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Old 14-07-2010, 16:12   #1
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Gunge in Diesel Tank

I had a problem while sailing downwind to Curacao earlier this year in very agitated waters of my filter blocking with gunge. I had my tanks (2)cleaned last November, although instead of taking the tank tops off, they simply used a pump.

The boat is 30 years old and the second tank is probably unaccessable unless I can raise the motor. The forward tank lid was removed and all the gunge extracted. The last PO installed a gauge in the front tank, therefore logically one would assume at the same time he would have clean the tank. If so then within 5years about an inch of gunge accumulated. The back tank is therefore likely to have 30 years accumulated crap.

I have disconnected the bank tank and this leaves me with a forward tank of some 46 gallons.

My idea was to find some chemical/product which I can introduce into the rear tank and leave indefinately which will breakdown the crap, which I can then have pumped out.

Is there a product which someone could recommend or a general process which someone has tried which would...given time...dissolve the accumulated muck which seems to be lurking there.

As always your help would be greatly appreciated

Alan
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Old 14-07-2010, 16:20   #2
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Having run into a similar situation in a seaway I can relate. Not a nice situation to be in.

As far as a chemical cleaner, none that I know of. I would suggest, as painful as it seems, that you remove the back tank and clean and check it. Unless it is made of fiber glass it will probably need to be replaced anyway.

I doubt that you would have built up one inch of gunge in the tank in 5 years. It may have happened, but I would guess that the previous owner had done what you did, if that.

Good luck.
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Old 14-07-2010, 16:46   #3
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The steel tanks are in the bilges. The lid of the forward tank with 30 bolts holding the lid must have been removed to introduce the fuel tank float so I can't believe he would have ignored the opportunity to clean. The second tank's bolts are just about accessible, but with no clearance to lift and extract, without jacking up the engine.

I hope someone out there has used something which when introduced and over time, will disolve the worst of it and i can pump it out .

Regards

Alan
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Old 14-07-2010, 17:50   #4
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i was kinda wondering the same thing... our boat's about 11 months old now, and i've gone from 3/4 tank (when we bought it) to about 1/8 tank. i'm hesitant to just motor over and refill it because i feel like i'd be missing an opportunity to clean it. but sheesh - taking the whole tank out? i'm not sure that's possible in our boat either without removing the engine.

if we accept that i'm unwilling to remove the tank, what's the most effective way to clean it while it's in place?

our boat's also almost 30 years old (26) and i have no idea if the tank's ever been cleaned. my understanding is that 90% of inboard problems are fuel related... cleaning seems important.

is there some accepted schedule for tank cleaning?

if there's not the silver bullet additive that anglooff's looking for, would at least pumping out and filtering the remaining fuel be productive?
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Old 14-07-2010, 17:51   #5
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Quote:
our boat's about 11 months old now
11 months old to us that is - sorry
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Old 14-07-2010, 18:01   #6
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Steel tanks? Is that ok? I thought steel was not recommended.

No way to clean tanks other than getting down and dirty. I have no faith in the polishing services that don't do a manual cleaning too.

Taking out small boat engines is no big deal. Or shouldn't be.
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Old 14-07-2010, 18:04   #7
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What is it with 30 year old boats! haha. I had to remove the tank in my previous boat - a very awkward job - that boat was 30 yaers old! My current boat - also 30 years old faces the same. I think I have to remove the motor in this one. The primary filter gets gunge in it - especially if motoring in bumpy water. I will do it before summer down here because it does worry me. A working motor is a nice back-up!
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Old 14-07-2010, 19:31   #8
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Anglooff, it appears your thread has been somewhat hijacked, however, 30 year old steel tanks really need to be inspected. Think of the consequences of a major fuel leak.

By the way steel is a perfectly good material for fuel tanks. They just need to be mounted and maintained properly.
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Old 15-07-2010, 05:13   #9
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I had heard, for what that is worth, that steel tanks were not recommended for diesel because of the water and acid that tags along with diesel fuel. But if they pass inspection then you're ok. I think aluminum is the most popular material.
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Old 15-07-2010, 06:35   #10
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Alan, I had similar problems with my 25 year old tanks. Engine kept dieing at the most inopportune times. I did everything (polished fuel, replaced fuel, etc) except getting in and manually cleaning tanks (no access). Eventually, I removed my in-line screen and started using Algae-X with every fill up. Over time, with frequent filter changes, the filter stopped clogging and the fuel appears clean. This worked for me and I have no interest in Algae-X so you might want to give it a try. It will take some time but let us know how you resolve this.
jim
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Old 15-07-2010, 06:44   #11
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daddle, aluminum and even stainless have many of the same faults as steel when used as a diesel fuel tank. The longevity of any metal fuel tank depends (to a great degree) on proper installation and proper maintenance ie: cleaning. Many steel tanks rust out at the filler when the deck fittings leak and water runs down the outside of the fill pipe and sits on the top of the tanks. Therefore it is imperative to keep the deck fittings well bedded. Tanks fitted in the bilge can have a rough life. If they get wet and stay wet for a while it will greatly reduce the life expectancy. And water sitting at the bottom of the tank under the fuel will cause the tank to rust from the inside out.

Properly installed and maintained metal tanks can have a long life, but 30 years is getting up there.

And oh no,please, not another Algae-X discussion. I expect removing the in-line screen did it. There should never be a screen on the fuel pickup. They can kill you.
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Old 15-07-2010, 07:18   #12
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DeepFrz...you're correct that the pick-up screen almost killed me and it's removal did indeed stop the engine from shutting down. However, it was several hundred hours of fuel filter changes with Algae-X that seemed to clean the tank. I am not familiar with the Algae-X discussion issue. Can you enlighten me?
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Old 15-07-2010, 07:34   #13
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I've had good results using the Startron additive made by Starbrite in the tanks. Star Tron Enzyme Fuel Treatment - HOME

Fuel filters quit clogging and fuel brightened up in the filters. I have no affiliation with the company.

Carl
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Old 15-07-2010, 17:21   #14
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As always thanks for the replies. The forward tank is now clean and the second tank is disconnected from the system. I am at anchor so not even contemplating attempting to jack up the engine... a Perkins 4-236... until on the hard. As stated above the front tank had about a inch of gunge which was manually removed. (I had both tanks supposedly cleaned using a pump in November last-an afternoon process- This time the front tank took two people 7 hours).

I know the rear tank must also go the same process, but hoped that as it was isolated I could introduce something either a brand solution or a combination of other disolates, which left in the tank for a month or two would disolve the residue sufficiently to make another pumping and cleaning process worthwhile and allow careful usage. In reality the forward tank should be enough for a year's usage...but being a Scot... I am pragmatic enough to want both.

Therefore I am hoping that there are some chemists in the CF out there whom have a simple cocktail of other disolates which when introduced and mixed by a few months sailing motion will break it up and suspend it sufficiently to pump out. ( even if not completely cleaned then less hours when finally done manually)

I have already check the internet and only ://www.dieselcraft.com/FuelQualityDispersant.php and Algae x seem to be sold and these are designed as preventatives and suspension item/usage/fuel cleaners rather than tank cleaners.

Any suggestions

Regards

Alan
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Old 15-07-2010, 17:36   #15
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I had a fuel contamination problem last year when I was delivering my boat from Charleston to the BVI. In rough water, the filters were clogging so bad it was killing the engine and generator. I had my tanks previously cleaned twice by fuel polishers, which basically clean fuel, but do nothing for the tanks and crap that adheres to them. I finally bit the bullet, had all the fuel pumped out and polished, had the tanks cut open to install inspection plates, had the crap vacuumed out, then had the tanks hand wiped, reassembled, and the cleaned fuel pumped back in. Cost a fortune, but the problem, which has persisted for years is over, once and for all. If you add stuff to the tanks to clean them as I did, I think you will find it simply doesn't work for any kind of substantial problem, which it sounds like you have. Wish I had a better answer.
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