5 Things to Know About EPA-Approved Portable Fuel Systems

Posted: January 1, 2014

By: Matt Gurnsey

With the introduction of the latest EPA regulations, portable fuel systems such the one used on your dinghy or other outboard power craft have undergone some changes. Here are the key points you need to be aware of:

Under pressure. The new fuel tanks and hoses are designed to provide as close to zero vapor emissions as possible. No longer do portable fuel tanks vent to the atmosphere. Instead, they feature a vent system that allows air into the tank (to replace spent fuel) but no fuel vapors to escape. A common sight now is a “poofy” fuel tank that has expanded with the pressure of vapors trapped in the tank. As pressure increases, often with temperature increases, the red plastic tank swells. This is normal. Be very careful when opening fuel tanks in case they have excess pressure, to avoid being sprayed with fuel.

Unplugged. The new recommendation is to leave fuel systems disconnected from the outboard. The excess pressure of the new tanks can force fuel into the engine, and it is possible for this pressure to overcome the floats in the carburetors (and VST tanks on EFI engines). This can lead to fuel spills and create hard-starting engines due to flooding.

Connected. While discussing the pressurized fuel tank, we should mention that care must be taken when dealing with the fuel hose and connections. Any failure will result in a spray of fuel. This writer was careless recently and was covered in fuel, but he will remember next time. The recommendation is to unscrew the fuel tank cap slowly and carefully to release pressure, so there is no fuel released when the fuel line is plugged in.

Alcoholics anonymous. We’ve written and read enough about ethanol that we are beginning to think we’ve earned a chemistry-degree equivalent. The new fuel-tank components are able to withstand E10 fuels. Fuel with more than that level of alcohol in it can cause the rubber compounds of the fuel lines to break down. The new double-walled construction can mean that the hose will look fine externally, but internally it is falling apart and clogging. Be careful of fuel additives, as some contain alcohol, which, with regular use, can increase the percentage of alcohol in your fuel, damaging the fuel-line components.

The price is right. Actually, the pressure will be on your wallet, because the new plastics used in the tanks, the new rubber compounds and the double-layer construction of the fuel lines has doubled, and in some cases tripled, the price of fuel components.

The bottom line is that you need to be cautious with the handling of gasoline. Take steps to avoid spills, check fuel components for signs of leaks and avoid storing tanks in direct sunlight. Relieve tank pressure before connecting or disconnecting, and be cautious when opening the tank for refueling.

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