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grinfax 09-16-2012 11:38 AM

Cleaning a fuel tank
Oh wise mariners of the Sailnet forums,
I had lots of gook in my fuel tank. I removed the diesel, added a little more, removed it again, added some more with fuel stabilizer, removed it. The gook comes out, but there is always some left. I am guessing it's stuck to the bottom. I need to find a way to flush it out. Would calling a fuel polishing service do the trick? I don't care about the diesel in the tank, I only have a couple gallons there, but if the grime is stuck to the tank, how do I clean it?


bigdogandy 09-16-2012 12:08 PM

Re: Cleaning a fuel tank
What a coincidence......I have been thinking about changing the location of my fuel filter for a while now to get it to a spot where I can access without having to fold myself into the lazarette. It is currently behind the engine and although I can get to the top to change the element I haven't been able to get close enough to inspect the bottom of the bowl to see if there was any sludge in it. This morning I took the time to pull the entire filter assembly and the bottom of the bowl had about a quarter inch of black goo in it. Seeing that I decided to check the tank and when I pulled the fuel gauge assembly out the fuel on it was brown. The sides of the tank (that I can see) are also coated. So I am going to find a fuel tank cleaning service to come clean mine. I single hand a lot and don't want to find myself trying to dodge cruise ships coming back into the inlet and have the engine die because a bunch of dead bugs overwhelmed the filters or got through and blocked the injectors.

So - to shorten what was becoming a longer story than necessary - if i were you, grinfax, i would get someone to come clean your tank and polish any fuel in it.

And, by the way, does anyone know of a good tank cleaning service in the Port Canaveral area?

sailordave 09-16-2012 12:51 PM

Re: Cleaning a fuel tank
I just did this. Pulled the tank last weekend after pumping out about 9 gal. of diesel. Took it to a radiator repair service that also does tanks. They cleaned the inside w/ some kind of cleaner and welded a "cap" on the bottom of the tank as the Aluminum was pitted.
Buddies of mine had this done and the company cut an access port in the side of the tank to get all the gunk out that was caked on the bottom.

Look in you Yellow Pages (remember them?) for some place that does radiators or associated type Tanks. Might take some calling around. If your tank is caked up just having the fuel polished will NOT get it all out.

klem 09-16-2012 04:57 PM

Re: Cleaning a fuel tank
Unless you can get access into it, you will need to take it to someone. Diesel tanks seem to grow a film of slime on the inside which is very difficult to remove just by sloshing stuff around.

The best case is that you can physically get in there and scrub it. This usually requires an access plate but sometime removing the fuel sender will grant access. Keep in mind that there are baffles which make it hard to get everywhere.

A powerful jet of something tends to work pretty well too. I have steam cleaned them before with good success but I would imagine any old high pressure jet would work (not garden hose jet, they are not high pressure).

Radiator shops will sometimes be willing to clean one and they can do a decent job. They have things like ultrasonic cleaners etc that can break stuff free in places no person can get to.

SloopJonB 09-16-2012 08:52 PM

Re: Cleaning a fuel tank
If you have to use pressure washers or boiling tanks at a rad shop or ultrasonics to get the crud out, isn't it likely to be stuck so fast that it will just stay there in normal use?

marvinsmith 09-17-2012 06:39 AM

Re: Cleaning a fuel tank
I think for cleaning fuel tank you must hire professionals.

klem 09-17-2012 07:42 PM

Re: Cleaning a fuel tank

Originally Posted by SloopJonB (Post 922860)
If you have to use pressure washers or boiling tanks at a rad shop or ultrasonics to get the crud out, isn't it likely to be stuck so fast that it will just stay there in normal use?

This is an interesting question and one that I do not know the answer to. It would be nice if someone good at biology knew about this one. I can imagine scenarios where the growth eventually comes off the walls or it encourages more slime/growth but I am only a mechanical guy, this is out of my realm.

RichH 09-17-2012 10:37 PM

Re: Cleaning a fuel tank

Originally Posted by SloopJonB (Post 922860)
..... isn't it likely to be stuck so fast that it will just stay there in normal use?

Not at all !!!! Most of the build-up is sequential layering of filamentous matts of living, dead, and dying microorganisms mixed with bacterial slimes --- if bacteria are a prominent component of the 'mix' in the massive 'colony' (calcyx). The chief contaminant of most 'fouled' diesel tanks is usually a fungal - Cladosporium Resinae or similar species of which most all are 'resin formers'.

Eventually when the underlayers of dead cells begins to decompose/putrefy and there isnt significant 'asphaltene', etc. (the cellular poop that these resin formers 'excrete') to hold/'glue' everything together .... then during a heavy seastate you have a fairly good chance of whole sections breaking loose and starting an overwhelming 'particle storm' to your Racors, etc.
Each typical small Racor only has a 'dirt capacity of approx. 35-50 grams (1 to 1-1/2 oz.!!!!) of 'crud' before they 'choke'.

RichH 09-17-2012 10:48 PM

Re: Cleaning a fuel tank
My usual method for small tank cleaning is: long handled scrub brush, loosen and knock all the 'crud' down to the bottom and sop up with copious amounts of paper towels and then burn the towels (where permitted). For the residuals, I dump in and spread 'high potency' garage floor cleaner and after letting it soak/dry, I use a shop vac to remove the 'solids'. Followed by 'sloshing' a minimum amount of clean oil to rinse the walls, sop up again with towling / polypropylene fluff (from oil absorbent 'pillows'), partly fill with new oil and then (and only then) continuous recirculation polish until 'crystal clear / no haze' when backlit with STRONG white light.

Was deeply involved in filtration engineering for ~35 years.
Cleaning fuel tanks is fast and easy (if you have proper access) ... just 'messy'. The long handled scrub brush is the fastest and with the highest 'efficiency'.
Most of the time the 'gunk' is a FUNGUS that uses the oil as its nutrient source.

Flybyknight 09-17-2012 11:30 PM

Re: Cleaning a fuel tank
Take it out, put a length of chain inside. Shake vigorously and dump.
Repeat till clean.

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