Westsail Owners Alliance - Thread: "Fuel Polishing"
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Thread: "Fuel Polishing"

12,268 posts on 2,444 threads   •   From Mar 07, 2004 - Jan 08, 2012

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Fuel Polishing


Tom and Dana Stiffler

I need to clean my fuel tanks and have heard about a process called fuel polishing. Has anyone had any experience with this technique? Also, does anyone know of a source near Houston or Rockport TX where it can be done?


Aaron Norlund

Tom,

I think it's a great idea. I've used the service several times on boats that have sat. Saves loads of filters, and lots of headaches for, usually, reasonable cost.

Don't know about services in your area.

Cheers,
Aaron N.


Wojciech and Jolanta Lukaszewicz

Aaron,

What's involved with this method? I'm about to open up my tank and pupm the fuel out for cleaning...
Thanks,
Voytek


Aaron Norlund

Voytek,

I've always had someone come to the dock and perform the entire thing. Usually they insert some sort of special nozzle down into the tank, then they polish by pulling all of the fuel through the hose, into the truck and through filters, then back in. The kick though is that when the fuel is going back in, it's being sprayed in under high pressure and the nozzle is spinning around like crazy, therby cleaning loose debris off of the the tank walls.

I've been told the entire contents of the tank is filtered some ten times during the process. It took about thirty minutes for both of the tanks on our W32.


Cheers,
Aaron N.


Wojciech and Jolanta Lukaszewicz

Aaron,

This sounds very scientific. Never heard of anybody doing this here. But I've never asked either...
I've got one tank in my W28 and there are two large openings on the top of it. I'm planning to open them and pump the fuel out via the Racor filter then just clean the tank by hand. Further decisions will be made once I see what's down there...
Thanks for the info,
Voytek


Terry Shoup

Aaron -- what's the cost for polishing? I know I'm on the opposite side of the country, but at least that'll give me an idea of what they charge.


Rich Morpurgo
(Member)

Voytek,

You are right on target. You really want to scrub the tank with a brush or a rag.

good luck


Aaron Norlund

We paid about $60 for our 80 gallons. The boat had been sitting three years - the polished, treated, and semi-cleaned tanks let the engine run smooth. We've used all of the fuel, and when we pulled the tanks and cleaned them, we didn't get much out.

The big thing to remember with diesel tanks is to keep them full to prevent mildew growing on the top.

Cheers,
Aaron N.


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

Aaron, What was the material of the tanks when you polished the fuel. Aluminum? Black iron?

Thanks
Don


Aaron Norlund

Aluminum.

Cheers,
Aaron N.


George and Rayna Shaunfield

Tom and all,

Here is an excellent article about fuel polishing and how to do it yourself, if you so choose.

http://www.sentoa.org/maintenance_tips/fuel_polishing.html

George


Frank and Melanie Scalfano

I have read the fuel polishing article above, and as far as I can tell the cheapest one can get the package kit from Gulf Coast Filters is over $1K. I plan to install a dual Racor setup. Any advice as to where is the best place to mount the setup to optimize the ability to switch filters on the fly?


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

We just installed our own system to polish fuel for less than $450. It is just 3 Y valves, an electric fuel pump, high volume racor filter, brass plumbing fittings and new 3/8 fuel lines organized and mounted on starboard. I previously had dual filters but opted for this to treat the cause rather than the symptom. If you plug a filter due to gunk in the tank then all you still have gunk in the tank when you change filters. I also drilled and tapped the T handle on the filter so a vacuum gauge could be installed to indicate the condition of the filter. This takes the guess work out of when to replace the filter element. This system will actually pay for itself over time. Added benefit is that the electric fuel pump can be used to prime the fuel system or as a primary fuel pump in the event of a mechanical pump failure. For this system to work properly and be effective the tanks must have a bottom take off for fuel so that you get all the bad stuff out of the tank.


Frank and Melanie Scalfano

I was wondering if the inside of the forward cockpit bulkhead would be a good place for filters and/or valves, as all you would have to do would be to take down the companionway steps to get to them. Don, what kind of filter did you use for the polishing?


Aaron Norlund

Frank,

That would be convenient, but ideally you'll have your fuel filters below your fuel tanks (on both tacks), this way gravity will keep them full, even when the tank is low. Otherwise, you'll have to have a fuel pump capable of priming your system.

Best,
Aaron N.


Stephen and Lu Ann Yoder

Don,

Could you post a litle schematic of your polishing setup?

-Steve


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

I am trying to fugure out how to do a digi drawing of the system. I think I may be able to make something work on excel. Stay tuned. The filter is a Racor 500 FG and 3/8 lines for additional flow volume. My tank did not have a return so I placed a T on the vent fitting. I will also have some pics soon on the blog. It is all ready, up and running and waiting for a new tank from bud to hook up on the port side.


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

Ifffffffffffff I had a scanner!!!!!! We live aboard and do not have a scanner on board. Lets see if Aaron can do something with the file I sent him.


Ralph and Sandra Weiland

Has anyone installed a fuel tank with a large dimple in the bottom to which a draw nozzle can be attached and where settled water could collect and be drained periodically from the tank through a petcock? It seems to me that the problem with our tanks and the need for fuel polishing originates with the dip-tube fuel draw method. This allows water (condensate) to build up in the bottom of the tank. The interface between water and diesel is a perfect place to grow biological "rag" which eventually finds its way into fuel filters which become clogged with this crud. The alternative to regularly draining off any water is to use a water dispersant (e.g., methanol, although methanol is not recommended for diesel engines). Can someone recommend a suitable water dispersing agent? Fuel polishing seems like a way to cure the problem after the fact, rather than working out a way to prevent it in the first place.


Stephen and Lu Ann Yoder

Don,
If nothing else works, you could just scan a pencil drawing into your computer as a jpeg.
-Steve


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

Ralph, The system I installed does exactly what you are asking. That is why I had my tanks built with bottom take offs. The crud and water never builds up with periodic dializing of the fuel in each tank. Any diesel fuel will build contaminants if it sits over 30 days. We always try to top off the tanks no matter how little fuel it take as dead air space in a tank allows for natural condensation occur within the tank and it all ends up in the fuel. So, treat the problem and and not the symptom. Hope this helps. Fair winds.


George and Rayna Shaunfield

Ralph, my reading would indicate a different conclusion. Fuel polishing is to prevent the problem, though it can be used to cure or, at least, partially cure it. What is the saying, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Fuel polishing will clean the fuel. It will not clean the inside of your tank.

In the article hyperlinked above, Captain Wil found through conversation with a ferry system that they never have a fuel contamination problem because each ferry uses all of the fuel in its tank(s) in a day or two. In fact, the ferry system uses all the fuel in their storage tank weekly. The recommendation is to filter (polish) all of your fuel at least 3 times a week. In other words, if you have 40 gallons, cycle it through your polishing system until 120 gallons has been moved. If you have a 60 gph pump that would be two hours of running per week. My understanding is that there is no need for biocides, etc to be added to the fuel if it is clean. In another article I read about a business that was spending considerable dollars on injector and injection pump maintenance/repair for their various construction equipment. After they started doing fuel polishing and quit using additives their injection system maintenance/repairs dropped significantly.

I could provide a link to one or two more fuel polishing articles if anyone is interested.

I have a 37 gallon tank in my W28 made of 5052 aluminum. The diesel tank had been untouched for 10 years. I cut two 6" inspection ports, pumped out 17.5 gallons, double washed the insides, used bronze wool (and a scraper on the "bottom") plus a lot of elbow grease to thoroughly clean the inside of the tank. A total of 20 hours sweating in Houston, Texas heat in June. Because my pickup tube goes to the low spot of the tank (I have pictures) it will pump all but maybe a pint or so of the 37 gallons. Therefore, I believe it will suck up water or any crud and run it through my portable fuel polishing system each week.

Sorry to be so long-winded. I have done a good bit of reading with the hopes of avoiding fuel contamination problems. Time will tell.

George


Jeff Matthiae

One nice thing about a polishing system is that you can also use it to clean the fuel as you put it into your tanks.

I sealed off the large fitting on my tanks and added more small fittings with down tubes. The tubes are not only for picking up fuel. By angling them against a side of the tank you can help eliminate the foaming when circulating the fuel or filling the tank.

When filling, instead of drawing from the tank to polish, I draw fuel out of a jerry can so that it passes through the Gulf Coast F-1 filter before ever entering the tank. That way I'm not running the risk of putting contaminated fuel in the tank to start with.

Of course this does not negate the need for a primary filter before the engine. I use a Racor 500 for that.

Jeff


Aaron Norlund

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Aaron Norlund

Way to go webmaster!

For the record, the forum doesn't like .png files

Again;
schematic


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

Tanks (PUN INTENDED) for your help in posting the schematic Aaron. The 3way valve under the tank selection valve is the return tank selection valve. Both return and supply selection valves need to be set to the same tank at all times unless you are transferring fuel from one tank to the other.


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

OK, Here are the pics I promised. This is the first time I have opted to place pics on the board so we will see what happens. The big white plastic tank on the front photo has nothing to do with the fuel system. It is an overflow tank and reserve for the cooling system. I juat mounted it on the same piece of starboard.

Dual Tank Fuel Polishing System Front


Dual Tank Fuel Polishing System Back


Stephen and Lu Ann Yoder

Thanks for the diagram Don & Aaron. Looks like with a single tank all I need is one 3-way valve, the T-fitting, some tubing and the elec. fuel pump. And upgrade my primary filter of course, which was already on the agenda.


George and Rayna Shaunfield

Don, thank you for the diagram and pictures. The hinged mounting board may be just the solution I should use to make my installation permanent without blocking access to an open locker in the engine room on my W28. Have you measured the actual gph flow rate through your polishing system?

Steve, I have attached a diagram of my setup. Like you, I have only one tank. The 3-way value at the fuel return to the tank allows you to isolate the polishing system when needed (ie. changing a filter, or removing the hoses). Based on what I have read it is recommended that the vacuum gauge be on a T with a cutoff valve after the filter and before the pump. Otherwise, if the vacuum gauge quits functioning and cannot be cut off, it will suck air into the fuel line.

When I convert my polishing system into a permanent installation I may consider changing it to allow the polishing side to feed the engine. The advantange with that arrangement is that you can change either filter while the engine is running. I have not yet worked out the plumbing changes that would be required.

Wishing everyone clean fuel,
George

fuel polishing diagram


George and Rayna Shaunfield

Here is the actual fuel polishing setup on a Cape Dory 36 (s/v Arial) that they mounted on Star Board. See http://www.ariel-cd36.org/projects_fuelsystem.html for the complete article with more photos. System has been in use for 4 years.
-George

Arial fuel polishing


Stephen and Lu Ann Yoder

George, thanks for the diagram and photo. This is very close to what I want to do. The only change I want to make is the one you mentioned: being able to change the primary filter with the engine running. I'm hoping this will fit just inside the engine room door to port, on the bulkhead that separates the engine room from the fuel tank (W28). It'll make getting into the engine room a little tighter but shouldn't be much worse than most other boats out there.


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

Good to see all of the variations. I copied mine from a global cruiser that has been using the same system for 12 years. His last Racor 500 filter element lasted 6 years and he said he was still not drawing over 5 inches of vacuum. He just changed it due to age and he has never had a fuel problem. I do think that bottom take offs are critical for an on board fuel polishing system to work properly. I have not checked my GPH flow yet. I will do that and post the result. I am also going to close the tank valve and see how many inches of vacuum are indicated when the engine begins to choke off. This will give a corolation of indicated vacuum and engine performance. It will take the guess work out of when to change the filter with added margin for safety.


Ralph and Sandra Weiland

Thanks for all the comments, diagrams and photos. VERY helpful. We will be replacing both fuel tanks shortly (starboard broke a seam and dropped 37 of its 40 gallons into the bilge - what a mess - so port tank is questionable too). Seems like a great time to put together a polisher because the worry is losing the engine when we need it most. (It's only ever run to get into and out of a slip and just the fact of using only a few gallons annually is a good reason to polish out the gums and asphaltenes that form in "old" fuel, plus the water). In the photo George posted, there are two Racors (looks like they're in series). Why two? Is the upstream filter of larger micron rating, maybe 20 or 30 um? Has anyone plumbed their system so the polishing pump can also be used to force fuel into the main injection pump (to prime it) when necessary. Good idea/bad idea? I also want to make sure the polisher can be taken in/out of service (or at least isolated) while the engine is running. Anyone have a problem with brass ball valves in diesel service?


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

Ralph, The system I installed primes the system up to the injector pump and the Walbro electric pump on the polishing system also serves as a backup pump for the mechanical lift pump in the event it fails. My polishing system also serves as a filter system so when not dialyzing back to the tanks it is in run position and serves the engine. Several functions one system. So sorry to hear about your split tank seam. I currently have one tank and it is the original black iron. I have a new aluminum tank on order for the starboard side so that I will be ready when the port black iron tank fails. I was hoping for a slow leak - not the split seam....yuck! Diesel seems to work well with brass, copper and steel. Good luck.


Ralph and Sandra Weiland

Don, don't wait for the "slow" leak because if it happens to be not slow, dealing with a 40 gallon tank full of fuel in the bilge is a mammoth job - not to do the bulk removal (although a bit sad to cart all that expensive fuel off to the waste oil drum) but to clean up. Unfortunately the bilge was so full there was some sloshing back and forth under the water tanks all the way forward to compartment under the chain locker. Oil socks did some of the secondary cleanup, Biobilge did some, flushing the Biobilge with water helped and the final cleanup was a couple of gallons of distilled vinegar left to sit in the bilge for a week or so. That and a wet-dry vacuum to suck out everything squeeky clean. The stench has finally gone away (or is it my smeller?) and the boat smells pretty much as it did befopre the mishap. So it's not worth waiting for that slow leak when the tank will need to be replaced sooner rather than later in any case. We're running on the port tank only at the moment and as soon as I get a new aluminum starboard tank from Bud and get it installed, all fuel will be transferred from the black iron tank pronto.

By the way, does anyone have any answers to my two Racors in series question?


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

Good advice Ralph. Bud indicated that my new aluminum tank for the port side shipped today. Will install it next week and transfer fuel and then work on replacing the starboard tank. According to Bud we will have to cut it down for removal. Sounds like fun to me. Wish I could help you with your dual filter question. I opted for one based on the experience of the cruiser that I copied which also has about 80 gallons of fuel and a perkins 4-108.


Michael Dougan

great info guys, thanks!

Don, for future reference, it helps if you size your photos to be no larger than 640X480 (smaller is even better) before you upload them.

The width of the thread expands to show all of the image, and so if you have a wide image, it will force users to scroll to read all the comments.

:-)


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

Thanks for the help on posting pics. I had no idea what I was doing and your advice will help in the future.


George and Rayna Shaunfield

Don,
I would still be interested in the flow rate of your Walbro pump when you get a chance to measure it.

Ralph,
On the question of why dual in-line filters in the CD-36 polishing system. I am not positive, but I believe the owner posted in some message on the Cape Dory Association board that he used a 30-micron filter in the first one and a 2-micron filter in the second.

The reason I used an inexpensive auto fuel filter for my first one is to catch the bigger stuff and make the 2-micro Racor (which gets the smaller contaminates) last longer.

Around the end of August a fellow at Gulf Coast Filters told me that they are coming out with a F-1 Jr unit in October. Presumably it will use a roll of toilet paper for sub-micron filtering like the O-1 Jr did. (They no longer make the O-1 Jr.) I am afraid the cost may be rather high though.

George


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

I will measure the flow rate nwhen I transfer the fuel to the new tank that will be installed in about one week.


Frank and Melanie Scalfano

Has anyone used the GCF F-1 in a fuel polishing or secondary filter application?


Jeff Matthiae

I use a Gulf Coast F-1. It is a bit large. A friend mounted his on a hinge so he could tip it forward to get clearance to change the roll of paper towels (filter). Mine is under the companionway steps so I just remove the steps. I still use a Racor 500 as the primary. The F-1 is used for polishing and filling/transferring tanks.

Jeff


Frank and Melanie Scalfano

Jeff,

Where did you get your filter, and how much did it cost?

Frank


Jeff Matthiae

Frank,

I really don't recall. It's been over 5 years. I originally bought it for my previous boat.

I saw your post about the F-1 Jr. I'd have to go search in my storage locker but I think that is the one that was sold as part of the oil bypass kit. It uses a roll of toilet paper for the filter. It's so easy to change the oil on the Beta that I haven't installed it (also purchased for the previous boat but I never got around to installing it), although it would limit the number of oil changes needed. If I'm not mistaken the F-1 Jr was just a sediment filter, not a water separator. The big F-1 and Racor 500 do both.

Jeff


Frank and Melanie Scalfano

Jeff,

After I made my last post on this thread I did some checking around, and I could find no local dealer, so I called the company. They are not advertising the F-1 Jr, and it is not the same as the oil filter. Essentially, it is a cut down F-1, with otherwise the same specs. It just takes up less room. If you have the space, it probably makes more sense to get the full size F-1 as it is not significantly more expensive. Anyone interested in getting one, this is a good time as they are offering free shipping during the boat show.

Frank


Randell 'Randy' Kocurek

Thanks for a wonderful thread. As the new owner of new fuel tanks + rebuilt engine, seems like I definitely want to replace every linear inch of fuel line from tanks to engine filters. I'll be sure to do that.
So, I suppose the best course is to fill up my new Bud's tanks and treat them wtih Biofor or whatever and use them and keep them full to minimize any need to polish fuel tanks. Any thoughts?
Thanks.
Randy


Ken and Debra Bridger

Randy, In that pile of parts and spares there is a extra Racor fuel filter. I intended to mount it with a valve to change the filter on the fly from the cockpit. There is also a vacuum gage for the fuel line to help show a clog. Planned to mount the 3 way valve in the hole where the heater vented into the cockpit. Ken


Frank and Melanie Scalfano

Does anyone have a recommendation on vacuum gauges that are reliable and not terribly expensive?

Frank


Dave Kall
(Member)

Try Cruising Solutions


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

Frank,

The Vacuum gauge I used was not very expensive. I ordered it from Everafter Marine. You can call Ron and Melisssa at 727-744-4906 and ask them for a price.

Good Luck!


Frank and Melanie Scalfano

Ever After sells a gauge for $40. I could not find a gauge on the Cruising Solutions site.

Frank


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

Frank,

Be sure to go with a high quality gauge as the last thing you want is a guage failure that allows you to draw air into your fuel system.

Don


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

George,

I finally measured the flow rate. It seems to be about 35 - 40 GPH. Sorry for the delay.

Don


George and Rayna Shaunfield

Don, thank your for measuring the flow rate. The pump I bought at an auto supply last year has a flow of 20 gph. My 37-gallon tank only has about 18 gallons in it now. So, cycling it through three times every week takes less than 3 hours. I can live with that.

I thought I would report my experience with fuel polishing that now spans 12 months. Last June I started with 17.5 gallons of diesel that was 11 years old but clean. I polished it and then added another 17 gallons of relatively fresh fuel. Since then I have consistently cycled it through my portable polishing system weekly, with the exception of maybe 5 weeks when I have been out of town during the last 12 months. I have not used any additives and am pleased to report that the engine runs with no complaint, the fuel appears clean, the filters remain clean, and the Racor 500's (engine filter and polishing filter) have not separated out any water.

Therefore, I have bought another 3-way valve and will soon mount it as a permanent system that can optionally supply fuel to the engine as well.
George


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

George,

Here is some additional food for thought. I always top off my tanks. The reason is to prevent condensation in the tank where there is air in place of fuel. Our tanks get warm when we run the engine and then cool at night. The perfect mix for condensation. Just food for thought.

Don


Ken and Debra Bridger

Randy, in that pile of spares is a vaccum gage for the fuel lines.(along with the extra Racor). Just remembered. Ken


Randell 'Randy' Kocurek

The main thing I've heard is to keep the fuel tanks topped off. It also keeps you from running out.
Thanks Ken for the info. I'll be on the lookout for the vacuum gage for the fuel line. I may finish up your Bahamian style plan to add the extra Racor. It will probably need a different filter, I suppose. Slight hassle factor.
Randy


George and Rayna Shaunfield

Don,
You are correct about the preference to top off the fuel tank to reduce the chance of condensation. However, in an effort to prove for my own satisfaction that fuel polishing done weekly can truly keep diesel "fresh", I have intentionally not added any new fuel to the original 50/50 mixture of 11-year old diesel and fresh diesel a year ago when I started the experiment. While one year may not be conclusive proof, I am reasonably persuaded that fuel polishing works. That is why I am now going to mount the system permanently in my W28.

By the way, how many inches of vacuum would indicate it is time to change a filter? Does thata number vary by fuel system?

George


Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson

George,

I set my vacuum gauge measurement for filter replacement with the following method. I set the fuel system to run and started the engine. I then shut the fuel supply valve off at the tank. I watched the vacuum gauge and monitored the engine. When the engine first began to choke I noted the needle position on the vacuum gauge and opened the fuel shut off valve. I then marked the gauge 30% back toward the normal reading for margin and that is where I will change the filter.

Don


Rich Morpurgo
(Member)

I have a very rudimentary system for polishing fuel. I have valves on the system to add a fuel pump (for the diesel heater) after the filters. I added a "Y" valve on the output of the pump one going to the heater and one going to the return to the tank.

I have a length of hose on the boat with a 2 foot length of copper flexible pipe that I sometimes attach to the suction side to suck up water from the bottom of the tank. I have also used the pipe "wand" on the return hose to actually spray fuel on the sides of the tank to dislodge any crud built up there.

Under normal usage, after I arrive at the boat after it has been laid up for a while, I just circulate the fuel through the water separator and filter just to see what is up. If I am going offshore and the weather is going to get bouncy, I try to clean the sides of the tank with the wand.

This has worked for me for quite a while. As Jasmine is mostly stored in florida while I try to earn money to take trips, I usually turn the pump on for several hours when I get the boat commissioned and I have had not much trouble with bad fuel.

Diesel fuel is much better at storage than gas (with alcohol).

This system was not very expensive, and it has worked. I know that I am probably not pushing the fuel thru fast enough and there are better, more high tech systems, but this is a simple cheap, and I have spares for everything aboard, even a spare pump.

Good luck


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