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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
just purchased a 97 F350 ambulance with 7.3 engine and 160k miles at gov deals auction. In the advertisement it stated was running when parked, now starts only with ether. I just called the manager of the storage lot and he informed me that it would only crank, not start. then they shot some ether and it fired up and died. THen they decided to drain fuel bowl and fill with fresh gas (truck has been sitting for approx 1 year near Charlestown, South Carolina), and it started and ran for a while until fuel bowl filled with water again then it would die. This is my first diesel engine. I have been googling and you tubing everything of 7.3 power stroke. I am unsure the best way to approach getting this truck running reliably.
I am in central Florida and will be driving up to South Carolina on Memorial day, spending the night and viewing/visiting/fixing truck 0900 Tuesday morning. Its in a remote lot with no electricity and 3-5 miles from a gas station according to google. I don't know how he confirmed that water is the problem, or he just assumed it was water. He said the pump must be ok because it refilled the bowl. I think the best woud be to completely drain both tanks-I guess around 20gal each, then fill with fresh diesel, drain bowl and clean, install new filter, and cross fingers a hope it runs good.
That would require up to 40 gallons of tankage to hold the old diesel. And I would need at least 5gal of fresh to get it running and drive 5-10 miles to gas station to fill up. Or if water settles to the bottom of tank then if I suck from the bottom of tank until I get just diesel then I might not need so many cans? I have heard that the end of the pickup tube is like a 1/4-1/3 of a tank from the bottom? So, that would be like 5-8 gallons? Can a diesel tank get that much water in it from sitting a year? Is it possibly something else? Of course it can, but what? He said it ran good with fresh fuel in the fuel bowl so that would rule out injectors and high pressure oil pump problems right? As well as cam position sensor, ICP sensor, And oil pressure sensor, and even the IPR or whatever the high pressure pump is abbreviated. I would greatly be beholding to any insightful info you can give. Its remote location, distance from auto parts stores is like 50 miles, and my ignorance is making me nervous. I only have 1 day to get it right and then drive 6-7 hours home. Thanks n advance for any info. I thought about an inline water separator like in boats but it dont take a ton of water to fill them up. If the fuel filter got wet initially does it not let diesel fuel through after that? questions going round in my head
 

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First off throw that either can away. You are just asking for problems with a vehicle that has glow plugs and using either in it.
Second if there is water in the fuel you are going to have to drain the tanks and get it out, there is no other way to do it besides draining them. Water being heaver than oil will settle into the bottom of the tank and that is all the fuel pump will suck from the tanks. As long as there is water in the bottom of the tanks you are going to have problems. If there is that much water it almost sounds like it was submerged in water.

So just work on getting the water out. If it fired up on fresh fuel in the filter housing then it should run once it is gone. Just work on one tank to get it running. Take a hose and 4 5 gallon cans to put the old fuel into, you may even need to pull one of the tanks once it is empty and dump it upside down to get the water out.

Another thing is get gas out of your mind. These vehicles run on diesel fuel not gas.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
First off throw that either can away. You are just asking for problems with a vehicle that has glow plugs and using either in it.
Second if there is water in the fuel you are going to have to drain the tanks and get it out, there is no other way to do it besides draining them. Water being heaver than oil will settle into the bottom of the tank and that is all the fuel pump will suck from the tanks. As long as there is water in the bottom of the tanks you are going to have problems. If there is that much water it almost sounds like it was submerged in water.

So just work on getting the water out. If it fired up on fresh fuel in the filter housing then it should run once it is gone. Just work on one tank to get it running. Take a hose and 4 5 gallon cans to put the old fuel into, you may even need to pull one of the tanks once it is empty and dump it upside down to get the water out.

Another thing is get gas out of your mind. These vehicles run on diesel fuel not gas.
thanks for the quick reply Bugman! Yes, that is what I thought would have to be done. Thanks for the advice. Sorry about the slip up calling it gas, why what is wrong with me! I have only had gas engines for all of my 62 years. oops, lol. Is the Diesel fuel bowl a water separator? How much water has to be in the fuel to cause the engine to stall/not start? A tablespoon in the fuel bowl/filter housing? 2 tablespoons, a cup, a quart? I know no water is best but there has to be some water in fuel and have it still run ok? Or not? I thought for getting it off the storage lot I might could run it off an auxiliary tank, like a 6 gallon boat tank? then what do I do with the fuel that the mechanical low pressure pump is pumping? oops, nevermind, I would have to remove the hose from the tank to the pump and fit my aux fuel line-duh. The storage lot guy suggested using that pump to pump out the fuel tanks? What say you?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
thanks for the quick reply Bugman! Yes, that is what I thought would have to be done. Thanks for the advice. Sorry about the slip up calling it gas, why what is wrong with me! I have only had gas engines for all of my 62 years. oops, lol. Is the Diesel fuel bowl a water separator? How much water has to be in the fuel to cause the engine to stall/not start? A tablespoon in the fuel bowl/filter housing? 2 tablespoons, a cup, a quart? I know no water is best but there has to be some water in fuel and have it still run ok? Or not? I thought for getting it off the storage lot I might could run it off an auxiliary tank, like a 6 gallon boat tank? then what do I do with the fuel that the mechanical low pressure pump is pumping? oops, nevermind, I would have to remove the hose from the tank to the pump and fit my aux fuel line-duh. The storage lot guy suggested using that pump to pump out the fuel tanks? What say you?
And I never used either! They did. I know its bad but I don't think they did it much?
 

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The fuel pump is mechanical 2 stage pump. It pulls from the tank on the low pressure side, goes through the filter/water separator housing and then back to the fuel pump where it is pressurized to go to the injectors. Then the unused fuel returns back to the filter housing and goes through the fuel pressure regulator FPR and then back to the tank.

To use the fuel pump to drain the tank the engine would need to be cranking over and you would need quite a few sets of batteries to do it. You could rig up a electric fuel pump with the hose going down the fuel filler and into the tank. Then into a 5 gallon can.

As for how much water will kill it? I once got a bad load of fuel and my truck shut down within a quarter of a mile and wouldn't start until I started to draw from the good tank which took a lot of cranking.

There is a drain tube on the filter housing, you turn the yellow lever and it will drain the filter housing. You may have to crack the seal on the lid to do so. Also get a short piece of 3/8" fuel line. Then crawl under the passenger side front of the truck and look up on that corner of the engine. You will see a tube ending above the front end. This is where the drain line comes out. Slip that hose over the end of that tube. You can now catch the fuel in a clear jar and see just how much water is coming out of the fuel.
 
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The fuel pump is mechanical 2 stage pump. It pulls from the tank on the low pressure side, goes through the filter/water separator housing and then back to the fuel pump where it is pressurized to go to the injectors. Then the unused fuel returns back to the filter housing and goes through the fuel pressure regulator FPR and then back to the tank.

To use the fuel pump to drain the tank the engine would need to be cranking over and you would need quite a few sets of batteries to do it. You could rig up a electric fuel pump with the hose going down the fuel filler and into the tank. Then into a 5 gallon can.

As for how much water will kill it? I once got a bad load of fuel and my truck shut down within a quarter of a mile and wouldn't start until I started to draw from the good tank which took a lot of cranking.

There is a drain tube on the filter housing, you turn the yellow lever and it will drain the filter housing. You may have to crack the seal on the lid to do so. Also get a short piece of 3/8" fuel line. Then crawl under the passenger side front of the truck and look up on that corner of the engine. You will see a tube ending above the front end. This is where the drain line comes out. Slip that hose over the end of that tube. You can now catch the fuel in a clear jar and see just how much water is coming out of the fuel.
thanks for that most useful information. I will pack some 3/8" line and a glass jar in my trunk while packing up my 2 batteries fully charged and a pair of jumper cables. Not to use the mech. pump to drain the tanks mind you. Just to crank to start. that sucks about getting bad fuel at a station! Did they make it right and fix the problem?
to add to my problem 1:remote location
2: no electricity
3: probably in afield or dirt/gravel lot
4: open from 0900-1400 so 5 hours max
5: very shallow pockets
6: have to get back the next day some 450 miles, go drive girlfriend to airport and go to work-to make money to fix truck!
thanks again Bugman keep um comming
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
what if I was to purchase a fuel/water separator like boat and only drove a short distance and drain the accumulator of water and continue on? So I would plumb it into the line from the fuel tank and before the fuel pump. This only after i attempt to get as much water/fuel out of tank first. Just to get it o the road. Don't know if I could drop the fuel tank in remote local on the dirt in such a short time-less than 5 hours. I will look into buying an electric pump to extract the water/fuel and buy 4 -5 gallon buckets from walmart?
 

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How about intercepting the inlet fuel line to the fuel pump and running a separate line to a portable fuel can? That way you could drain the fuel bowl, fill it with good fuel, connect to the portable fuel can and start it up. With 5 gallons of clean fuel, you could drive to somewhere that you could more easily deal with the watered down fuel in the tanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
maybe suck the fuel from the tank with an electric pump thru a racor water separator filter into the buckets. Get as much out of the tank as i can get. Then take the filtered fuel and put back in the tank with pump and filter( double filtered) then repeat the process a few times. In sailboat lingo they call it scrubbing the fuel. It is done for removing algea and bugs/debris from diesel tanks. If the tank fill is big enough I could just put both ends down it and scrub for a couple hours or so. Mixes the clean with the dirty/contaminated fuel so it becomes suspended and then sucked up and filtered. Just trying to make it something I can do in the field. ANd I aint what I used to be as far as crawling on my back under a truck.
 

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If you do decided to dump a tank the rear should be the easiest to get off. Then you can take it with you to clean out to put back on with good fuel. That way you would only have 4 5 gallon cans to fill if that tank if full. Then you can reuse that fuel but only the top 3/4's of each can with what water there is still in the bottom.

But I am not sure just how it is going to look if the ambulance body is still in place

Using a electric pump will be off of the trucks batteries and not 110v.

But as I mentioned just work on one tank at a time until the truck is up and running.

My problem with the station that had the bad fuel in was that it was 200+ miles away when I switched over to that tank and I was in the middle of nowhere with the nearest fuel station 50 hard miles away. I just prayed that I had enough fuel in the good tank to get me there..

I hear you on the work under the truck. I'm 68 and while I am fine while I am under it I feel it when I go to get back up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
How about intercepting the inlet fuel line to the fuel pump and running a separate line to a portable fuel can? That way you could drain the fuel bowl, fill it with good fuel, connect to the portable fuel can and start it up. With 5 gallons of clean fuel, you could drive to somewhere that you could more easily deal with the watered down fuel in the tanks.
that is what I was thinking of doing to move the truck at least? there is a building and electric on site but its a few hundred ards from thruck where it is now. the lot mgr did say they hve a service truck that can inflate the tires for me. Hey how do you get air and check pressure on the inside tire of a dooly?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
If you do decided to dump a tank the rear should be the easiest to get off. Then you can take it with you to clean out to put back on with good fuel. That way you would only have 4 5 gallon cans to fill if that tank if full. Then you can reuse that fuel but only the top 3/4's of each can with what water there is still in the bottom.

But I am not sure just how it is going to look if the ambulance body is still in place

Using a electric pump will be off of the trucks batteries and not 110v.

But as I mentioned just work on one tank at a time until the truck is up and running.

My problem with the station that had the bad fuel in was that it was 200+ miles away when I switched over to that tank and I was in the middle of nowhere with the nearest fuel station 50 hard miles away. I just prayed that I had enough fuel in the good tank to get me there..

I hear you on the work under the truck. I'm 68 and while I am fine while I am under it I feel it when I go to get back up.
I have had 2 back surgeries for rupture discs, and ya getting down not too bad buck geez getting up I feel like a friggin turtle on its back, One bad knee too! So easier to drop the rear tank. And yes, I have no idea how much fuel is in the tanks. I would be good with just 1 tank to run on as I have to stop every hour or so to stand up and then to void! I was thinking a 12 Volt pump or one of those cheap ones you use a drill motor on? I have a Milwaukee 18V with 3 lithium batts I can bring. Ever use one of those cheap drill pumps? thanks again all
 

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I've never used one of those drill pumps but it may work.

A 5 gallon auxiliary tank may work just as good to get the truck home. Just a single line from it to the fuel pump and if one of the tanks is not full I would put the tank switch on that tank. That way the returning unused fuel will go to that tank as you run down the road.

Just as some information here is a diagram of the fuel system on these trucks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I've never used one of those drill pumps but it may work.

A 5 gallon auxiliary tank may work just as good to get the truck home. Just a single line from it to the fuel pump and if one of the tanks is not full I would put the tank switch on that tank. That way the returning unused fuel will go to that tank as you run down the road.

Just as some information here is a diagram of the fuel system on these trucks.
very nice diagram! thanks a bunch. Or maybe run the return line back to the aux 5 gallon tank???? That makes me wonder....how much of the fuel gets returned to the tank? If it burn 10miles to the gallon how much does it suck out of the tank to go 10 miles? Say it uses 50% of the fuel pumped, then that would be 10 miles to 2 gallons? I guess I would figure that out real quick!
 

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My own personal experience with bad fuel several months ago will allow me to tell you this. I had two brand new tanks and two brand new pickup feet (showerheads) sitting right at the bottom of the tanks. Around 300 miles into this I got bad fuel that caused my truck to freeze up and die on the side of the road. Once off the road and it warmed up a bit. I disconnected the fuel line on my front tank right at the tank hooked up a 12 volt fuel pump and sucked as much fuel out as I could. Long story short I still am pulling water out of the tank 3 months later. Most trucks this age probably have the fuel tank pickup (witch are plastic) floating around the front or rear tanks because they have broken off. For this reason most of us never drop to below a 1/4 of a tank unless we know our feet are in place. This means you will never pull the bottom of the tanks fuel where the water is. Going though the filler neck to pull all the fuel has never worked for me either. If this truck truly has this much water in the fuel it is going to be a very long battle. Not one I would want to do in a remote parking lot with a timeline. I would highly suggest a auxiliary tank of some sort to get it home End result for me not noticing the WIF (water in fuel light) was a bad switch that caused the light not to come on. This too is very important to you! When you turn the key to on and the WTS (wait to start) light comes on and goes off, as soon as you crank the key make for sure that the WIF light flashes it is below the WTS light. If it des not flash you have a bad switch and I would not drive it far without getting it fixed. Water and injectors do not get along very well. My advice would be to tow it home or have it towed home, but I understand this may not be an option for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
My own personal experience with bad fuel several months ago will allow me to tell you this. I had two brand new tanks and two brand new pickup feet (showerheads) sitting right at the bottom of the tanks. Around 300 miles into this I got bad fuel that caused my truck to freeze up and die on the side of the road. Once off the road and it warmed up a bit. I disconnected the fuel line on my front tank right at the tank hooked up a 12 volt fuel pump and sucked as much fuel out as I could. Long story short I still am pulling water out of the tank 3 months later. Most trucks this age probably have the fuel tank pickup (witch are plastic) floating around the front or rear tanks because they have broken off. For this reason most of us never drop to below a 1/4 of a tank unless we know our feet are in place. This means you will never pull the bottom of the tanks fuel where the water is. Going though the filler neck to pull all the fuel has never worked for me either. If this truck truly has this much water in the fuel it is going to be a very long battle. Not one I would want to do in a remote parking lot with a timeline. I would highly suggest a auxiliary tank of some sort to get it home End result for me not noticing the WIF (water in fuel light) was a bad switch that caused the light not to come on. This too is very important to you! When you turn the key to on and the WTS (wait to start) light comes on and goes off, as soon as you crank the key make for sure that the WIF light flashes it is below the WTS light. If it des not flash you have a bad switch and I would not drive it far without getting it fixed. Water and injectors do not get along very well. My advice would be to tow it home or have it towed home, but I understand this may not be an option for you.
wow wonderful advice from someone who has been there and done that! thanks so much. If you pulled fuel by using the pickup tube in the tank by hooking up to the tanks fuel line with a known good pickup showerhead you get water that is to the level of the pickup and not from the bottom, right. so there would still be water below that in the bottom of the tank. I would guess the only way to remove it is to drop the tank and flip it over and drain it, right? what wsas your experience with trying to draw from the filler pipe? Couldnt feed the suction hose deep enough into the tank? I am really getting discouraged. bought the ambulance to make it into a camper to retire and travel, 7.3 because of great reviews, decent MPG and power. Now my insurance co. won't even insure it liability only, too!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I am not even for sure it has water in the tank at all? Guy could be spoofing me? I talked to a diesel mechanic and he said its probably algae in tank and lines from sitting? I bought the 1997 f350 7.3ps for $1800 plus auction fees =$2000. About all the money I have. I don't know what a tow it 500 miles to my house would cost? How much it will cost to fix? If I can even get it insured? Guess the dreamer in me got the best of me once again. If i had it home I could certainly drain and drop tank myself. I have big decisions to make these next 2 days. Plan was to drive up there leaving Monday morning and be at the storage lot at 0900 sharp, wrench and diagnose and fix it in a few hours-right! and head on down the road. So much the dreamer!
 

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Buying a non running vehicle can be a crap shoot.

I made that mistake when I had just gotten out of college. I was second low bidder on a truck that didn't run and when I went to pick it up I found out that there was no title either. I quickly found that I would spend more than it was worth getting it running, not to mention trying to get a lost title into my name.

I ended up parting it out and made my money back plus some, but I learned my lesson.

As for algae in the tank that's a possibility. You need to run some fuel through the filter and then check it and see if it looks dark and slimy, but algae alone won't keep the engine from running. But if there is water in the tanks then it is a possibility that is one of the problems.
 

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The showerheads sit right off the bottom of the tanks, when new. So the fuel being sucked p is from the bottom, but even when new showerheads are on there you still have some fuel or water below where they can pickup, not much but enough that you will never get it all. With the ambulance body it may be hard to even get to the disconnects, I had just installed my flatbed on mine and was able to get to the front tank easily from the side , the rear tank I did from underneath the truck on the lift. My problem with trying to stick a tube down the filler is you never can see if you are deep enough or to deep and the hose is curling back up and out of the fuel you are trying to pull out. Even when I did it that way with my bed off and filler neck removed I still did not get all the fuel out. Basically without dropping the tank and getting rid of the last gallon or so of fuel you will never get it all out. I believe you will end up with what I have and just plan on getting as much as you can out and plan to be draining the fuel bowl every 100 or less miles into a clear bottle till you get a baseline of what is happening. And this would continue until you get no more water, then start over again on the other tank! Of course this is all assuming that water is the issue. As I said earlier watch for the flash of the WIF light, they may have been driving it for awhile not knowing it was bad.
Sounds like you got a good price on the truck, and being a ambulance I would hope that they kept up with the maintanance on it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Well, thanks again Mr Bugman and VAstroker. I had to take some time away from my brainstorming a fix for this truck I havn't even laid eyes on. Fell asleep in the recliner for like 3 hours. Stress will really mess you up! I am better now. Realize that I still want the ambulance and will somehow persevere. It will be a fun road trip north with my 30yo son. We will check out an historical site or two on Monday if their not closed. And get a cheap hotel near the truck. He wants some S carolina BBQ. He says their supposed to do it different there? He's a foodie. Go see what we can do with the ambulance, worse come to worse I can get it towed to a mechanic shop somewhere in the area for a diagnosis at least. I could even leave it with them and return in a week or two? So, the pressure is off so to speak. Of course I would rather it go as an easy fix and drive it home triumphant in my decision to buy site unseen auction stuff and save some greenbacks. At my age I don't want to finance anything and make payments so I am destined to buy cheap, needs work stuff. I will certainly update the results of the trip and outcome of the truck repair. I have 2 6gallon boat tanks with quick connect fittings empty and clean ready to go. I bought a $3.99 hand pump and a $7.99 shimmy gravity siphon hose gizmo at harbor freight. they were out of the drill motor pumps. I saw a decent looking fuel water filter at tractor supply but didnt purchase. It was like $69 for housing and $33 for the filter. I wonder if I could plumb it befor the fuel pump and help out the fuel bowl with removing the water? I am surprised they do'nt make it standard on these diesels as there seams to be a number who have had problems. Does anyone know where to get a new or a couple of new fuel filters on a holiday weekend between Tampa and Charlestown? thanks again.
i plan to1: hook up my charged batteries via jumpers to the truck mounted batts
2: attach a 3/8 hose to the fuel drain hose and catch it in a 1 gal pickle jar to check for water, contaminants
3:pull the filter and wipe up the inside of the bowl, install new filter, fill with clean new diesel
4: give the key a turn and see what happens.
5: if starts and runs I will likely loose it! but all is not over-just the beginning
6: if no start then check for oil on the ICP sensor, and leave unplugged to see if it starts, then get new ICP and install
after that I am about done with roadside diagnostics. I do have a $60 scan too that worked for my 2011 Crown vic police interceptor I bought a few months ago but It did'nt read a dam thing on my girlfriend 2016 Mazda 6 that just died yesterday, so? SO, her 2016 Mazda6 got towed to our driveway last night at 9:45PM, see asked her grandaughter if she can borro her car-flat tire-changed that for a used one-she is 17 and the tire looked to have been stabbed with a knife! -stuff is just going to hell all over!
any more insights. I do have a DVM and 12V test light I will bring too
 
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