How to Detect A Bad Fuel/Water Separator? (Symptoms)

FWS or Fuel Water Separator is very effective at preventing sludge from blocking the fuel filter.

Like any other filter, your boat’s fuel water separator can go bad after a certain time.

So, I have described the signs and symptoms of a bad fuel water separator in this article.

What Are The Signs For Bad Fuel Water Separator?

Experiencing frequent idling and sputtering along with strong odors are the main signs indicating a bad or expired fuel water separator.

Nonetheless, you should know that those signs can appear in case of some other parts are bad or faulty.

Given that everything else is working properly, you can safely assume that the FWS needs to be replaced.

What Are the Symptoms Of A Bad Fuel Water Separator?

Here are some symptoms that can help you detect a bad FWS.

1. Decreases Speed and Fuel Efficiency

As soon as the engine gets not-so-clean fuel, its performance starts to degrade. And it happens when the fuel filter or fuel water separator doesn’t work properly.

2. Engine Idling and Sputtering

The previous symptom occurs when the problem is not that severe. And you are guessing it right; it gets worse day by day.

In extreme cases, the engine shows some signs and symptoms on the run. The frequency of idling and sputtering increases.

In this situation, you should keep in mind that the engine starts getting damaged. So, act as soon as you can. Otherwise, it will cost you more in repairing and maintenance.

How Should You React If You Detect A Bad Fuel Water Separator?

If you have detected that the problem is with your fuel water separator, you will need to replace it with a new one.

But check the separator manually before making any decision. See whether it is filled with water or not. When the cup is holding too much water, the carburetor or injector may suck the excess water.

There is no other solution because it is not repairable. Read the following steps to know more about its cost and how frequently it needs replacing.

Are Fuel Water Separators Expensive to Replace?

No, fuel water separators are not very costly to replace. You can even find some retailers selling them for less than 20 dollars.

Also, you can do it yourself without hiring a mechanic. So, there are no hidden costs to it.

As the process for replacing it is not the same for all types of boats, all I can do is help you by mentioning some key points.

  • Make sure that the separator is easily visible and accessible so that you can check it before going out.
  • You should empty it regularly, and replace the filter whenever you feel necessary.
  • Keep enough space above and below the separator so that the filter cartridges can be removed easily.
  • To increase safety, you should place a ball valve on either side of the filter.

Furthermore, read the owner manual to know the size of the filter. Most of the manufacturers recommend 10-micron “spin-on” filters but there are other 2 and 3-micron versions available too.

How Often Should You Change A Fuel Water Separator?

For the best performance of your boat’s engine, you should change the fuel water separator 2 times every year.

However, don’t take it too literally. Because the frequency of replacing the filter can vary depending on several factors.

The best practice is to check the separator regularly and keep a note about its health. Also, you should always have at least 2 replacement parts at your disposal for sudden occurrences.

Tip: Those who are thinking about reusing the FWS, don’t do it. According to the manufacturers, one should replace theirs after every 50 hours of use.

Final Thoughts

Despite its importance, lots of boat manufacturers don’t provide such a separator with the engine.

It is a despicable move on saving some production costs. But you now know how little it costs to buy a new fuel water separator. If you want a smoothly running engine, you should keep the above discussions in mind and take care of a bad fuel/oil-water separator.

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