Jed Hoffer works on an engine in the shop at Burr Brothers. Photos/BoatingLocal, Tom Richardson.

If you want to learn about the problems caused by mixing water and fuel, go to the experts. In this case we consulted with the outboard department at Burr Brothers Boats in Marion, Massachusetts, where master technicians Jeff Harrison, Phil Batista and Jed Hoffer deal with water-related fuel issues all the time.

Here, they offer some simple ways to avoid potential headaches this season:

  • Detail of a brittle o-ring.

    Each season, inspect the O-ring on your boat’s fuel fill cap for signs of cracks or brittleness. Replace if necessary.

  • Keep the vent closed on a portable fuel tank when not in use (just remember to open it when you start your engine or the fuel won’t flow).
  • Test the integrity of your portable tank by closing the vent and tipping it upside down. If fuel leaks out, water can get in.
  • Detail of a sheared off fuel vent.

    Inspect the gasket around the fuel pickup on your portable tank for signs of brittleness or damage, usually indicated by fuel weeping around the edges.

  • Inspect the fuel vent fitting on your boat hull. These vents can accidentally get turned upwards or sheared off, allowing water (and insects) to enter or clog the fuel system.
  • Detail of a missing ring.

    If you don’t plan on using your boat for several weeks, keep the tank topped off to limit the amount of moisture that can condense from the trapped air. The next-best option for long-term storage is completely draining the tank of gasoline.

  • Use the engine manufacturer’s recommended fuel stabilizer and treatment products. They can make a difference—but don’t wait to use them until after you start experiencing problems.
  • Replace your fuel-water separator filter after every 50 hours of use. Don’t reuse the filter once you’ve emptied it.
  • If you suspect water has entered the fuel tank, siphon off some fuel from the bottom of the tank and check it for water. If you detect water, take the boat to a certified marine service facility to have the tank and fuel system drained.

Water fuel separation can be seen taking place in this jug.

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