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Fuel system check (suggestions ?)

K2MSmith

Sustaining Member
Went down to boat yesterday after a rainstorm and there was a little more water in the bilge than usual, but i could tell from the color that there was some diesel mixed in. We went sailing and engine was fine. One explanation is that I did leave the air blower vent open on the boat during the rain and a lot of water got in there. Maybe there was some diesel in the engine compartment that got washed into the bilge.? the floor of the engine compartment looks pretty dry. It seems that a check of the fuel system for leaks is in order. Any suggestions/threads on how to do this myself ? I have the M25 service manual and it outlines the parts of the system, but not exactly where they are on the engine (injection pump, fuel filter lines etc). Can this be check done from the front of the engine or are some parts located under the cockpit in the rear of the engine ? I‘m not sure it is a good idea to run the engine while crawling below the cockpit. Maybe run the engine for a while, shut it off and then check ?
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
If no evidence under the engine, I would then check the fuel tank and its fittings. The return fuel line from the engine can fall off.

If you took on fuel recently, and especially if you topped off the tank, check the fuel gauge sender port on the tank. They leak only when the tank is brimming. And the fuel fill hose where it connects to the tank.

Some Ericson tanks are hard to inspect. So if there's very little fuel in the bilge, might pay to wait and see. Sometimes, as you say, its just an old spill that got washed by bilge water.
 

Keith Parcells

Contributing Partner
Yes, and old spills can continue to show up as bilge fuel for a long, long time! The TAFG holds residue from old spills an gives it back to us a little at a time.

Meanwhile Kevin, the E-33 is hard to check but in addition to what has been mentioned, lift the port saloon seat and the board under the cushion to expose the top of the fuel tank. Check the filler hose connection, the fuel lines (outbound and return) and check the vent line. Follow all those hoses to their terminus (termini?) ends. Then check those connections, too. Check under the fuel filters and under the fuel pump. Check on the engine under the injectors. Oh and the engine originally had a fuel filter on the starboard side, down low. See if fuel lines run down there. I removed it on my boat and replaced it with a remote Racor filter, but yours may still be there.

Oh, and if possible, get your hand around the fuel tank and down to the corners outside the tank.My tank failed at the forward, inboard corner...the lowest point in the tank, prone to water pooling at that spot and subsequent aluminum "pitting" or further degradation.

For all this checking for leaks, use a clean paper towel which will easily show the red diesel fuel color.

One more note is that you can run the electric fuel pump to check for leaks without starting the engine so as to asphyxiate yourself when crawling about below decks. On mine the oil pressure beeps the warning incessantly when the key is turned on but that is better than noxious fumes.
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
One bit of trivia I learned from an old mechanic about fuel fill hose -- if you have small but persistent diesel odor in an area where that big ol' 1.5 inch hose passes thru... and yet there is never any liquid fuel present....
And the hose is over 30 years old...
Wet a cotton rag towel with hot water, wring it out, and rub the outside of the old fuel fill hose. If the rag smells like diesel, you have found the problem. Permeation. i.e. the fuel inside is working its way out thru the many layers of rubber and fabric.
It's time to replace that hose with new.
And, better yet, that new hose will have a layer of material on the inside surface that is - Yippee -- impermeable to this sort of seepage.

That is exactly how we verified that our OEM '88 fuel fill hose was past its time. Never more a diesel smell since replacing it over ten years ago. :)
 
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K2MSmith

Sustaining Member
Ok follow up . Still in a bit of a learning process on basic elements. Please bear with me .

There are two lines from the top of the 40 gallon Vic berry tank ( Costa Mesa) , a copper (?) and a black hose . those connections are all clean . I also unscrewed the plug and checked fuel level with a dipstick. It’s pretty full , maybe 3” from the top. From the tank to engine compartment, the fuel lines appear to be hidden in the hull structure .
The copper line goes to what looks to be a electric fuel pump, metal case about 2” dia by 5” tall . When ignition key is on , it makes a clicking noise . The lines don’t appear to be leaking .
the copper line then goes to what looks like a case to a fuel filter (?) on left side of engine . It has a red top . A black rubber hose exits this case and then goes to the engine, presumably the injection system (?). I don’t see any fuel leaks here even with engine running at 1500 rpm . the other end of the hose entering the engine is s bit hard to see but I don’t see any fuel leaks or drips going down into the engine well .

what is left to check ? is the black hose on the tank the “engine return” hose ? Where would I find the connections to that . Any other suggestions ?
 

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Dave G.

1984 E30+ Ludington, MI
is the black hose on the tank the “engine return” hose ?
Yes that is the return line from the engine. It should be a continuous line returning fuel from injector system. Looking at your picture I would check the gaskets and or sealant on the inspection plate and the fuel gauge sender. When you are under sail and heeled over fuel will be pushed up against those and if they are not sealed correctly a little fuel will dribble out and down into the bilge. I had that problem with my fuel sender and it would only happen when I had 3/4 or more of fuel in the tank and on a starboard tack. I made a new gasket out of nitrile rubber and used a little permatex sealant when reassembling and hasn't leaked since. The other possibility is your tank may have a leak. They corrode and develop pinholes generally in the lowest part of the tank in the area of your fuel pick up tube. If you can access that area feel around to see if its wet or jam some paper towel under there for a day or so and then see if its wet with diesel. I had that problem too :)
 

K2MSmith

Sustaining Member
Yes, and old spills can continue to show up as bilge fuel for a long, long time! The TAFG holds residue from old spills an gives it back to us a little at a time.

Meanwhile Kevin, the E-33 is hard to check but in addition to what has been mentioned, lift the port saloon seat and the board under the cushion to expose the top of the fuel tank. Check the filler hose connection, the fuel lines (outbound and return) and check the vent line. Follow all those hoses to their terminus (termini?) ends. Then check those connections, too. Check under the fuel filters and under the fuel pump. Check on the engine under the injectors. Oh and the engine originally had a fuel filter on the starboard side, down low. See if fuel lines run down there. I removed it on my boat and replaced it with a remote Racor filter, but yours may still be there.

Oh, and if possible, get your hand around the fuel tank and down to the corners outside the tank.My tank failed at the forward, inboard corner...the lowest point in the tank, prone to water pooling at that spot and subsequent aluminum "pitting" or further degradation.

For all this checking for leaks, use a clean paper towel which will easily show the red diesel fuel color.

One more note is that you can run the electric fuel pump to check for leaks without starting the engine so as to asphyxiate yourself when crawling about below decks. On mine the oil pressure beeps the warning incessantly when the key is turned on but that is better than noxious fumes.
Keith , the top of the tank looks good . ( see photo) . Also the hose connections on pump, filter and return are not leaking in any sort of obvious way that I can see or feel. Also checked with engine running or fuel system activated with ignition on . On the E33 how did you get access to check bottom of the tank for leaks ?
 

jtsai

Member II
Just wondering if you have checked the Racor fuel/water separator's drain valve? Those gaskets/seals do not last forever. I recently rebuilt mine and solved year-long mystery.
 

K2MSmith

Sustaining Member
Just wondering if you have checked the Racor fuel/water separator's drain valve? Those gaskets/seals do not last forever. I recently rebuilt mine and solved year-long mystery.
I don’t think I have a racor but what I have is canister ( looks like a filter ) with a red top that has brass fuel line going in and rubber house coming out . I didn’t see any fuel leaking from that .
 

K2MSmith

Sustaining Member
Got any engine photos?
I have this photo attached which I labeled what I think are the fuel in/out lines. I don't have one that captures the filter canister (?) in the back of the engine. I'll get that next time I'm at the slip. A google image search of Racor filters or Universal filters doesn't show anything that looks exactly like my filter (with the red top), but it looks kind of similar - so I am thinking that is the fuel filter cannister. It's not a beautiful engine but it runs well and when I first bought the boat (1 1/2 years ago), I had List Marine go over the engine and do a service on it. (oil , filters. belt, impeller etc.) and more recently they rebuilt the alternator to fix the RPM gauge. I have replaced the water pump impeller myself after the new one failed.
 

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Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Here's the Racor 200 series as installed on a 32-3 with M25. I guess any brand primary filter works, as long as you can change the filters "easily" (which wasn't the case with this installation, but I couldn't find a better place to locate it)

PS Thelonious Primary Racor Filter 200 series.JPG...Thelonious Racor 2.JPG
 

Tin Kicker

Sustaining Member
Moderator
Ok follow up . Still in a bit of a learning process on basic elements. Please bear with me .

There are two lines from the top of the 40 gallon Vic berry tank ( Costa Mesa) , a copper (?) and a black hose . those connections are all clean . I also unscrewed the plug and checked fuel level with a dipstick. It’s pretty full , maybe 3” from the top. From the tank to engine compartment, the fuel lines appear to be hidden in the hull structure .
The copper line goes to what looks to be a electric fuel pump, metal case about 2” dia by 5” tall . When ignition key is on , it makes a clicking noise . The lines don’t appear to be leaking .
the copper line then goes to what looks like a case to a fuel filter (?) on left side of engine . It has a red top . A black rubber hose exits this case and then goes to the engine, presumably the injection system (?). I don’t see any fuel leaks here even with engine running at 1500 rpm . the other end of the hose entering the engine is s bit hard to see but I don’t see any fuel leaks or drips going down into the engine well .

what is left to check ? is the black hose on the tank the “engine return” hose ? Where would I find the connections to that . Any other suggestions ?
So the visible lines look clean and you see nothing around the gasket of the fuel qty sender. That's good.

In your first post you mentioned leaving the vent open during a rain, which may've simply washed some fuel residue into the bilge. I'd suggest the simple route of cleaning as best you can, then see if you continue to get fuel in the bilge.

If you do get more fuel in the bilge and find nothing leaking under/near the engine, filter, or valve, the next step is to pull the tank. Not fun but these things do develop (fixable) pin-hole leaks.
 

bigd14

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
I had a mystery fuel leak that was coming from the furthest back injector fitting where the return line took off from it. It was leaking down a hidden path to the engine sump. It took me a few days to figure out where it was coming from. This was before I had good access to the back of the engine and I couldn't get eyes on it. Might be worth checking that area if nothing else comes up. It was simply a loose hose clamp.
 

K2MSmith

Sustaining Member
Here's the Racor 200 series as installed on a 32-3 with M25. I guess any brand primary filter works, as long as you can change the filters "easily" (which wasn't the case with this installation, but I couldn't find a better place to locate it)
As promised, here is additional photo of fuel filter canister (?) . It is on starboard side and a bit hard to get to . I see no leaks . I came back to boat today after a week and bilge is the same as when I left it ( about 1/16” of water. Doesn’t appear that there is any diesel in it . I guess that doesn’t mean diesel isn’t ( or wasn’t) pooling somewhere and going to the bilge after rain or heeling during sailing . Maybe I’ll dry the bilge and next time I go sailing see what happens . Inspection of the bottom of the fuel tank seems like it should be in the list . I don’t know how to get to it without removing the wood panels that cover it ( and the waste tank ) .
 

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Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
That appears to be a Fram filter assembly to which was added a petcock. I'm not familiar with them.

You'll need to have on board a couple of spare filters. See if the readily available Racor spin-on filters are compatible.

More devilish than fuel leaks from a fuel filter assembly are air leaks, often hard to identify, because the filter is upstream of the pump (fuel gets sucked from the filter, rather than pushed into it).

[See Post #19 for correct unit]
 

K2MSmith

Sustaining Member
I don’t see anywhere in the fram spec indicating compatibility with diesel fuel which would have a different viscosity than gas .. ‘mmm makes me wonder .
 

Keith Parcells

Contributing Partner
As promised, here is additional photo of fuel filter canister (?) . It is on starboard side and a bit hard to get to . I see no leaks . I came back to boat today after a week and bilge is the same as when I left it ( about 1/16” of water. Doesn’t appear that there is any diesel in it . I guess that doesn’t mean diesel isn’t ( or wasn’t) pooling somewhere and going to the bilge after rain or heeling during sailing . Maybe I’ll dry the bilge and next time I go sailing see what happens . Inspection of the bottom of the fuel tank seems like it should be in the list . I don’t know how to get to it without removing the wood panels that cover it ( and the waste tank ) .
Kevin,

That must be factory installed. Same as my boat. It is a Fram (but not the one Christian linked). It is Fram Part # C1110PL replacement filter, for use in diesel and transmission oils. This one, below, is a Wix brand replacement and is probably superior to the Fram. Changing these filter elements can be a PITA, but one neat trick is to slather the gasket with grease so it will stay up in the groove as you screw the filter housing back on with the new filter. Otherwise the damn thing just falls out as you try to install and you are cursing it heartily. Make sure you have removed the old gaskets first!

 

Keith Parcells

Contributing Partner
As far as checking the bottom of the tank for leaks, there was a 1X4" board across the edges of the two tanks on my boat, poorly secured, fuel and waste tanks. Remove that board. Try to get your hand in between with a clean white paper towel. If not (probably not), get a skinny yardstick and tape a clean white papertowel securely around the end. Keep it thin and clean. Then, insert in between tanks as a "probe." Any red color extracted? If not, nove it over a bit and try again. Hopefully, no fuel there, especially foreword, inboard corner.
 
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