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Fuel Filters and Ethanol
|Author||Topic: Fuel Filters and Ethanol|
posted 08-06-2009 06:17 PM ET (US)
I understand that when water is introduces to the E-10 compound (90% gasoline and 10% ethanol mixture); the water bonds with the ethanol component and creates a new water/ethanol compound. This results in phase separation of the gasoline/ethanol compound and water/ethanol compound. The ratio of ethanol in the E-10 compound is reduced, thus reducing its octane rating.
My question is if the ethanol-water solution can be trapped/filtered by a RACOR fuel filter/water separator filter. Here is why I ask...
I have a friend who owns a 1989 OR-22 with a 1989 235Hp V-6 Yamaha engine that was shipped from Rhode Island about 1 year ago. Once in California, the engine began running rough and then quit all together. The carb was clogged with gooey brown matter. The owner empties and cleaned the tank (no pressure test) and the carbs. The boat is back in the shop with the same symptoms, however this time the carbs have clear goo, which frankly looks like jello. I tasted it this time and it wasn't salty or gassy, but tasted like a vodka jello shot you'd get at a bar. After finishing off the rest of the goo, I inspected the fuel system, I noticed that the fuel filter is a 5-6 year old Raycor diesel filter system (?!?!)
Obviously the first step is a pressure test of the fuel system to determine how water is entering a closed system. My ultimate question, however, is if a new gasoline, top of the line Raycor filter/separator would have prevented this.
|L H G||
posted 08-06-2009 07:01 PM ET (US)
I don't think "phase" separation is his problem. It only happens when fuel sits in a tank, motionless for about 2 months or more of storage, and it's primary damage is being highly corrosive to aluminum belly tanks. Once you move the boat around again, it gets mixed back in with the gasoline, and will not filter out, and gets burned through the engine. These filters only collect loose water.
I just had a similar carb problem on one of my Mercs. The mechanic said they are now seeing a lot of this, where the ethanol fuel mixture causes the fuel to evaporate faster in the carbs and float bowls, increasing varnishing and goo clogging like you describe. His suggestion is to be sure the last fuel run through the engine before a period of non-use contains a generous portion of Stabil or Star-tron. This inhibits the evaporation, and subsequent clogging. He also said to religiously use Mercury "QuickClean", which keeps the whole fuel system really clean.
posted 08-06-2009 07:45 PM ET (US)
Interesting hypothesis, which I'm willing to accept. I assumed the phase separation was a semi-permanent condition, much like the phase separation of gasoline and water, and that the goo was coming from the tank at full concentration, thus clogging the carb in a single catastrophic event. Rather, as you suggest Larry, the newly created ethanol/water compound is emulsified in the gasoline at a molecular level, passes through the filter and arrives in the carb in relatively low concentrations. When the engine is shut doem, the gasoline evaporates from the carbs and float bowls faster than the ethanol/water compound (goo), thus leaving a high concentration of goo. If this is correct, then why wouldn't a fresh shot of gasoline in the carbs and bowls re-emulsify the goo and run it through the fuel system, sort of like an E-85 compound?
posted 08-06-2009 07:57 PM ET (US)
This not a phase separation problem.
Ethanol is an excellent solvent. Prior to using E10, the Outrage probably had lots of varnish in the tank built up over the years. What is probably happening is that all that varnish in the tank is getting cleaned out by the E10. Its getting through the filter and ending up in the carbs.
Several years ago when we were switched over from gas containing MTBE to E10 diluted gas, there were numerous stories of engines quitting and goo found in the carburetors or fuel system., mostly in older boats. The ethanol was cleaning out the fuel system. We don't hear these stories as much anymore because most of the old boats' fuel systems have now been cleaned out.
A new Racor filter element might haved helped.
posted 08-06-2009 08:02 PM ET (US)
Ethanol blended gasoline can hold more water than pure gasoline.
Most of the fuel additives used in the past were very high in alcohol. They helped maintain water in solution with the gasoline.
Mercury QUICKLEEN is one of a very few fuel additives that does not contain alcohol.
posted 08-06-2009 08:25 PM ET (US)
I agree, Peter. The first cleaning, where both the tanks and the carbs/bowls were scrubbed, yeilded a thick, dark goo that was probably the "varnish" effect of the E-10. Now we have the same problem, and the gelatinous goo is the same consistancy, however it is clear, not brown. I believe the E-10 "scrubbing" phase has passed, and what Kermit is experiencing is a direct result of water ingress into the tank, as evidenced by a high concentration of ethanol/water compound in the carbs/bowls.
I think Kermit has a void in his fuel delivery system that allowed water into the fuel tank. Initially, the E-10 dissolved existing varnish and also combined with the existing water to create a compound that to clogged the carbs. The entire system was cleaned out, and E-10 was again added to the tank. If there was no tank leak, this would have been the end of the story for quite some time, at least until there was enough ancillary water introduction to cause a problem to repeat. Here, however, water was re-introduced, and the problem repeated itself, minus the varnish effect which had been cleared by the prior use of E-10.
posted 08-07-2009 08:22 AM ET (US)
I'm just perplexed by the original poster tasting the stuff and saying it's like Vodka jello shots. I wouldn't want to diagnose boat problems with my tongue.
I plan on draining my gas tank during winter storage.
posted 08-07-2009 08:37 AM ET (US)
If he was getting water in the tank, it would simply be water, not a gelatinous goo. Gelatinous goo suggests a material that is partially disolved.
When I drain my Racor filters before changing them, I typically have about a teaspoon of water in them. This is after running many 100s of gallons of fuel through them and storing the boat over the winter with the tanks 2/3s full. There is a clear separation between the water and the fuel. There is absolutely no gelatinous goo anywhere. So I conclude that the goo is coming from something that has been disolved or partially dissolved by the ethanol.
What kind of fuel lines are being used in the boat? Hopefully they are OEM lines. But if not OEM, there is a possibility that the ethanol is disolving the fuel lines. Those gray jacketed Tempo (I think they are Tempo) fuel lines seem to get soft in the presence of E10. Also, is the primer bulb OEM? The Tempo bulbs (not wonderful to begin with) don't seem to hold up to E10.
Keep in mind that the 10 percent ethanol in E10 diluted fuel is just a target. There have been many occasions where much more than 10 percent ethanol has been found in fuel.
posted 08-07-2009 08:45 AM ET (US)
Would this type of filter contribute to the symptoms?
posted 08-07-2009 09:15 AM ET (US)
The gasoline Racor filter elements typically come in two pore size ranges, 2 micron and 10 micron. Depending on what Racor diesel filter element was used, it could have had a pore size up to 30 microns.
posted 08-07-2009 11:54 AM ET (US)
I concur with Peter, ethanol cleans well. Keep an eye on and change out the correct gasoline filter.
posted 08-07-2009 01:06 PM ET (US)
My motor has the Racor filter at the transom and 2 filters under the cowl. One of these is a high pressure filter. During a yearly maintenance, I decided to change my high pressure filter and found the same gello looking clear goo in it. My mechanic said it was due to the ethanol based fuel I was using so I switched to ethanol free gasoline and it has solved that problem. BTW, my fuel tank is new so that rules out old resin deposits being desolved by the ethanol.
posted 08-07-2009 01:20 PM ET (US)
How about MTBE? Did you ever have MTBE containing fuel in your tank? The goo has to be coming from something reacting with or being disolved by the ethanol.
I would also not rule out the possibility that the goo is coming from outside, i.e., from the fuel source. I believe that many gas stations have fiberglass in-ground tanks and I wonder what the ethanol is doing to them.
posted 08-07-2009 02:54 PM ET (US)
Dan, curiosity killed the cat, I suppose. I've solved plenty of mysteries (hmmm, is that salt water in the tank cavity? Is this anchovy bait still fresh? Is this my wife's underwear?)
Seriously, Peter the fuel lines are original whaler OEM, and postivley need to be replaced. I believe the goo is an ethanol/water compound, and likely not from any other source of contaminant in Kermits fuel system. (remember the system, including the tank was scrubbed prior to the recent epiosode, so MTBE is off the table since the problem re-occured after 100% E-10 was added.)
That's a good point regarding a contaminated source, but I don't have an answer. I buy my fuel at the same gas dock and have not had a problem.
Phil, that is a damn good question which warrants serious consideration. The fuel filter is a very old one, and I don't think it was providing any benefit, but it may have been adding to the problem if it was full, never changed, and contaminated.
The plan is to take a fuel sample, post bulb, and look for phase seperation since it has been sitting for a few weeks now. Second, replace all fuel lines, filters, bulbs and fittings. Third, pressure test the tank.
I suspect we'll find a leak in the tank, likely at the pick-up plate, that has allowed fresh water ingress. Repairing and scrubbing the tank, replacing the fuel lines and filter, and cleaning the carbs should solve the problem, No?
posted 08-07-2009 03:54 PM ET (US)
See slide 5 in this presentation. If all you have is water in the E10, with a little time there should be a clear separation of the phases. www.biotenn.org/media/ BioTenn%20Phase%20Separation%20Presentation%202%2011_2007.pdf .
If there is a gelatinous goo, I believe that means something has been dissolved. Anytime I've had water beyond the saturation point in my E10 fuel, there are clearly differentiated liquid phases. Now if you have that phase separation, the ethanol becomes more concentrated and has an even stronger solvent potential.
In its FAQ section, with respect to ethanol Mercury Marine says
posted 08-07-2009 04:53 PM ET (US)
O.K. Peter, you have convinced me that the goo is the result of the deterioration of some component/element in the fuel system...perhaps the fuel filter itself?
I will pressure test the tank this week, and if there is no leak, you are correct, it must be something else. Even if there is a leak, though, the E-10 may have past the saturation point, and the ethanol has been concentrated during the phase seperation, and is corroding or deteriorating some other component.
posted 08-09-2009 07:37 AM ET (US)
So should I be worried that the filter bowl of my 10 micron Racor had a little bit of brown gunk at the bottom? Was forced to switched to E10 this year. Replaced my fiberglass tank with a Moeller two years ago in anticipation. Regularly use Stabil (the newer blue stuff supposedly for Ethanol problems. Replace filter elements every few months.
The hoses are all original.
The engine is running fine.
posted 08-09-2009 09:05 AM ET (US)
No. The description suggests that the filter is doing its job catching contaminants. The contaminants could be coming from many sources including the source of fuel.
posted 08-09-2009 09:27 PM ET (US)
While leafing through the factory shop manual for my 1992 Suzuki 200 I noticed that it says: Suzuki recommends unleaded fuel of 89 octane containing no alcohol. Alternatively leaded fuel containing no alcohol.
So far, where I buy fuel, no E-10. I guess sooner or later I will be in trouble.
It frustrates me to no end how big interests combined with misguided attempts at green-ness can impact so many people (such as the people who maintain their old machnery properly so they last a long time) so negatively.
|R T M||
posted 08-10-2009 11:04 PM ET (US)
No sign of water in my fuel filter cartrige after a year of E-10
posted 08-13-2009 08:35 AM ET (US)
After almost a season of E-10, other than the filter needing changing more often, I haven't noticed much. Weren't we supposed to see a reduction in power as Ethanol has fewer BTUs per gallon than gas? Maybe too small to notice?
And I have the notorious (at least for some people) carbed 2004 90HP Mercaha FOURSTROKE.
I might, but this is really subjective, have a *slightly* rougher idle compared to last year, but knowing that I have E-10 is making me listen critically to every seemingly weird engine noise, most of which is nothing.
But you can'r discount psychological effects. One boats for pleasure, and the constant slight worry in the back of my mind, that something may go wrong at any time, is in itself a quantifiable downside of E-10.
posted 08-13-2009 02:37 PM ET (US)
E-10. Remember MBTA? It is all part of the grease on that slippery slide that is designed to render obselete and unworkable every form of internal combustion engine under the guise of environmental protection.
posted 08-13-2009 04:13 PM ET (US)
Although not creating a clear goo, the carbs on that Yamaha will experience issues with E-10 usage.
The bowl gaskets will break down and a black felt like substance will clog the low speed jets. Also the main jet o-rings will dry up, fall apart and reduce engine performance. I just re-built a friends Yamaha PV-150 and he ate the #4 piston after the main jet clogged and oil was not being delivered to the cylinder efficiently. A $2 part cost him over $3000.
Now that makes your fuel bill much higher… thanks evio’s…
posted 08-13-2009 04:38 PM ET (US)
how long did the boat sit around before getting used? You mention it came from RI, when? RI has had E10 for a few years now.
posted 08-15-2009 10:58 AM ET (US)
" I just re-built a friends Yamaha PV-150 and he ate the #4 piston after the main jet clogged and oil was not being delivered to the cylinder efficiently. A $2 part cost him over $3000."
posted 08-24-2009 03:47 PM ET (US)
Just an update. We pressure tested the tank to 2 PSI and found several moderate leaks around the fuel pick-up plate gasket and fuel gauge gasket. I believe that water ingress created phase separation due to over-saturation of the E-10 fuel. The resulting concentration of ethanol was disolving the fuel delivery components and gumming up the carbs. The solution is to repair the gaskets, clean the tank, replace fuel lines and filter with alcohol resistant components, re-test the tank, and that's it. With the tank repaired, the E-10 should not cause any abnormal deterioration of the fuel system. I say abnormal because I think this will put us on a level playing field with all other E-10 users, subject to the same contamination/deterioration problems associated with this additive.
posted 08-24-2009 08:32 PM ET (US)
swist posted 08-15-2009 10:58 AM ET (US)
"Uh, since when does the oil get delivered by the carbs in a FOURSTROKE engine..."
The Yamaha motor in this post is a 235 2 stroke. The motor I was referring too in my thread/post to this topic was a Pro V - 150 Yamaha 2 stroke...
posted 08-31-2009 01:24 PM ET (US)
Hey Rather-we had an older boat where the fuel guage sending unit gasket was leaking. Of course, it was on top of the tank-so at sea it worked fine. We were inadvertently adding the water when we washed the decks! doh..
posted 09-01-2009 12:33 PM ET (US)
Yep, that's pretty much the scenaro with this boat. The problems started again after the owner left the drain plugs in, and there was a rainstorm. Water must have backfilled the tank cavity and sat on top of the tank for a few weeks before the problem was detected.
posted 09-25-2009 12:56 PM ET (US)
Well it was a bust. Kermit emptied the tank, replaced the gaskets, re-tested the tank, replaced the water seperator and fuel lines, and rebuilt the carbs.
Same friggin problem. Water seperator was full of H2O and engine stalled.
The only thing I can possible think of is a contaminated source, but he filled it up in a high volume gas station and it hasn't rained here.
I am totally stumped.
posted 09-25-2009 01:14 PM ET (US)
What happened when you re-tested the tank? I'm assuming that it is the original tank and it is foamed-in, and that the leaks that you fixed were the leaks that you saw.
When I pulled out my original tank ('84 22' Outrage), the foam only extended down the sides and slightly under the tank. The underside of the tank had several sheets of white styrofoam to hold it away from the hull. If your tank has holes below the foam line (especially along the keel), the 2psi pressure test might leak out of the tank, but be held by the foam. Nevertheless, any accumulated water under the tank will still seep back into the tank. And if any of this is true, you've no doubt got fuel sloshing around under the tank, too.
Not a wonderful assessment, but I can't imagine where else the water is coming from.
posted 09-25-2009 01:21 PM ET (US)
What you have is an opportunity. You just need to find a market for this mysterious goo and bang! There you go. You've got the only "goo-maker" in the country!
Seriously though - did he replace the hoses on the motor as well?
This reminds me of a substance that my friend had in college - he bought it somewhere while on spring break in Florida - it was a white powder that had super absorbent properties. Put a teaspoon of this in a pint glass and it would instantly solidify into a white gel. I mean - you could fill up the glass of water, slip the powder in as you turned and "throw" the glass of water at a buddy and nothing would come out. We had a lot of fun making people flinch with water buckets, etc...
Perhaps someone is introducing a foreign substance to the tank? Is Miss Piggy still mad at Kermit for 'seeing' the guest hosts of the Muppet show?
posted 09-25-2009 03:51 PM ET (US)
Yep, original tank. The first tand demonstrated leaks at the fuel gauge and pick-up plate. These were repaired, and the tank was re-pressure tested with no loss of PSI.
Dave, all fuel lines were replaced to the engine, and I already asked Frogger if he had any enemies, and that's not in the cards. He's a good guy at the end of his rope with this one.
|Tom W Clark||
posted 09-25-2009 04:04 PM ET (US)
I tend to agree with Clive's theory. I suspect the tank has a leak(s) in the bottom of low side and is taking water in there.
But let me ask some questions:
When you say the tank was drained, how was that done? How much fuel do we think might have remained in the tank?
After the tank was refilled with fresh gas, was any attempt made to draw fuel out of it before running the boat? I mean did you siphon out several gallons into a bucket to see what was coming out of the bottom of the tank?
When you pressure tested the tank, to what PSI did you pump it up to?
posted 09-25-2009 04:15 PM ET (US)
I'm tempted to agree with Tom, although it makes me worry about my boat too...
Does "liquefied foam/gas" make a clear gel? Someone want to experiment?
|Tom W Clark||
posted 09-25-2009 04:23 PM ET (US)
OK, I see that the tank was tested to 2 PSI and should have been more than enough to push out through a hole in the bottom of the tank even if the entire fuel tank cavity were full of water to the level of the deck.
I suppose it *is* possible the foam is making such a good seal between the hull and the tank that it is holding pressure too.
|L H G||
posted 09-28-2009 02:25 PM ET (US)
Here is a really thorough and informative discussion of the ethanol situation regarding marine engines and boat tanks:
Well worth reading, and maybe the solution to this problem will be found within.
|Tom W Clark||
posted 09-28-2009 03:15 PM ET (US)
Yes, that a good primer of ethanol and marine fuel but nothing in there addresses that is going on here.
Here's a long shot: If there is a leak in the bottom of the tank, and it has been there for a while...and the foam around the tank is saturated with water and fuel there, could it be there is still some MTBE from when Rhode Island used it in its gasoline several years ago?
And could that residual MTBE be enough to cause the gelling of the California E10 fuel?
posted 09-28-2009 03:29 PM ET (US)
Thanks for the replies. Tom, the tank was completely pumped dry using a hand crank pump and two 55 gallon drums via the (removed) pick-up tube plate. It was flashlight inspected (not by me but a marine mechanic) and there was no noticeable holes.
After the tank was refilled with 15 gallons of fresh gas, no attempt made to draw fuel out of it before running the boat. We assumed that with the tank dry, the pick-up tubes empty, new fuel lines to a new fuel filter, to new fuel lines to a reconditioned engine fuel system, that there was no need. After draining the tank and replacing the gaskets, Kermit's mechanic re-pressure tested the empty tank and did not report any leaks.
Is/was the foam in the tank cavity wet? Yes, but it has been allowed some time to dry and there has been no noticeable smell of gasoline present.
I guess it has to be one of two things. 1. Incredible bad luck that the source was contaminated or; 2. There is a hole in the tank caused by (thanks for the article Larry) prior phase seperation resulting in corrosive condition in the lower portion of the tank, however the foam is somehow unaffected by the ethanol/water mixture and is maintaining a such a good seal that the tank that it is holding pressure, but once the pressure is relieved, the trapped water in the tank cavity is seeping back into the tank.
posted 09-28-2009 03:32 PM ET (US)
Tom, no chance of MTBE; this is the second time in 6 months the tank has been drained completely dry.
|L H G||
posted 09-28-2009 03:51 PM ET (US)
By process of elimination, it's obvious the boat needs a new fuel tank.
|Tom W Clark||
posted 09-28-2009 06:59 PM ET (US)
I am skeptical of the tank being drained dry. Is this what the mechanic is telling you or did you witness this yourself? What about the baffles being clogged and holding some gunk? Did the mechanic see all interior surfaces?
If the tank is holding 2 PSI, I have a hard time believing it has a leak. Again, were you or Kermit present for this test or relying on the mechanic's report?
posted 09-28-2009 07:43 PM ET (US)
Did you check the fuel tank vent? You can get water in the tank quickly if the screens get mispositioned.
posted 09-28-2009 09:20 PM ET (US)
Very interesting and frustrating. Has anyone suggested running a remote tank and seeing what happens then?
posted 09-29-2009 01:27 PM ET (US)
Tom, I personally conducted the first pressure test using a 20PSI gauge with schrader valve attachment and a 5/8 male nipple via the vent line. The fuel line was disconnected at the filter and plugged. The tank was reportedly half full. It slowly leaked from 2PSI to about 1.5 PSI over the period of 3-4 minutes. During that time, I was spraying soapy water on all the gas cap, fuel line connections, and all accesible tank surfaces. The leak at the pick-up tube plating was severe enough that 1-inch bubbles would form and burst within a second or so.
I did not personally witness the subsequent fuel tank draining, tank inspection, and pressure test, however it was conducted by a reputable marine mechanic. He reported a visual inspection and subsequent pressure test with no obvious leaks of loss of pressure.
The engine cut out within minutes of launching, and the new water seperator's bowl was filled with water. The engine has been running on an auxillary tank for a few weeks with no problems. The auxillary tank bypasses the Raycor gasoline fuel filter.
|Tom W Clark||
posted 09-29-2009 01:36 PM ET (US)
If we assume, for the sake of argument, that there is a pin hole leak (or leaks) in the tank that is confounding the pressure test, we would also expect water to take awhile to leak into the tank in a sufficient quantity to fill the fuel lines, water/separator filter and carburetors and cause the "engine [to] cut out within minutes of launching".
A large hole in the tank would be both visually apparent and also bleed pressure rapidly.
How much time between the addition of the 15 gallons of fuel to the tank and the time the motor was fired up and subsequently stalled?
|Tom W Clark||
posted 09-29-2009 01:38 PM ET (US)
Also, was the fuel gelled the second time the motor stalled? Or was it simply a matter of water contamination?
posted 09-30-2009 08:28 PM ET (US)
posted 09-30-2009 10:42 PM ET (US)
Rob, I had a simlilar problem a few years back. I spent a great deal of time getting the contaminated fuel out of the tank after I found the source of water ingress into the tank.
This is how I resolved the problem.
Short story is my initial attempts at removing contaminated fuel from the bottom of the tank was not adequate. When I was able to come up with a method of properly getting all the junk out of the bottom of the tank my problem was resolved. I have not had a problem since.
I do think it may be worth the effort to make sure the tank is truly free of contaminants.
posted 10-01-2009 11:39 AM ET (US)
Great article Rich, thanks. It sounds like an easy method of diagnosis and repair. I actually have all the needed parts in my garage, and will test Kermit's tank and provide photos of the sample. I'm still waiting to hear from Kermit with some more details.
posted 10-01-2009 12:10 PM ET (US)
O.K. here's the update. The mechanic claims he completely drained the tank by lifting the bow, waiting 24hrs, then running a fuel line to the back end of the tank via the compeletely removed pick-up plate. The plate was re-installed with a new gasket, as was the fule gauge. The empty tank was pressure tested with no loss of pressure.
As an aside, the engine is now being run on an external, on-deck fuel tank. It has a rough idle, and a problem getting over 1200(ish) RPM. Once it "catches" it runs at full throttle, with full range above 1200 RPM. If it falls below 1200 RPM, it idles rough and has to be finessed to get above 1200(ish)RPM again.
We are going to do a SeaFoam fuel treatment using the portable tank next week, to see if we can clear the fuel system before bringing it to the mechanic to check the fuel pump and carbs.
In the mean time, we are going to use Rich's sugguestion and check the very bottom of the tank ourselves, and will empty a few gallons into clear glass containers (my wife's flower vase should do nicely) and post our results and pictures.
Any other sugguestions?
posted 10-01-2009 08:53 PM ET (US)
Your wife has damn big flowers if the vase will hold a few
posted 10-02-2009 11:53 AM ET (US)
That should have been plural, Chuck. Darci has quite a few from when we first started dating, but they have gone largely unused for the last 6 years ;-)
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