Farm Diesel Tank Maintenance: Cleaning, Inspections & Filtration

Date Posted: 22 March 2024 

Farm Diesel Tank Maintenance: Cleaning, Inspections & Filtration main image Farm Diesel Tank Maintenance: Cleaning, Inspections & Filtration image

Diesel fuel is the lifeblood of a lot of farm machinery, and a diesel fuel pump is needed to set processes in motion. However, if your diesel tank is not in good nick, your diesel fuel won’t be, either. Whether small for individual farm use or large for commercial agricultural operations, this tank stores the fuel your diesel fuel pump delivers to your machinery. To keep your fuel crisp, fresh and bacteria-free, you must regularly clean, inspect, and filter your tank.

If you’re not maintaining your diesel tank regularly, you run the risk of microbial contamination and sludge. Safety issues aside, if you’re harbouring harmful bacterial growth in your tank, you’re compromising fuel quality and blocking or damaging fuel filters. So, for a quick health check, let’s revise the critical components of diesel tank maintenance. How is your tank travelling?

Cleaning Your Diesel Tank

Cleaning your diesel tank is a process. Let’s dive straight into the steps you should take to ensure your tank is squeaky clean:

1. Prepare the Tank

We all know water and electricity don’t mix. For safety reasons, ensure you’ve completely disconnected your tank from all other equipment and drained it of all fuel. You should also ensure you’re in a well-ventilated area free from any potential ignition sources.

2. Inspect the Tank

Once you’ve prepared a safe environment to clean your tank, inspect it thoroughly. Assess the extent of contamination, identify signs of corrosion or damage, and note any sediment, sludge, rust or water accumulation inside the tank. 

3. Drain Remaining Fuel

Upon inspection, you may notice some fuel you should have drained initially. If any fuel remains in the tank, empty the tank completely dry using a diesel fuel pump. Dispose of the fuel as per your local safety regulations.

4. Remove Sediment & Debris

Use a vacuum cleaner or suction pump equipped with a filter to remove sediment, debris and sludge from the bottom of the tank. Take care to remove as much buildup as possible to prevent it from contaminating the fuel in the future.

5. Clean the Tank Interior

Use a pressure washer or hose to rinse the interior of the tank thoroughly. You may also use a cleaning solution or detergent designed explicitly for diesel tanks to help dissolve and remove stubborn contaminants.

6. Inspect & Treat for Corrosion

Check the tank for signs of corrosion or rust. Consider treating the affected areas with a corrosion inhibitor or rust converter to prevent further deterioration if corrosion is present.

7. Dry the Tank

Once you’ve inspected your tank for and removed sediment, sludge, rust or accumulated water, your next step is to dry it out. Allow the tank to dry completely before refilling it with fresh diesel fuel. Proper drying helps prevent moisture buildup and microbial growth inside the tank.

8. Replace Filters & Components

Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve damaged or contaminated fuel filters, gaskets, or seals while cleaning the tank — it’s all standard collateral damage! Simply replace the compromised parts, making sure to install and seal them properly to prevent leaks.

9. Refill the Tank

Once the tank is clean and dry, refill it with fresh, high-quality diesel fuel. Be sure to use fuel from a reputable supplier to minimise the risk of contamination.

10. Monitor & Maintain

Moving forward, you should regularly monitor the condition of the tank and fuel to ensure ongoing cleanliness and quality. Implement preventive maintenance measures, such as periodic inspections and fuel treatments, to prevent future contamination and extend the tank’s life.

Inspecting Your Diesel Tank

We’ve discussed inspection as it relates to cleaning your diesel tank, but you should also inspect it monthly to ensure it’s in peak condition. Here’s what to look for as you cast your eye over your diesel tank every 30 days.

1. Sediment & Debris

Check the bottom of the tank for sediment, sludge or debris buildup — and if you find any, remove it. Accumulated sediment can clog filters and fuel lines, leading to engine issues and reduced performance.

2. Water Accumulation

Keep your eyes peeled for water accumulation, from water droplets to pooling at the bottom of the tank. If you notice a water level over an inch, drain it before the next inspection. This also calls for an inspection before the monthly check if you've encountered heavy rainfall. Use a diesel fuel pump to remove the water and contaminated fuel, disposing of the fuel properly and safely.

3. Rust or Corrosion

Inspect the interior and exterior of the tank for signs of rust or corrosion, treating any that you find. Corrosion weakens the tank structure and can lead to leaks or other failures if left untreated.

4. Fuel Quality

Water isn’t the only extraneous variable that can contaminate fuel. If you notice any contaminants in the fuel, foul odours or odd colouration, that’s your cue to pick up the diesel fuel pump and drain it, lest you risk engine problems or system component damage.

5. Tank Integrity

Assess the overall condition of the tank, including welds, seams and fittings. Look for signs of leaks, cracks or structural damage that could compromise the tank’s integrity.

6. Ventilation & Sealing

Ensure that the tank’s ventilation system functions correctly and that all vents are clear of obstructions. Check seals and gaskets for signs of wear or deterioration that could lead to leaks.

7. Fuel Level Gauge

Test the accuracy of the fuel level gauge to ensure it provides an accurate reading of the fuel level in the tank. A malfunctioning gauge can lead to inaccurate fuel monitoring and management.

8. Safety Features

Verify the presence and condition of safety features, such as overfill prevention devices and spill containment measures. These features help prevent spills, leaks and other hazardous situations.

9. Adherence to Regulatory Requirements

Review any maintenance records, inspection reports, or compliance documentation related to the tank. Ensure that the tank meets any regulatory requirements.

10. Surrounding Environment

Consider the tank’s surroundings, location, accessibility, and proximity to sensitive areas. Ensure that the tank is situated in a safe and compliant manner to minimise environmental risks.

Filtering Your Diesel Tank

Of course, filtration is a fantastic (yet not foolproof) step towards keeping your fuel debris-free. Here’s the step-by-step for filtering your diesel tank — and, by extension, meeting quality standards and preventing equipment damage:

1. Select the Right Filter

Choose a high-quality fuel filter specifically designed for diesel fuel filtration. Ensure the filter is compatible with the flow rate and viscosity of diesel fuel commonly used in agricultural equipment.

2. Prepare the Tank

Before filtering the fuel, ensure that all equipment — including the filter housing and connecting hoses — is clean and free from contaminants. Inspect the filter elements for any signs of damage or wear and replace them if necessary.

3. Drain Water

If the diesel fuel contains water, use a water separator or coalescing filter to remove it before passing the fuel through the primary fuel filter. Water separators use centrifugal force or gravity to separate water from the fuel, while coalescing filters use specialised media to trap and remove water molecules.

4. Install the Filter

Install the fuel filter in the appropriate location within the fuel system (typically between the fuel tank and the engine). Ensure you install the filter correctly, aligning the flow direction per the manufacturer’s instructions.

5. Monitor the Flow Rate

Monitor the flow rate of diesel fuel through the filter to ensure that it remains within the recommended range. A decrease in flow rate may indicate that the filter is becoming clogged and needs to be replaced or cleaned.

6. Replace the Filter Regularly

Diesel fuel filters have a limited lifespan and must be replaced regularly to maintain effective filtration. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for filter replacement intervals based on usage and operating conditions.

7. Dispose of Contaminants Properly

Dispose of the contaminants collected by the fuel filter, such as sediment and water, per local regulations and environmental guidelines. Do not dispose of contaminated fuel or filter elements in a manner that could harm the environment.

8. Monitor Fuel Quality

Regularly monitor the quality of the filtered diesel fuel by visually inspecting it for any signs of contamination or discolouration. Conduct periodic fuel sampling and analysis to ensure the fuel meets quality standards and remains contaminant-free.

Here’s to a Tank That Runs Like a Clean Dream

By now, you should know the ins and outs of diesel tank maintenance. There is an overlap between cleaning, inspecting and filtering; nevertheless, all three processes play a part in keeping your diesel tank operational, clean and safe. When performing maintenance tasks, always do as a filter does and keep water and electricity separate. Ensure you’re working with unadulterated fuel, and if you suspect something’s off with your diesel tank, always go with your gut. Inspect it if you feel it is necessary or safer to do so!

If, upon inspection, your diesel tank has signs of wear and tear, Bunyip Equipment has the components you need to restore functionality — like a diesel fuel pump, for example. If your maintenance process necessitates purchasing shiny new parts, we’ve got you covered. Shop online at Bunyip Equipment and get the cogs turning again with our wide range of components and equipment. Your tank will owe you a well of gratitude!