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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance > Engines > Diesel
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Diesel This is a forum dedicated to diesel engines and their applicable accessories.


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Old 08-23-2009
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Ooops. Water Contamination in Diesel Tank

Hi All,

I'm in great need of community advice.

I had an "Oh $hit" moment tonight. Earlier today, I fueled up our Beneteau 343 in preparation to go out. After finishing the fueling via jerry jugs, I cleaned up, hopped off the boat and got distracted with another chore. This was around 2 in the afternoon.

Tonight, I let the dogs go out and we walk to the boat (its in my backyard - we are on a canal) and I realized I left the fuel deckfill lid off, never screwed it back on. It rained really hard this afternoon around 4 pm, so I dont know how much water got into my fuel tank, but the fuel fill is right on the drainage channel for the side decks.

At this point, I dont know how to move forward. I'm pretty sure that water got in the tanks, and that is bad bad bad. I have a Racor as part of my fuel system, but it doesn't have an inspection glass see through at all (fully enclosed in metal) - so I'm at wits end on how to proceed.

I've seen fuel polishing systems and seriously thought about dropping $800 to buy one tonight...but is there anything else that anyone can recommend in the meantime?

I'll try posting pics of my Racor in the daytime...
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Old 08-23-2009
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if you dont slosh the boat too much i would drain the tank into a jug until you get straight fuel. you will get 90 % of it. if you slosh it too much then it will be a lot harder to get most of it out.

how big is your tank, can you drain it out into jerry cans then drain the water from the cans
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Old 08-23-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scottyt View Post
if you dont slosh the boat too much i would drain the tank into a jug until you get straight fuel. you will get 90 % of it. if you slosh it too much then it will be a lot harder to get most of it out.

how big is your tank, can you drain it out into jerry cans then drain the water from the cans
My tank is 29 gallons. I dont even know how to drain the fuel out of it?! I dont see an inspection port. How would one go about draining the fuel tank?
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Old 08-23-2009
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edit this whole part, if the tank only has a few gallons, say 10 or less draining and throwing away that fuel might be worth it in the long run. whats 30 bucks in the long run. just watch as most tanks have an area that does not drain to allow the crpa to settle. if you are going to trash the fuel when you get down to just a few gallons get a bunch of people to rock the boat for 10 mins to stir it up to get the most junk out... end edit

if you racor is lower then the tank you could just open the drain. if its not go to an auto parts store and get a small electric fuel pump and use that to pump it out thru the line to the racor. or even a fuel bulb for an outboard will do it. even one of those electric drill mounted pumps will do fine

the faster you get it out the less long term problems you will have. if you use a electric pump, or the drill mounted one. drain as much water as you can, then hook up a cheap water separator filter and use the pump to run the fuel thru the filter then back in to the tank. do this a few times and then add biocide to stop any growth. then dont keep filling the tank, let it get down to 1/4 full before you fill it again

for the separator use one that takes a spin on carterage that you can throw away. change it a few times as it runs, and run it for a few hours. ie poor mans fuel polisher

Last edited by scottyt; 08-23-2009 at 02:04 AM.
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Old 08-23-2009
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Just spent the last 5 hours working on the boat. I discovered I dont have a traditional fuel tank. Its a black molded plastic tank with no inspection panel at all. So here's what I did.

I removed the fuel level guage (complicated device, and it never works). That was 5 screws over a gasketed cover. Then I used a siphon pump to get as much of the diesel out of the tank as possible. I pulled out roughly 28 gallons into various jerry jugs I bought. In the process, I discovered home depot has the same Blitz jerry jugs that West Marine carries for $25...for only $11. I bought 4 more just for cruising

In any case, my tank is now pretty much empty. I'm going to let the tank stay empty for about a week and then see whats in there...maybe another round of spot siphoning with my jabsco.
When we go out next weekend, I have 10 more gallons of nice clean diesel and I'm going to put it in there after

I've also ordered a Racor 500MA and a Walford Fuel pump. I'm going to make my own homebrew fuel polishing system. If I cant figure out how to clean the dirty fuel I have now, I'll try and recycle it. In the end, its only $120 worth of fuel, the tough part is finding some place to recycle/take it.

And now, to the now humorous but at the time frustrating moment of this project. I started out by trying to pump out using the little Jabsco hand pump I had since I could get the line in there without removing the fuel level gauge. Well, three or four pumps into it, I started developing a rhythm. All of a sudden *POP*.....SPRRRRAAAAAAAAAYY. I managed to pop off the outlet line and then was spraying diesel ALL OVER MY AFT CABIN. This....sucks....balls. I hate the smell of old boats...the musty smell of diesel all over...and my boat was now headed down that path.

Immediately, I got a new bottle of 409 and a whole roll of paper towels. Nearly 1 hour later and a whole bottle of 409 and roll of towels, I *THINK* I've gotten the smell of diesel out of the aft cabin. Left a renuzit air freshener in there and will check again next week. I think I'm going to get more degreaser (a less concentrated formula) and go at the cabin again next week. I dont want any diesel scent at all.

Ugh...what a frustrating weekend. Didn't even leave the dock for all the work on the boat.
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Last edited by night0wl; 08-23-2009 at 02:45 PM.
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Old 08-23-2009
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get some rags, and i mean cotton rags, and a bunch of metal coat hangers. you can then twist a rag into a coat hanger and stick in the fuel gauge opening and some what wipe the bottom of the tank down.

you can also put in one gallon of gasoline and slosh it around then pump it out and trash it. just becareful of fumes going bang.

as for the smell use any cleaner you have but add a little orange cleaner to it. then leave some dryer sheets or coffee grinds in the area, to asorb the smell
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Old 08-23-2009
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I'd use 90+% isopropanol from the drug store or hardware store, not gasoline. The isoprop will pull the water out faster and evaporate with less danger of explosion--and leave no residuals in the diesel tank.

If you already have the contaminated diesel out, the best way to "polish" it is to let it stand in a tall narrow container, like a "yard of ale" glass or a stick of 2"-3" PVC pipe sealed on the bottom end. The water will separate out all by itself after a couple of days, then you can just pour off the diesel and throw out the "water". Or put a petcock on the bottom, drain off the crud until just diesel is coming out. The narrower the container, the easier to see the separation. But even in the jerry cans, it will separate.

You can let it sit for a few days, pour off the top half (which almost certainly is all diesel), combine the remaining halves, let it sit again, and do it repeatedly that way too. Just a matter of time and patience versus money.

Throw in a can of diesel "drier" or booster or whatever magic the local auto shop sells, when you put the good diesel back in the tank. Just in case.

On the bright side...you didn't run it into the engine, and I'll bet you never leave THAT cover off again. :-)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
I'd use 90+% isopropanol from the drug store or hardware store, not gasoline. The isoprop will pull the water out faster and evaporate with less danger of explosion--and leave no residuals in the diesel tank.

If you already have the contaminated diesel out, the best way to "polish" it is to let it stand in a tall narrow container, like a "yard of ale" glass or a stick of 2"-3" PVC pipe sealed on the bottom end. The water will separate out all by itself after a couple of days, then you can just pour off the diesel and throw out the "water". Or put a petcock on the bottom, drain off the crud until just diesel is coming out. The narrower the container, the easier to see the separation. But even in the jerry cans, it will separate.

You can let it sit for a few days, pour off the top half (which almost certainly is all diesel), combine the remaining halves, let it sit again, and do it repeatedly that way too. Just a matter of time and patience versus money.

Throw in a can of diesel "drier" or booster or whatever magic the local auto shop sells, when you put the good diesel back in the tank. Just in case.

On the bright side...you didn't run it into the engine, and I'll bet you never leave THAT cover off again. :-)
You can say that again. I'm actually thinking of installing a filling port so I fuel up fron INSIDE the boat rather than using the deck fill. I use jerry jugs anyway and I will polish the fuel from now on anyway.

Tell me more about this 90% isopropyl alchohol method. Where does one get a gallon of the stuff? Do you simply put in there, let it do its business and evap off? Or sop it up with rags? Or just put the alcohol in there, then more diesel and run the engine to burn it off? Sorry for the noob questions - I'm not very good with fuel systems.
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A gallon of the stuff would be from the hardware/paint store or similar chemical supplier. But it probably can absorb 1/2 of it's volume of water and still evaporate off with that, so I don't think you'd need or want a whole gallon. After all, alcohol vapor can be flammable too!

Heck, a heat lamp under the tank should make any water in there evaporate off in a day or so anyhow.

In drugstores you'll usually see 3 grades of isoprop, typically 40-something, 70-something, 95+%, IIRC. Maybe a buck a pint, buck fifty a quart, not very expensive.
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So the recommendation is to just put 1/2 gallon of 90% isopropanol into the tank and leave the sender port open and let it evaporate out. What about any that remains in there? Can that burn right through the engine?
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