In this consumer product
testing, conducted in October 2004, we evaluated readily available
boat products including inline fuel/air separators, combination
deck fill and vents, and fuel computers. With strict orders not
to spill one single drop of fuel into the environment, we came up
with two different methods of testing these products: first, a landside
boat mock-up using a soapy water recipe as our fuel product and
second, several friends’ boats, which allowed us to test the
inline fuel/air separators and fuel computers on real vessels. Here’s
how we did it.
To test these hardware options, we assembled a mock-up of a boat’s
hull, deck fill, tank and tank vent according to American Boat and
Yacht Council (ABYC) construction standards. We used certified United
States Coast Guard (USCG) components including an 11.5 gallon fuel
tank and approved hoses. Then we installed the various deck fills
on the “deck” of our mock-up. Below decks, we had good
access to easily change the various inline devices. We did not test
any combination of devices. In other words, we did not use an inline
separator and a combination deck fill and vent at the same time.
After our initial
control tests, we substituted the black 5/8” USCG approved
vent line with clear vinyl tubing in order to see the bubbly “fuel”
venting as it occurred. (Please note that clear tubing is not approved
by the Coast Guard for fuel.) Then, to put these products to the
real test, we installed each inline fuel/air separator and each
fuel computer on motor boats ranging in size from 21’ to 55’.
Since the deck-mounted combination deck fill and vent units would
have required drilling holes in our friends’ boats (and friends
with boats are good friends to keep), those products were only tested
on our mock-up.
To test our devices, we obtained fuel nozzles from a marina distributor
and powered them with an electric pump. We used a standard ¾”
nozzle that delivered 10 gallons per minute (gpm) and a high speed
1 ¼” nozzle that delivered 20 gpm to replicate the
flows found at the fuel dock.
“Fuel”: Using soapy water solutions,
we formulated realistic substitutes for both gasoline and diesel.
After evaluating a variety of soap products, we decided on using
car wash soap, which bubbled up initially then settled down rapidly,
just like fuel. After many test trials, we settled on adding ¼
teaspoon of car wash soap to 15
gallons of water
for “gasoline.” For our “diesel” mixture,
we added ½ teaspoon of car wash soap to 15 gallons of water
because of diesel’s greater foaming characteristics. It was
essential to get these mixes right, or we couldn’t expect
the devices we were testing or the automatic shut-off for the fuel
nozzles to work properly.
Method: Some of the products tested were
designed for gas, some for diesel and some for either. We only tested
products with their intended fuel. To deliver the fuel, we stuck to
the same method in test after test. We filled the tank at full speed
until the nozzle clicked off. We did not top off. We felt that this
method best represented the practices of the majority of boaters,
and it allowed us to provide the same fuel delivery speed each time.