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Old 10-07-2015, 07:59   #1
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Inspecting my fuel tank (thru inspection cover)

Men,

I've had my first issue with dirty fuel over the weekend. I'll be installing my fuel polishing system once it arrives but I need to inspect the tank.

I have a 237 gallon tank with +\- 40 gallons of new fuel (the tank was pumped but not cleaned last weekend).

Just curious if I open the inspection/dip tube assembly and take a peek around to see if it needs to be polished and pressure cleaned that I'm not opening a can of worms with diesel still in the tank. Basically, I'm concerned about blowing myself up! I'll obviously vent the space, no power on the boat, etc., etc.

Any thoughts would be appreciated!

Thanks,

Marc
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Old 10-07-2015, 08:15   #2
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Re: Inspecting my fuel tank (thru inspection cover)

Take basic precautions ( no open flames, smoking, grinding etc) but no need to be overly concerned.
Diesel is not classified as flammable; It is a combustible. Much safer than gasoline.

You'd actually struggle to light it on fire with a match unless it was very hot, but its probably not worth trying.
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Old 10-07-2015, 08:17   #3
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Re: Inspecting my fuel tank (thru inspection cover)

Diesel fuel is slimy and smelly, but not explosive which is why it's preferred for marine use. One time years ago, it tried to light an old dried pile of leaves and a Xmas tree using some diesel, couldn't get it to ignite.
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Old 10-07-2015, 09:09   #4
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Re: Inspecting my fuel tank (thru inspection cover)

Good luck on inspecting the tank via the "inspection/dip tube" access, unless it's large enough to reach into and drag a rag into the corners. If you wish to modify the tank and add some actual cleanout ports, it's not a major job. Assuming the tank is metal, you will have to pump it dry (or near abouts), drill a pilot hole and saber saw an opening. The metal filings will drop into the tank and be cleaned out later. Fabricate the cover, including the fastener holes, then use the cover to drill and tap the tank surface for your completion stage. File/sand the edges, then reach in and wipe the entire surfaces to get everything clean. If you have baffle plates, you'll need to install access ports on each side to get to everything. Now you have a real fuel tank, the way they ought to be built. I built mine from plywood, then epoxied fillets into the interior corners, installed a baffle, and added dip stick, electrical fuel gauge, and fill pipe, vent, and pickup tube. Thirty-something years later it looks brand new. For insurance purposes, its construction is classed as cellulose core composite graphite/epoxy. Every couple of years I pull off the inspection plates and wipe down the interior, just to see what's been going on. So far, no surprises.
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Old 10-07-2015, 09:10   #5
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Re: Inspecting my fuel tank (thru inspection cover)

I have a smaller 50 gallon tank but its very accessible, under the cabin sole, and has a large access port, maybe 8" square. Its stainless steel.

I pumped out the 10 remaining gallons in it and did a visual inspection. Unfortunately, like many liquid holding tanks on boats, it was baffled, so I could only see the center third of the tank. I found numerous small dots of a thick black goop on the bottom. I poured about a guart of mineral spirits in and used a toilet brush and sponge to clean it up. The baffles didnt go all the way to the bottom of the tank so I was able to get the brush under the gap and into the unseen parts of the tank. Then I sponged out the mineral spirits. I also cleaned out the "cup" under the pickup tube.
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Old 11-07-2015, 08:44   #6
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Re: Inspecting my fuel tank (thru inspection cover)

Anyone ever tried those cameras on a stalk that plumbers use,?
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Old 11-07-2015, 09:08   #7
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Re: Inspecting my fuel tank (thru inspection cover)

For interest, plexiglass and polycarbonates such as Lexan are not effected by diesel fuel. I have a friend with a high end custom Geotz boat and the inspection cover is lexan. You can shine a flash light into the tank and see every little corner etc. If the fuel is dirty or has water you can see it. Very simple and very smart.

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Old 11-07-2015, 16:08   #8
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Re: Inspecting my fuel tank (thru inspection cover)

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Originally Posted by RNW View Post
Anyone ever tried those cameras on a stalk that plumbers use,?
Ryobi PhoneWorks makes one with a 3' flex that uses your smartphone for its display screen. I got one. Works OK, and only $69 at Home Depot.

- Rusty
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Old 11-07-2015, 16:29   #9
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Re: Inspecting my fuel tank (thru inspection cover)

Assuming it's diesel I wouldn't worry much abut igniting it. I have thrown lit matches into a coffee can of diesel many times... never did get it to light.
I'm not sure what you can tell by looking, taking a scraping off the side or bottom should show something.
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Old 11-07-2015, 18:08   #10
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Re: Inspecting my fuel tank (thru inspection cover)

I worked in a mine and of course most of the gear was diesel. The shop had an open drum of diesel that folks used for an ash tray.

Much better than that yo-yo at the marina filling the tanks on his cruiser from jerry cans of gasoline with a lit cigarette dangling from his mouth. Now him we had tossed out. Permanently banned so to speak. He also believed in only two throttle positions. Full on or full off for both forward and reverse!!

Anyway, if you try hard enough you can get diesel to burn but not go boom. I would avoid the use of RPG's. 😆


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Old 12-07-2015, 09:53   #11
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Re: Inspecting my fuel tank (thru inspection cover)

We have 5 SS tanks with 12 X 18 inspection openings. All were full of krud when we acquired the boat. Cleaned everything with fast orange & a power washer. We lost our HP injector pump anyway last year to dirt. We are adding a Franz polisher (same sort as a Pacific Coast) filter.
Our fuel intake to the engine & Generator will move to the clean side of this super-filter.
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Old 13-07-2015, 13:25   #12
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Re: Inspecting my fuel tank (thru inspection cover)

Thanks everyone!


After installing my fuel polishing system this weekend, I did take a peek into the tank and there was some grim... tomorrow I'm having a contractor come out and pump/filter and wash the tank. Probably will be the best $300 bucks I spend on the boat!


Now I will take more care of the fuel system knowing that I'm starting fresh!
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Old 13-07-2015, 18:08   #13
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Re: Inspecting my fuel tank (thru inspection cover)

Monitor the work. We have had reports in the past of not very well cleaned tanks causing problems. Make sure you get all segments of the tanks cleaned.
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Old 13-07-2015, 18:43   #14
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Re: Inspecting my fuel tank (thru inspection cover)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roy M View Post
Good luck on inspecting the tank via the "inspection/dip tube" access, unless it's large enough to reach into and drag a rag into the corners. If you wish to modify the tank and add some actual cleanout ports, it's not a major job. Assuming the tank is metal, you will have to pump it dry (or near abouts), drill a pilot hole and saber saw an opening. The metal filings will drop into the tank and be cleaned out later. Fabricate the cover, including the fastener holes, then use the cover to drill and tap the tank surface for your completion stage. File/sand the edges, then reach in and wipe the entire surfaces to get everything clean. If you have baffle plates, you'll need to install access ports on each side to get to everything. Now you have a real fuel tank, the way they ought to be built. I built mine from plywood, then epoxied fillets into the interior corners, installed a baffle, and added dip stick, electrical fuel gauge, and fill pipe, vent, and pickup tube. Thirty-something years later it looks brand new. For insurance purposes, its construction is classed as cellulose core composite graphite/epoxy. Every couple of years I pull off the inspection plates and wipe down the interior, just to see what's been going on. So far, no surprises.
What thickness plywood did you use? What kind of glass. My fuel tank is aluminum, built in 1987 with boat so I assume at some point it will spring a leak. Plan to pump dry and inspect in offseason. But interesting concept to build one.


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