Join Date: Mar 2001
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The only place that you might find a leak by filling and testing in increments is the tank itself. Everything downstream will leak (or not) with just a little in the tank. Depending on whether you have a pressre accumulator, you can tell if there are leaks downstream from the pressure pump by listening for the pump cycling. If the system holds pressure without the pump cycling on and off, then that whole side of the system is fine. That is where leaks are most likely to occur. And they're easy to spot since they often involve a spray of water. Before the pump, the pressure is lower - just that created by gravity and the suction of the pump. You probably should have a full tank to be confident that segment of the system has no leaks.
The good news is that the maximum amount of water you'll get in the bilge is what you put in the tank. It won't sink the boat. And it does rinse the bilge, which is always a good thing.