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post #1 of 15 Old 11-25-2015 Thread Starter
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Black iron fuel tanks

Anyone have any thoughts on black iron diesel tanks? Such as the ones on Baba 30s
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post #2 of 15 Old 11-25-2015
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Re: Black iron fuel tanks

Except maybe fuel tank lasts forever. I had "black iron" tanks on a 1985 Spindrift 43, which I bought new. These were quite common on Taiwanese built boats of that era. I spoke about this with Ron Amy, the designer during construction . I was considering aluminum tanks and he assured me the "black iron" (they were welded sheet, low grade steel) was very compatible with Diesel fuel. I upgraded winches instead. Keep the water out of any tank and they will last longer. Aluminum tanks are running about $8/gal for replacement, getting them out and in can be a huge undertaking.

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post #3 of 15 Old 11-25-2015
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Re: Black iron fuel tanks

There is no such thing as welded black iron fuel tanks. They are simply steel with a treatment that makes them appear black.

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post #4 of 15 Old 11-25-2015
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Re: Black iron fuel tanks

Overdue for replacement by now.

Not a trivial job.
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post #5 of 15 Old 11-25-2015
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Re: Black iron fuel tanks

I'd have a good look and see how problematic removing/replacing the tank would actually be, since the odds are pretty good you'll need to at some point.

Had a friend with a Taiwanese Trawler with steel tanks.. inevitably he needed to change them. HUGE job.. engine out, zip cutting the tanks into pieces, new aluminum tanks shoehorned into place (but with only 60% of original capacity - that's all that would actually slide into place), engine back in. Not a lot of fun.

Would hope that the smaller tank on a sailboat would be less of an issue but if the tank went in before the deck went on it could be ugly.


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post #6 of 15 Old 11-25-2015
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Re: Black iron fuel tanks

'Black iron' was a very common ship building material at the turn of the last century. It doesn't rust and it is pretty soft compared to modern steel. I think it unlikely that you actually have 'black iron' fuel tanks, more likely a mild steel of some sort.
Monel tanks should not be used for diesel. From what I've been told the two are not compatible and in time you will get tiny pin hole leaks.
If I were replacing fuel tanks today, I'd bite the bullet and go with aluminum, though there may be some prefab fuel resistant plastic tanks available, at a better price.

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post #7 of 15 Old 11-25-2015
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Re: Black iron fuel tanks

My good old Taiwanese-built Rafiki has iron tanks (black or soft ... I dunno). They were cleaned and pressure-tested before we purchased and one failed. Luckily it is the smaller tank, so it has been decommissioned. I expect that the other one will fail eventually, but so far so good after six years. I expect (hope ) that I'll get many more years of service out of it.

I would suggest getting the tank cleaned, inspected and pressure-tested. If it looks to be in good shape I would not not let it deter me from buying a Baba 30 -- that's a great boat.

In my case, removing these tanks will be a huge job. I don't know how it can be done without destroying much of the salon/cabin area. I've researched the idea of inserting a bladder into the existing tank (after removing baffles). Chafe seems to be the danger with this approach, but I've never heard directly from anyone who has done this and then ran into a problem. Perhaps one of you has?

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post #8 of 15 Old 11-25-2015
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Re: Black iron fuel tanks

I cut out a 90 gallon Black Iron diesel tank with a sawzall. Not a fun weekend. Those tanks on the Taiwan built boats are probably coming to the end of life stage. I'd consider having o replace them for any long term ownership and more so if your planing on doing some offshore work.
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post #9 of 15 Old 11-26-2015
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Re: Black iron fuel tanks

Black iron tanks usually rot out from the bottom outside/underneath.

If you have clear access to the top of a black iron tank you can easily cut large access holes into the top, then build a strong fiberglass laid up tank within the iron tank, using the old tank surfaces as a mold for the new fiberglass tank. Youll have to make access plate covers with sufficient overlap to close up the 'new' tank.
Gougeon Brothers / WEST SYSTEM projects pages has the full details.
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post #10 of 15 Old 11-26-2015
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Re: Black iron fuel tanks

I had some bad plate underneath my steel fuel tank so I had to remove it, in 5 pound hunks, with a grinder. Yearn not fun.

But the tank was in great shape. 1985 boat.

I helped a guy with a rusted tank in a boat related to a Baba. The top had rusted form the top down. He cut the top off and is making a new fiberglass top and putting in some custom made bladders. The inside of the tank was in very good condition. It only failed because the ports leaked and water laid on top. Not sure how old, but around the same age.

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