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Water Contaminated Petrol

10/16/2006 9:11 AM

A friend of mine recently took her car in for a service and was informed that the petrol tank would have to be flushed out as it was contaminated with water. (This causing an intermittent misfire.) They were going to charge for 2 hours labour and throw away a nearly full tank of petrol. She asked my advice, and I told her to make sure the cause of the contamination was fixed, and bring it 'round for me to sort.

The mechanic – sorry, fitter, concerned was quite scornful of the idea that the tank would not have to be removed, so when I duly poured a bottle of Methylated spirits into the tank and told her; off you go, my friend was also very sceptical.

To me, it seems an obvious solution; the water combines with the alcohol and burns of with the petrol. Having asked a few colleagues their opinion I have found that although no-one faults the reasoning, they simply wouldn't have thought along those lines.

Has anyone else done this? Or am I just weird?

Vodka and Orange anyone?

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#1

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

10/16/2006 10:18 AM

Yup. There are products off-the-shelf that do just that and contain alcohol. I would run a bottle of Techron to make sure the injectors stay clean after she uses up the tank of gas.

Also, she should keep the tank as full as possible and not let it drain too low (i.e., refill when it is half empty). The more air inside the tank the greater the chance of water contamination. When the temperature drops at night water can condense out of the air in the tank and start the process all over again.

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#2

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

10/16/2006 12:47 PM

It seems a perfectly logical way to do the job to me.

Also, the most likely reason for the problem is, as mentioned by somebody else, running around with a mostly empty tank.....its far better to have it 'mostly' full! Having an almost empty tank also promotes rusting of the inside of the tank and eventually the filter gets blocked with rust, then you need a new tank.....

Older cars had a water trap, a glass bulb where the petrol passed through and upto a half cup of water could collect. It could be easily removed and emptied. I have not seen one on a car for years now.....are they still there on petrol cars (Diesels have them still as part of the main filter I believe, I have had Dieseld for over 20 years.....).

Tell us if the missfiring is now fixed please.

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#6
In reply to #2

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

10/17/2006 2:40 AM

Hi Andy, yes the mis-firing stopped almost immediately.

The original contamination was from a failed seal on the injection system that allowed coolant into the fuel return. (And into the engine).

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#3

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

10/16/2006 10:56 PM

You will be pleased to know that this is an age old remedy used here in Australia certainly with the older folk. the youth of today are not resourceful enough like our forebears were.

I guess being convicts in a far away place taught us the art of resilience and resourcefulness.

Carry on

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

10/16/2006 11:42 PM

When I lived in a cold climate, during the winter everyone had a can of "HEET" in there trunk. It was mostly methyl alcohol with appropriate warnings not to drink the stuff.

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#5
In reply to #4

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

10/17/2006 12:13 AM

Here in Canada all gas changes to winter gas in the fall, with alcohol in it already

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#7

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

10/17/2006 9:38 AM

Around my area (midwest) little plastic bottles of "Heet" will be filling the shelves of Gas Stations by the cases. Yellow bottle is ethal alcohol ok to use; but the red bottle is better, isopropyl alcohol (that's the only kind I get.) Says a bottle will treat up to a 20 gal tank. In snowmobiles and chainsaws I will run a bottle in every 5 gallons. If I remember correctly the isopropyl (red bottle) is safe for use in deisels also. I keep at least two bottles in my car all winter.

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#8

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

10/17/2006 12:46 PM

Sounds like the Jiffy Lube trying to get my wife to authorize them to change the automatic transmission fluid - on her Ford Escort MANUAL transmission. She told them where to stick their automatic transmission fluid and we quit going there (she only went there for the convenience - I usually do the work myself).

Definately use the HEET - if you can find alcohol cheaper, thats good to as sometimes HEET can get pricey. You might find it in bulk at a hardware store, but that can get pricey as well. Regular rubbing alcohol from a drug store may work, but it usually has water in it already (typical rubbing alcohol being only about 70% alcohol, the rest water - cheaper that way!) and I would stay away from it. You may find 100% isopropyl alcohol through a medical supply outlet, but it again that gets pricey. Anyway, alcohol absorbs the water and then gets burned, just like in middle-school chemistry. It helps with the emissions as well!

I agree with the earlier post, find the root cause of the water. A bottle or two of HEET per winter should be enough - any more water than that is a sign of bigger problems.

Hope this helps!

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#9

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

10/17/2006 1:03 PM

In rereading your post I see that it was engine coolent in yor fuel tank. That could become a problem as antifreeze is rather abraisive stuff. May not be good for your injectors and if there's enough it may deposit foriegn material in you spark plugs causing missfires. Hope none of that happens and the car continues to run well.

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

10/17/2006 2:40 PM

Ethylene glycol, the common base for coolant, will be tolerated in small amounts.

Since you can tolerate 10% alcohol in gasoline, a little extra alcohol will take the glycol into solution. It will get burned if injected. If you use a carburettor it does not vaporize like gas, so will tend to be partially burned = slight smoke. However, 1 liter of coolant in 60 liters of gas with 5 liters of alcohol will burn with the gas.

A better solution if you suspect a large volume of coolant in the gas it stop driving and to drain the tank it into a container and let the gas stay on top, and you decant it and use it while you safely dispose of the coolant. Needless to say, outside, no flames, no smoking when you do this.

The gas filter will remove any particles that make it to the gas tank. These may be gummy and can coat the filter = blocking it if there is a lot of it, so after you deal with this = new filter.

It is a higher alcohol and if you add some common alcohol to the tank

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#11

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

10/17/2006 3:16 PM

Here in the Heartland and "corn country" we use a blend of gasoline and ethanol. It is 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline and will relly keep your fuel system clean. I used to drive an old V-8 with a big 4-barrel carb that would pass everything except a gas station. I normally used the ethanol/gasoline blend, but bought a tank of higher octane once for some reason. I had had the carb apart a week before this and was amazed at how clean it was. Only 2 weeks later after using regular gasoline, I had to redo the carb again, and the float bowl was filthy and the filter was almost plugged. (if you are wondering why so much carb work, I was running a holley and kept blowing the power valves)

I also then found out that if you ar using Gasahol as the blend is called here, you never have to use Heet or any other form of fuel conditioner.

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

10/17/2006 4:03 PM

I've been having the same problem here in New Mexico! Every time we change over to cooler weather after a moist spell, my old '67 truck starts to sputter horribly. I've been buying the methyl alcohol to solve the problem, but maybe ethyl alcohol would work better. 200 proof ethyl alcohol is available as "Ever Clear" at the liquor store. Wouldn't that work as well or better??


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#13
In reply to #12

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

10/17/2006 4:28 PM

both iso-propanol, ethanol amd methanol will work as gas line antifreeze.

They say iso-propanol is best for injected cars and methanol for carburettors.

ethanol is drinkable and is either costly as 200 proof is it has some denaturant to make it taste so bad only a real wino will drink it. Ethanol also costs more than metanol.

Water mixes with alcohol.

Alcohol also mixes with gasoline.

water does not misx with gasoline.

If you have gasoline with 3% alcohol in it you can take 2-3% water into solution with it.

Too much water and you get two zones. A water zone with alcohol and traces of gasoline and a gasoline zope with some alcohol amd a little water.

Condensation will be less than 1-2% of the tank(in most cases), so there is no problem with 3$ alcohol.

Add 25% water and 3% alcohol will not be enough to make a single fluid phase, so you will have to stop buying that crap gas

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#14
In reply to #13

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

10/17/2006 11:41 PM

A story from my cousin regarding working on the Alaska pipeline as an inspector. Every day before driving his pickup to a jobsite, he would fill up with gas. After a couplee of weeks his pick-up was running rough. When he watched the attendant fill his tank the attendant added a bottle of HEET. Regardless of the amount of gas used. Eventually the concentration of HEET was too high in the gas and caused rough running. Too much of a good thing.

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#15

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

10/18/2006 2:35 PM

Simular story. We had a motor home (RV that is) that had the fule line "freeze" once. I knew it was water in the fule because it was freezing in the low 20 degree range (F). After it thawed, I added "dry gas" made by STP to the tank and bye bye to the freeze. These methods will work if there is a little water in the fule, but not if there is a lot. My syster-in-law was in Michigan when she got gass (premium) from a station that had left the tank cap open during several rain storms. Her tank got over 1/3 of its volume in water mixed in the gas. The car had to be "dried" by the mechanic bacause "dry gas" couldn't "absorb" that much water. The gas station wound up paying the repair bill.

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#16

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

07/20/2007 6:19 AM

I have had trouble with my old car. The RACV mechanic who came out today to help me with my car advised me to pour 4 litres of methylated spirits in with the petrol. He explained that if you allow your petrol to become very low or empty moisture can build up in the petrol tank. Water is heavier or denser than petrol and causes problems to the carburettor. So, now that I've read your reasoning I feel a lot more confident in adding it to my petrol. Thanks. Bec.

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#17

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

08/15/2007 10:58 AM

Hi, i ride a motorcycle and recently was out for a spin with my mates. We stopped for petrol (gas) and within a few minutes the 2 of us who filled up our bikes started running rough and missing. Got them back home and checked and there was water in the petrol.

Have flusehed the tank and added fresh fuel but my bike still won't run right, would adding methylated spirits to some new fuel and running for a while cure it? Any idea what ratio you would mix it at?

Cheers

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

08/15/2007 11:24 AM

250ml of meths then fill the tank. Easy.

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

08/15/2007 11:47 AM

thanks a million for that.

Would i want to flush the injection system before or would it be fine to go ahead and put it in seeing as i drained the tank already?

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#20
In reply to #19

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

08/16/2007 3:01 AM

The whole point of using meths is so you don't have to flush the tank! The water and meths will just burn of, mixed with the petrol. I do this to me car and bike twice a year!

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#22
In reply to #20

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

02/20/2008 5:40 AM

I have a 20-year-old Golf GTi (Bosch fuel injection) that consistently refuses to start in the morning if the temperature drops low enough to ice up windscreens. If the temperature rises by lunchtime it starts perfectly. This has been happening every winter for ten years! Is this water freezing in the fuel line? Could I try the methylated spirits trick on spec? Would it do any harm if this is not the problem?

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#23
In reply to #22

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

02/20/2008 8:01 AM

It certainly won't hurt, go for it!

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#29
In reply to #22

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

07/21/2010 2:36 PM

I persume you have made sure that you are using a very good grade engine oil

Castrol would recommend for 16v GTi's 1979 to 1992 that you use EDGE 5W 30 or Magnatec 10W 40. The 10W 40 would be ok for starting during the summer but you are far better off with the 5W 30 but try the Edge 0W 30 in winter and it may make a huge difference.

If you are not sure what type of oil you are using, your mechanic may be using a 15W 40 from a company that do not make oil but just fill barrels with the cheapest oil from the cheapest oil company that have put in the min amount of additives that just about allow it to be sold on the market!

If this is the case the viscosity of the oil will be much too thick to circulate through the engine when starting and will cause a lot more friction on your starter and battery and this will not help starting.

When an oil is cold it will have the viscosity of 0W (W for winter) and when it heats up it will act as an oil with a viscosity of 30 which is perfect when the engine is hot but not when cold!

If your mechanic tells you this is a load of rubbish and your oil is OK get a second opnion from an oil expert (mechanics often overlook the importance of oil).

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#21

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

08/25/2007 2:36 AM

I have a Rinker boat with a petrol engine. Last week it wouldn't start and the fuel pump and carb were full of water. The local boat mechanics said it would need a complete clean out and all the fuel removed.

I cleaned out the fuel system and put 2 litres of meths in the tank and left it a while. It started and now runs OK. I fitted a new water seperator to be on the safe side.

The cause of the water was probably a build up of condensation over 10 years and the fact that she was nose-up on a trailer when I first started her after a period of a few weeks. No one I spoke to knew about this trick and a few of the mechanic were surprised to see the engine running without major work.

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#32
In reply to #21

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

08/04/2010 1:59 PM

I have a Maxum boat with a petrol engine also and was out a few weeks ago and lost all power and limped home. I opened the fuel filter and it was full of water. I then got a hand operated vaccuum pump (Sealey Vacuum Oil and Fluid Extractor)for sucking the oil out of the dipstick when servicing. Its just a plastic tube with a 6lt capacity and you can create a vaccuum by pumping it and then this creats a suction to suck out your oil or other fluids.

I opened the fuel level sensor on the fuel tank and inserted the probe into the 300lts of pertol (at €1.30 a liter = a lot of money to throw away) and fished around the bottom of the tank sucking out the water (it's heavier than petrol) and got 2 litres of water out in the first 6 liters and 1lt of water in the next 6 liters of petrol and then sucked out another 12 liters and not a drop of water. I only wasted 12liters of petrol!

I then put in some additives to clean the carbs etc. and ran the boat hard for an hour to run it through the engine and try to clean it out. I also fitted a pre filter with a glass bowl and there wasn't a drop of water in it after I returned. Make sure it is a petrol pre filter (arcon I think is the brand I bought) as a desiel one cannot filter the petrol properly.

I am much happier to get rid of this volume of water by taking it out rather than diluting it and burning it off. The volume of build up in a car would be very small but not in a boat.

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#24

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

05/05/2009 6:56 AM

HI i have found this discussion very interesting,I have a vw beach buggy with this problem,i have drained the petrol off several times but still getting water through as draining the tank doesnt remove all the fluid.so i am off to get myself a bottle of methalated spirit and give it a go THANKS FOLK, VIC

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#25

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

10/22/2009 8:59 PM

the right amount of metho yes will fix the situation your not weird

sometimes there could of been water in the petrol were you purchased it

that's why if possible stick to the one garage not if you a long way from home you have to take a chance on the garage were you buy it from

by from now jbt

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#26

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

07/02/2010 8:44 AM

Interesting thread, especially as I just experienced this myself. All seems very logical except... maybe someone could answer some questions.

Filled motorbike 1995 3 cylinder 900 CC Triumph with supermarket (in France) brand 95 octane as per usual since years except this time it started running real bad soon after. Stopped at global brand to abandon bike for being on the safe side, nice lady gave shared her knowledge: Home brand rules (at least in France I suppose) allow for 3% water tolerance at refinary whereas no brand refinaries are allowed (and probably add) up to 13% by legislation which would be particularly bad for 3 cylinder (older) stuff. So instead of leaving I filled up (was still about 1/3 full) with 98 octane and managed to get home without it getting worse but not sure yet it's getting better. Anyway, here's where it gets confusing, since a while, some Brand stations no longer sell normal 95 octane but 95-E10 (about 10% ethanol replacement), now according to you guys buying this should at least solve water problems forever without ever having to add alcohol, BUT, there are big warnings at the pump for drivers to check if their (older) cars can support this product and also motorbikes and other engines so thje question is, if some engines can't stand the stuff (anyone know why?) is it advisable to add alcohol (if only once) when confronted with a water problem or should one just drain it instead (and maybe throw it into a less sensitive car or other). Seeing as many reccommend to keep tanks filled to avoid (humid air condensing into?) water in petrol, a solution would be to line the tank with an expandable bag for containing the petrol that way the tank will always be "full". This would also avoid rust problems (which can be solved without removing the tank these days) but don't cars have plastic reservoirs these days anyway and if so why not motorbikes?

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#27
In reply to #26

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

07/05/2010 2:41 AM

Hmmm...godd question. It will be Bioethanol thats going in, which I believe is more a brand name then a description. I could be wrong? In any case, if you have a higher then new compression ratio engine, you will be more likely to get pinking. Also, the older fuel injection systems (Older?) may have Lambda sensors that throw up a wobble occasionally. The '95 triple should be ok though. I would be inclined to stick some meth spirits in anyway, just to be on the safe side. I think you will find that refineries are that huge and efficient these days that their own standards far outweigh any government or national standard. More likely water has got into the filling station tank. There is at least one locally to me you just don't go to....

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#28

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

07/05/2010 4:28 AM

Follow up:

I called the (reliable) Triumph garage and spoke to the mechanic who suggested I just empty the carburetor but also asked him the question, he recommended for my bike I just stick with known-brand 98 octane and not use 95-E10 (10% ethanol replacement) as engine models from before the widescale introduction of ethanol were built using differnet alloys, gaskets, rings, etc, some of which are affected by ethanol and therefor also by any alcohol added to fuel even for the purpose of removing water. Now, this is not to say all engines will suffer or anytime soon and probably doing it once as the lesser of two bad things is fine too but I'd definately avoid alcohol containing fuel unless the manufacturer has stated your model was designed for it.

Unfortunately, as studies have shown, not all (not even reputable) brands/outlets are quite that stringent about norms and quite a % of places sell substandard Petrol and diesel.

Another question that pops up now with 95-E10 knowing that water is absorbed by the alcohol is whether that means more water (added on purpose, naturally or by accident) might be found in this mixture than in 98.

Anyway bike problem is solved, didn't even empty the carb, I took it on one last drive, it started smoking pretty badly (white and smelling of fuel) and suddenly it was all over and back to normal, seems the engine just got through all the water that must have been sitting at the bottom of the tank (I'm sure this kind of problem could be avoided in the fuel exit wasn't too near the bottom of the tank).

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#30

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

08/03/2010 5:41 PM

Hi, I'm having a possible water contamination problem with a 325xi, the car runs roughly then surges with fast acceleration, (I don't think that this is the infamous Vanos problem) the tank is less than a 1/4 full. Do I add more petrol or not (I collected 15 litres of 98 in cans today)? I am in France and not sure of the labeling of hygiene alcohol that would mix with water. A 250ml bottle of alcool modifie 70%, lists alcohol denat. aqua. and camphor. I don't like the sound of camphor. Would injector cleaner mix with water? On two related notes on one brand of "go further 98", the petrol pump on my 318ci started to whine as if dry, this happened twice, BM said it needed a new pump, however the same brand of petrol from a different garage cured the problem. This reminds me when in England I was told that a garage that sold a franchised brand, topped up with an inferior grade! Thank you for any advice.

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#31

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

08/04/2010 4:31 AM

No need to feel weird, it is used fairly regularly in low lying areas where the forecourt drainage allow some moisture to get into the tanks and then into vehicle tanks, especially when the bowser tank also run low. I used to undo the drain plug to let out an amount of fuel so that you can see how much water you have in the tank and also to make sure you have the least possible water in the tank. Then a 500 ml bottle of meths takes care of it almost instantly. We then usually gave "the offending" service station a miss.

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#33

Re: Water Contaminated Petrol

09/08/2010 4:02 PM

I have heard that in northern european countries such as sweden and finland they do this as a matter of course to reduce water in petrol - paul

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