Mailport: November 2012
Dealing with Ethanol
Is there anything a sailor can do to make sure ethanol fuels do not get into his tank to begin with? I just spent both legs of a trip to Block Island draining water and crap from my Racor fuel filters. As I don’t trust the fuel providers to do it, does anyone know of some kind of filtering setup you can put between the pump and your tank? I’d invest in something serious at this point. The problem is that bad. I just didn’t know whether the velocity of the fuel being pumped would overwhelm a normal filter. Thoughts?
The only way to keep ethanol out of your tank is to buy fuel from a reputable vendor that sells only no-ethanol fuel. There are fuel docks and gas stations that still sell ethanol-free fuels, but they are becoming fewer and fewer.
To avoid contaminated fuel, find a fuel dock that regularly tests their tanks for water, changes out filters, and has a reputation for selling clean fuel. Often those that sell the most fuel know how to handle it properly.
Another way to keep contamination out of the tank is to use a deck-fill fuel filter (PS, Nov. 15, 2002) to pre-filter questionable fuel. The filter funnels work well, but the going is slow. Through-flow rates range from about 2 gallons per minute (GPM) to 5 GPM, so patience will be required.
We recommend the Mr. Funnel, sold by West Marine, and the older Baja fuel funnel, which has been discontinued but can be found used online for about $100. Both filter funnels rated well in our past tests. The Baja incorporates three different mesh-screen layers (coarse, fine, and water separator), while Mr. Funnel ($25, www.mrfunnel.com) is a more traditional plastic filter with a water-resistant filter media inside the funnel.
There are also some best-practices you can follow to ensure a clean, trouble-free fuel system. Inspect your fill cap for leaks and replace the O-rings as needed—this is a well-known water-entry spot—and be sure you winterize the system properly. You’ll find more tips on maintaining a healthy fuel system in the Nov. 15, 2002 test report and advice on winterizing in the August 2012 issue.
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