go for survivalists. The only setback is that these flares are more expensive than the traditional ones. This investment, however, is easily made up in ease of use and length of use.

Disposing of Expired Flares

It’s critical to remember that flares cannot be disposed of in the regular trash. This can be very dangerous if they get set off accidentally. The heat and pressure of being in the waste can cause them to ignite, which can start a fire.

Each city is a bit different when it comes to flare disposal, so the best thing you can do is contact your local fire department and the flare manufacturer to ask them about the nearest disposal option. Often these are hazardous waste facilities; however, depending on the type of flare you have, you may be able to dispose of them at the facility in which they were purchased.

Old flares can also be donated to places like the Coast Guard, where they can use them for training purposes.