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Author Topic:   Removing Water from Fuel Tank/Fuel Management
rtk posted 04-10-2007 10:52 PM ET (US)   Profile for rtk   Send Email to rtk  
Last year, when responding to a post on how to deal with a water in the fuel problem, I was asked to post a few photos on the method I use to remove water from the tank. I didn't have a digital camera, but now I do. So, here are a few shots of the access and method I use to manage my fuel quality.

Boat is a 1997 21 Outrage with a 119 gallon internal fuel tank. I had a leaky fuel fill that resulted in a good amount of water in my fuel. I just repowered the spring of 2004 with a new Mercury 2003 250 EFI, and the new engine has a water sensor on the engine mounted fuel filter. The alarm went off after only running the engine a couple of hours.

I drained the Racor filter of the water in it, drained the engine filter and ran the boat. Alarm again after one hour. Removed the fuel line from the tank pickup, pumped water and fuel until I found clean fuel using the fuel pickup. Ran the boat another two hours and still had water. Pumping the tank from the fuel pickup obviously did not remove all the water from the tank. This water is still present even after I fixed the source of the leak.

I was ready to just pump the 60 or so gallons out of the tank and start fresh, but i found that there is no reason to do this. Just pump the crap off the bottom of the tank and burn the uncontaminated fuel.

Talked to my Mercury dealer, he advised that I am not getting to the bottom of the tank, there is still water there, the pickup does not reach the absolute bottom of the tank. I need to get to the very bottom of the tank to get it all out.

So I made this: pump.jpg

The copper tube is 3/8", which will slide snug into 3/8" fuel line. The copper is flexible, which allows you to bend it in a way so you can get the end of the tube to the back and bottom of the tank. The primer ball is just a basic fuel primer ball. I started straight, hit the bottom of the tank, then bent the tube little by little until it was curved enough to hit the back of the tank at the bottom. The bottom of my tank is V shaped I beleive, so I followed the contour of the tank.

Removed fuel pickup as recommended: cuthose.jpg unscrewpickup.jpg

Be careful removing the pickup. On most permanent tanks, they are just screwed into the top of the tank. On my boat, the wrench is at an angle. If the pickup tube is corroded to the tank you risk breaking it off.

Fuel pickup removed: fuelpickupremoved.jpg

The fuel pickup: fuelpickup.jpg

Pump in the fuel pick up: pumpfuel.jpg

I pumped a sample into a coffee can. A clear jar is better. If you have contaminants in the fuel, they will be at the bottom of the can or glass jar. You can't miss it, there will be distinct layers in your sample.

I pumped about a gallon of fuel into a fuel container, then pumped a bit more fuel into a coffee can to check for clarity.

Replaced the fuel pickup and attached the fuel line, and I'm back in business. replacepickup.jpg attachfuelline.jpg

I used a thread gasket sealer on the threads of the pickup tube. Fuel resistant and non-hardening is my choice. It is a tapered thread. I don't like teflon tape- I don't want to risk a piece of the tape getting in the tank and I want to be able to get the pickup out in the future.

If I did not use this method to get the water out of my tank, I am sure the water in the tank would have kept showing up throughout the season. I may have eventually removed most of the water by draining my Racor filter, but who wants to deal with that? Constant worrying, draining, changing filters. Brand new engine, I want that water GONE!

After I reached the bottom of the tank and pumped it, I had a couple of tablespoons of water in my Racor the balance of the season of 2004 that I just drained out with the Racor petcock.

Spring 2005 I repeated this process before the boat went back in the water. I found a little bit of water in my sample after the boat was sitting a couple of months for the winter. After the season of 2005 there was a very small trace of water in my Racor.

Spring 2006 repeated the process. A very small amount of water, I don't think I drained any water from the filter in 2006 season.

Spring 2007, I found no water in my sample taken from the bottom of the tank. Fuel was in excellent condition, clear as new fuel.

This past winter I planned on storing the boat with minimal fuel. I filled the tank to about 90 gallons anticipating some December fishing that did not happen. The boat was stored with 3/4 full of fuel with no observed fuel quality breakdown. Additives I used before storage is Quickleen and Bombardier 2 + 4 Outboard Engine Fuel Conditioner. Quickleen is used throughout the season as is Pri-G fuel stabilizer.

I have made the sampling and pumping of a gallon or so of fuel from the very bottom of the tank a spring ritual. I do it before the engine is started for the season, and before the boat is moved each spring. I store the boat bow high for two reasons: water will drain out the bilge in the event my winter cover leaks and the water in my fuel tank, if any accumulates at the back of the tank.

I also monitor my two Racor filters (one for my kicker plumbed off the main tank, and one for the main engine) everytime I step on the boat prior to running the boat.

I change the Racor filters after I run the boat a few hours in the spring, then change the filters in early October before the fall fishing season, when I put 50% of my hours on the boat.

Good source for Racors, cheapest I have found, and the type I use for both engines: modelnumber=W320RRAC01

Quick shipping, tracking provided.

With the crappy fuel quality we have to deal with (pre-ethanol fuels qualify- alchohol/ethanol fuels pose similar problems with water) I have found a good offense when dealing with the fuel quality in your tank pays off. Keeping an eye on what is in your tank, and preventing water from entering your tank, is the key to mitigating fuel related problems.

Pumping the tank bottom and installing the above Racor fuel filter will keep you aware of what is in your tank, and will probably resolve most fuel/water related problems.

I don't use my boat often during the summer, so the boat sits with 3/4-1/4 tank most of the summer months. I always add a fuel stabilizer and Quickleen when fueling. I don't know if this helps, but I have not had a fuel (E-10) related problem even though the fuel in my tank sits for weeks unused while the boat is in the water.

But I suspect most of my good fortune is due to keeping the water out of my tank by diligently monitoring fuel quality. I don't think the additives have anything to do with it.


j abrams posted 04-11-2007 02:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for j abrams  Send Email to j abrams     
Nice job Rich. I have to do both boats this year before they go in the water. Your process will be put to good use. May I suggest you also post this on BFH. There are a lot of guys starting up and this information may be of use to them as well.


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