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Old 12-20-2015, 07:14 AM   #1
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Fuel Gauges

Looking for insight on fuel gauges. Our new to me 78 Marine Trader 34 had fuel tanks replaced in 2005. For some reason ther are no fuel gauges. I see the sender units in the tanks, but no wiring other than a ground.

Questions:
1. Do I need gauges made for the specific sender?
2. Have others used a dip stick Method? (I have my pilots license and we always dip tanks anyway, don't trust gauges)


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Old 12-20-2015, 07:19 AM   #2
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If you already have the hole in the tank, a Tank Tender system would be easiest to install.

No electric worries , but more bucks than a dip stick.

We se a Flo Master to keep track of fuel burn and only use the dip stick to keep the fuel dock honest.
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Old 12-20-2015, 07:52 AM   #3
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Most elect fuel senders work by electrical resistance, so as long as the voltage is correctly matched should work.

Fuel gauges can be notoriously inaccurate. Adjusting the length of the float wire or bending it will change the reading and it's really just a guess as to how to accurately adjust/bend it. Furthermore the accuracy at different levels will change.

Best to dip stick it as this is the only real accurate method, or install a sight gauge. Most folks don't want to remove the sending unit to stick the tank or install a sight gauge so keeping track of fuel usage is an acceptable method of fuel remaining and probably more accurate than your gauge. Another method of course is to install fuel flow indicators which is an accurate method of determining fuel remaining as long as you fill your tanks at each re-fueling. But this will cost you a couple of boat $'s.

Keeping tack of your fuel usage by engine hours or mileage takes some time to accurately determine. But after a few tank fills you should get a pretty accurate determination of your fuel usage and hence the fuel remaining in your tanks.
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Old 12-20-2015, 08:03 AM   #4
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My swing arm fuel gage is dead accurate as was the one on my previous boat.
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Old 12-20-2015, 08:16 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raymond.goff View Post
Looking for insight on fuel gauges. Our new to me 78 Marine Trader 34 had fuel tanks replaced in 2005. For some reason ther are no fuel gauges. I see the sender units in the tanks, but no wiring other than a ground.

Questions:
1. Do I need gauges made for the specific sender?
2. Have others used a dip stick Method? (I have my pilots license and we always dip tanks anyway, don't trust gauges)


Ray G
If there are no gauges and no holes where gauges should be and if you can use a dipstick and are comfortable with using a dip stick, you might as well continue using the dipstick.

Gauges are convenient but as someone else pointed out they are normally not very accurate. Certainly not as accurate as a dipstick or sight tube. On my boat, filling the tanks to the top brings the marks well past the "F" mark on my gauges. I haven't experimented with the "E" mark, running out of fuel on a diesel boat is something best avoided. I usually refuel when the tanks are down to one third, just to be safe. With a dipstick or sight gauge I could do better.

In practice, I use the number of hours run from the last fill up as an indication of when to stop for fuel again.
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Old 12-20-2015, 08:31 AM   #6
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You can usually mix and match senders and gauges. 30 to 240 ohms is almost an industry standard. You can measure the resistance range of your sender with a Vom meter then buy a matching gauge.
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Old 12-20-2015, 10:34 AM   #7
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If there are no gauges and no holes where gauges should be and if you can use a dipstick and are comfortable with using a dip stick, you might as well continue using the dipstick.

Gauges are convenient but as someone else pointed out they are normally not very accurate. Certainly not as accurate as a dipstick or sight tube. On my boat, filling the tanks to the top brings the marks well past the "F" mark on my gauges. I haven't experimented with the "E" mark, running out of fuel on a diesel boat is something best avoided. I usually refuel when the tanks are down to one third, just to be safe. With a dipstick or sight gauge I could do better.

In practice, I use the number of hours run from the last fill up as an indication of when to stop for fuel again.
Word of caution (re bold sentence above)... Only time I ever ran out of fuel on a boat was due to fuel gauge on single 150 gal tank that had always previously read very close to correct. That time it fooled me at reading near 1/2 full. Luckily we were in final leg (3/4 mile +/-) of a channel heading to our marina berth when both engines died; dropped anchor. Friendly fellow passing by did side tie and in the slip we were soon placed. I've never watched electric fuel gauges again... except for amusement. Stick method for me! That is 100% accurate with no chance of sight tube or other apparatus failure/leakage!
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Old 12-20-2015, 10:54 AM   #8
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If you already have the hole in the tank, a Tank Tender system would be easiest to install.
I agree! I don't have the panel mounted fuel gauges like most have, rather, I have Tank tenders that are extremely accurate and are confirmed by an occasional sojourn to the lazarette where the tank sight glasses reside. Easier than a "dip stick" and just as accurate. Also, no electric is required.
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Old 12-20-2015, 11:01 AM   #9
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Float gauges are very repeatable so if you record the readings as you fill the tank you can calibrate the gauge reading.


gauges will have specs as to the resistance reading for zero and full scale that must match the sender.
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Old 12-20-2015, 10:31 PM   #10
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I installed a Cruz Pro fuel gauge. You start with a near empty tank for calibration. I'm accurate to a 1/10 of a gallon. Been using it for 10 years. Made in New Zealand I believe.
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Old 12-30-2015, 09:10 PM   #11
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This would require some electronics but is an interesting solution: https://www.adafruit.com/products/1786
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Old 12-30-2015, 11:26 PM   #12
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Sight tubes are probably near fool proof but requires one to go into the engine room/compartment. TankTender works well for me, which is visible in the pilothouse.

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Old 12-31-2015, 10:50 AM   #13
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Word of caution (re bold sentence above)... Only time I ever ran out of fuel on a boat was due to fuel gauge on single 150 gal tank that had always previously read very close to correct. That time it fooled me at reading near 1/2 full. Luckily we were in final leg (3/4 mile +/-) of a channel heading to our marina berth when both engines died; dropped anchor. Friendly fellow passing by did side tie and in the slip we were soon placed. I've never watched electric fuel gauges again... except for amusement. Stick method for me! That is 100% accurate with no chance of sight tube or other apparatus failure/leakage!
I would love to be able to use the stick method but there is an "S" curve between the fill and the tank.

Maybe I could find a flexible stick.


As I understand it, running out of fuel in a diesel can be a big PITA.
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Old 12-31-2015, 11:04 AM   #14
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Greetings,
"S" curve? No problem...

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Old 12-31-2015, 11:54 AM   #15
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I would love to be able to use the stick method but there is an "S" curve between the fill and the tank.

Maybe I could find a flexible stick.


As I understand it, running out of fuel in a diesel can be a big PITA.
We've "S" too, both tanks. 5 oz led torpedo sinker tied to thin tan fabric line... S curves no prob! Fill level easily distinguished. You know when sinker touches bottom by sound and feel. Calc what gallons per tank per inch. Simple math provides fuel amount remaining.
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Old 12-31-2015, 12:04 PM   #16
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RT's solution reminded me of the tank level sounding tool I used in the Navy. They where brass sections with flexible riveted joints. The brass sections can be any length that would take the S bends of your fill fitting. Sort of looked like the old folding rulers carpenters used. Might be easy to fabricate if you can find some flat brass stock. The ones we used where drilled to hold liquid and the sections where 1 foot long to give us feet and inches with rounded corners to make the bends snag free and the riveted joints where loose so they would conform to the sounding tubes shape.
See technicalshipssupply.com "sounding rod" for ideas.
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Old 12-31-2015, 01:08 PM   #17
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We've "S" too, both tanks. 5 oz led torpedo sinker tied to thin tan fabric line... S curves no prob! Fill level easily distinguished. You know when sinker touches bottom by sound and feel. Calc what gallons per tank per inch. Simple math provides fuel amount remaining.
That might work for me. I would put something on the other end of the string so it can't be dropped into the tank.

Rather than math, I'm thinking a chart would be easier. Do the math just once.
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Old 12-31-2015, 08:29 PM   #18
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That might work for me. I would put something on the other end of the string so it can't be dropped into the tank.

Rather than math, I'm thinking a chart would be easier. Do the math just once.
So not lost in tank: I have the line long enough so that end-loop fits snug over wrist... with several feet not needed down the filler tube before sinker hits tank bottom.

My tanks hold just over 4 gal per inch. I have the 1/2 full level marked on the thin line. In seconds I can closely estimate number of gallons in tank.

Storage is a snap... <4 cubic inches in a cubby hole.

Happy New Year... Everyone! - Art
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Old 01-01-2016, 09:44 AM   #19
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I suppose I would need one for each tank as a string couldn't be wiped clean like a real dipstick. No problem, this sounds pretty inexpensive.
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Old 01-01-2016, 10:39 AM   #20
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I would love to be able to use the stick method but there is an "S" curve between the fill and the tank.
I have the same problem, sharp curves in the fill hose to the tank.

Here's what I use:



I did scuff it up a little with a wire brush to make the wet line more visible. Early on I lost the tip, fortunately NOT into to the tank, so I'd recommend just taking it off before using.

I've also used it to help fish some wires through the boat.
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