Fuel problems are always front and center in marine engines. In fact, about 70 percent of the problems we see at our shop are fuel-caused or fuel-related. Here’s a captain’s test on fuel problems. —John Tiger


1. How often should you check your boat’s fuel? What are you looking for when you do?

A. Every week, looking for performanc­e-boosting additives.

B. Every month, looking for alcohol.

C. Every few months, looking for phase separation, water and contaminan­ts (dirt).

D. None of the above

2. Your boat doesn’t have a water-separating fuel filter. Is it worth it to add one?

A. Yes, the cost is minimal (less than $50 plus installati­on), and it is invaluable in catching water and dirt before they reach your engine.

B. No, it’s another scam perpetrate­d by marine dealers and too hard to install.

C. Yes, it’s easy to install, and replacemen­t filters are less than $20.

D. A and C E. None of the above

3. You’ve purchased an older boat that hasn’t run in three years. You’re concerned about the fuel tank, the fuel in it, and the fuel lines. What’s your move?

A. Hook up the engine to the fuel system and run it. A few years isn’t that long.

B. Use a hose, primer bulb and gravity to suck all the fuel out of the boat, then fill with fresh fuel and run the engine. C. Have a profession­al fuel service (usafuelser­ remove the old fuel, properly dispose of it, clean your tank, and ensure the filler, vent and sender are OK. Then you can replace the fuel lines and fill with some fresh fuel. Be sure to take a few samples to check before running the engine.

D. None of the above

4. Your engine ran fine last year. But upon its first start this summer, it’s hard to start, won’t idle, and has no power above idle speed. What could be the problem? A. You likely forgot to condition the fuel, and there might be water in it as a result. Now that water is getting to the engine. It’s hard for any engine to start and run on a watery fuel mix.

B. It’s not a fuel problem. It’s likely the engine has an ignition problem. Check for spark.

C. The engine needs a new starter or battery.

D. None of the above

5. Continuing on the previous question, if fuel is the problem, what should you do to correct it and get the engine running correctly?

A. Take a couple of fuel samples to check. If you see water or dirt, have the tank serviced and start over with fresh fuel. Have the engine’s carburetor­s (or fuel injectors) profession­ally cleaned. Install a new fuel filter, then try running it again.

B. Try running the engine on a portable fuel tank to isolate the boat’s fuel system and remove it from the situation. The engine might run well, but if the carburetor­s or injectors are contaminat­ed, it can struggle.

C. Pour additive such as SeaFoam in the tank, shake the boat to mix it up, and run it. D. A and B

E. None of the above

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