URGENT! Fuel starvation-tank liner failure


My 87 Subaru wagon several years ago (and an 83 Subaru wagon before it) started bucking and kicking from fuel starvation, particularly during high fuel demand (accelerating, uphill driving, high speed). It grew progressively worse until the fuel filter was replaced. Then the pattern repeated itself. My mechanic was not good at telling me what he did to solve the problem, so my explanation above is reconstructed.

Last fall I finally connected replacement of the fuel pump and fuel filter with solving the problem … but only for a couple of months. Siphoning fuel from the bottom of the tank revealed a 1/8 inch deposit of very fine white particles and a feathery white precipitate which would repeatedly be drawn into the fuel filter and clog it. I had the fuel tank removed and steam cleaned ($600) and it runs fine.

We carefully check the fuel filter every couple of months to see if particles are still falling off the lining (probably aluminum or zinc plating).

If you have these symptoms, check the fuel filter and view it with the mechanic (white particles are hard to see on a white filter) and if contaminated, siphon a sample from the bottom of the tank.

Both these cars used oxygenated fuel required in Anchorage from 1992 to 2004; the change in fuel chemistry is suspected as a cause of liner failure. If you are using oxy-fuel, be warned!

Paul Todd

Anchorage, Alaska


Additional note:

Tank liner failures are now occurring with diesel. Changes in fuel chemistry are also suspect in that. See:

Paul Todd