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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    MI
    Posts
    1,793

    Aluminum fuel tank leak - JB Weld?

    I have a 78 gallon aluminum tank in my Sea Ray. I've been working on this boat for 3 years and it's been at least that long since the tank had some fuel in it. Who knows how long since the tank was last topped off.

    Tonight I fueled the boat and there's a pin hole leak on the top of the tank toward the aft end. Only reason I noticed the leak is because I had the trailer tongue jacked way high to drain the bilge and the fuel was to a level where it was actually high enough to find the hole on the top face of the tank. The tank looks pretty much pristine except for a pencil eraser size spot of corrosion where the tank is leaking.

    Last year, I had the tank out, inspected it all around the outside and the inside as well from the areas where I could see in. Everything looked A-OK. I probably noticed and explained away the small spot in question at some point due to it's small size and the tank walls being ~1/8" thick.

    Removing the tank is not an option - it's glassed in under the seamless floor I installed. Tank removal would literally involve cutting 1/3 of the floor out. I installed two 6" access panels in the floor and luckily I can get at the leaky spot pretty easy through the aft access.

    Anyhow, is JB Weld best option here or is there a better way to go?

    If worst comes to worst, I will drain the tank and take the boat up to a local gas tank refurb establishment that can spray the inside of the tank with epoxy. But I see no reason to take it to that level at this point.

    So... JB Weld... Seal All... other??? Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Waukegan, IL
    Posts
    349

    RE: Aluminum fuel tank leak - JB Weld?

    Wow, I fell you're pain. i've some impresive stories about jb weld....but it's a surface thing! If it's an accesable pin hole leak I might be tempted to try a self tapping screw with the rubber gasket some of the constuction stuff I see uses. Of the same metal as the tank of course. Good luck and I've been in similar wan't to forget spots.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Wilbraham ma.
    Posts
    2,596

    RE: Aluminum fuel tank leak - JB Weld?

    Pocket,sorry to hear of that problem,especially after all the work you've done.I'm trying to think what I would do if in your shoes.I was worried about the same thing when I did my restoration.Luckily,the tank pressure tested okay and is completely accessible by removing a large floor hatch.

    I'd have to agree with TT Chaser and say that a patch and gasket would be a superior fix compared to JB Weld.If you think about it,that is the same way a fuel gauge is mounted to the tank.You could make up a small aluminum patch with a gasoline proof gasket and some sealer,and affix it to the tank with some self ss.tapping screws.

    I know you don't want to hear this,but your life is worth more than the boat and a few fish.You know deep down,the only 100% safe method,is to replace the tank.
    And yep,I know exactly how much work it is to do the work,and you probably never want to see any more resin,glass,gloves,dust,sweat,or Tyvek suits ever again,not to mention more expense.

    I think most of us on this site, really kind of enjoy reading your posts,and would like to continue doing so,so please whichever way you do it,make it safe.
    Good luck,keep us posted.
    John R.
    * Boat- 23' SeaCraft Tsunami
    * Port- Olcott NY.

  4. #4
    Jay D Guest

    RE: Aluminum fuel tank leak - JB Weld?

    i have a friend who had the same problem 6 years ago.we used an a small piece of rubber,poke a small hole in it,and then pop rirvited it.then we put jb weld over it.we were going to use a screw but could not find one made from aluiminum.he is still fishing the boat with no more leaks.oh ya the rubber we used was gas and oil resistant.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    My House
    Posts
    1,936

    RE: Aluminum fuel tank leak - JB Weld?

    Pocket,

    I've got two ideas for you depending on the location and configuration of the hole.

    Option 1 :When I redid my tank it was free of holes but it had about a half a cup of sand and gravel in it. I don't know why or how it got in there but long story short after flushing the tank out I drilled out a hole 2" in diameter to help me remove the crud. I patched it by making an aluminum patch plate and holding it down with sheet metal screws and made a good seal around the patch with RTV. This hole was on the top of the tank and I figured it can't be any less fuel tight than the gasket for the fuel level sending unit. As long as you have a good canister style fuel filter (knowing you you do) you should be able to filter out any metal shavings you create by screwing on a patch.

    Option 2:

    I had an old Bronco 2 that developed a pinhole corrosion type leak where one of the straps held the tank on. I was able to purchase some sort of two part stick putty epoxy from my local napa for patching fuel tanks. The only deal with this stuff was you had to have the surface clean and dry and fuel free in order for it to bond to the tank. Years later the tank was still leak free and the epoxy was holding up fine.

    Your choice, but It's a tough decision either way.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    MI
    Posts
    1,793

    RE: Aluminum fuel tank leak - JB Weld?

    Looks like today will be an Internet day on my laptop - my work computer is all jacked and Tech Support from India can't seem to do more than apologize for the inconvenience assuming I'm understanding the guy correctly.

    Yeah, I know replacing the tank is one, and probably the ideal option from a warm fuzzy perspective. The way I have the floor set up, it wouldn't be too much of a big deal to cut out the tank and add a large access panel to yank the tank. I could trim out the saw cuts with some 1/8" aluminum Z-channel / 3M 5200 and have a removeable fuel tank hatch or use angle aluminum, install hatch and roll out some of that linoleum stuff Arbogaster is looking for in the other post to cover it all for a seamless floor like I have now.

    Thing is, I'm not yet convinced the old tank is bad. I have worked with aluminum & other metals, manufacturing quality and failure analysis extensively in industry and it looks to me like this leak is being caused by an "inclusion" that was in the metal. The inclusion would date back to when the tank was originally manufactured, not a corrosion-induced failure. The leak is ~6" away from the nearest weld seam, so it's not a shoddy weld. With the leak on the top of the tank, it's in an area that doesn't see pressure like the bottom or sides of the tank.

    I am going to call the gas tank shop in my area later this morning and see what they recommend. I plan to ask them their thoughts on cleaning up the tank locally with some Scotch Brite and applying Seal-All. After a couple coats of Seal All, I can top coat with epoxy or even add gasket and an aluminum cover plate. I'll see what they say. Worst case I will take the boat to them and see if they can add a liner or spray the tank from the inside with an epoxy liner. This is somewhat common practice in the aircraft and defense industries.

    FWIW, several years ago, I had a diesel truck with a steel fuel tank. The tank developed a small leak at the very bottom where a stone whacked it. I used a product called "Seal All" to repair that leak. The tank still had some fuel in it and it was even weeping a little when I applied the Seal All. The Seal All repaired the leak and the tank outlasted the rest of the truck.

    No intentions here of doing anything stupid or blowing myself up, nor my family, friends, etc. I don't usually do half-ass fixes, and never when safety is involved. Whatever I end up doing, it will be a robust fix... just need to sort out the options at this point.

    Sorry if this comes off a bit brash - stupid & persistent computer issues with my $20k engineering work station and a bunch of lost work that I will now have to redo have a major burr under my saddle this morning.

    To top it all off, as I pulled in to put gas in my daily driver this morning, I found out some idiot stole my gas cap off that. Nice, huh? Bad things come in 3's, so it's someone else's turn.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Wildwood
    Posts
    3,098

    RE: Aluminum fuel tank leak - JB Weld?

    >From Arbogaster:
    >
    >Option 1 :When I redid my tank it was free of holes but it
    >had about a half a cup of sand and gravel in it. I don't know
    >why or how it got in there but long story short after flushing
    >the tank out I drilled out a hole 2" in diameter to help
    >me remove the crud. I patched it by making an aluminum patch
    >plate and holding it down with sheet metal screws and made a
    >good seal around the patch with RTV.

    I AGREE!

    Arbogaster has it. I did the same thing a few years ago. I figured out my tank had 10-12 gallons of water and about a pound of sand and grit in it from the past 25 years of the previous owner...

    I cut a 4 inch circle in my tank top and was able to get my arm inside past the elbow and got the junk and gunk out! I made an overlapping patch and screwed and RTV'd if down... That was 2004, its still sealed perfectly.

    Make a patch of the same aluminum that overlaps the pinhole area by a couple of inches on all sides if you can. Prep the surface as best as possible then RTV that sucker down!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    My House
    Posts
    1,936

    RE: Aluminum fuel tank leak - JB Weld?

    Yeah I've still got that pic you sent me laying around somewhere DON. I was leaning that way but needed somone to nudge me and agree that it would work. You gave me the bump I needed and I haven't looked back.

    Pocket if that hole is in the top of the tank just look at how well your sending unit is sealed. You and I both know you can make a better seal than that on that little pin hole.

    It's all good . . .don't lose any sleep over it.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    MI
    Posts
    1,793

    RE: Aluminum fuel tank leak - JB Weld?

    The gas tank expert recommends to Scotch-Brite the top of the tank in the area of the leak, wipe down with acetone and apply JB Weld. He said that's what they would do to start and it works 99.99% of the time. If I'm lucky enough to hit the lottery and be in that other .01%, they can drain the tank, fill it with argon and weld the hole. Both these can be done in the boat.

    They may also be able to line the tank but that would likely require removal of the tank from the boat. If the current tank comes out, a new one is going in, so it's a moot point.

    I could also put a patch plate and glue/screw that on somehow, but I only have about 6" of space between the top of the tank and the bottom of the floor, and no vertical access directly above the hole... so drilling pilot holes would be difficult even with a 90* drill.

    Looks like I'll be stopping in to buy a JB Weld kit on my way home tonight.

    On an unrelated issue, the overpriced work computer is still way screwed up but there has been a guy (who speaks English as a first language) working on it since lunch. He agrees it's screwed up; problem is he has no clue what's wrong. He's fixing to reinstall the OS right now, or maybe he said POS... not sure.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    WI
    Posts
    55

    RE: Aluminum fuel tank leak - JB Weld?

    I can vouch for JB Weld on a tank-top patch. I had an in-floor AL tank develop a pin-hole leak and was stinking when I refueled.

    I drained the tank, cleaned the area to bright metal, made a small patch out of sheet AL, used JB between the tank & patch and applied weight until the JB was fully cured. No other drilling or fasteners.

    Then I sealed the tank's fittings, affixed a low pressure air gauge and schraeder (tire) valve on the tank's vent outlet and pressurized to 3-4 lbs. if I remember right. The tank held pressure overnight so I installed everything (new hoses/fittimgs) and its been OK since.

    My hole was caused by years of the main fuel inlet hose laying on the tank top with factory debris (sharp metal bits)in between the inlet hose and tank.

    If you have visible signs of tank corrode-thru, thats a different story.


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.E. WISCONSIN
    Posts
    512

    RE: Aluminum fuel tank leak - JB Weld?

    the jb doesnt like gasoline, best bet here is rubber grommet pop rivet

  12. #12
    mbruzek Guest

    RE: Aluminum fuel tank leak - JB Weld?

    JB is fine with gas and oil but only after it has fully set.
    JB dosent set in gas or oil.
    Ive patched 1/4" holes in tanks with JB.
    The guys at the shop steered you correctly, rough the surface and clean with acetone then apply JB. Should be 100% good in 24-48 hrs.
    -Mark

  13. #13
    honda cat Guest

    RE: Aluminum fuel tank leak - JB Weld?

    I have patched tanks before The patch when applied correctly is not the problem they will spring another leak somewhere else corrosion will usually not occur in only one spot
    The consequences of a fuel leak can very easily be serious injury or death
    If you cannot be 100% certain you have all the bad spots repaired the best choice is often to replace the tank with a new one and not take any chances
    The new poly tanks have reduced the price of a new tank significantly especially when you consider the price of the fuel these days Not to mention the value of the peace of mind knowing it?s a new tank. The smell of gas in the bilge will linger for a long time you will have to wonder ?DID I GET IT FIXED?
    I have been boating around Chicago for 50 years and have only seen 3 boats on fire in those years I hope it?s another 50 before I see another one

    http://www.ultimatechase.com/Video_L...ire_Stream.wmv

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    MI
    Posts
    1,793

    RE: Aluminum fuel tank leak - JB Weld?

    I drained the tank the other night and set up a couple fans to help air out the fuel tank compartment and bilge. It takes a lot of 5 gallon cans to hold ~80 gallons of gas... took every can I had + my neighbors + added about 10 gallons to a car.

    Yesterday evening I cleaned the area of the leak and patched it with JB. After a bit of searching my garage, I pieced together a pressure tester today and pumped some air into the tank. There was one other spot right next to a weld that bubbled up when sprayed with soap water, and I just got done cleaning and applying a coat of JB over top of that area.

    When I pressurized the tank, I had it up to about 4-5 psig. It was difficult to say if the 1 other spot I found was the only one hissing or not - my fuel tank compartment is like a bit of an echo chamber so a hiss in one spot travels. Will see tomorrow if I got it all on the up & up or if I'm messing with a block of swiss cheese.

    Assuming I did catch all the leaks at this point and the tank stays in, I plan to pressure test annually. When it's time for a new tank, it's time for a new tank.

    Keep your fingers crossed for me the tank holds pressure tomorrow.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Algonac and Manistee
    Posts
    467

    RE: Aluminum fuel tank leak - JB Weld?

    Seems like you're playing with fire here. Good luck on your fix.

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