Sept 26, 2019

Spin on Style Fuel FilterA spin-on style fuel filter. This type separates water and debris from any fuel flowing through.

Engines don’t need much to run (or to stay running). When you break down even the most complicated gasoline engine – even one with modern technology including an onboard computer, diagnostics and electronic ignition – it still only needs three things: Spark, Compression and Fuel. (Diesel engines differ slightly, in that they rely on high pressure and compression, rather than a spark.)

One of the trickier aspects for marine engines in today’s world is fuel. An engine’s fuel system seems complicated – but when broken down and explained, boat owners have a much greater chance of getting through a season with no issues.

A fuel system is comprised of a few parts:

1) The fuel tank
2) Fuel Lines
3) Fuel Pump
4) Shut-off valves
5) Fuel Filter(s)
6) Delivery system

Fuel Tank Multiple HosesA fuel tank with multiple hoses: the lowest hose is the tank fill. The middle hose connects to the tank pick-up tube (providing fuel to the engine) and the top hose is a vent, allowing air to move in and out of the tank as the fuel level changes

It works pretty simply: When the engine is engaged, a fuel pump (either electric or mechanical) draws fuel from the fuel tank, via the fuel lines. The fuel runs through a filter, separating out water and debris, where it travels to the engine and is delivered to the engine cylinders (where all the work happens) via the carburetor or injectors.

In all of these parts the main problem encountered is fuel itself. In most boats in Canada, fuel is used for half of the year and then is left to sit in long-term storage for the winter months. Fuel breaks down over time, and is susceptible to microbial growth, and loss of octane (the ability of the fuel to ignite.)

Fuel Stabilizer

Secondary to this is the ethanol additive that is found in many readily available fuels. Ethanol is an alcohol that is added to fuels available at the pumps to help in reducing emissions. However, alcohol additives in fuel attract water, which dilutes the fuel, creating problems for boats. Alcohols also break down gaskets, diaphragms, primer bulbs and fuel lines.

An example of a fuel stabilizer which should be added to the fuel tank (and run through the fuel lines and engine) any time the boat is in long-term storage

How do we optimize fuel and maintain our boat’s fuel system?

First: Purchase a fuel that is ethanol free. if filling up at a standard gas station, choose high-grade fuel. If at a marina, ask if they have ethanol free fuel available.

Next: When storing your boat for long periods, add a high-quality fuel stabilizer to the fuel in the tank. This will slow the loss of octane and counteract the effects of any ethanol or water. For diesel fuel, add a biocide during periods of storage

With these two steps, we can be fairly certain that the fuel itself is in good shape. Lets look at some other maintenance points:

Fuel LineA marine grade fuel line, with specifications.

1) Fuel tanks – try to prevent sludge or debris from accumulating in the fuel tank. If you suspect that there is any debris or old fuel, try to keep the tanks topped up with fresh fuel and don’t allow the fuel level to get low. Inside the tank, a tube (called a pick-up) sits vertically like a straw, and allows fuel to be drawn from the bottom of the tank. At the top of the pick-up is an anti-siphon check-valve that stops fuel from continuously running out of the tank

2) Fuel lines – check fuel lines regularly for any breaks, cracks, loose hose clamps or other leaks. At the first sign of damage, replace them with an appropriate grade and diameter fuel line

3) Fuel pump – most are designed to be maintenance free – but watch for lack of pressure. A broken fuel diaphragm or a blockage in the fuel lines can cause an engine to starve and die off with lack of fuel (especially at higher speeds), or not start at all.

4) Fuel filters – check fuel filters regularly and replace them at least annually. If fuel filters accumulate water and aren’t drained or replaced, water can make it’s way into the engine. If your engine is bogging or dying off as it runs, check the fuel filter first to see if it has accumulated water.

5) Shut-off valves are a safety feature allowing the user to shut off the fuel supply to the engine, to perform maintenance or, in the case of multiple tanks, to switch between fuel tanks

6) Delivery system: fuel can be delivered to the engine via a carburetor, fuel rails and injectors. Each will deliver fuel in the correct proportion to air into the cylinders where the fuel is burned. The fuel is aspirated into the cylinders – its delivered as a fine mist. Any clogs or broken down fuel can block up passages in the carburetor or the injectors. Proper winter layout procedures and periodic carburetor and injector cleaning can keep the fuel delivery in top shape.

In summary: keep fuel fresh, limit your used of ethanol, replace fuel filters regularly and perform periodic inspections and maintenance to avoid any fuel problems!

In part two of this discussion, I will take a look at diesels both in powerboat and sail auxiliary application.

Enjoy the last month of boats before winter layup begins!

Andrew McDonaldAndrew McDonald is the owner of Lakeside Marine Services – a boat repair/maintenance firm based in Toronto. Andrew has worked in the marine industry for 12 years and is a graduate of the Georgian College ‘Mechanical Techniques - Marine Engine Mechanic’ program.

Questions or comments for Andrew? Email him directly via: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Related Articles
Maintenance
  • 13 May 2020
  • By Ethan

Ask Andrew: Late spring start-ups

These days, the internet is full of memes with the message of ‘we’re all in this together’. As a marine mechanic, I’ve been partial to the phrases that reference boating. My favourite so far has...

Maintenance
  • 21 April 2020
  • By Ethan

Ask Andrew – Delayed Launch

2020 is a year of change – self-isolation, social distancing, quarantine, and working remotely have become the norm. For many, this has been a bitter pill to swallow. Another bitter pill for boaters is the...

Lifestyle

  • Prev
This line-up of Beneteaus can to us from our friends at RCR Yachts in NY State where they are ...
As another harsh Victoria winter came to a close, the deck repair and refinishing continued with ...
The Peterborough Canoe Company was formed in 1892 and began production the following year after ...
On one of the sunny days we had recently, Kyle MacTaggart in Honey Harbour ON fired up the Merc to ...
For all those OnBoard subscribers who have followed along with the maintenance, repairs and ...
We hardly need tell you about the pandemic but it’s worth noting that the marine industry is acting ...
If you’ve been to CORK, you’ve probably seen Tim Irwin. Whether he was organizing volunteers, ...
This brilliant shot comes to us from professional shooter Elle Bruce.  These four sailors are ...
In 2008, Pat and Lynn Lortie said goodbye to their everyday life to pursue their dream; making ...
With old boats every repair seems to uncover something else needing attention.  Removing the ...

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
No wonder this is one of Regal’s best-selling boats; the Regal 33 Express offers amazing ...
The newest member of Beneteau’s Gran Turismo line is the GT 36 and this yacht brings the style and ...
With a philosophy of quality and 'doing things right Ranger Tugs launches the all new R-25 at the ...
The new Beneteau Swift Trawler 41 renews the spirit of the practical seaworthy cruiser. The ...
The Canadian Yachting test crew last week had the opportunity to run the Bavaria S36 HT at St ...

CY Virtual Video Boat Tours

Virtual Boat ToursWe all love boats and nothing can break us up! So, what better way to spend our time than looking at interesting boats and going aboard in a virtual ride or tour. We have asked our friends at various dealers and manufacturers to help us assemble a one-stop online resource to experience some of the most interesting boats on the market today. Where the CY Team has done a review, we connect you to that expert viewpoint. Our Virtual Show will continue to grow so visit frequently and check it out. If you can’t go boating, you can almost experience the thrill via your screen. Not quite the same, but we hope you enjoy our fine tour collection.

 

Read more about the CY Virtual Boat Tours....................

Destinations

  • Prev
If you have four hours to enjoy a fine tour of one of Canada’s most interesting waterways (let’s ...
Boom & Batten Restaurant is suspended over the water adjacent to the Songhees Walkway and ...
Provincial Boat Havens are those special places to drop anchor in British Columbia’s West Coast and ...
NW Explorations, a Bellingham, Washington-based yacht charter, brokerage, and marine services ...

KingstonBy Amy Hogue

Cruise into the city of Kingston, Ontario, and it will quickly become clear that this city and surrounding waterways have something special. Built around the northern shore of Lake Ontario, Kingston is the place to go if you love to explore new waterways, fantastic views, and exceptional boating opportunities.

Sitting at the intersection of three world-class Canadian bodies of water, Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal (Cataraqui River from Kingston to Newboro), the water’s influence is deeply woven into Kingston’s culture and history. 

Read more about Kingston...........

 

Marine Products

  • Prev
Since its introduction last year, the JBL by Harman Marine BassPro 10" Powered Subwoofer (JBLMBP10) ...
After decades of perusing charts and guidebooks as part of planning a cruise, it was a totally ...
Ever since I was a youngster Jeeps of all kinds have fascinated me. It wasn’t until the mid 70s ...
New from Plastimo, this bi-colour backpack in Tarpaulin 500D will keep contents dry from ship to ...
Being a boater can come with certain space restraints for additional items that may make your ...
Whether you are interested in monitoring your vessel’s systems while underway or remotely from your ...
No wires to install down your mast. Transmit to smartphone/tablet. Works with lots of great ...
Vesper Cortex, the advanced multi-station VHF, AIS, monitor with intuitive touchscreen operation is ...
The Handy One Combo is an all-powerful, hands-free lighting solution. It's tough, reliable, ...
The Nebo FIXR features an easy, portable solution for all your everyday tools.