Fill 'er Up - Sail Magazine

Fill 'er Up

Charles Chapin of Chicago, Illinois, asks:"I bought my 35-footer 16 years ago and plan to keep it for another 16. Recently I overheard two engine mechanics in my yard talking about problems they’ve had with the new bio diesel fuel. What problems have there been and, more importantly, what should I do to make sure my fuel tank and delivery system remain trouble free?"
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0
FillPhoto1

Charles Chapin of Chicago, Illinois, asks:

"I bought my 35-footer 16 years ago and plan to keep it for another 16. Recently I overheard two engine mechanics in my yard talking about problems they’ve had with the new bio diesel fuel. What problems have there been and, more importantly, what should I do to make sure my fuel tank and delivery system remain trouble free?"

Larry Berlin replies:

I’m pretty sure the discussion you overheard concerned problems that might affect some engines if they run on the bio diesel now available for marine use. You always know when you are getting bio diesel, because the pump will be marked with B-2, B-5, B-10; the number signifies the percentage of bio fuel being pumped. Engine manufacturers have anticipated the advent of bio diesel since 2000 and most have designed their engines to run on at least B-10 (10 percent bio fuel); some can even run on a 20 percent mixture. But engines built before 2000 could have problems running on bio fuel. Most of these involve seals, O-rings, gaskets and other parts that are not compatible with the new fuel mixtures. O-rings and seals can shrink and that could produce either a fuel leak or let air enter the fuel system. Unfortunately, you won’t have any warning before these sorts of parts fail.

If there is a chance you will be using bio fuel in the future, you definitely should replace all seals, O-rings and gaskets in the fuel system. Also check the fuel tank, fuel hoses and filters; here again a boat built before 2000 may have a tank, hoses or fuel-filter housings that are not compatible with bio fuel. Older fuel hoses, for example, can delaminate from the inside out and if that happens fuel could be dumped into the bilge. You may be able to spot such problems ahead of time; a failing fuel hose tends to become soft, or may even start to crack. If you see this, change the hose immediately. A good rule of thumb is that you should replace all fuel hoses every 10 years with new Coast Guard-approved hoses.

Bio fuel will also clean out old deposits of sediment inside a fuel tank and this often results in a plugged fuel filter. This problem could continue until either the tank is cleaned or is replaced. You should also replace the fuel pick-up tube in your fuel tank with a stainless steel tube. If the fuel line has pipe joints be sure to take them apart, clean them and then put them back together with a fresh Teflon-based dope. This is also a good time to replace the vent hose for the fuel tank. While you are at it, install an overflow whistle in the vent hose: when the tank is full the whistle will stop blowing and that will keep you from having to pay a big cleanup bill. You should also replace the fuel tank cap’s seal or O-ring. Although I haven’t seen it myself, I have also heard a number of stories about bio fuel softening the inside of older fiberglass tanks, just like the fuel lines. If this happens to your tank and the tank material gets into the fuel system, it could cause problems with the injector, injection pump and even the engine.

Because your engine was built before 2000, you should get in touch with the manufacturer and learn from them what parts, if any, you need to change; have the engine model and serial number ready before you call. If your fuel tanks are fiberglass check with the boat’s manufacturer if possible to learn whether they are compatible with bio fuels. Finally, do your homework on any fuel additive you might use, because some are not compatible with either bio fuels or fuel system components. Don’t use a fuel additive containing alcohol or ethanol until you check with the engine manufacturer. Whatever you do, don’t think luck will get you through this transition period. It could turn out to be a very costly mistake.

Related

180615-01 Lead

A Dramatic Comeback in the Volvo

After winning three of the last four legs in the Volvo Ocean Race (and coming in second in the fourth), Dutch-flagged Brunel is now tied for first overall with Spanish-flagged Mapfre and Chinese-flagged Dongfeng following the completion of Leg 10 from Cardiff, Wales, to ...read more

MFS-5-2018-Propan-SP02

Tohatsu LPG-powered 5hp Propane Motor

Gassing it UpTired of ethanol-induced fuel issues? Say goodbye to gasoline. Japanese outboard maker Tohatsu has introduced an LPG-powered 5hp kicker that hooks up to a propane tank for hours of stress-free running. Available in short-, long- or ultra-long-shaft versions, the ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comThink Deeply When chartering, I am always maddened to be told that the echo sounder is calibrated “to depth under the keel, plus a bit for safety.” Such operators seem to imagine that the instrument’s sole ...read more

180612-01 Landing lead

Painful Sailing in Volvo Leg 10

It’s looking to be a case of feast or famine for the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean fleet as it continues the epic struggle that has been Leg 10, with it having been all famine thus far. Painful is the only word to describe the light-air start in Cardiff, Wales, on June 10, as the 11-boat ...read more

01-13_07_180304_JRE_03695_4605

Tips From the Boatyard

Within the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard sits a communal sail loft which provides service and repairs for all seven teams sailing in the 2017-18 edition of the race. The sail loft employs only five sailmakers who look after 56 sails in each stopover. If you’re thinking, “wow, these ...read more

sailCarwBasicsJuly18

Sail Care for Cruisers

Taking care of your canvas doesn’t just save you money, it’s central to good seamanship  Knowing how to take care of your sails and how to repair them while at sea is an important part of overall seamanship. The last thing any sailor needs is to get caught on a lee shore with ...read more

Ship-container-2048

The Danger of a Collision Offshore

This almost happened to me once. I was sailing singlehanded between Bermuda and St. Martin one fall, and one night happened to be on deck looking around at just the right time. The moon was out, the sky was clear and visibility was good. Still, when I thought I saw a large ...read more

New-MHS-Promo

Multihulls on the Horizon

Fountaine Pajot New 42The French cat powerhouse has been on a roll these last few years, cranking out new models that not only replace their older line but take a step forward in design and user-friendliness. The New 42’s “real” name had not been revealed as we went to press, but ...read more