Tips On Preventing 'Diesel Bug' From Infecting Your Boat's Fuel Tanks

Recreation & Sports Blog

One major problem for boat owners when bringing their vessels back into service after a winter lay-off is problems with the engine running 'rough' or refusing to fire altogether.  Problems like these are often due to 'diesel bug' in the boat's fuel tank.  So, what is diesel bug, and how can you stop it infecting your boat's fuel tanks?  Read on for some helpful tips.

How 'diesel bug' gets into fuel tanks

Diesel bug is caused by water in your boat's fuel tank.  When water gets into a fuel tank, it creates the perfect environment for bacterial growth, colloquially known among boaters as diesel bug.  Diesel bug can be extremely difficult and costly to eradicate once it's entered the boat's system.

Diesel bug can lurk undetected in your fuel tanks until the fuel is stirred-up by rough seas or the natural life cycle of the diesel bug fungus reaches a stage when dieback occurs and the dead matter is released into the fuel.  The dead bacteria and fungus releases black slime, which causes blocked filters and engine problems.

Water in your fuel tank

Water contamination of your fuel tanks occurs for a number of reasons including:

  • restricted space for the fuel tank, allowing free water to collect and presenting drainage difficulties  
  • small pockets of free water can become trapped in the baffles within the fuel tank  
  • humid air conditions allow water droplets to enter the fuel tanks via the breather

In addition to the above, water can get into your fuel tanks through damaged or leaky seals around the engine casing.  As part of your winter maintenance routine, always check for signs of water ingress around the engine and vents.

How to prevent diesel bug

Ideally, you should drain your boat's fuel tanks regularly to make sure that they are free-from pockets of water.  If this isn't possible, there are a few other ways of stopping water from entering your fuel tanks.

  1. Water accumulation can be prevented by inserting a water absorption cell into the fuel tank.  These cells are easily inserted via the tank's filler cap and removed the same way.  Water absorption cells come in different sizes to suit small and larger tanks and can be obtained from your local boat supplies store.  
  2. Water can be prevented from entering the boat's fuel tanks via the tank breather by having a desiccant breather fitted.  The breather will absorb moisture from the air as it passes into the tank and is expelled from it.  
  3. Treatment of the fuel tank with a biocide or fuel treatment can also get rid of diesel bug.  Although the treatment won't remove water from your tank, the biocide will kill the fungus and prevent it from growing in the water.

In conclusion

Don't let diesel bug ruin your boating fun this season; follow the tips above to help keep water out of your boat's fuel tanks, ensuring that the bugs won't bite! Contact marine services for more information.

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