1986 38-200 Fuel Tank Removal

David Grimm

E38-200
Have had a fuel smell since the day I purchased this boat back in 2018. At first I was told by the po that the fuel sending unit was the culprit. I orderd a gasket and oring kit for it and that fixed that leak. Also I replaced all the fuel injectors and the copper line from the tank to engine with uscg type A1 rubber line. This winter I could still see some fuel under the floor at the stuffing box location. So I pulled the rubber return line out to find it was type B1 date coded 1984. Two years older than the boat. Uscg recommends replacement every 10yrs. So I pulled that one out and replace with A1. After inspecting the tank I couldn't confirm if it was leaking so I planned to come back with 8 five gallon jugs to pull the fuel. Ariving back at the boat two days later I see a wet spot on the skeg/cutlass bearing holder.... Diesel!!! Pumped the tank out and removed it from its location but it wont fit out the hatch! Going to pressure test it in place tomorrow. Anyone have any suggestions? Am I missing the button that seperates the hull so I can remove this? Should I cut it in half if its leaking or try to weld it in the boat? Replace it with two aluminum tanks? Maybe go plastic? Also I guess I have to cut the glass off the skeg bolts and rebed the skeg with some 5200. Any suggestions for getting the leaked diesel out of the hull?

What say you?

Dave
 

Attachments

  • 20211216_153334.jpg
    20211216_153334.jpg
    107 KB · Views: 54
  • 20211213_144337.jpg
    20211213_144337.jpg
    173.1 KB · Views: 53
  • 20211216_160306.jpg
    20211216_160306.jpg
    361 KB · Views: 52
  • 20211216_113001.jpg
    20211216_113001.jpg
    291.1 KB · Views: 53

trickdhat

Member III
Blogs Author
Wow, that's quite the project. If diesel's getting out through the the skeg, was water getting in? Any other issues with the skeg?
 

David Grimm

E38-200
No, no other issues. The boat has been out of the water for about a month and a half. I think when I was inspecting the tank and changing the return fuel line I may have disturbed the tank enough to accelerate what was a small leak. Is the sked 5200 sealed or just epoxied? There was no protection between the tank and the skeg bolt fiberglass. I think it may have worn through the aluminum in that spot. Heading to pressure test now. I'll report back tonight.
 

David Grimm

E38-200
I checked out a few threads Christian, no worries though. I purchased a natural gas pressure guage. Nifty little gauge. Only goes up to 15lbs. and has a Schrader valve for an air pump on one side. The other side you have to adapt to what your working on. I reduced it to a 1/4 inch barb and with a small piece of fuel line hooked it to the fuel tank return fitting. Closed the supply valve and plugged up the vent and fill. Pumped it up to 5 psi as indicated test pressure on the tank lable and began spraying with soapy water. No leaks!!! Not even at the sending unit. After an hour it was still the same psi. I had the boat yard owner/mechanic take a look and he said he would leave the strut alone. Clean the bildge, support the tank with some new foam and go sailing. Must have been the age and removal of the return line that gave me the leak and the spot.
 

bigd14

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
Good news on the tank being sound. But if diesel is getting to the outside of the boat from the strut area, wouldn't water be getting in? Is the strut loose at all? I would be inclined to investigate this further, if for no other reason than I hate the thought of water getting in uncontrolled through the bottom of the boat (I hate it from the deck too of course). The tank out provides a once-in-a-boatownership opportunity to deal with any issues that lie beneath, replace hoses, wiring, etc. Take advantage!

If you do end up having to deal with the strut, it is probably bedded in epoxy. More details here: https://ericsonyachts.org/ie/ubs/1984-e30-strut-replacement-part-1.471/

Good luck and keep us updated.
 

David Grimm

E38-200
Update! So much for the good luck! With the tank out it seemed rational to replace all that lies beneath such as control cables hoses and such. With the fuel tank up on end for 3 weeks I came back to a snapple cap amount of diesel on the cabin sole. After careful inspection a microscopic pin hole revealed itself from the lowest part of the tank. This leaves me with 4 options. Each with its own setback.

1. Cut off minimal amout of tank to fit out companionway hatch and have repaired or replaced. Pro: new tank. Con: smaller tank

2 Remove old tank and go plastic. Pro: virtually indestructible Con: smaller tank/tanks, connections/sending unit redesign.

3. Weld a patch over hole. As recommended by a local welder. Back fill tank with Argon and weld patch over area. When asked if he wanted to do the job if I chickened out he never got back to me. Pros: cheapest and quickest. Cons: welding on a tank with some diesel in it has mixed reviews. Possible fire and explosion.

4. Remove 1/3 the bottom skin of tank. Clean inside thoroughly and inspect. Weld in cross brace and new bottom without risk of landing on the moon! Pros: new tank feel with old volume and piece of mind. Cons: me lugging my welding equipment, generator, saws and all to marina. High price of professional mobile welder.

I have built aluminum fuel tanks before, never this size and never this important. If your ATV fuel tank springs a leak its not that big of a deal. I will most likely start with # 4 and regress to #1 if all else fails. A friend suggested the tanks fail at the lowest point because thats where the water in the tank sits and rots the aluminum from the inside out. Still 36 years isn't all that bad!

Also, after hot water powerwashing the inside of the hull with 15 gallons no water came out the strut!

Any other ideas?

Dave
 

Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
Update! So much for the good luck! With the tank out it seemed rational to replace all that lies beneath such as control cables hoses and such. With the fuel tank up on end for 3 weeks I came back to a snapple cap amount of diesel on the cabin sole. After careful inspection a microscopic pin hole revealed itself from the lowest part of the tank. This leaves me with 4 options. Each with its own setback.

1. Cut off minimal amout of tank to fit out companionway hatch and have repaired or replaced. Pro: new tank. Con: smaller tank

2 Remove old tank and go plastic. Pro: virtually indestructible Con: smaller tank/tanks, connections/sending unit redesign.

3. Weld a patch over hole. As recommended by a local welder. Back fill tank with Argon and weld patch over area. When asked if he wanted to do the job if I chickened out he never got back to me. Pros: cheapest and quickest. Cons: welding on a tank with some diesel in it has mixed reviews. Possible fire and explosion.

4. Remove 1/3 the bottom skin of tank. Clean inside thoroughly and inspect. Weld in cross brace and new bottom without risk of landing on the moon! Pros: new tank feel with old volume and piece of mind. Cons: me lugging my welding equipment, generator, saws and all to marina. High price of professional mobile welder.

I have built aluminum fuel tanks before, never this size and never this important. If your ATV fuel tank springs a leak its not that big of a deal. I will most likely start with # 4 and regress to #1 if all else fails. A friend suggested the tanks fail at the lowest point because thats where the water in the tank sits and rots the aluminum from the inside out. Still 36 years isn't all that bad!

Also, after hot water powerwashing the inside of the hull with 15 gallons no water came out the strut!

Any other ideas?

Dave
Dave,
When my aluminium tank failed I spoke with several metal fabricators about repair vs. replacement. They told me that while they could weld repair, it would not be as strong as welding new aluminum that had never seen diesel, and generally advised against it. The same was true of an epoxy repair.
While some on this site have been successful with both methods, I decided to have a new aluminum tank fabricated, with no further worries.
Frank
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Building on Frank's good advice, I would also advise a new tank. When I did this for our boat I gained slightly thicker aluminum, a baffle, two large clean out ports, a new electric fuel gauge system, and all of the gozinta's and gozouta's relocated slightly - right where they really needed to be.

We were overdue for a new fill hose and all other tank hoses, and that also was the best time to do that job. Not too technical, just tedious work. some limited swearing was involved in routing hoses... but isn't it always?
And, a new SS deck fill fitting! Ah, luxury... !! :)
 

Kenneth K

Contributing Partner
Blogs Author
How close is the tank to fitting through the companionway? Can you remove some teak trim around the companionway? The widest part of the tank is also likely the deepest part (likely where the leak is). Can you saw off that corner (or the other forward corner) and get the tank to fit through the entry? You likely wouldn't loose much tank volume, the repairs could then all be done outside the boat, and then you'd have a tank that is (god forbid a future need) removable from the boat.
 

Dave G.

1984 E30+ Ludington, MI
If cost is not an obstacle the first and best solution is to replace the tank. And as you already have yours mostly out that's even easier. I had pinhole leaks in the bottom of mine and repaired in place with West epoxy and fiberglass on the inside of the tank. My tank did not have any inspection plates so I added same to gain access through the top. You would not believe the slime gunk that came out of the bottom of that tank(36 years worth) and now I can clean it out when needed too. There are a couple of others on this site that have done it the same way. If you think you want to go the epoxy route contact the guys at West Epoxy, they were extremely helpful in guiding me through the process.
 

David Grimm

E38-200
It's out now. I cut as little off as possible. If I had left even a 32nd of an inch more it wouldn't have made it. Did a test with a gallon jug and I only lost 2 gallons of capacity. Damn that was stressful. Nothing like taking the sawzall to your boat. Whew. Glad that part is over with. Lol. Thank you for all of your advice and support!
 

Attachments

  • 20220105_162829.jpg
    20220105_162829.jpg
    291.3 KB · Views: 19
  • Screenshot_20220105-173517_Video Player.jpg
    Screenshot_20220105-173517_Video Player.jpg
    271.1 KB · Views: 19

Kenneth K

Contributing Partner
Blogs Author
Great news. You'll likely have to trim off a bit more of the tank so it's not too wide (you said you only had 1/32 clearance) when they add and weld the new repair patch back on. I would guess that would add at least 1/4" to the existing width.
 
Last edited:

Mike_W.

Member I
The tank on our 87 38-200 leaked from corrosion too. I took it to a custom radiator shop, guys that build amazing custom cars, and they did a beautiful patch job. I'll have to look it up but the cost was pretty reasonable considering the options. No leaks yet but it's only been 2 years.
Your tank looks pretty similar from the photos. I had no problems getting it out through the companionway. Not sure what is different.
 

David Grimm

E38-200
Mike W. Hmmm. My companionway is just shy of 31 inches deep. Is your engine under the sink like mine? Or do you have the recessed companionway version?
 

Navman

Member III
All,
I know the tank has been operated on and the offending portion removed, great job by the way, but how much more room is needed for the tank to pass through the companionway? I was just wondering because more people will be doing this same replacement in The future, if it was an inch or so, maybe take off the sea hood and detach the sliding hatch. That would get you nearly 3" +-. Just a thought.

~~ _/) ~~
 

David Grimm

E38-200
5 1/2 inches. That was with the sliding portion of the hatch removed. My tank is a 40 gallon. I have herd of others on this site with 50+
 

Attachments

  • 16414867499431988076222156823058.jpg
    16414867499431988076222156823058.jpg
    178.7 KB · Views: 6

Mike_W.

Member I
Yup, Redbeard's engine is under the recessed companionway.
Tank is labeled as 54 gal.
 

Attachments

  • 20191130_141115.jpg
    20191130_141115.jpg
    100 KB · Views: 11
  • 20191208_140759.jpg
    20191208_140759.jpg
    260.7 KB · Views: 11
  • 20200307_093819.jpg
    20200307_093819.jpg
    106 KB · Views: 11
Top