Boat Owner’s Greatest Enemy

Fuel system problems arising from ethanol continue to be the most common problem in our shop. In fact, ethanol related repairs are up more than 50% compared to last year, clogging the workload pipeline and costing our customers an average of $1000 when the entire fuel system must be disassembled and thoroughly cleaned.

Pumping contaminated fuel from fuel tanks, flushing fuel lines, getting new fuel into the system and pushing it through the injectors to insure all is clean, and then disposing of old fuel is just one part of this expense. Note – it is not uncommon in our business to have to dispose of as many as 50 barrels (55 gallons) of contaminated fuel during a single summer boating season.

The second part of the fuel system cleaning process that owners do not understand is cleaning the vapor separator tank (VST) on some models, which is located behind the intake, and then removing injectors to have them cleaned and reinstalled.

Contaminated fuel must be completely removed (siphoned) from fuel tanks during cleanup. On many models, where the fuel pick-up tube is located an inch or so off the bottom and we cannot siphon all the fuel, it is necessary to work through the top of the tank at the fuel sending unit port to accomplish pneumatic cleaning and swabbing.

The third distressing part of ethanol-related fuel system problems is replacing galled injectors, swollen grommets, and also the filters. When these are accomplished we then run the boat on an auxiliary (shop) fuel tank, and finally reconnect the boat's onboard tanks to the fuel system and run it on a water hose in the shop.

The fourth and final part of a complete fuel system cleaning job is taking the boat to the water and running it to ensure all aspects have been cleared and the boat runs normally. Hopefully, during on-the-water testing, we will not experience additional injector failure.

The toughest part of this process for us is handing the owner a bill for $800- to $1400depending on boat configuration, tank(s) size and number of engines on the transom.

Ethanol-blended fuel is the boat owner's worst enemy and extra care must be given to protect your valuable investment. Monitor the fuel filters under the engine cowling – when the red rings in the cup are floating you have water trapped in the filter! Change fuel/water separator filters often, inspect o-rings on fuel caps regularly, check regularly for water pooling on the top surface of fuel tanks (especially after washing the boat). Another great tip is to include ethanol fuel treatment at every fill up and store your boat with a full tank to reduce the accumulation of condensation in the fuel tank.

I cannot stress enough the importance of contacting your state congressman and senators to demand the coastal regions of Texas be cleared of the E-10 fuel requirements they have allowed to be implemented.

Boat ownership and coastal fishing are supposed to be fun – not so darned expensive!

Chris Mapp