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RACOR Fuel System Filters, Primers
|Author||Topic: RACOR Fuel System Filters, Primers|
posted 12-10-2013 02:06 PM ET (US)
If considering an overhaul to the fuel system on your outboard boat, take a look at this excellent fuel-water separating filter, manifold, and integrated primer pump from RACOR:
Also take note of the vendor selling the RACOR device. They seem to have a good inventory of RACOR products and sell them at decent prices. The vendor is not specifically a marine reseller, so I think his prices are better than you will find from resellers in the marine market.
The RACOR unit (see link above) has several important features I like:
--there are two inlet ports and two outlet ports; many of the RACOR manifolds do not have four ports, but this one does.
--the primer is integral with the filter manifold. This reduces the number of hose connections in the fuel system. With modern outboard engines that have a closed fuel system, the system does not need to be primed as often as with older outboard engines that had carburetors (from which the fuel could evaporate during non-use or drain out when the engine was tilted).
--there is a clear bowl with a drain so that water can be drained from the filter unit or the fuel drained and checked. RACOR sells replacement filter elements separately from the clear bowl, so you only have to buy the filter (about $34) and not a new bowl.
posted 12-10-2013 09:22 PM ET (US)
I bought one of these at the Newport Boat Show in preparation for using e10 gasoline in my boat since Recreation 90 octane gas is not available in the Northeast.
I particularly liked the integral primer, since ethanol seems to do a number on the primer bulbs in particular.
posted 12-10-2013 09:38 PM ET (US)
That's the make that I installed in the 21' Outrage. I check the bottom bowl a few times a season. In the 12 years since install, I've never changed the filter, or noticed any sediment in the bottom of the bowl. [But I use a filter manifold with] no priming bulb.
posted 12-10-2013 10:49 PM ET (US)
I have been using RACOR fuel system filters since 2005 on three different boats. The only problem I have experienced is when the clear plastic bowl separated at the threaded filter bottom while I was squeezing the primer ball. This has happened to me twice.
Both times that it occurred, I contacted RACOR and was provided with new bowls. RACOR acknowledged that some of their other customers had experienced the same problem.
posted 12-11-2013 07:21 AM ET (US)
I also experienced the sight bowl separating from the filter. It occurred after a one month layup of the boat. I found the bowl in the sump of my 18' Outrage. Other than that they are fantastic filter/water separators, and I have used them for 11 years.
posted 12-12-2013 09:08 AM ET (US)
The two reports of the clear lower bowl separating from the filter element are the first I have ever heard of something like that. I have had a RACOR filter with a clear lower bowl in the boat for at least five years. The lower bowl has not separated.
posted 12-12-2013 09:46 AM ET (US)
There are a least a couple of forum threads that address this issue. I have provided a link & quote about the problem below. The explanation we received from RACOR was that E10 gasoline caused the separation.
"...While checking out my fuel system I noticed the bowl from my fuel water separator sitting on the deck. When I tried to thread the bowl back in the threads did not engage with the filter element, WTF. Called Racor and was told they have been having some issues with E-10 affecting the bowls. My bowl was blue in color, I would urge all boaters that have the blue bowl to replace it with the new yellow/clear..."
posted 12-12-2013 09:20 PM ET (US)
What was the time frame when RACOR changed the bowl to clear from blue?
posted 12-13-2013 08:19 AM ET (US)
I had the same problem with the RACOR plastic bowl that is attached to the bottom of the water separating fuel filter. It would not tighten properly and would come loose. I haven't pursued it because I have not had the boat in the water the past two years due to significant work demands.
I've been using this filter set up since 2004 and only experienced the problem starting two years ago.
My recollection is the clear/yellow bowl replaced the blue bowl. It is the clear bowl I had a problem with if I remember correctly.
Mallory makes a clear bowl that will screw onto the RACOR filter. I purchased those as a replacement but have not installed them yet.
The built in primer on the depicted RACOR water separating fuel filter base looks great. I was also replacing the Mercury fuel primer bulb on a regular basis because they did not hold up to UV light exposure or the ethanol fuels. The new Mercury fuel primer bulbs that came out a year or two ago reportedly are made to resist both ethanol and UV light exposure. I installed those but do not know how they have held up. They were about 25 bucks a pop- expensive as an annual maintenance item for my two engines.
The RACOR built in primer would clean up my twin engine installation nicely. No primer bulbs sitting in the splash well. Less potential for fuel vacuum leaks- less fittings/breaks in the fuel line to worry about.
posted 12-13-2013 08:30 AM ET (US)
I have no knowledge of when the change occurred, but I am not sure this problem was specifically associated with blue tinted clear bowls. My problems occurred with the yellow tinted bowls as have others who have posted their experiences on other forum threads.
I believe the latest post I have seen concerning this issue was in August of this year.
I'll check the RACOR website for a method to submit inquiries/questions, and see if they can give a definitive explanation for the problem.
posted 12-13-2013 11:39 AM ET (US)
I don't think any mention has been made here on this forum about the problem with the RACOR clear bowl becoming unattached from the filter. There may be mentions on other websites, but I do not recall it being mentioned here. Now I am very suprised to hear of three instances of this occurring, from users jlh49, vkr, and rtk.
If there is a widespread and common occurrence of the RACOR filter lower clear bowl becoming separated from the filter element, that is a very significant problem. Frankly, I am shocked. I had considered that RACOR was the gold-standard of filters. This changes everything.
posted 12-13-2013 01:18 PM ET (US)
I have submitted an inquiry to Parker/RACOR at the online site requesting a more definitive explanation as to why and how the effects of E10 gasoline causes the clear plastic bowl to separate from the fuel filter itself.
I will advise when a response (hopefully) is received.
posted 12-14-2013 08:25 PM ET (US)
I have been using Racor filters on the vast majority of my customer boats as well as ALL of my personal boats. I have NEVER encountered this problem. I have heard about it before, but yet have never actually seen it.
I would have a concern with the built-in primer in terms of what it is going to cost to replace, because like any other primer bulb exposed to fuel/alcohol, it will need to be replaced at some point. At least inline primer bulbs are very easy to replace.
posted 12-14-2013 08:34 PM ET (US)
One other concern. Having multiple inlet and outlet fittings for a filter implies that one might hook up more than one engine to a single filter system. While this can and is being done, I don't recommend it. Separate filters as well as separate fuel pickups (or better yet, separate tanks) is a better way to go. If a kicker motor is hooked up to the same filter setup and running from the same fuel tank there are two problems: 1. If the fuel supply is contaminated for any reason, both motors are going to be in trouble. 2. If one of the engines hooked to this "common" fuel source is not running...the other engine could possibly begin to suck air into the system from the non-running engine. There are no check valves in these filter heads with multiple ports. And to my knowledge, there are no check valves in the fuel lines between the engine and the filter that would prevent air from being drawn back into the filter through the non-running engine. At the very least, a fuel shutoff valve should be used between the filter and the engine to prevent this. But this can create additional restriction and most engine manufacturers recommend the fewest possible connections, elbows, filters, etc. so as to limit restriction.
posted 12-15-2013 06:14 AM ET (US)
I was suprised also Jim. Always held RACOR in high regard. Never had a problem with their product.
I noticed this first in 2012 after I had not run the boat for a couple months. I went out for a ride and it was running poorly. Snooped around and noticed the filter bowl was loose and the fuel filter was half full. Result was the engine picked up some nasty fuel and needed to be cleaned out. Had it cleaned up & then winterized and stored.
Played with it this past spring. Thought maybe the filter assembly had come loose because it was not tightened enough when the 2012 spring service was done. Tightened the clear bowl on a new filter spring of 2013 and it would just spin around with little effort.
I remember just the opposite with the RACOR- it was always difficult to remove the clear bowl from the filter. Maybe the threads have changed on the filter for some reason- it's not the clear bowl that is a problem?
Good points sosmerc. My current installation is a main and a kicker engine. I currently have two separate RACOR water separating fuel filters installed- one for each engine. I did it that way for all the reasons you stated. Good point on the primer also. I'll have to think hard before changing the set up.
posted 12-16-2013 09:41 AM ET (US)
As a follow up to my above post, I just want to add that my bowl is clear. I purchased this filter 10 years ago and although I change the filter each year, the clear sight bowl is original.
I simply cleaned the O ring seats, lubricated the O ring with oil and reinstalled prior to winterizing. I will add that I now get the sense that if I tighten the sight bowl too much it will pop off the threads. I have not verified/confirmed this, given I was focused on the winterization effort in the cold temps.
I agree Racor is the gold standard and will most likely replace the bowl and filter this spring.
posted 12-16-2013 12:26 PM ET (US)
I just talked with Mike Noldin of the RACOR Technical Service Department, Modesto, CA. He acknowledged that there were some issues involving older RACOR clear bowls that were made of a differing material than those that have been out for about two years now.
Although Noldin could not give a specific explanation of how and why E10 gasoline created the issue with the older bowls, he stated the new bowl made from a new material will have the letter "Z" stamped on the bottom of it. There was no stamping on the older bowls. Noldin stated that their attempts to recreate the issue in their labs had been unsuccessful. He stated he has not heard of the same issue with the bowls made with the new material.
Noldin did mention that there are RACOR knock off bowls and often the separation issue was associated with a knock off bowl.
I am not sure if there is any thing else that needs to be pursued in this regard. Hopefully, this information will be beneficial to some.
posted 12-16-2013 03:45 PM ET (US)
Many thanks for the follow up with information directly from RACOR on this topic. I will have to look for the "Z" on my RACOR clear bowl on my RACOR filter.
Whenever there is an industry standard product, like the way RACOR fuel filters are the industry standard, there is always a risk that some unscrupulous counterfeit products might be sold as the RACOR product or that people just buy imitation products but refer to them under the standard brand name.
posted 12-18-2013 08:00 PM ET (US)
It is important to note that the root cause of this is not necessarily a "knock off"/counterfeit issue. The information above does mention that the old bowls with no marking may be suspect for failure/separation from the filter. However, there is no conclusive evidence that the bowls with no markings are knock offs. In fact, I can comment that I purchased my complete Racor filter mount, filter and bowl (clear or yellowish tint) as an assembly in approximately 2004. Of course, the bowl could be a knock off, but I don't believe that is likely since I purchased the entire assembly.
I'll be replacing the filter and bowl this spring, and will try to analyze the thread quality/situation on the old filter and old bowl. Most importantly, I'll be after a new bowl with a molded in Z identifier. In closing, I believe it is important that we maintain a cautionary mind set in regard to the Racor bowls that do not have a Z molded on them.
posted 12-19-2013 12:29 AM ET (US)
There may be a bit of naivety about the extent to which name brand products are being duplicated by counterfeit producers and sold into mainstream products in the USA. A few years ago a company I worked for at that time bought hundreds of computers from the largest name brand provider, Dell, and, two years later, discovered they were full of counterfeit parts when those knock-off parts began to fail prematurely. It would not surprise me at all to discover that something like a premium, name brand filter such as a RACOR was being counterfeited. A RACOR filter might sell for $50 and a counterfeiter could probably make one that looks just like it for $1. I don't have any first-hand information about counterfeit RACOR filters, but I can easily accept the suggestion that there might be some out there.
posted 12-19-2013 12:28 PM ET (US)
Counterfeit parts made primarily in China also threaten the military supply chain, especially given the push for commercial off the shelf technology to drive down costs.
In training I have received at work, there are pictures of primitive shops in rural China producing knock offs of simple automotive spark plugs to drive home the point.
posted 12-21-2013 04:15 AM ET (US)
I had the same problem. I have never used E-90. The threads clearly did not match up and was a manufacturing defect. Racor sent me a new filter. I question their lame self serving excuses and lack of quality control.
posted 12-21-2013 08:56 AM ET (US)
The other side to the story could be poor manufacturing from RACOR. In that vein, I will tell this anecdote:
A friend had a GM vehicle, and went to check the level of the transmission fluid with the dipstick. He pulled out the dipstick from the tube by the handle. All that came out was the handle. The rest of the dipstick had fallen into the tube and down into the transmission. He took his GM vehicle to a GM dealer for service.
The GM dealer service manager said, "Oh, you must have gotten one of the dipsticks made in China. They rust out." The dealer was able to fish out the old dipstick from the tube. They gave him a new dipstick, made in the USA, using steel that would not rust away in a few years of normal engine use.
posted 12-21-2013 09:21 AM ET (US)
I don't imagine you could use a fuel called E-90 in an outboard engine. I don't think there are any made that can run on practically pure ethanol. I have heard of REC-90, which is a pure gasoline with 90 Octane. This gasoline is widely sold in the Great Lakes region. In Michigan there is a statute that requires that fuel suppliers provide marinas with non-ethanol fuel. This fuel is typically REC-90.
The most common ethanol-gasoline blended fuel is called E-10, a reference to the 9:1 ratio of gasoline to ethanol.
I have seen pumps with E-85, a mostly ethanol fuel, but never pumps marked E-90. Where did you get that fuel that you never ran?
posted 12-23-2013 10:24 AM ET (US)
I'm not discounting the possibility of a "knock off". I just want to point out that one should be prudent and not discount the possibility of a manufacturing defect, or a reliability issue with the Racor design. I'm painfully aware of the knock off scenario with China manufacturing. I don't know if Racor manufactures in China, but if they do there is even a higher probability of a counterfeit situation. There seems to be a "what is yours is mine" mentality from a technology standpoint in China. Drawings get passed around freely via email. Even if you have international patents, good luck with your lawsuit. The counterfeiters will make their money before you are successful with a law suit.
If any company would initiate a counterfeit version, manufacturing cost is at the heart of the decision making process. Often material substitutions are made purely on cost and without knowledge of mechanical performance ramifications associated with the lower cost material properties. Often this ends up in the product failures such as the dip stick corrosion issue mentioned above.
Regarding a manufacturing defect, good quality departments choose their root cause analysis verbiage tactfully and carefully. The bottom line is, a company doesn't want to be liable for many years of production and they do not want to volunteer replacing product. I'm not saying that is the case with Racor, I'm just pointing out that a call to any company with regard to an issue is not going to result in them giving you all of the detail and telling you how many other calls they received on the same symptom of a problem.
To be prudent, I will be changing my filter and bowl (with the Z model site bowl) this spring. Racor is a great company and I believe making the change will eliminate a reoccurrence of the sight bowl detachment problem. After having the same sight bowl for 9 to 10 years, it's time for a new one.
posted 12-23-2013 01:52 PM ET (US)
A corollary product from RACOR for use with their fuel filters is a pressure gauge that will measure the vacuum (or negative pressure) in the fuel system in units of inches of Hg (Mercury). This will show you if there is an obstruction in the fuel system, as might occur when the filter element is becoming clogged with debris trapped in the filter. The most likely candidate for this application is a RACOR gauge RK11-1676E. See
The curious aspect of this product is that RACOR does not recommend it to be used with gasoline. They say it is for diesel. However, there are some recreational boaters using this gauge with gasoline, and they are not reporting any problems. I think this product is probably suitable for gasoline, but RACOR is not officially saying that. Perhaps they are playing it safe in terms of product liability.
The gauge is about a $75 item. You can see more at
My 1992 Evinrude outboard engine had a built-in fuel vacuum pressure switch that was part of the fuel line flow. This pressure switch was located under the engine cowling. The switch closed and activated an alarm when the vacuum pressure in the fuel system exceeded a certain level. This alarm was intended to alert the operator that there was excessive vacuum in the fuel system, probably due to a flow restriction. In about c.2007, when the outboard engine was 15-years-old, this pressure switch failed. The plastic components of the pressure chamber separated. I presume they failed due to the use of ethanol-gasoline blended fuel, which probably acted as a solvent on the plastic and adhesive that was holding the device together.
I inspected the failed pressure switch. I found its design was as follows: there was a small hemisphere, with a rubber membrane separating it into two sides. On one side the the fuel system is connected. The other side is open to the atmosphere. If there is a vacuum pressure in the fuel side, the membrane expands and stretches toward that side. In the pressure switch there was a small electrical micro-switch that was actuated by the movement of the diaphragm. When the diaphragm stretched too far, the microswitch was actuated, closing an electrical contact. This triggered the alert.
I suspect that the same approach is used in the RACOR gauge, with the dial pointer being linked mechanically to movement of the diaphragm.
In the Evinrude outboard engine, the pressure switch was on the downstream side of the primer bulb. During priming, it would be possible to push fuel upward and into the hemisphere chamber of the switch. This could have been the cause of the failure. Gasoline might have gotten into the hemisphere and softened the plastic or adhesive.
The RACOR gauge is intended to be placed on the filter manifold fitting. The filter is intended to be on the suction side of the fuel lift pump. It should also be on the suction side of the primer bulb. If the filter is installed on the suction side, it would seem unlikely that fuel could flow uphill into the gauge, if the gauge were located a few inches above the top of the fuel hose run.
The only way for fuel to get into the gauge would be if fuel were allowed to flow back from the engine to the fuel system. If that occurs, fuel flowing down from the engine could push into the gauge. However, in most fuel systems there are one-way check valves, sometimes called anti-siphon valves, that are intended to prevent fuel from flowing back into the tank from the higher engine. A primer bulb also has check valves. If the primer bulb is downstream of the gauge and filter, as it should be, then its check valves would tend to prevent back flow of fuel into the gauge.
The situation resolves to this: do you want to install a $75 gauge (that really is not recommended for use with gasoline) to tell you when to change a $35 filter? Maybe it would be simpler to just change the $35 more often.
posted 12-24-2013 10:12 AM ET (US)
I would think that the best place for a pressure switch is
at the motor.
posted 12-26-2013 12:54 AM ET (US)
Because liquids are generally not compressible, in a fuel system filled with just liquid--no entrapped air--shouldn't the pressure be the same in any segment of the system between valves?
posted 12-26-2013 07:18 PM ET (US)
Remember, we are talking "vacuum" here, not pressure.
The vacuum switch reacts (when the engine is running) to any buildup in fuel system vacuum between the switch and the fuel source. So ANYTHING that would restrict fuel flow will eventually cause a vacuum buildup inside the line between the fuel pump inlet and the fuel tank pickup. Locating the vacuum switch on the engine was convenient because it could easily be "teed" into the fuel line near the fuel pump on the inlet side. The switch was wired to the common warning horn circuit and the horn would sound a steady tone if the circuit was grounded via the switch whenever vacuum got to about 9 inches of Mercury. I always thought this was one of OMC's better ideas and I am surprised that Mercury never copied the system.
It worked well and was very simple to test its operation. (just pinch the fuel line with the engine running and wait for the horn to go off).
posted 06-10-2015 11:17 PM ET (US)
I want to follow up on my comments related to the Racor fuel filter and water separator assembly (model # 320-RAC-01) that I purchased approximately 11 years ago. Recall, the site bowl no longer remained reliably attached to the filter (S3227).
I finally purchased a new Bowl Assembly Replacement Kit (Parker/Racor P/N RK 30475). Prior to installation, I visibly compared the old bowl to the new bowl. Comparing the two bowls, the external threads on the old bowl seemed to be distorted to look more like a tapered pipe thread than a standard (fixed outside diameter) external thread. In addition, the old bowl threads seemed to be very distorted. I observed the following:
Inside diameter (in thread starting area): Old = 2.649"; New = 2.816" (delta = .167")
Outside Diameter (in thread starting area): Old = 3.005"; New = 3.122" (delta = .117")
Thread Wall Thickness: Old = .175"; New = .159" (delta = .016")
Outside Diameter at thread base/gasket seat: Old = 3.174"; New = 3.172"
It seems that although the thread base/gasket seat diameter remained the same diameter, the thread form had reduced in external diameter at the starting thread area of the external thread. This reduced the external diameter and related thread form of the thread. As a result, this reduced the thread engagement in the filter.
I contacted Parker Racor to explain the situation and to ask them for root cause and corrective action. It is important to note that jlh49's Comments have been reinforced with a white paper specification I received from Parker Racor. The specification is titled "Marine Gasoline Spin on Filters with Clear Bowls", and discusses ethanol's impact on the old bowls.
I have a few nice comparative images of the bowls side by side which visibly shows the distortion described above.
The take away here is to change out any old bowls that do not have the Z identifier to avoid separation from the filter.
posted 06-12-2015 03:23 PM ET (US)
I had [a RACOR filter with an integral fuel primer] installed when I winterized for 2014. Now that I have spring commissioned, I noticed the mechanic left the in line bulb installed on the fuel line leading to motor. It seems redundant, but will the fuel line work properly until I can eliminate it?
posted 06-12-2015 04:46 PM ET (US)
I'd take out the other primer in the fuel hose. Until you do it probably won't be any harm. It may just add more flow back pressure to the system.
posted 06-13-2015 10:46 AM ET (US)
RACOR published a document in May, 2015 that calls attention to some problems with their gasoline filters that have clear or see-through bowls when used with gasoline fuels containing ethanol blends at concentrations higher than 10-percent. The document describes the problem and includes illustrations to identify older plastic bowls that may lack suitable resistance to ethanol fuels. The document says, in part:
The full document is available on-line. I recommend downloading it to see the many illustrations it contains.
Thanks to VKR for alerting us to this document.
posted 06-14-2015 09:50 AM ET (US)
New RACOR bowl on left; older bowl on right. Note distortion of the threads in older bowl.
Photo credit VKR.
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