What You Should Know About Your Boat’s Fuel
Most boat’s fuel tanks last for 15 to 20 years, if properly installed and maintained, according to Power and Motoryacht Magazine. Unfortunately, a number of issues, from contaminants clogging hoses to condensation developing in the tank, may lead to issues with your boat, says FreshlySalted.com. You may start to notice your motor is stalling or that the boat now feels bumpy or choppy instead of the smooth ride you remember.
No one wants to be stuck in port paying for potentially costly repairs. To help keep your boat running smoothly and you out on the water, here’s a closer look at what you should know about your boat’s fuel and how to help prevent contamination.
Keep Water Out of Your Fuel
If you own a boat, your love of water is a given. Ironically, though, it’s an all too common contaminant for both gas and diesel fuel, according to Boats.com. Even a small amount of condensation may cause issues, including corrosion. The presence of water in your fuel tank may lead to microbial growth (think mold or algae) and the fuel breaking down — which may lead to plugged filters and more serious damage within the engine’s fuel system, says the American Filtration and Separations Society.
Water can make its way into tanks through poorly sealed fuel caps and vents during fueling, so be sure to check the seal on your deck fill, says Boats.com. There are O-rings, gaskets and cap seals that all need to be airtight. If they’re not, it’s time to replace them.
Even condensation may cause issues, as once it’s mixed with ethanol-blended fuel it creates a “sludge” that cannot be burned off, says Boating Magazine. To help keep water (and that hose-clogging sludge) at bay, fill the tank to the maximum to help prevent condensation, says Boats.com, and use a fuel stabilizer as recommended by the engine’s manufacturer.
Clean the Gas Tank
The only real cure for fuel contamination is to completely clean the gas tank and replace the fuel, says FreshlySalted.com. The tank will need to be completely drained and cleaned, and any hoses connected to the gas tank should be cleaned as well. Keep in mind that you’ll be dealing with flammable materials during this process. If you are not comfortable with handling this on your own, FreshlySalted.com notes that there are professional services available to handle it for you.
Check What Gas You’re Putting Into Your Tank
Before filling up your gas tank, be sure you’re using a fuel that meets the boat manufacturer’s guidelines (check your manuals to be sure). You may want to consider using ethanol-blended fuel, as long as it is approved for use in your specific boat. Ethanol-blended fuel, commonly called E10, contains a mix of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline, according to The West Advisor. The ethanol is added to the fuel to help reduce hydrocarbon emissions that contribute to air pollution. However, the West Advisor says you should not put any fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol (E10) in your boat’s fuel tank or outboard motor, unless your owner’s manual specifically states otherwise. While E15 typically costs less than E10, its higher ethanol content may cause fuel system damage when put in an E10-approved vessel. So, when you are at the pump, be sure that it’s dispensing E10 — not E15 or a blend.
Storing for Winter
When the end of boating season arrives and it’s time to make your way to dry land, Boats.com suggests topping off your tank. Doing so leaves less room for condensation to get into your fuel while it’s in storage, which means it’s less likely that water will contaminate your fuel. TheMarineLab.com also recommends adding a fuel stabilizer, specific to your fuel type — this helps ensure that the fuel is safe inside the engine while it sits unused. It’s also a good idea to let the engine run once you’ve added the stabilizer, says Boats.com, so that the treated fuel gets through the engines and lines.
With a little planning and prevention, you can help keep your boat’s fuel from getting contaminated. And with your boat running smoothly, you can spend as much time on the water as possible.
Originally published on June 8, 2012.