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When the Leopard’s owner arrived the day before yesterday, he came loaded down with goodies. Some of the things that he had tucked away in his luggage were very cool surprises for us while others were items that we had requested that he bring along. In the latter category were two Racor vacuum gauges to install on our fuel filters.

Ever since our friend Eric installed these gauges on his boat Makai I have been wanting to get a set. In theory they measure the amount that the fuel filters are being restricted thus letting you know when you need to replace them. Now that we had the new gauges on hand we simply had to install them. Simply, he says.

Installing the gauges should have been an easy project as they directly replace the T-handle that normally resides on top of the filter housing. In our case though, the Racor filter housings were completely packed with crud! Before I could even consider installing the new gauges I had to deal with that.

Cleaning the housings out required completely disassembling them and then, with a small screwdriver and paper towels, time-consumingly picking out each bit of crud. Only once that was done and we were satisfied that the housings were pristine did we reassemble them and put in new filters. Adding the vacuum gauges was the final step and I’m happy to report that now that they are installed, they are functioning as I think they should. Of course, I’ll only know that for sure if they start to register that the filters are getting clogged, something that will likely happen very quickly if we don’t do something about our fuel situation. Yes, there is no way the filter housing should be that clogged!

Once we return from our week in the BVI I plan to source out a service that will polish the fuel and clean out the tanks. This is something that I did want to have done before leaving Grenada but it didn’t make it onto the to-do list until we were ready to leave. Having clean fuel is super important so I’m going to make this a priority now.


  1. I love these gauges! I first installed one on Two-Step way back in the 90s and have added them on both Distant Shores I & II. Definitely reduces the chance of having a clogged filter to be changed underway. Even when it is just showing 2-3 pound vacuum I change it right away. They are quite cheap so are great insurance…

    I have installed the other version which can be mounted remotely with a “T” fitting into the line so I can glance at it without having to open up the engine room or wherever you have the filter actually mounted.

    Fair Winds


  2. I had the same issue but the crud was so bad and deep I replaced the whole unit and will now be seeking a reputable tank and fuel polisher. I could have bought the whole lower end as a kit but decided to save that for after the tank is cleaned. I’ll set up a double racor so I can switch filters at any time.

  3. Diesel bug!

    After polishing, is it going to be a cupful of petrol in each tank to keep the problem at bay? Or will you go for one of the expensive additives, if so it would be interesting to know which one you go for?


  4. I have two interconnected Racor filters with a value/switch which I can turn to change the outflow from one to the other filter. They both have vacuum gauges on the top. The gauge works a treat but when they move towards the yellow change the filter because it moves very quickly into the red once the yellow is reached.

  5. FYI, I saw this used in the oil fields in Saudi Arabia and it worked. When soaked with clean gasoline, chamois will not allow water to pass through its surface fibers. This property is used to filter fuel that has been stored in drums (always prone to ingress of water) or from any other doubtful source. The technique is to provide a large-mouthed funnel with a wide outlet surface that supports a woven wire base, or metal plate with a grid of holes. The lower part of the funnel is tapered to fit the receptacle or tank-filler aperture.[citation needed]

    A suitably sized chamois skin is soaked in clean fuel and placed over the grid in the funnel and brought up the sides, forming a bowl, to prevent any leakage past the skin. Fuel can then be pumped into the top of the funnel by the fuel dispenser and watched for signs of water accumulation. The process can be stopped to lift out the assembly from the tank and the trapped water removed so that the job can be continued. Like this Chamois leather is used as a fuel filter by boaters,[7] auto detailers—and aircraft refuellers, particularly of a past age where aircraft were flown into very remote areas.

  6. Do you know that most of the sludge your Racors filter out is bacteria??
    One would never think any organism could live in Diesel fuel– But they do and thrive in it…

    Google “Diesel Fuel Bugs”…

  7. Clean fuel is sure key!! Let us all know who and where we can get that done. I am on the hard on Lady J. I am sure that will be an important next step..
    Picking up my wife Phyllis on the 21st. In st thomasPerhaps we might meet up

  8. I was just doing the first engine service on our “new” boat and the guy helping me mentioned these gauges. You’re going to have to let us know how well they work out. Hope Michael brought you some less practical goodies as well. Bet he appreciates escaping the cold back home.

  9. I see a hand priming bulb in your photo. I would not put one of these outboard motor pumps in my system unless they can be shut off with a valve. They are prone to leakage. A small electric pump like Walboro is much faster and more reliable. I also put a valve under a vacuum gauge as they also have been known to leak and put air in the fuel supply. I admit however that I have a trawler and not a sailing catamaran.

  10. I had a Filter Boss modular system installed on TabbyCat after my first year of cruising in the islands.

    In addition to giving me an “idiot” light @ the helm to let me know if the filters were clogging, the system has a low-speed “fuel polishing” capability. Granted, I was never alerted by the light since I was routinely checking the system, but I did use the polishing function regularly.

  11. Five days without my daily ZTC fix. I hope all is well with you guys.

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