fuel system woes

Monday - August 14, 2006Views: 5743
Our boat has had a problem with fuel starvation since we chartered it from the previous owner. He had problems with it for years, even after having an inspection port installed in the tank. In rough water it would seemingly stir up debris and plug the filter. Many many fuel filters, several different fuel tank cleanings, and much head scratching later it still did it. In smooth water it would run all day. Changing the fuel filter seemed to fix it temporarily.

Finally I solved the mystery: There is a screen in the fuel tank dip tube.

It's tiny and takes almost nothing to plug up. When you change the filter the engine is off and the crud falls back into the dip tube. When you restart the engine it eventually sucks up the same debris and wham, no fuel. I'm embarrassed to admit it took me so long to figure out, but I was in a hurry to get the boat home and didn't take the fuel system apart until this week. So I just kept buying fuel filters, as that was the conventional wisdom. (I also added a NAPA fuel pump, part #BK 610-1051, about $35, for filling fuel filters. It's a free-flow pump and so is invisible to the system until you need it. A switch lets me flip it on when I do change filters.)

The screen has no useful purpose. The filter will catch anything and the filter is servicable. So if you have the slightest problem with your fuel system, pull that screen and throw it as far as you can away from the boat.

Late update: Tom at IP cleared up the issue for us, apparently only the earlier boats had these screens. Not only can this screen clog but small pieces of thread tape, plastic, or other debris can plug up the diptube and/or lines, so check things carefully. Another place to look for problems is the fuel tank vent, make sure it's open.

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