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Fuel Tank Frenzy

posted Jun 9, 2011, 7:09 PM by Christopher Hubbell
Today was a good day.  I managed to get all of the through hulls installed except for the cockpit drains.  I left the drains because I want to get the fuel tank back in place before adding things to get in my way.  And that is where our story begins...

I had removed the tank a few days ago with a few sub projects in mind.  First, it was covered in grime, and I wanted to clean it.  Second, the fuel fill hose was cracked, and needed replacing.  Third, I desperately wanted to get a fuel gauge installed somewhere I can read it.

The cracked fill was noted on a survey, and is probably responsible for the water in the tank that lead to algea growth, not to mention the diesel smell that wafts about the cabin.  In looking at it, it really seems that the best way to replace it is to drop the tank.  This was my primary motivation for yanking the tank.

Cleaning the tank was pretty easy.  A little Dawn and some scrubbing make short work of the grime.  The tank still looks pretty rough, but it's clean.  The next step was a poor-man's fuel polishing.

I picked up a West Marine baja filter which Practical Sailor rated #1 in their  November 2002 issue.  It is designed to filter out suspended particles of a certain size, and prevent water from going through.  After draining all remaining fuel from the tank, I poured about a half-gallon of clean fuel from a jerry can into the tank and proceeded to slosh it like a storm at sea for about a minute.

After my back returned to less than agony, and the burning in my arms went down to a smoulder, I poured the tank into the baja filter a little bit at a time.  The first few passes clogged the filter within seconds, requiring that i rub the screens to keep them clear.

I repeated the above process about five times until the stuff coming out of the tank went cleanly through the filter.  This made a huge difference in the tank's cleanliness, and made a huge boost in my confidence that the engine won't quit some time when I'm stuck in nasty seas.

Having cleaned the tank, I was on to my third mission:  A new gauge.  I really don't much care what brand, but I wanted a white dial as it seems sailboat-ish.  The local West Marine store had a Moeller universal kit in stock which fits all tanks from 4" to 27" deep.  Mine was just under 8", so I fit the specifications.

This job really couldn't be much easier.  I removed the screws from the old mechanical sending unit, and lightly pried it up with a sharpened putty knife to get under the gasket.  It popped right out.

I followed the Moeller instructions carefully and was able to get the new unit installed in about an hour.  I could do it much faster now, but there were a few moments of head scratching due to what I'll call "fuzzy" instructions.

The only complaint I have is that this unit does not come with a wiring diagram.  I'm sure they assume most people are just replacing existing ones and can transfer wires.  I'm not doing that, so I need to know what goes where.  I've found a bunch of resources which explain it, and it's pretty simple so I'm not worried about it.  Still, if you buy something electrical it ought to come with a diagram.

So now the clean tank with a new sending unit is ready to install.  Tomorrow I'll plan out the wire run and gauge mounting position, and pick up the supplies I need.  I should be able to get the tank installed over the weekend.

Mission accomplished!