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Unpaid Intern
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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,
I'm wondering if we should drain and replace the diesel fuel in our, which we just purchased. During the survey at the end of December, I noticed that the 20 gallon fuel tank on the boat was about 5/8 full. The boat is winterized and on the hard (in the northeast), but we ran it for the survey and re-winterized it. I would have prefered that the tank be nearly full for the winter, but we didn't own the boat then, so no choice.

The fuel tank is only about 3-4 years old, which is great, so it doesn't have 25 years worth of crud in it. The Racor fuel filter bowl looks very clean, and continued to look good while we ran the engine for about 30 minutes at survey. We'll also be doing a sea trial in the spring before we make the trip home to the Chesapeake. I'll also be replacing the fuel filter, and bringing several spares.

All that said, the fuel in the tank is probably at least a year old--the boat didn't see much use last year, and of course it's 5/8 full which means potential condensation and growth (at least theoretically).

So my question is, do we need to drain the tank and refill with fresh fuel before spring? Is there a big risk of water and/or growth in the tank now?

Please let me know what you think.
-J
 

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Yes, Yes, Yes.......

While I don't believe that you will have any problem with the fuel and you could just add an additive, I could bore you with my story of having the engine shut down, in the middle of the Caribbean, shortly after I bought my boat. But suffice to ask what your wife will do to you if the engine splutters in the middle of your first long trip. A good cruising policy is "if you think it, do it". :D
 

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I would just add a biocide and a treatment like PRI-D. You can find these at most any marine store. Some people would say even that isn't necessary. Just top up with fresh fuel.

Before heading off on a long trip be sure to motor at cruising speed (80% of max rated rpm) for an hour to make sure everything is working correctly and the cooling system is up to par. On a long trip you may well end up motoring at cruising speed for a long time. It's not too uncommon for boats that never get run a full cruising speed to have a sticky thermostats or other cooling system issues. A sticking thermostat is not a big deal, but you'll want to know about it before you leave.
 

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I guess opinions will vary, but I wouldn't be overly worried about it.

One option is to top off the tank using jerry cans this winter, being sure to ad a fuel stabilizer.

If you can't do that, I would top it off at least several days before departure and give it a good hard workout locally. Check the fuel filter/water separator after several hours of hard running and see if it tells you anything.
 

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Tartan 27' owner
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I'm with gtod25.
This is like most boat maintenance items.
If you are feeling lucky then use the fuel that is in the tank.
If you want a clear conscience about it then drain the tank completely and start out with fresh fuel. You would hate yourself if your engine stopped while delivering your boat to the Chesapeake due to fuel and you HAD considered this as an option. If you do this then you should know that at least you started with clean fuel even if your engine dies for some other reason.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Yeah, I suppose everyone will have a different opinion. Part of the problem with a long-distance purchase, is that it's really quite complicated to do any real projects while the boat is so far away. I mean, when I'm close to home, if I forget a needed tool, I can run home and get it. Up there, I have to run out an buy it, or wait until the next trip.

So I'm trying to limit the stuff I have to do before the boat comes home to only necessary stuff, and then pay the yard to do anything that I can't manage from afar (which I would prefer be a short list). Perhaps the fuel is one of those things I'll just have to pay the yard to do. I'll have to pay them to dispose of the fuel anyway... Hmmm....
 

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getting rid of the fuel is relatively easy. BUT, will that get rid of the possible problem? If you are really concerned with this then you need to have the tank CLEANED after you empty it.

Here is a way to test:
Pull the fuel guage or the fuel sending unit; whichever you have. This gives you a nice sized hole in the top of the tank. Take a clear plastic tube that is about a foot longer than the depth of the tank and put your finger over the top of the tube and dip the bottom of the tube down to the bottom of the tank. then pull your finger off the top to draw in some fuel from the bottom. Put your finger back over the top of the tube and pull it up out of the tank...how does the fuel look inside the tube? Clean? then you're set. A little bit of dirt & a little cloudy then pump out the fuel and replace. If it's real dirty & cloudy then you should consider a tank cleaning. Since the tank is not very old I doubt this will be needed.

Good luck
 

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moderate?
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Jos...just get the fuel POLISHED if it is only a year or so old. Theat will get rid of most of the crud or water. Bring a half dozen racor filters with you on the trip anyway and make sure you know how to bleed the engine before the trip!
These guys may be able to help across the sound if you can't find someone local.
Page 5
 

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Who is to say the fuel is only a few months old! personally, I would add some algaecide, maybe a water remover, and many filters, and head off! Then again, I have had very few fuel issues with diesels in the 20 someodd yrs I have owned them, now gassers.... yee haw, many issues with water!

marty
 

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It's a pity you don't live near me - I would buy the fuel from you for 10c a gallon.

No polishing, no risk, you make a quick buck - I could be your saviour.
 

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<ST1:p</ST1:pFuel polishing is the way to go. Just replacing the fuel won’t do much to clean the gunk inside the tank(s), which is likely to shake loose at the worst possible time. One of the first things I did when I bought my boat was to hire a professional fuel polisher. He had rig with a huge racor-like filter that circulated the fuel until it was clean, changing the filter paper each time it started to clog. Fortunately I have good access to both fuel tanks, and he was able to blast high pressure diesel around the tank walls, on the baffles and on the bottom, cleaning everything. I was amazed at how much gunk came out, and how many filters he used. The first several dozen filter papers were completely black. The final filter was pristine pink. It took a while and cost some $$, but the peace of mind and trouble-free operation ever since was worth it.<O:p</O:p
 

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Well let me tell you my story and give you advice which is based on my experiene.

Three years ago we set out on a summer cruise from our home base 300 miles up the Columbia River. We motored down river without incident along with our buddy boat and set out across the Columbia bar going up coast to the inside of Vancouver Island. The day was clear with a small sea. As we got almost across the bar the engine coughed a bit once but still ran. I looked at the wife and commented that I didn't like that. After about four hours of motor cruising the engine quit. I changed the fuel filter, primed it and it fired right up. A few hours later it did the same thing. Again I changed the filter and it fired up. This happened four times during the day and early evening and finally about midnight, with a six foot sea, it happened again. I was down to only one new filter so my buddy boat tried towing us but that lasted only a few minuted until the tow rope was cut due to the high swells. I tried sailing for a while but the wind was too light. Finally I got the idea to rig one of my full jerry cans as a fuel tank and that worked. We went the rest of the way into Neah Bay and opened up my fuel tank. There was a good layer of small gritty material in the bottom that the movement of the seas had stirred up enough for the fuel intake to see them.

So, now I have a high capacity fuel pump and filter that I polish my fuel with every Spring.

Go to a good quality auto supply, not Shucks or some every day store, and get a high flow fuel pump and filter. One that pumps several gallons per hour that someone would use on a dragster. Clean your fuel yearly and you won't regret it ever.

:)
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks everyone for all the input. I'm going to check with the yard to see what they'd charge for a couple of different options, and compare that to the hassle of trying to do this myself over a weekend trip up there.

I have no reason to think the fuel is actually BAD, but I agree it's a good idea to make sure it will be OK. I'll feel better for certain, even though the tank is pretty new.

Thanks again for the advice!
-J
 

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jaycarvers description of tank polishing is a good one. it is a TWO part process. many will just pump out the fuel and clean it. the problem is the gunk that is stuck to the sides and bottom of the tank. they can sit with no troubles for years. but when you get into some rough weather, suddenly the gunk gets stirred and comes loose from the sides of the tank and into your filters

I suspect josh will not have much of an issue since the tank is only a few years old but checking the fuel is a great idea
 

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<ST1:p</ST1:pFuel polishing is the way to go. Just replacing the fuel won’t do much to clean the gunk inside the tank(s), which is likely to shake loose at the worst possible time. One of the first things I did when I bought my boat was to hire a professional fuel polisher. He had rig with a huge racor-like filter that circulated the fuel until it was clean, changing the filter paper each time it started to clog. Fortunately I have good access to both fuel tanks, and he was able to blast high pressure diesel around the tank walls, on the baffles and on the bottom, cleaning everything. I was amazed at how much gunk came out, and how many filters he used. The first several dozen filter papers were completely black. The final filter was pristine pink. It took a while and cost some $$, but the peace of mind and trouble-free operation ever since was worth it.<O:p</O:p
How much did it cost if you don't mind asking and what was the size of your fuel tank? I am thinking about having mine polished this summer.
 

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Sample the fuel. Run a hose into the tank and suck out a gallon or so from the bottom of the tank. If there is water or crud then do a clean up if not use it. Check the fill cap and make sure the o-ring is good. Condensation does not contribute much water to a tank of diesel.But a leaking fill cap can add a lot of water every time it rains or snow melts. The great thing about winter is that cold air contains extremely small amounts of water. Even warm tropical air contains small amounts of water. But a leaking fill cap can let a lot of water get into your tank!!!
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Sample the fuel. Run a hose into the tank and suck out a gallon or so from the bottom of the tank. If there is water or crud then do a clean up if not use it. Check the fill cap and make sure the o-ring is good. Condensation does not contribute much water to a tank of diesel.But a leaking fill cap can add a lot of water every time it rains or snow melts. The great thing about winter is that cold air contains extremely small amounts of water. Even warm tropical air contains small amounts of water. But a leaking fill cap can let a lot of water get into your tank!!!
One point to make is that the boat is completely covered for the winter by a custom canvas cover. No water on decks or anywhere near the fill cap. So at least we have that going for us.

Of course, checking it so it doesn't leak the other 8 months of the year is a really good idea. Thanks!
 

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For what it's worth one cubic meter of air about 264 gallons at 28 degrees C only has about 27 ml of water when fully saturated. At 16 degrees c it only has about 13.5 ml. 500 ml is about the same as a 12 ounce can . For water to condense the temperature has to be at or below the dewpoint!!!! It is physically impossible for condensation to add much water to a diesel fuel tank especially a 20 gallon tank like on my boat.
 

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How much did it cost if you don't mind asking and what was the size of your fuel tank? I am thinking about having mine polished this summer.
As I recall, it cost me somewhere between $400 and $500. The guy had to come back the second day to finish. But, I have two tanks, about 80 gallons each, and one of them was more than half full, so that obviously added to the time and the cost. I had had no problems, but the boat had already circumnavigated once, and had not been used much for several years, so the condition of the tanks and the fuel was a question mark. My boat was on the hard at the time, but he can do the same thing from the dock.
 

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Hey my new-to-me boat is in Rock Hall right now and I want to get the fuel polished. Do you have contact info for the guy you got to do your boat? My tank is only 26 gallons but the boat is 20 years old and it is time to clean it out.
 
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