Water in Fuel/Fuel Filters

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Well-known member
Feb 23, 2006
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Tampa, FL
I purchased my boat about 4 months ago. After putting on about 40 hours I noticed the red ring in the little in-line fuel filter had floated to the top. I read in the owners manual that this meant there was water in the filter. I bought a new in-line filter and a new external filter. The manual said you can clean the in-line filter with a solvent and reuse, but the guy at the service center said I should always replace it. So now after about another 40 hours the red ring is floating again. My question - is it normal to have to replace these filters so often? And, can I just clean the in-line filter with a solvent? Do I need to replace the external filter too? And, what should I do about the water problem. I read that keeping the tank full helps with the water/condensation issue, but I have not been leaving the tank full because my tow vehicle is not exactly what the boat requires. Until I can afford a better vehicle, less weight helps. Thanks for any and all suggestions.
You have too much water in the tank for the filter to handle.

Best approach is to get the water out of the tank. Only way to completely do that is to pop the deck hatch over the fuel sending unit, remove the 5-6 screws and the fuel sending unit, and inserting a 24" to 36" tube into the corners of the tank and pump it out until no more water appears. Fuel floats on water, so getting the bow high (to make the water move to the back of the fuel tank) is important in this task.

I got a bad load of fuel one time which rapidly filled the clear-bowl Racor filters in the bilge. Pumping about 2-3 gallons of water/fuel mix from the tank was the only way to get it all out.

Do you have a larger filter (almost 1-2 pint capacity) somewhere on the transom or in the bilge? If so, make sure you dump the water out of that too.
Porkchunker, Thanks for the reply, I'll give that a try. The procedure you describe doesn't sound too difficult - Do I just monitor what's coming out, and when I can distinguish a fuel vrs. water level I'm done? Any idea how much water I could expect to see, the motor runs great so I don't imagine it's too much. Also can I just clean and reuse the little in-line filter - kind of expensive to keep replacing.
Use a clear container to collect the pumpings. If you pump from the bottom corners of the fuel tank, look for a clear liquid (water) under the floating pink liquid (gas). Pump a little and let it settle out and check the level of the clear/pink line. Repeat and if the clear/pink line is higher, keep repeating until it appears that no more volume of water is gathering in the bottom of your container. Once you are sure both rear corners are free of water, replace the sending unit (don't forget to use a fuel proof sealant like Permatex or 3M), and then drain the water from the larger fuel/water separators/filters in the bilge, and then drain the water from the little one under the motor cowl.

I'd make sure you have all the water out of the system before investing in new filters.

i would STRONGLY recc a racor, clear bowl filter be installed asap....
the amount of water potentially going through will overwhelm any other
filter!......the clear bowl, mounted IN THE COCKPIT IN PLAIN VIEW can
fill with 10 oz of water in a half hour!!....if the tank is low (giving marked
free surface effect) and the water is rough (creating a washing machine
like event in the tank), the racor needs a constant eye......mounted
near a scupper, it can be DRAINED ON PLANE, with just the water
being drawn off and rolling overboard........

i use TWO spin-on racors on my 350 chevy, which only pulls 7 gph,
but still has gotten SOME (a tsp or so) PAST the primary racor !!....
once you SEE what the clear-bowl racor is doing, you will realize, in
retrospect, all other filtration units are jokes (on YOU!).......now that
ethanol is here to stay, the importance of large, effective filtration is
doubly important.......water and some grundge is THE RULE and quite
normal on the bottom of all fuel tanks......the handling of gasoline (you
can easily do it with diesel.....vendors will come to the boat and do it
for you) needed to clean the tank is PROHIBITIVELY DANGEROUS....
PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT.....you will NOT find any vendor for that
reason.....if you tell/ask the marina, they will say no, and justifiably so....

in sum, just leave the tank alone and focus on FILTRATION, which is
spelled R-A-C-O-R........this is a SAFETY item, because with fuel low
and water rough, that is exactly when you dont want to have the engine
stall!.......coast guard reporting has shown the #! reason for distress calls
in QUANTITY of fuel (top those tanks up each trip!), but the number two
is QUALITY of fuel, and this is overwhelmingly water........guaranteeing
the quantity and quality of your engine`s fuel supply is a matter of
good seamanship and safety..........GO RACOR AND GO NOW....dan

ps i have NO financial, family, or any other ties with the racor company
or any of its agents.