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Old 10-24-2015, 09:13 PM   #1
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Maximum Life of Diesel Fuel?

How long is diesel good for? The boat I bought in August has tanks (300 gal) that are 3/4 full. That fuel is on average probably 3 to 4 years old, based on what the previous owner has told me. Should I get rid of it?
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Old 10-24-2015, 09:33 PM   #2
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What brand/model of engines do you have?
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Old 10-24-2015, 10:30 PM   #3
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Lehman 135s
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Old 10-24-2015, 11:43 PM   #4
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FWIW, I know of a mission-critical backup generator with enough fuel to run 24 hours a day for 7 days. Anyway, they change the fuel every 400 days (and pay to have the old fuel removed).
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Old 10-24-2015, 11:44 PM   #5
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You could hire a fuel polishing service. They come in and hook up their high capacity pumps and filter the fuel repeatedly. It takes out the growth that's happening in the tanks. If the tanks are really bad they will clean them too. Worst case scenario pay someone to take the fuel away. But that's pricey.

Have you checked if the boat already has a fuel polishing system? Some do. And in reality it's not that difficult to install one anyway.
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Old 10-25-2015, 01:18 AM   #6
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When we bought Volunteer the fuel was 3+ years old, I had 1000 gallons on board and I got rid of it by running it through the John Deere over the next 1-1/2 years. It did appear the soot up the transom a bit but not too bad. I bought a case of racor filters and went through a couple in the 1-1/2 years. I have heard that newer motors are touchy regarding fuel age but have seen nothing to back this up.
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Old 10-25-2015, 01:53 AM   #7
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Change your fuel filters, top the tank off with new fuel and use it. Add more new fuel as you burn down the old. Keep an eye on your filters.

I wouldn't spend the money on "polishing" the fuel unless it proves to be very contaminated.
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Old 10-25-2015, 02:19 AM   #8
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I'm with Captain Bill. I would also add a good additive and make sure I had an extra set of filters on board, but I would use the fuel. My boat had 100 gallons of up to 10 year old diesel in it, only 46 hours on the engine, when I bought it. I had no idea how old the fuel REALLY was, so I pumped it dry and the boatyard used it in their shop heater. The first filter sludged up on the first tank I ran through it but has been clean ever since (3 years ago). I would be running short trips for a while with a new boat anyway while I built confidence in the engines and systems.
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Old 10-25-2015, 03:15 AM   #9
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Take a sample before the filter into a clean glass.
If it looks crappy, call the polisher guy, or get rid of it, then get the tanks cleaned.
If it looks clear, try and run it.
Your Lehmann is much more likely to run on the stuff than a newfangled common rail electronic engine would be.
It can be mixed with new fuel to improve it, but should be used up asap.
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Old 10-25-2015, 05:58 AM   #10
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Maximum Life of Diesel Fuel?

Unless you are confident in changing filters underway (and bleeding injectors) I would give serious consideration to having the fuel filtered (polished) and the tanks cleaned prior to use. It's not particularly difficult to change and bleed filters while away from a dock. But it IS nerve wracking for the guests! Or significant other.

Actually, the engine already acts as a 'polisher'. Diesels pump way more fuel than they burn. So they 'clean' the fuel them selves. BUT you will have to learn how to change filters. And having a vacuum gauge installed in the fuel line is necessary. You don't want the engine dying at an in opportune moment.

My Perkins burns about one GPH running. But the fuel pump pumps 8 Gallons an hour. Yours should be similar. Also, Rough weather will 'stir up' the sediment in the tanks which will hasten the filter clogging.

As far as the diesel being 'good': The combustible properties are fine. It is the contaminants that will be a problem clogging the filters.

Also, regarding filters. They are rated in 'Microns'. The smaller the number the less crud they let through (but the quicker they clog up). But be aware that even a fine filter can let a certain percentage of 'larger' crud through. So filters are a replacable, usable part of the fuel system. If you starve the engine for fuel (continue to run with clogged filters) you risk burning up the fuel injection pump.
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Old 10-25-2015, 06:18 AM   #11
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This is actually an interesting question to which I have yet to find an adequate answer. A lot if us have fuel on our boats that is quite old. In doing a Google search, there is little real info out there. Most of what pops up is either from "Prepper" publications of one sort or another or from companies selling fuel additives. Neither of which were very authoritative. I even asked an acquaintance who is a petrochemical engineer for Chevron. He could not come up with any real experimental or scientific basis. He did say that Chevron "recommends" that any diesel kept for more than 30-60 days definitely needs some form of biocide or algaecide assed to it. It should also have a water mulsifier added to it to make the water condense out and fall to the bottom of the tank. According to him, Chevron does not recommend storing diesel for more than one year even with proper treatment. According to him, diesel does not really "degrade" such that it will no longer ignite or burn, but the little thingies growing, and the presence of water in the fuel, cause fuel systems to blow up. This happens more quickly with diesel that has any "bio-diesel" mixed with it. All of the literature I could find dealing with fuel management talks about water separation and fuel polishing to remove the microbial growth. And all seem to indicate, without saying so explicitly, that if fuel id kept clean of microbial growth and dry (ie. water condenste removed), it will pretty much last forever. This seems to be a very common question, especially among boaters, that has no real experimental or scientific basis to really answer. I would tend to take the approach, if you can be sure it is clean and dry, use it. Just pay attention to your engines and fuel system as you do.
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Old 10-25-2015, 06:54 AM   #12
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I have had more problems with adding biocides to tanks over the years versus just filtering the heck out of the fuel. The biocides kill the growth that then just falls to the bottom of the tank. Then rough weather stirs it all up clogging filters all over again. Constant, high volume filtering is the answer. The preventative measure would be to add biocide BEFORE the growth of the bacteria (a long period of disuse). But who has the foresight to do that!? We ALL want to use the boat as much as possible. To own a boat and not use it for years signals the end of ownership usually.
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Old 10-25-2015, 07:10 AM   #13
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From reading the threads I have come to conclusion, that the best way forward is to use your boat ( a good start ) monitor your filters and do regular maintenance.

Sounds like a good plan to me . To try and cover every possible what if will start to drive you mad, so get out there and get moving!!

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Old 10-25-2015, 09:52 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Rive View Post
Should I get rid of it?
I'd say no, Just filter it. With a 5 micron filter my 8 year old diesel looks brand new (to the eye). Going into the filter its black as coal and coming out its a clear red. If it's lost any potential, I cant tell at all.

You can get a big parker 1000 filter for close to a $100. That will let you burn the fuel and allow the filter to last quite a while. When you burn down the fuel just add another pump and use the filter for polishing the fresh fuel.
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Old 10-25-2015, 11:14 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cappy208 View Post
I have had more problems with adding biocides to tanks over the years versus just filtering the heck out of the fuel. The biocides kill the growth that then just falls to the bottom of the tank. Then rough weather stirs it all up clogging filters all over again. Constant, high volume filtering is the answer. The preventative measure would be to add biocide BEFORE the growth of the bacteria (a long period of disuse). But who has the foresight to do that!? We ALL want to use the boat as much as possible. To own a boat and not use it for years signals the end of ownership usually.
BINGO!!! I would not add biocides!!! You will end up with a long term problem with crap in your tanks. I would either remove it or use it but don't "shock" the tank with biocides.
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Old 10-25-2015, 11:14 AM   #16
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Maximum Life of Diesel Fuel?

I'll try to find the thread here on TF that showed how to make your own polishing system for about 150$. It may have been on 'Hull Truth'.
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Old 10-25-2015, 11:32 AM   #17
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Just use it and watch and change filters as needed. Do not add additives as they may cause any suspended stuff to drop to the bottom. Don't add new fuel either.
You want to use up the old fuel ASAP but adding new fuel just dilutes the old and you will never get totally rid of it. Run the tanks down than add a little and run them down again is the fastest way to get rid of the old fuel. Low fuel sloshing in a sea way will also stir up junk to allow filter to do their job.


Old fuel may not have as high a cetane level as new but unless you are running high power engines at max load it wont matter.
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Old 10-25-2015, 11:45 AM   #18
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I transfer a boat with 6 year old fuel 200 miles with a 275 hp 3208 cat. No problems.
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Old 10-25-2015, 11:52 AM   #19
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I foolishly gave away 12 year old deisel that looked, smelled and worked perfectly. Boat was on the hard. Tanks were 1/4 full. No biocide, no bugs, no condensation.

My friend happily used the fuel in his truck.

I let paranoia get the best of me.

Steve
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Old 10-25-2015, 12:01 PM   #20
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I too have been "donated" old diesel fuel from folks that consider it "too old" to use. I mix it with new, maybe 50/50, then use it in my machines. Never had a problem. Some was over ten years old.
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