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Fuel Polishing Costs

15866 Views 11 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  hellosailor
Hi Everyone:

I am about to have my fuel tank cleaned for what I believe is the first time in it's 20+ year history. I haven't found an access hole yet in the tank, so the Fuel Polisher will charge $400 to come to the boat, cut the hole to gain access, pump out the fuel, polish it, and reach into the tank to clean the insides manually, inspect the tank to see if it is in good shape. Then add an access cover, and return the polished fuel to the tank if it isn't deemed bad or "flat" as he put it. If an access plate is found, then the cost becomes $300. From your experiences, does this sound about right? The tank holds 20 gallons, and has about 5 gallons left, if the guage is correct. The Fuel Polisher will inspect the gauge as well. Just need some input to see if this is in line price wise.

If the fuel is deemed bad, ( purchased 2+ years ago when I bought the boat, engine still runs fine ), should he dispose of it, or is that for me to do? If bad, how do I add new fuel at the dock if my marina doesn't allow fueling except for outboards? Do I need to dress in black and pump it in from a jerry can during the night? Ask permission for a one time, 3 or 4 gallon fill to get to the fuel dock?

The tank has a shut off valve on the out flow line, so I can preserve the fuel that is already in the fuel line to the engine, so I won't have to re-prime the line after we are done, but will the air in the pickup pipe have to be primed out or should the Yanmar 2QM15 mechanical fuel pump take care of this?

My tank does not have a return fuel line, but the unused fuel from the injectors is plumbed back into the Yanmar fuel filter on the engine. I could pump the fuel in the line out in order to fully prime the line and tank pickup pipe, but is this needed?
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The fuel will probably be fine. I had 5 year old diesel polished when I cleaned the tanks and it was AOK.

From the work program you laid out above, I don't think the capacity of the tank is the issue driving the costs -- it's everything else and $400 seems reasonable to me, if there's no access port. If there is one, $300 seems a bit steep given the size of the tank and the quantity of fuel involved.

If you can find the access port, you probably could do it yourself. Pump the fuel into a couple of 5 gal. fuel cans with a hand pump, then reach in and wipe down the bottom of the tank. When we did ours (it had been 7 years without a cleaning), we had about 1/4" of slimy goo on the bottom the tank. It came up easily using a couple rolls of paper towels. Close it back up, making sure to inspect the gaskets for damage; fill the tanks with fresh fuel and you're good to go.

Save the old fuel to use as a grease stripper when you service your winches, or see if you can find a mechanics shop that will take it. Some boat yards have tanks where used oil and other POL products can be disposed of in an eco-friendly manner.

It's not a hard job -- no rocket science involved provided there is an access port. If you don't have one, you'll have to decide what it's worth to have one put in. (Last minute idea: Ask your boat yard what they would charge to put in an access port. That will give you a guage on how reasonable the fuel polisher's fees are.)
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Why keep the fuel?

Simply MT the tank, wipe it down, and add new fuel. Give the old fuel to the local used oil recycler.

Seems easier, and you will have new fuel. A 20 gallon tank just ain't that big.
I spoke to a fuel polishing outfit that confided that folks with small fuel tanks are frequently better off just buying a new tank. If your tank is easy to remove this maybe a consideration. BTW the $400 is the charge I have heard from several people who have had their fuel polished with tanks sized from 20 to 40 gallons.

But you STILL have to pump out the fuel, clean the tank, and buy new fuel....

I spoke to a fuel polishing outfit that confided that folks with small fuel tanks are frequently better off just buying a new tank. If your tank is easy to remove this maybe a consideration. BTW the $400 is the charge I have heard from several people who have had their fuel polished with tanks sized from 20 to 40 gallons.

so those costs are not avoided. You can't throw an oil-filled tank on the scrap heap.
Hey LittleWing(great name by the way), what's really wrong? Is the primary filter showing heaving debris? Is pressure low after the lift-pump? Or are you just worried about boogie-men in the tank? Because you're headed down a questionable path.

I know diesel's need 'clean fuel, clean air'...all true, dirty input is the cause of many a diesel downfall. But why don't you see if you really have a problem first before getting all involved? I mean, you can always pump what you've got into a jerry-can and use it elsewhere. Home furnaces are very forgiving, and most folks have a contract that gives you a new home nozzle and filter regardless - even if the stuff in your tank was really nasty.

Now don't get me wrong, if you know more than you're saying, then tell us the whole story. But if you're really concerned about concern, and not real symptoms, why not empty out what you have, fill with clean fuel, replace primary and 2ndary filters, and watch for issues. There's always a chance you will introduce new issues in your pursuit!

Good luck!
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Fuel rarely turns bad. Pump the fuel out into containers that you can see through. Let the fuel settle. Syphon off the clear fuel and ditch the dregs. Pour the fuel back in the tank. Repeat steps 1 to 4. Pour in a fuel conditioner and fill the tank with the fuel you have saved and top it up with fresh. Make sure you have reasonable in-line filtration to take care of the tiny bits that may be left.

You will have no further problems.

Or you can pay all the other people to do the same and charge you a heap of money.
Fuel polishers put a pickup into the tank, circulate your fuel through their powerful pump and some serious filters, and return it to the tanks. There is no draining, cleaning, or refilling involved for the $$$. They use their pickup to vacuum the bottom of the tank that they can access, but the baffles in the tank will not allow for a complete job.

If there is no access plate but there is a fuel guage, they can take the gauge sender off and use that hole. Don't try this at home unless you understand how the sender is screwed down on your boat!!
I currently have no fuel issues. My fuel filter was changed when I puchased the boat 2 years ago, as part of a general service I did since I had no history of work done on the engine from the previous owner. I am about to change it again because it is time and the boat has been sitting awhile due to other family demands. It still looks nice and rosy, and I see no water in the bottom of the racor glass bowl. Was going to do this because I believe it has never been done, and who knows what if anything is in the tank. Shouldn't this be a normal maintenance item every 5 or 10 years? When I bought the boat 2 years ago, I put 14 gallons of fresh fuel in the tank, replaced the primary and secondary fuel filters, and motorsailed from Dana Point to San Diego with no issues or clogged filters. The same set of filters are being used now, 2 years later, with no issues. Just figured it was time since the fuel level is low.

The guy recommended to me from my local marina will physically clean the tank with brush and towels provided there is access, or for $100 more will cut a access hole into the tank and provide the gaskets, cover plate, etc. to make one. So the service is more than just a fuel polish, it would be for a full tank clean, inspection, and fuel polish.
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I purchased a 12 volt pump (used for oil changes, shureflo I think), a 10 micron filter from the local farm supply (used for diesel tanks in the back of pickup trucks), and a handfull of fittings and some fuel rated tubing. I assembled all this using fuel line to replace the original line from the tank pickup to the pump, from there to the filter and returned the fuel back to the tank via the fuel fill deck fitting. I set this all up after first pumping all the old fuel into containers (and disposing at the waste oil facility) and filling with new, fresh fuel. I then put my rig into action and let it pump literally all day, cycling the fuel through the filter and back into the tank, over and over and over.... well, you get the picture. Since then, no more issues with clogged fuel filters and choking diesels. The whole rig cost about $125 and I now have a 12 volt pump to use for oil changes or a self polishing system. I keep it stored in a 5 gallon plastic bucket with a snap on lid so there is no spillage in the garage and no odor.
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Access plate

If you can find the access port, you probably could do it yourself.
Probably the easiest job I have done on Mystery so far in rejuvenating her is to put in an access plate in my aluminum fuel tank.

1 - I bought the access plate (I got one for a six inch hole)
Seabuilt - Access Plate Systems

2 - I cut an access hole in the plywood over the tank

3 - I removed the plywood over the tank and cut the hole in the tank for the access plate (full, easy to follow instructions came with it) Cut it with a metal blade on a hand jig saw - cut through it like butter)

4 - I fastened the access port in place.

Now I have easy access for looking at, polishing, cleaning . . .

And, I know a lot more about my boat.

I will be installing a fuel polishing system like Strider has Strider Fuel System

Rik and Linda
Irwin Citation 34
trip blog at: Mystery - the Trip Home
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Getting someone to access the tank, cut in and install a proper access port, and do a proper cleaning in it is probably going to be worth 6-8 hours of your time, so $400 doesn't seem unreasonable.

The option is to remove your tank (access varies) then cut the access hole yourself, get a port to fit in there, spend some time making sure you get all the metal filings out of the tank, clean it well, dry it back out....You'll probably only be out of pocket $100 for the access plate and whatever cutters and sealants you need, but it will take a while.

"The University of Idaho conducted tests on the life expectancy of fuels to determine the timeline on degradation of stored #2 diesel fuel. The results indicated 26% degradation after 28 days of storage."
Source Of Diesel Fuel Problems

Sounds a bit extreme to me, and ignores the question of crud growing in the tank and contaminants and all. But I do know that pump gasoline is designed to be used within 90 days, and it breaks down signficantly by that point. I wouldn't expect 2 year old diesel to be good, even if it was good enough to burn. My rule of thumb is that if the fuel isn't going to be consumed and replaced in 90 days, whatever kind it is, it needs stabilant and additives to keep it in top shape.

A diesel engine is a nice thing, except for the Jekyll-and-Hyde show it puts on when there's any little problem in the fuel system. With a tank that's been sitting for two years? No matter how you do it, yes, clean it out thoroughly.

or make sure your SeaTow policy is paid up.
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