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Old 25-07-2013, 10:01   #1
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Fuel Tank: Clogged?

My Tartan 27 diesel fuel tank will not feed fuel to my Westerbeke 11A diesel. I tried sucking on the fuel line hose, nothing. This problem started after the engine was sitting for about 7 weeks.

I tried blowing into the hose and some bubbles gurgled for a bit, then stopped and I couldn't get any more air into the tank by blowing.

I removed the vent line, nothing changed.

I suppose the next step is remove the tank and pull the fittings to inspect?

Also, the tank is metal, probably .050 inch. Is there any sort of fitting I can put in the bottom to drain off water and sludge? I am thinking about a fitting that I can just drill a hole and attach without welding. The tank is galvanized.

Thanks,
Alan Gilmore
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Old 25-07-2013, 10:09   #2
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Re: Fuel tank: Clogged?

Agilmore, I don't think drilling a hole in the bottom of your tank will help very much in draining crud and water out of the tank. Most often the crud will need to be agitated to loosen it. If your tank is small enough to remove from the boat, I would first take as much fuel out and then remove tank and have it steamed cleaned to remove years of old sediment. Is would also be a good time to check the condition of the tank before reinstalling. Good luck with the fuel system. Also plan on replacing the original fuel lines and vent lines as they do go bad with age, kind of like old men like me.....
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Old 25-07-2013, 10:43   #3
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Re: Fuel tank: Clogged?

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Originally Posted by brutb View Post
I would first take as much fuel out and then remove tank and have it steamed cleaned to remove years of old sediment.

Steam cleaning . . . is this something most marinas can do, or would I take it somewhere else to be steam cleaned?

Thank you for the reply,

Alan
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Old 25-07-2013, 10:45   #4
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Re: Fuel tank: Clogged?

Take it to a rad shop.
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Old 25-07-2013, 11:06   #5
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Re: Fuel tank: Clogged?

Quote:
Originally Posted by agilmore View Post

I tried sucking on the fuel line hose, nothing. This problem started after the engine was sitting for about 7 weeks.

I tried blowing into the hose and some bubbles gurgled for a bit, then stopped and I couldn't get any more air into the tank by blowing.

I removed the vent line, nothing changed.

I suppose the next step is remove the tank and pull the fittings to inspect?

If you can access the tank, probably the top, you may be able to inspect further without removing the tank from the boat. That may let you examine the fuel line from the other end, and it may let you pull the tank pick-up out to check that for obstructions.

You may also be able to clean up the inside of the tank -- if it needs it -- without removing it. A fuel polishing system may be able to filter your existing fuel, and also agitate and filter out anything on the tank bottom as it's continuously replaced during the process. Might or might not be sufficient, depending on the state of your tank. (How old?) Your marina, or perhaps some nearby marina, may well have a portable fuel polishing buggy that could be rolled out to your slip...

-Chris
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Old 25-07-2013, 12:39   #6
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Re: Fuel tank: Clogged?

Shooting compressed air down the pick up would probably blow out the restriction. Won't get rid of it but it may not recur or be a long time before it does. You can buy a relatively cheap portable compressed air tank from Harbor Freight, charge it at your local garage of friend with a compressor and use that to get compressed air to the boat. May be able to rent the tank from a tool rental company. Anyone who is serious about off road driving will possibly have one to inflate tires in the backwoods.

Fuel polishing won't be a permanent, never to return fix unless the polisher pickup tube is larger than what is/was blocking your pick up tube. Not sure how they hook up polisher equipment to the tank but using the tank fuel pick up won't do anything for debris larger than the tube.

I had a similar problem with a steel tank on one of my Series Rovers. Engine would run for a short while and then die. Let it sit for awhile and it would run again. Finally traced it down to small debris, mostly rust flakes, clogging the pickup tube under suction but falling out when the suction was released. The tank had a drain plug so ran a hose into the tank fill and flushed the tank for a full 24 hours. Problem came back almost immediately. Installed small throw away fuel filters in the pickup line and drove the truck till it stalled, replaced the filter, and drove again till it stalled and repeated the filter change. Went through about 10-15 fliters till the debris was sucked out enough not to clog the pickup or filter any longer. Thinking back on it, if I'd put a magnet into the tank, would probably have picked up a lot of the debris way quicker. As it turned out, would have been way easler just to buy a new tank. The tank began leaking because of pin hole rusting not too long after. A new tank may be in your future.
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Old 25-07-2013, 12:43   #7
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Re: Fuel tank: Clogged?

If you find a screen on the tank fitting, get rid of it! It's the job of fuel filters to filter the fuel, not a screen hidden away in the bones of the system.
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Old 25-07-2013, 13:10   #8
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Re: Fuel tank: Clogged?

did you disconnect the fuel hose and see if it is clogged?
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Old 25-07-2013, 13:16   #9
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Re: Fuel tank: Clogged?

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If you find a screen on the tank fitting, get rid of it! It's the job of fuel filters to filter the fuel, not a screen hidden away in the bones of the system.
Will grant that a screen on the pickup tube can cause problems but it's there for a reason. The screen makes for a much larger area that has to be obstructed to stop fuel flow. It will also stop a relatively small amount of debris from getting sucked into the tube and clogging it. Series Rovers came with a screen on the pickup tube but this one had been removed. That allowed pieces of rust that were too large to be sucked all the way to the carburetor but large enough to clog the tube when joined with a few of their brethren. A screen provides a much larger area that must be blocked before fuel flow is shut off and impossible for a few pieces to clog the pickup.

The screens on the rovers were copper mesh. Over the years they could have small debris collect in the fine mesh so fuel flow would be restricted. Really easy to clean them up with a tooth brush after 15 or 20 years. Of course the tank in the Rover was way easier to access so cleaning the screen was a simple 1/2 hour operation to remove the fuel pick up and scrub. Doubt that will be the case with the fuel tank in a boat. Have just spent several days pulling the tank from my boat and it was not fun.
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Old 25-07-2013, 13:19   #10
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pirate Re: Fuel tank: Clogged?

agilmore,

Fuel line supply anti-siphon valve?
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Old 25-07-2013, 13:53   #11
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Re: Fuel tank: Clogged?

When checking my fuel line I was able to remove the dip tube from the tank. You should also be able to do that. Mine just unscrewed. I then used my oil change pump to suck out some diesel to check for water or bugs.
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Old 25-07-2013, 14:01   #12
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Re: Fuel tank: Clogged?

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agilmore,

Fuel line supply anti-siphon valve?
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So how would that work? it's a new one on me. the physics of it just won't happen.
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Old 25-07-2013, 14:12   #13
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Re: Fuel tank: Clogged?

I had some really bad fuel about a month ago. Rather than dick around with polishing I just syphoned off the bad fuel, removed the tank and cleaned it, replaced the filters and pick up side hoses. Worked without a hitch for the following three weeks of my cruise after that.

However, before yanking the tank, I'd check a bit more to try to determine if there's a lot of crap in the fuel system of if if something else is obstructing it. How does the fuel in the bottom of your separator look? Perhaps stick a tube into the bottom of the tank and siphon some off to see what it looks like. Are your filters collecting crud or are they clean?

Also, when blowing, are you blowing directly into the tank, or are you perhaps blowing through the separator filter without realizing it? (which may be the "clog") Lastly, I'd replace the hose from the tank to the filter and blow through that first.
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Old 25-07-2013, 14:17   #14
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Re: Fuel tank: Clogged?

Compressed air, as stated above, make sure air vent is free first. The point is if your pick-up lacks mesh filter, you are likely to run into the same issue again and again.

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Old 25-07-2013, 14:41   #15
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Re: Fuel tank: Clogged?

My experience was to cut inspection ports into my (stainless) tanks. I then reached in and wiped them clean. After seeing what was in there, I am absolutely convinced that 'fuel polishing' would not have done the job.

I cut the inspection ports with a high-torque jigsaw. I had flanges and plates made by a friend. They were oval for easy installation.

I am super glad I did the job that way.

I describe the process here, although instead of a holesaw and grinder, I ended up using a Porter-Cable variable speed jigsaw. Note also the mention of the strainer installed before the separator, which is a bacon-saver

Installing New Hatches In Fuel Tanks
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