Cleaning a Fuel Tank Is an Intermediate Project for Most DIYers. Here’s Everything You Need to Know to Clean a Fuel Tank at Home.
- DIY Difficulty Level: Intermediate
- Time Required: 1-2 hours
- Tools & Materials: Siphon, Fuel tank cleaning kit, Fuel filter, Fuel tank repair kit
Why Should You Clean a Fuel Tank?
Cleaning a fuel tank can prevent damage to the fuel pump, clogging of the fuel filter, and ensure that your engine gets the amount of fuel it needs to run. If your tank is looking old and rusty on the outside, there’s a good chance it’s just as bad on the inside, where your fuel sits. It’s also a good idea to clean a fuel tank if the vehicle has been sitting for a while.
Is It Safe to Drive With a Dirty Fuel Tank?
Driving with a dirty fuel tank can lead to the fuel pump failing. The fuel pump moves fuel from the gas tank to the engine. If the fuel tank is clogged with dirt or dried up fuel, it could potentially transfer to your car’s engine. Usually, before that happens, dirty fuel will clog your fuel filter and can cause your fuel pump to fail.
The guidelines in this story are general and not meant to replace instructions for your specific vehicle. Please consult your owner’s manual or repair guide before attempting repairs. You should always consult a professional if you have questions about cleaning your fuel tank.
If you have basic DIY car knowledge, you might want to complete this project at home. The parts are affordable, and removing the fuel tank can be a fairly simple project.
When to Clean Your Fuel Tank
There is no standard recommended timeline for cleaning a fuel tank. Some say you should be fine for 15 years or 175,000 miles, while others say you should clean your fuel tank every time you replace your fuel pump. The service interval varies depending on many factors, such as your vehicle’s make and model, how often you drive, and the number of miles you put on your car.
Another factor is whether you park your car for long periods of time. A few weeks is no problem, but if you don’t drive your car for months, or especially years, your fuel will break down inside the tank, causing a great deal of sediment and contaminants to form. You can mitigate this by adding a fuel stabilizer to your tank before parking for long durations, such as over the winter months.
What Are Common Symptoms Indicating You Need to Clean Your Fuel Tank?
- Reduced power
- Difficulty starting your vehicle
- Reduced fuel efficiency
- Frequently clogged fuel filter
- Premature fuel pump failure
Keep in Mind
Always follow your car manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. Also, perform this task as advised for your particular make and model. You can use the FIXD app to keep track of maintenance schedules and repairs.
How to Clean a Fuel Tank
Step 1: Prepare to Clean the Fuel Tank
Anytime you work with gasoline, there is some risk involved. Prepare to safely clean the fuel tank by working in a well-ventilated area and having a fire extinguisher nearby. Also, make sure you have a pair of good safety goggles to avoid harmful contaminants from getting into your eyes. It can also be helpful to ensure that you have all the parts you need before starting. You don’t want to remove the fuel tank only to find out that you need more parts or tools.
Step 2: Drain the Fuel Tank
Before cleaning the fuel tank, you’ll need to remove any gasoline already in it. Newer vehicles may have a drain cock, making it easier to drain the fuel. You can siphon out the gas if your car doesn’t have a drain cock. You may want to plan your driving so that your fuel tank is as low as possible when you tackle this project, so you’ll have to siphon less fuel out before cleaning the tank.
Step 3: Remove the Fuel Tank
Next, you’ll want to remove the fuel tank from your car. Inspect the fuel tank for any rust or holes. You’ll want to use the fuel tank repair kit to patch up any small holes before proceeding with the cleaning. If the tank is too damaged, you may want to consider replacing it with a new one.
Step 4: Remove the Fuel Pump
Take out the fuel pump to gain access to the inside of the gas tank. This is a good time to inspect the pump for signs of corrosion or wear. If the pump looks dirty or rusty, replace it now, since you’ve already removed it anyway.
Step 5: Clean the Fuel Tank
Pour a fuel tank cleaning solution into the tank. Pick up and swirl the tank around to make sure it coats the entire inside area of the fuel tank for a thorough cleaning. Most of the dried fuel will be on the bottom of the tank. If there’s a lot of fuel buildup, you may want to let it soak for a while to help remove the gunk. For particularly dirty tanks, multiple cleanings may be required. Follow the specific directions for the cleaning solution you use.
Step 6: Change the Fuel Filter
Before putting the fuel tank back into the vehicle, it’s a good idea to change the fuel filter, particularly if it’s integrated into the fuel pump that you’ve already removed. That way, clean fuel will flow through a clean filter and ensure the best flow to your engine.
Step 7: Reinstall the Fuel Tank
After cleaning and drying the fuel tank, reinstall the fuel pump, then put the tank back into the vehicle. Make sure you tighten any caps or valves you see to prevent any leaks.
Still Need Help?
Do you want an expert mechanic on speed dial to help you with your fuel tank cleaning? Do you have questions about how to remove or replace your fuel tank? Join FIXD Mechanic Hotline for unlimited access to our Master Mechanics Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
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