Jeff Jones

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Tuesday, January 02, 2018
DIY non-skid

Boat Generator Fuel System Made Simple
As a licensed Captain and Operator for many years, I’ve seen it all. From Alaska to Panama to up and down the East Coast, I admit I’ve used duct tape and bubble gum to get us home more than a few times. When we get to the relative safety of the closest marina, I go to work fixing the problem. I don’t just buy parts and put it back the way it was that failed me in the first place, I literally solve the issue. In this case, I solve the issue of dealing with the small factory fuel filter that comes on all stock generators on vessels of all sizes.

LOCATING A LOGICAL spot for a new filter location.

The issues are many. Factory fuel filters are often difficult to service, requiring special tools or a little creativity to even remove. Once removed, the element you have to change is often the one the local marine store is out of, leaving me stuck in a foreign place and now behind schedule while I wait for an ordered part. Most times on long trips, we have spares of just about everything, so on goes the spare factory filter and then it leaks. Not every time, just usually at the worst time. Installing a fuel filter on a vibrating generator that runs for hours, or even days on end, is not the best engineering idea.

Most boats have a very common Racor fuel filter before the generator fuel system. Remote mounted, it’s the first line of defense in case you get a load of bad fuel in an exotic location or are leaving in the middle of the night to go catch a big bluefin. So I thought, “Why not use another remote mounted Racor as the primary fuel filter?” Racor filters are very easy to service, and the filter elements (available in different levels of filtration, 2 micron, 10 micron, 20 micron and 30 micron) are available all over the world at just about any marine store. In the Bahamas in Hope Town, I found Racor filter elements at the grocery store! And they are very inexpensive compared to the factory filter that came on the generator.

FACTORY FILTER AND hoses coming off.

Simply remove the factory fuel filter and its hoses. Take care to make sure you connect the fuel return line on diesel generators properly so it returns where it was intended to go. Then run new fuel hose (with new hose clamps) to the side of the Racor filter labeled “IN” from the Racor that was already installed ahead of the fuel system. Be sure to incorporate the fuel-priming pump if there is one. Then install new hoses and clamps and run them from the side of the Racor labeled “OUT” to the intake of the injectors. Basically, where the hose went from the stock fuel filter. Easy as can be. Find a logical spot to mount the second Racor and bolt it on.

Basically you’ll want a rough filter element on the first Racor, something like a 10 micron, and a fine filter element on the primary Racor fuel filter, something like a 2 micron. A label maker helps a lot here, make sure the next guy sees what you’ve done, but its pretty much a no brainer. Now the generator has a big open spot where the old filter was, making it easier to clean, service and work on. Filters are a snap to change even in the roughest seas, cheap and easy to find. It’s a wonder I’ve never seen it done before. McGyver got us home, but Captain Jeff Jones solved the problem. Try it. You’ll see how easy this project is and how much nicer it will look and how much easier it’ll be to service in the future.

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Captain Jeff Jones holds a current 100-Ton Masters License and is the owner of Captain on Board. During the spring and summer, Capt. Jeff runs yachts in local SoCal waters up and down the entire West Coast. Capt. Jeff is also an ABYC Certified Shipwright diesel mechanic, and during the winter he takes on projects like re-powers and complete retrofits. He can be contacted at (562) 704-9545, or via email at You can also check out his website at

THE NEW FILTER, installed and primed.

COMPLETED INSTALLATION WITH first Racor on the left, and the new remote-mounted primary filter on the right.

ALL NEW HOSES and clamps connected to the fuel-priming pump and proper return line for a diesel generator.

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