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3 Most Common Fuel Contamination Symptoms

3 Most Common Fuel Contamination Symptoms

One of the most common problems with marine diesel engines is fuel contamination. Every boat owner should be on the lookout for signs of fuel contamination or degradation. Both of these issues can severely hinder the engine’s performance or worse, render it useless.

Fuel contamination occurs with both white and red diesel, as well as biodiesel and kerosene. Even a small amount of the contaminant could impact your engine’s performance. In this article, the experts at PCE, one of the most respected ship repair companies in San Diego, list the three most common signs your fuel supply might be contaminated.

What Causes Fuel Contamination?

Fuel contamination can be the result of a foreign substance entering the fuel tank or a result of fuel degradation. One of the most common contaminants is microbial in nature, commonly known as the diesel bug. Fuel contamination reduces the combustibility of the fuel. As a result, the engine consumes far more fuel than usual. 

Whatever the reason, contamination spreads quickly and can render your entire fuel supply useless. This affects the efficiency and with it the cost of the fuel. However, if you recognize the contamination at an early stage, you can solve the problem and avoid a catastrophe.

The first step towards dealing with the issue is knowing the symptoms of contaminated fuel. Sometimes these issues can occur out in the open sea, and knowing how to find and fix these issues is imperative. Prevention can go a long way, which is why you should get familiar with the most common signs of fuel contamination.

Fuel Appearance

When you take a sample of the fuel out of the tank, the sample should be clear and bright. If the fuel appears murky or dark, this is a likely sign of contamination. If the fuel appears murky, the reason might be water in the fuel. Water is a fertile ground for diesel bugs to develop on. Take this into consideration when assessing the quality of the fuel. Water in your tank is one of the most unpleasant contaminants, and you should resolve the issue quickly to prevent further damage to the engine. 

On the other hand, dark fuel indicates the development of asphaltenes. These particles are very hard and can clog the engine filters if agglomerated.

To ensure that you notice these issues early, make sure to inspect a sample of the fuel taken from the tank bottom once every three to six months.

Performance Issues

While some boat owners inspect their fuel supplies on a regular basis, most of them notice an issue only after it starts affecting the engine’s performance. There are several problems associated with fuel contamination, including sputtering and other irregularities. Whenever your engine is not performing its best, check for fuel contamination first. 

The color of the smoke could also indicate the issue. If you notice unusual smoke, even if the engine is performing properly, your fuel supply might be contaminated.

Poor State of the Fuel Tank

In order to catch fuel contamination at the early stages make sure to make a habit out of inspecting the fuel tank on a regular basis. Make sure the filters are not clogged or full of sludge so that they don’t restrict the flow. The sludge can form from various contaminants or a combination of several. This could also indicate an issue in the filtration system. 

Furthermore, if you notice any holes or damage to the fuel tank, be sure to deal with the issue immediately. These, as well as rust, are the leading sources of fuel contamination.

How to Fix Fuel Contamination Issues?

Any one of these three symptoms could be signs of a fuel contamination. However, identifying the issue is easy once you know what to look for. However, finding the cause of the contamination might be a bit trickier. Most of these symptoms can have several causes, which is why you should have experts perform a thorough checkup on the tank and the engine as soon as possible.

If you notice any of these symptoms feel free to contact our experts at PCE. With over four decades of experience, we are the leader among ship repair companies in San Diego County and a trusted partner of the US Navy

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San Diego, CA 92113
Phone: (619) 235-0961
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Diesel & Motor Division
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San Diego, CA 92113
Phone: (619) 235-0961
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Aiea, HI 96701-3281
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