What’s better than loading up your boat with snacks, drinks, friends, and family to take the day to enjoy yourselves and have some fun? Taking the boat out on beautiful warm days is often the highlight of every boatowners year. While we all love to enjoy our boats with friends and family, there are quite a few issues that can occur without proper maintenance and inspection.
It’s hard to believe that it is already half way through the boating season, but here we are. It’s so easy to throw in the cooler packed with refreshing drinks, snacks, and all the necessary recreational equipment. However, we’re considerably less likely to perform a quick fuel system inspection as part of our checklist when planning a day out on the water. This oversight can lead to an unpleasant outing, unnecessary time spent troubleshooting engine issues, and under the wrong circumstances it can even create an unsafe situation. Let’s look into some ways to be safe and smart to avoid mid-season fuel issues.
Take A Few Minutes Before Your Trip
Most of us will periodically check certain aspects of our boat to make sure everything is in a good working condition, but many of us neglect to pay this same attention to the fuel system. In addition to checking your oil levels, cables, electronics, and general hull and drive train inspections, it is extremely important to inspect your boat’s fuel filter water separation system. Overlooking this inspection could lead to poor engine performance and even engine damage if left unattended for long periods of time. Other negative consequences could include breaking down in open water, or worse yet, breaking down when severe weather is coming in.
These situations are never a good time, especially if there is bad weather afoot. It is very easy to avoid this from happening by performing periodic inspections on the most integral parts of your boat. Taking a few minutes before your trip to do this will save you a lot of frustration, time, and money in the long run. Making sure your fuel system is in good working order will also help prolong the life of your boat engine and its various components.
What To Inspect To Avoid Mid-Season Fuel Issues
As you may know, there are quite a few different aspects of your boat’s fuel system. It is important to check these during the mid-season to make sure everything is in good working order and that there isn’t an excess of water in your system. Inspection helps to ensure you catch potential issues early on before they become a bigger problem. Let’s go over the different fuel system components to inspect and how to inspect them to make sure you only have good days out on the water.
Fuel In The Tank
Inspecting the fuel in the tank is a great way to make sure everything is working well. To check the fuel in the tank, you’ll need to pull some gas from the tank or fuel lines before it enters the fuel filter. Ideally, you want to try and collect 3-4 cups of fuel to get an accurate assessment. Here is how to check the fuel in the tank.
- Collect 3-4 cups of fuel into a glass jar.
- Allow the fuel to settle for 15-20 minutes.
- Inspect the fuel after it has been sitting for the allotted time.
Once the fuel has settled in the jar, take a closer look. Fuel and water have different densities and they will separate from each other. Thus, making it fairly easy to see water in your jar. If you see water, show this to your marine mechanic so they can further assess any potential issues. Presence of water in the fuel may indicate a serious water contamination issue in your fuel tank. So long as there is nothing else wrong with the fuel system, you may have to purge the entire fuel tank and fill with new clean fuel.
The fuel lines are the next important part of your boat’s system . You’ll want to inspect the full length of the fuel lines from the boat’s tank to the engine. If you see any dry areas, cracks, or wet spots of fuel on your gas lines, it is time to replace that section of fuel line. In most cases the fuel lines deteriorate around connections, fittings, or around your fuel filters, so you may want to pay more attention to these areas.
When you have deterioration in the fuel lines, there is a significantly higher chance of water or other contamination occurring in your fuel system.
Fuel Filter Water Separator
The fuel filter water separator (FFWS) is an integral part of your boat’s entire fuel system. It is what keeps debris, water, and other contaminants from entering the motor and negatively impacting the overall performance of your boat. You’ll want to keep a keen eye out for areas that are wet with fresh fuel. Wet spots with fuel are indications of faulty components within the system.
Certain components of the fuel filter water separator are more likely to experience issues and will require a more detailed inspection. Here are a few areas to review:
- Die Cast Cap: Wipe the die cast cap clean and make sure it is not cracked. Often people over tighten the fittings going into the cap and this will cause micro cracks in the cap and it will leak over time. If it is cracked, you have to replace the cap and/or entire filter.
- Check All Fittings: Make sure all fittings are free from corrosion. You can often clean with a wire brush. It is also important to make sure all fittings in the die cast cap are tight and free of leaks. If they are loose, you will have to turn off the fuel, disconnect the fuel line from the filter, remove the fitting and replace with a new fitting. Do not forget to use tape seal or other pipe threading materials when re-installing the fitting.
- Check Hose Connections: Make sure all hoses connections going into and out of the filter cap are securely connected. It is also important to make sure all fuel line clamps are tight and secure. Loose or poor connections in the hoses will result in leaks and damage to other components.
- Check The Drain Filter Bowl: Note the contents inside of the bowl. If the bowl is full of water, debris, rust, or other contaminants you will need to loosen the drain plug and drain the contents of the bowl. Doing this on a regular basis is important to keep the fuel filter water separator working properly. “Gunked up” bowls will require replacement. When working properly, the filter bowl will have mostly clear water inside of it, which is drained out periodically. Large amounts of “other” contaminants is an indication your filter is clogged up and not performing properly. If you encounter this situation, it is time to replace the filter element.
- Check The Drain Bowl Plug Assembly: This assembly has a rubber seal on one end, which seals the drain bowl and keeps the contents of the drain bowl from leaking out. High levels of contaminants around the seal can easily cause the seal to be damaged and cause it to leak. If the drain bowl valve is not sealing properly, it is an indication the rubber seal may be damaged, and it is time to replace the drain bowl. Note, the drain bowl and drain bowl plug assembly usually comes assembled together. These items are not sold separately.
- Check The Filter Element Housing: Look for rust, holes, and/or leaks. The filter element should be clean and free of surface defects. If it is rusty, has fuel on it, or appears to be damaged, it is time to replace the filter element. It’s best to replace every 300 hours of use. Higher contamination of water and debris requires more frequent replacement. Keep track of the date and engine hours on the side of the filter to make sure you stay on top of routine filter replacement.
To Sum It Up
Boating is an incredible way to enjoy the warmer months but there is nothing more troubling than experiencing water contamination in the fuel. It can quickly turn a great day into a stressful one. Fuel system issues are hazardous to your engine and can also lead to unsafe conditions where you get stranded out on the water. If you have any doubt about any component in the fuel system, be proactive and replace it. We also recommend carrying an extra FFWS with you in case of emergency repairs. Take the time to look things over and enjoy the rest of your boating season!