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Old 16-05-2018, 15:22   #1
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Racor filter failure

Hello sailors,

I have a dual Racor fuel filter model 75/500FGX. This:

On an offshore passage last week my engine started acting like it was running out of fuel. RPM decreased and fluctuated a bit, then the engine stalled. I could start it up and run at low RPM for a while, but it was straining. Of course the first thing I did was to switch the filter over to the other bowl, which had not yet been used. No change. Then I changed the filters (one was ~75% dirty, one spotless). No change. Then, with the engine off, I started my generator. Same problem like it was running out of diesel.

The vacuum gauge on the Racor was pegged in the red, and I've never seen it move out of yellow before. Also curious was that the needle did not recede immediately after stopping the engine. It took over 5 minutes to get back to zero.

I have a complex fuel system with three tanks, the two engines, a fuel transfer pump for the tanks, and this Racor filter. Everything is controlled via a central manifold with eight different valves that control all the flows. I had visually inspected the fuel in the tanks before the passage and it all looked perfectly clean and healthy. I've never had an issue with crud in my tanks.

Next I switched the source/return of fuel to the other tanks one at a time. No change in the engine or generator performance. In fact no configuration of tanks, or which engine was running, or which way the filter was set improved the issue. So this left only the one common component of any configuration - the filter and/or its associated tubing. I temporarily bypassed the filter (knowing I have secondary filters on both Westerbekes) and, voila, the engines ran fine.

So there has to be a ~90% clog in some common part of the Racor housing. Each engine is clearly providing the suction (hence the pegged needle), but only a small flow is getting through. I am very surprised this can happen, but it has. I see Racor has rebuild kits for each single bowl, but I haven't found one yet for the three way valve, which I'm most suspicious of. I will call Racor and see what they can tell me. In any regard I plan to rebuild the whole thing if I can. The bowls look simple, and the valve looks like it comes apart easily. Of course all of this has difficult accessibility, so I want to have everything understood and lined up before I start.

Any experience or advice on this?

Thanks,

JR
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Old 16-05-2018, 15:42   #2
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Re: Racor filter failure

Far simpler system but when it happens to me I eventually found a bit of sailcloth stuck in the pick up tube. How it got in the tank is anyone guess, I have no clue.

Try this.....use a small air compressor or bicycle pump or even just your breath, try blowing back into the tank from the filter. You should be able to blow back with a bit of resistance. You may be able to hear the fuel bubble. You might have some debris in the pick up somewhere.
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Old 16-05-2018, 16:43   #3
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Re: Racor filter failure

The older dual Racor filters had a plastic valve that will eventually break inside the housing in one position. The handle moves but not the valve itself. I recall the replacement piece was $350 or so. Half the price of an entire new unit. Was the handle hard to turn?
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Old 16-05-2018, 17:28   #4
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Re: Racor filter failure

The handle is easy to turn but by my instinct maybe too easy. It doesn't feel quite right, but not obviously wrong either. In fact even in the off position I still get the same partial flow of fuel to the engine. It's definitely my most suspicious target component.

I saw that (now) $375 full replacement valve on the Racor site. Ugg. I'm hoping to find a rebuild kit as the aluminium housing and other parts of the valve seem perfectly fine, and it looks like it can be disassembled and the guts of the valve pulled out. Could be wrong about that, or it needs special tools.
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Old 16-05-2018, 22:09   #5
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Re: Racor filter failure

I'm sure with a bit of thinking something like this could be used

https://www.valvesonline.com.au/3-wa...eel-ball-valve

Probably much cheaper again on eBay and delivered.
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Old 23-05-2018, 08:46   #6
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Re: Racor filter failure

I had a very productive email exchange over a few days with a technical rep at Racor named Steve. It turns out my dual filter setup is 30 years old. Steve was very helpful and confirmed what meridian28 said that my problem is a failure internal to the valve which they have seen before. While the new ones look a lot alike the central valve has changed a few times over the years and mine is not supported or repairable, and the new one doesnít just fit in place of the old.

So Iíll just do like Simi 60 suggested and build my own controls using ball valves to isolate/control the flows. Easy to do, and a lot cheaper, but not sure about the fittings I need since the boat is 2000 miles away. The Racor rep suggested this helpful site: https://www.fittingsforracor.com/default.asp The name says it all. My only real uncertainty is what the i.d. is of the fuel hoses on the boat Ė guessing 3/8Ē. Iíll probably make a trip down there once over the summer to do some work and confirm all my needs on all the projects.

Thanks for the input on this.

JR
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