Hidden Impacts of Metal and Fuels Chemical Stew


After years of testing fuel products and systems, PS began to suspect that mixed metals in the system could be causing harm.

  1. Industry standards and PS testing suggest that brass and copper in fuel lines can hurt fuel quality.
  2. Pitting in an aluminum water tank (see PS December 2014) illustrate what separated water or corrosive chemicals can do inside a fuel tank.
  3. Sun exposure has clearly taken a toll on the lower half of this portable fuel tank.
  4. The rugged and spill-proof SureCan is an example of what roto-molding can achieve. Weve used it for six months now without a single spill.
Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


  1. Hi Darrell, A question regarding copper metals in a diesel tank. December 2019, page 14:

    In “Conclusion”…… “PS recommended additives contain metal deactivators that sequester the offending ions, rendering them harmless.”

    I can’t find any information on your site of recommended diesel additives, e.g. BioBor, that specifically state they contain metal deactivators. Any help would be most appreciated. Thanks.

    Eric Stephan
    S/V Indara
    Gig Harbor, WA. 98335

  2. “Metal deactivator” is an industry chemist’s term for anti-corrosion additives that control copper corrosion and prevent the copper ions from becoming agresive catalysts in solution. Metal deactivators are also used in lubricating oils and engine coolants (antifreeze). It is not a term you will see on labels, nor will you see any other concise description of anti-corrosion additives or their effectiveness on gasoline or diesel additive labels. There are currently no standards regulating the industry.

    This is why Practical Sailor does corrosion testing of additives for both gasoline and diesel. In fact, as a result of our test reports, we are aware of several additive makers that reformulated for better performance. Good for them. Even though it will never make the evening news, this is the sort of thing that makes us feel we have accomplished something. We just started another round of tests, this time on engineered ethanol-free gasoline products. The results will be out in the fall, just in time for storage season!

    Please review the following articles. For diesel, Startron Diesel and Stabil Diesel have tested well for preventing corrosion of copper and brass, and preventing sludge formation resulting from such corrosion.
    “Diesel Additives,” August 2013
    “Additives vs. Gum, Sludge,” November 2015
    Gasoline Additives in the E15 Era,” December 2019


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