Narrow boat breakdown pt. 4 - fuel and breaking cables

In this section of or narrow boat breakdown guide we look at fuel contamination and cables. Read on to find out more about maintaining these aspects of your narrowboat.

Fuel Issues and Contamination

Contaminated fuel due to Diesel Bug and water contamination accounts for most of the fuel-related breakdowns, securing fuel issues second place. The bug is an enzyme that lives off water in diesel. In its mildest form it appears as black dust or soot, at its worst, it's a black slime or jelly. Once in the system it clogs the engine's fuel arteries and stops the engine working.

Historically, the whole system would need to be cleaned to tackle the bug, but River Canal Rescue uses a special fluid 'Marine 16' that prevents the bacteria from growing and kills anything that may be forming in the tank. One 500ml bottle treats 1000 litres (enough for multiple treatments) of fuel and is suitable for mild cases or as a preventative measure. Towergate Insurance gives away a 100ml bottle of 'Marine 16' to owners taking out its Fresh-Waters canal boat insurance policy and River Canal Rescue stocks it and gives away free samples to stand visitors at shows.

More severe cases (or when the fuel system is blocked) require a Diesel Bug shock treatment. Blocked filters and fuel contamination due to dirt and debris in the tank making its way through the fuel system also cause a large number of breakdowns - a situation that can be easily rectified through regular checking and servicing. A number of marinas now offer fuel polishing services which will clean fuel without having to treat or dispose of the contaminated fuel.

Breaking Cables

Cables can be a common cause of breakdown primarily due to their exposure to the elements as most of the cable terminus is set outside. Cables only have a certain life-span which means if they're not used regularly, they'll rust. To prevent this, you can grease the ends of the cable if leaving the boat for long periods of time, and always check the operation before you set off; if there's any roughness or stiffness then it might be time to call into a marina to pick up a new one. When fitting, make sure that any bends in the cable are as minimal as possible as these will be the areas which suffer high stress and are likely to fail in the future.

Read more on narrowboat maintenance:

The basics
Preventative maintenance
Batteries and electrics
Cooling systems and alternators

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