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Old 24-03-2020, 16:22   #1
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Traces of diesel in the bilge

Hey!

We just bought a 1986 Caliber 28. We noticed a smell and then realized after going 7 hours are bilge was filled with water and some diesel. We pumped about a gallon and a half of water out and 20% of it was diesel. We did not think much of it as we had just replaced fuel filters and figured maybe just from that. We then traveled another 7 hours. After that we pumped out another liter and a half of water which about 20% of it was diesel! We cannot seem to see a leak doesnt mean it is not there. We did notice that there is already a ton of gunk in our main fuel filter after just being cleaned two days ago. Anybody have any experience with this? Is it dangerous to continue on pumping out after every leg to get our boat back to its home port?
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Old 24-03-2020, 17:06   #2
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Re: Traces of diesel in the bilge

It violates the Federal Water Pollution Act to pump diesel into the navigable waters of US and contiguous zone.
That seems to be a considerable leak, if you just changed the filters that's the first place to check. They should not have a lot of crap in them as you mentioned, tanks probably full of junk from sitting. There are bilge pads and such you can use that will trap the fuel and let the water drain but they are really just for a light spill, you need to find and stop the leak.
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Old 24-03-2020, 17:24   #3
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Re: Traces of diesel in the bilge

Without something like baby powder try paper towels wrapped around suspect places to find the leak. Can you run it safely with the access open to watch?
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Old 24-03-2020, 17:39   #4
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Re: Traces of diesel in the bilge

1. new fuel filter - usual suspect is the new O ring, sometimes placed on top of an old O ring.


2. I had a barb on my primary filter let go, check connections and all clamps.


3. Check the bottom of your fuel tank, many get pinhole leaks there or at the corners




Good luck.
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Old 24-03-2020, 17:46   #5
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Re: Traces of diesel in the bilge

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Originally Posted by Stu Jackson View Post
1. new fuel filter - usual suspect is the new O ring, sometimes placed on top of an old O ring.


2. I had a barb on my primary filter let go, check connections and all clamps.


3. Check the bottom of your fuel tank, many get pinhole leaks there or at the corners




Good luck.
The only thing we have not checked is the bottom of our fuel tank. We can't quite figure out how to be able to see that. I guess my main concern is traveling tomorrow with the leak. Is it dangerous, or will it be ok for a few days while we try to figure it out in between traveling on the ICW?
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Old 24-03-2020, 17:47   #6
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Re: Traces of diesel in the bilge

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Without something like baby powder try paper towels wrapped around suspect places to find the leak. Can you run it safely with the access open to watch?
Yes! We tried that tonight and nothing seems to be obvious. We are going to take another look in the AM. How would we use the baby powder if we were to take that approach? Also my main concern is safety. If we can't find the leak tomorrow, is it still ok to carry on or no?
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Old 24-03-2020, 17:56   #7
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Re: Traces of diesel in the bilge

So you have a water leak and a diesel leak. Likely culprits for the diesel leak:


1. O Ring on fuel filter not seated properly or not clean.

2. Where fuel hose connects to fuel pump, the rubber can split under the clamps, if enough length cut the hose and re-connect. You should have two clamps. Check other connections to tank and injectors.

3. Check the diesel return hose as well. (i.e. the one that runs from engine back to the tank)


In terms of safety, diesel in the bilge in itself would be not explosive, but I would still make sure it is well ventilated. I would sponge out the bilge on a regular basis into a container so the diesel can separate out and be disposed of responsibly.



This assumes you only have the leak when motoring. Otherwise you need to check the integrity of the tank as well. Other possibility is the tank breather is blocked so when tank expands leak may occur as boat pitches.
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Old 24-03-2020, 19:28   #8
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Re: Traces of diesel in the bilge

Big question, do you get diesel in the bilge only when running the engine? That would strongly indicate that the leak is not the tank but somewhere in the fuel lines, filters, etc.


That isn't a 100% diagnosis as a leak could be higher on the tank where it only leaks when fuel is sloshing in rough water or similar.
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Old 24-03-2020, 19:34   #9
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Re: Traces of diesel in the bilge

No one seems to want to answer you real question: Is it safe to travel with diesel fuel in your bilge?

Yes...but... Diesel is the same category of danger as gasoline. It is not an explosion hazard.

But, as has already been pointed out, leaving a trail of diesel sheen on the water when your bilge pump runs will get you (rightly!) in a load of trouble if it gets noticed by the wrong person.

Do everything you can to absorb the fuel before it mixes with water in the bilge!
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Old 24-03-2020, 20:50   #10
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Re: Traces of diesel in the bilge

Been through this. I’m betting your diesel tank is corroded and leaking from the bottom. Water and other contaminants get into the diesel and sit in the corners. Over time it eats away at the metal and perforates the bottom. You’ll see it sweating diesel. It’s fairly common on tanks that are 20-30 years old.

The only fix is to replace the tank. Patching doesnt work. Good news is that a new tank can be purchased for not a ton of money. We just did ours this year.
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Old 25-03-2020, 04:31   #11
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Re: Traces of diesel in the bilge

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Been through this. Im betting your diesel tank is corroded and leaking from the bottom. Water and other contaminants get into the diesel and sit in the corners. Over time it eats away at the metal and perforates the bottom. Youll see it sweating diesel. Its fairly common on tanks that are 20-30 years old.

The only fix is to replace the tank. Patching doesnt work. Good news is that a new tank can be purchased for not a ton of money. We just did ours this year.
I'm thinking you are right. I woke up this morning and at least a shot glass more of diesel was in the bilge. In addition, there is diesel in the bathroom cabinet which is right next to the fuel tank. Such a mess! Our tank is a 20 gallon. Any idea the cost to replace?
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Old 25-03-2020, 04:33   #12
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Re: Traces of diesel in the bilge

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Big question, do you get diesel in the bilge only when running the engine? That would strongly indicate that the leak is not the tank but somewhere in the fuel lines, filters, etc.


That isn't a 100% diagnosis as a leak could be higher on the tank where it only leaks when fuel is sloshing in rough water or similar.
Hey! We woke up to about a shot glass more diesel in our bilge. I'm guessing this means gas tank leakage since we weren't running the engine. In addition, I found traces of diesel in our bathroom cabinet which is right next to the tank...Thoughts?
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Old 25-03-2020, 05:22   #13
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Re: Traces of diesel in the bilge

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No one seems to want to answer you real question: Is it safe to travel with diesel fuel in your bilg!

Good point and agree, diesel in the bilge isn't the most dangerous thing and not an explosion hazard like gas but would be better not to have it. And yes, leaving a trail of sheen on the water is highly discouraged by the USCG and could get one a serious fine.


That being said, a friend who is a university professor and does research on wetlands, pollution, etc told me after the Exxon Valdez spill that the light fractions of petroleum products evaporate fairly quickly and aren't really that bad environmentally, especially compared to the heavy sludge left behind by crude oil spills. Not to encourage boaters to pump fuel and oil into the water but just to put a perspective on the impact.
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Old 25-03-2020, 05:27   #14
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Re: Traces of diesel in the bilge

Go to nearest Truck stop or Auto Supply store and buy some oil absorbent pads, place them at different locations where you suspect leaks. Remove/replace pads daily and place in plastic garbage bag, then dispose of properly. 20 gallon fuel tank may be difficult to remove, but not too expensive to replace.
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Old 25-03-2020, 05:28   #15
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Re: Traces of diesel in the bilge

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It violates the Federal Water Pollution Act to pump diesel into the navigable waters of US and contiguous zone.
That seems to be a considerable leak, if you just changed the filters that's the first place to check. They should not have a lot of crap in them as you mentioned, tanks probably full of junk from sitting. There are bilge pads and such you can use that will trap the fuel and let the water drain but they are really just for a light spill, you need to find and stop the leak.
We have just been pumping out our bilge manually and getting rid of the diesel in marked containers rather then letting it pump into the water! We are in a VERY rural area so hoping we can get to our next stop 30 miles safely tomorrow and then get it all figured out.
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