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Old 19-07-2016, 09:24   #1
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Diesel Fuel Tank Replacement

Anyone have experience cutting out a bulkhead to get at a fuel tank? My 1993 Hunter 33.5 has sprung a leak and needs to be replaced. I hate the thought of cutting the bulkhead in the rear stateroom to access the tank. If I could avoid that it would be great. Anyone have any thoughts on an alternative means to fix this 21 Gallon Aluminum diesel fuel tank.
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Old 19-07-2016, 09:33   #2
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Re: Diesel Fuel Tank Replacement

Since you're considering cutting the bulkhead I guess that means you have determined there is no other way to get the tank out of the boat, meaning like many boats, the tank was installed then the deck on top of it?

Several options but many will depend on why it's leaking. Is it a split seam, pinhole leaks in the bottom from corrosion or something else?

I once had a similar issue with a water tank. No way to get it out, but after taking the cockpit locker apart I could access the top of the tank. Found a welder to cut the top of the tank open, weld the split seam on the bottom of the tank, then weld the top back together. That worked for several years. If the leak isn't too big and the structure of the tank is strong you could try filling the leak area with epoxy. That will require very, very thorough cleaning to get a good bond.

Next idea, get a bladder that will fit inside the tank and use that to hold the fuel.

OR, cut the tank into little pieces to get it out without cutting the bulkhead and install a smaller tank or two smaller tanks that might fit or install a tank somewhere else and use that hole for storage.
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Old 19-07-2016, 09:45   #3
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Re: Diesel Fuel Tank Replacement

Skipmac
I have thought of a number of ways to get the tank out. The problem is part of the tank is positioned under the access to the swim ladder. I talked with Hunter and they are of the same opinion as you in that the tank went in before the deck.

I believe the leak is on the bottom of the tank as all the fuel is gone. I am unable to determine if it is a split, corrosion or pinhole.

I am able to access 45% of the top of the tank the remaining 55% is shoved under some type of floor to the swim ladder. No way to get in there and cut the top as you suggested.

Your idea of a bladder is interesting, do they make these bladders with a diesel fuel return fitting as well as a feed fitting?

Installing a tank in a different location is an interesting option also.

Thanks again for the thought provoking posting.
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Old 19-07-2016, 10:19   #4
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Diesel Fuel Tank Replacement

I've been going through this on one of my tanks. I looked at having a proper custom pvc fabric tank fabricated to fit in the tank from ATL but it was cost prohibited .


For that size tank I would buy a bladder I could stick inside the tank and a small electric lift pump.

Yes you can get bladders with return fittings or you can easily fabricate one.






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Old 19-07-2016, 10:58   #5
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Re: Diesel Fuel Tank Replacement

I found out my fuel tank was leaking. I had to cut the little bulkhead in front of the tank, but it was made of fiberglass and down in the keel.


I had to cut my tank apart to get it out of the keel in order to keep from cutting the cabin floor the came above it. Angle grinder and a dremel tool with lots of cutting wheels came in handy. This is an option if you have enough access to the tank. Otherwise, you may have to bite the bullet and cut the bulkhead and factor that into part of your replacement.


Leaky fuel tanks is common with my boat model. Other owners have replaced their tanks but coated them in fiberglass before reinstalling them. It'll take some extra effort to get your tank out. I'm not sure I would consider a patch job. I would suggest a replacement.
Good luck to you.
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Old 19-07-2016, 11:18   #6
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Re: Diesel Fuel Tank Replacement

If you are going to do it , get a counter rotating saw. It looks an angle grinder. They make a pretty nice cut that you can fill back in with strip of wood or fiberglass. The counter rotating blades allow you to cut free hand.
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Old 19-07-2016, 11:50   #7
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Re: Diesel Fuel Tank Replacement

Bladders can be made to almost any shape or size with a combination of openings. The bigger the tank, the cheaper cost per gallon of capacity. They seem to range from $2 per gallon to about $20 per gallon.
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Old 19-07-2016, 12:00   #8
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Re: Diesel Fuel Tank Replacement

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cyre View Post
Skipmac
I have thought of a number of ways to get the tank out. The problem is part of the tank is positioned under the access to the swim ladder. I talked with Hunter and they are of the same opinion as you in that the tank went in before the deck.

I believe the leak is on the bottom of the tank as all the fuel is gone. I am unable to determine if it is a split, corrosion or pinhole.

I am able to access 45% of the top of the tank the remaining 55% is shoved under some type of floor to the swim ladder. No way to get in there and cut the top as you suggested.

Your idea of a bladder is interesting, do they make these bladders with a diesel fuel return fitting as well as a feed fitting?

Installing a tank in a different location is an interesting option also.

Thanks again for the thought provoking posting.
You say you can access about 45% of the top of the tank. Can you not access it well enough to cut an inspection/access hole? Or is it not large enough that if you cut that area open you can't see into the rest of the tank.

The quick, cheap dirty fix is to get access to the tank and patch it from the inside. I used MarineTex once to fix a hole in the gas tank of an old clunker car and that lasted for years. If you can get inside and see the damage this could get you going and might last a long time. Of course if it fails it will do so at the worst possible time like the middle of the night during a storm in a strange harbor AND you have a full tank of diesel which will all end up in the bilge.
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Old 19-07-2016, 12:50   #9
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Re: Diesel Fuel Tank Replacement

What if you just lay up fiberglass inside the tank? Basically build a tank inside a tank. Fiberglass is the preferred material for a diesel tank. I don't know if the access allows this but if it does this should be a viable option.

I once repair leaky aluminum water tank by cutting a couple of holes with a jig saw in the top and laying up glass in the bottom. The holes were cut so I could finish the repair by installing round inspection ports when I was done. Now the tank can be cleaned and maintained easily through the ports.
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Old 19-07-2016, 13:18   #10
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Re: Diesel Fuel Tank Replacement

Just got a quote form the original manufacturer of the tank. They want $324.00 plus shipping. With cutting the bulkhead, remove old tank, install new tank, repair the huge hole in the boat - this could get expensive. I will consider all the suggestions above. In any case I will be taking pictures for all to see the progress. It will be done in the spring as I am currently in New Mexico, on assignment, and the boat is on the hard in Virginia. Thanks for all the help.
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Old 19-07-2016, 13:44   #11
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Re: Diesel Fuel Tank Replacement

If you are careful cutting the bulkhead using a reciprocating saw like the Fein, you can reuse the cut out piece. https://www.amazon.com/Fein-72295264...in+multimaster Make up a trim surround for the edges of the piece and screw it back in place. A miter saw would be nice to cut the 45 degree joints at the corner. but one of those el cheapo saw guides available everywhere would suffice. Probably less than an hour job to make up the trim pieces if you have a carpenter do it. Easy refinish and install by you.

Be sure that is the only way to get the tank out. I tore out the entire galley in my boat expecting to be able to pull the under cockpit tank out forward only to find it wouldn't come out that way even pulling the engine. Actually didn't tear out the galley just to get the tank out, wanted to move the engine and reinstall and undo the PO's butcher job of the old galley. Just an illustration to be sure what you are doing before you start cutting. Had to cut a notch in one of the vertical cockpit floor supports to get the tank out through a cockpit locker.

Tank quote sounds pretty good. I paid $400 for a rectangular 20 gallon tank. I'd sand, zinc chromate and paint a new aluminum tank. That should cut down on any exterior corrosion. Also installing non water absorbing battens on the bottom will greatly reduce any corrosion from water that may leak into the tank surround.

If your old tank was properly made, it will have baffles in it. Those would have to be cut out to insert a bladder in the old tank. Would assume the old tank is toast from pin hole corrosion so wouldn't even consider trying repair it. Do not foam the tank in. PO did that on a boat I bought and the entire bottom of the tank had disappeared because it held water against the metal. The fact that the tank wouldn't hold liquid wasn't a surprise as the PO had been using an outboard tank just how extensive the corrosion was.
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Old 19-07-2016, 19:56   #12
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Re: Diesel Fuel Tank Replacement

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cyre View Post
Just got a quote form the original manufacturer of the tank. They want $324.00 plus shipping.
That's a good price. I was given a quote of nearly $800 for a tank, but mine is a bit more of a custom job since it goes in the keel. Decided to replace mine with fiberglass instead. Not fiberglass lined, but building it out of fiberglass, in place, in the keel. Not easy work and very labor intensive.

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Do not foam the tank in. PO did that on a boat I bought and the entire bottom of the tank had disappeared because it held water against the metal.
That's exactly why my tank failed. I hate foam. Also made it difficult to remove the tank.
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Old 20-07-2016, 07:24   #13
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Re: Diesel Fuel Tank Replacement

Thanks to all for the information. Since Hunter was kind enough to take the time to find the tank drawing for my boat and to provide the manufacturers contact information and given the fact a like for like replacement tank is available for a reasonable price. I am going to go that route and purchase the new tank. This will eliminate all kinds of headaches when installing the new tank. Cutting the bulkhead is going to be a challenge as I have never done this before. YouTube is a great resource and I would like to draw your attention the the following web site, Google boatworkstoday.com there are great video's on fiberglass repairs.
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Old 20-07-2016, 08:22   #14
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Re: Diesel Fuel Tank Replacement

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Originally Posted by Paul Cyre View Post
Anyone have experience cutting out a bulkhead to get at a fuel tank? My 1993 Hunter 33.5 has sprung a leak and needs to be replaced. I hate the thought of cutting the bulkhead in the rear stateroom to access the tank. If I could avoid that it would be great. Anyone have any thoughts on an alternative means to fix this 21 Gallon Aluminum diesel fuel tank.
Regards
Paul
If it has an inspection plate, and its wide enough, you could just put in a fuel bladder, if the baffles can accommodate such.
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Old 20-07-2016, 08:27   #15
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Re: Diesel Fuel Tank Replacement

My 95 35.5 had a leak I later traced to un secure sender flange fittng. My tank is similarly located, but is poly. You got much further in your discussions W Hunter than I did. Yard here wanted to cut the swim platform to get to it& re- glass, all in for $4k.
I'm pretty sure the stock tank on mine couldn't go back in unless they glassed it in as described. It's way too tight. May consider this when ordering your replacement, scaling it down a but to fit.
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