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Fuel Cells and Fuel Tanks, which do I need?!

Posted by Brad Adair on
Fuel Cells and Fuel Tanks, which do I need?!

Fuel Tanks & Fuel Cells

 

A Fuel Cell is specially designed and built for racing use. Fuel cells are more impact resistant than a fuel tank. They can be made of steel, aluminum, or high strength plastic. They are also “universal” fit, meaning you’ll need to fabricate a mounting location.

 

Fuel cells offer other features that make it safer in the event of a crash:

 

  • Higher burst strength than a fuel tank.
  • Non-vented Cap and tip-over valve to prevent spilling in a rollover.
  • Many fuel cells also have a bladder and/or fuel cell foam as additional safety precautions.

 

 

Summit Racing:

https://help.summitracing.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/5240/~/what%E2%80%99s-thedifference-between-a-fuel-tank-and-a-fuel-cell%3F

 

Benefits Of Fuel Cells

 

Why should I consider using a fuel cell?

  • If you’re intending to use your vehicle in sanctioned competition, it may be required. Check your rule book.
  • If you are working with an older vehicle that may need it's fuel tank replaced, a fuel cell may be a great modern alternative.
  • Some vehicles have fuel tanks inside the drivers compartment. Using a fuel cell to relocate the fuel outside is required by some sanctioning bodies and is always a safer alternative.
  • With aftermarket parts and adapters, you can run any fuel pump style with a fuel cell. Previously, fuel cells required external pumps.

 

Benefits Of Fuel Tanks

 

The major pros of using an OEM fuel tank are mostly convenience and cost related.

  • It's already there and if it works fine, is clean, and rated for your fuel type, it's good to go!
  • Minimal modifications to run modern high flow fuel pumps.
  • With bulkhead fittings even running braided AN line is easy.
  • Most of the time, it's in a great location.

 

The main cons of using an OEM fuel tank are:

  • Older fuel tanks can clog pumps and injectors with contaminants.
  • They are not always rated for use with modern fuels.
  • They are not always easy to modify for use with larger sending units or pumps.

Reusing OEM vs. Building New

 

There are many reasons to scrap your old fuel system in favor of a complete aftermarket one. The number one reason is if a fuel system was built before ethanol fuel additives. Tanks not rated for use with ethanol will not last as long. As they corrode, they can potentially be a source of contaminants that may end up becoming fatal to various fuel system components or even the engine itself!

 

When considering keeping your old fuel system ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will the tank last as long as I want it to? If you have to remove it to clean it, or heavily modify it to work with your new fuel system, it might be better to just replace it now.
  • Is it rated for ethanol? If you're using a fuel tank from before the early 90's, there is a good chance it was not made for use with 10% ethanol and definitely not for higher ethanol content fuels such as e85.
  • The same should be considered when thinking about using your OEM fuel lines. Not all soft or hard fuel lines were built with the intention of being used with ethanol. This can cause them to deteriorate quickly.
  • Many fuel filters are made from organic materials and will react with other organic contents inside ethanol to create a "bio-sludge." This causes clogs and contaminates fuel system components.

Hybrid OEM and Aftermarket

The following schematic is a "principles based schematic.” This means it follows the basic principles of fuel system design. Aside from any application specific fittings, it will work on any application. Use this schematic as an overview. Researching your own application will tell you if you need additional fittings.

 

If this schematic doesn’t seem specific enough for your application, don’t worry. We will be going further in depth on fuel system types, and we will get more specific to certain applications.

Hybrid OEM and Aftermarket (Single In-Tank Pump)

 

Hybrid OEM and Aftermarket (Dual In-Tank Pump)

Placing the fuel pumps inside the tanks provides excellent cooling and noise reduction for the fuel pumps. High horsepower fuel pumps can be extremely noisy.

Inline 10 micron filter

 

In-Tank pump

 

Return fuel line

 

Fuel rails

 

3/8" or OEM fuel lines

 

3/8" barb fitting to mate lines to filter fuel filter

 

Modified OEM sending unit with -10 bulkhead fitting and Y coupler or joining block that joins pumps.

 

Universal Fuel Line Schematic (Single Inline Fuel Pump)

The following schematic is a "principles based schematic.” This means it follows the basic principles of fuel system design. Aside from any application specific fittings, it will work on any application. Use this schematic as an overview. Researching your own application will tell you if you need additional fittings.

 

If this schematic doesn’t seem specific enough for your application, don’t worry. With just a few minutes of planning, you can use it to get very close to your own build!

 

AN hose end fitting. Choose appropriate angle.,  eg.: 90 deg. or straight

 

AN Hose

 

AN hose end fitting that mates hose to Fuel Rail

 

AN hose end fitting bulkhead fittings that mates hose to filter inlet

 

100 micron pre-pump filter

 

AN fitting that mates pre- pump filter filter to pump (if needed and may be two different threads depending on the pump model)

 

10 micron post- pump filter (can also be placed just before the fuel rails)

 

AN hose end fitting regulator to return hose

 

Universal Fuel Line Schematic Dual Pump

When using two inline fuel pumps, the system remains largely the same as a single. The only change is the addition of an additional pump feed line and a Y coupler that couples the two pumps flow into one.

 

Many Fuel cells have provisions for secondary lines in the same location as the primary feed line fitting.

 

Many applications will benefit from an item known as a "check valve." A Check Valve will prevent backflow in the fuel system. If you are running dual inline fuel pumps with one acting as a secondary then you will need a check valve to stop fuel flow from going backward through the inactive pump.

 

Another way a check valve is used is by placing one near the fuel rail to maintain system pressure while the pump is off. This will help during hot starts.

 

AN or Barb style Bulkhead fitting only needed if switching from returnless to a return style system

 

AN fitting to mate soft lines to filter AN FPR

 

Fuel Pressure regulator. Switching to a boost referenced return style is less hassle in many applications.

 

The benefits of reusing or slightly modifying an existing fuel system are obvious. The cost is significantly lower and in most cases the OEM fuel system can handle a high amount of horsepower. Chevy 4.8-6.0 fuel systems have been used on 1000+hp applications repeatedly, with just a few additions and slight modifications.

 


 

Questions?

We’ve got answers!!

Send us an E-mail:Support@SnakeEaterPerformance.com

Give as a call: (808) 262-5928

 

Parts Dealer Links

 

Bulkhead fittings

https://shitboxsupply.com/search?q=bulkhead

 

OEM Sending Units

https://www.rockauto.com/en/tools/fuel+&+air

 

AN Fittings

https://shitboxsupply.com/search?q=AN

 

Hose End Fittings

https://shitboxsupply.com/search?q=hose+end

 

Filters and Filter Fittings

https://www.snakeeaterperformance.com/collections/fuelpump-fittings-and-filters

 

In-Tank Fuel Pumps

https://www.snakeeaterperformance.com/collections/fuel-pumps

 

Braided AN Hose

https://shitboxsupply.com/search?q=line

 

Y Coupler Fittings

https://shitboxsupply.com/products/yblock-10an-x-10an-x-10an?_pos=5&_sid=59b4ef32e&_ss=r

 

Fuel Pressure Reg.

https://www.snakeeaterperformance.com/collections/fuel-pressure-regulators

 

Fuel Injectors

https://www.snakeeaterperformance.com/collections/all

 


 

 

Need Help?

We're here to answer all your questions!

E-mail us at: Support@SnakeEaterPerformance.com

Give us a call at (808) 262-5928

Want more help designing your ENTIRE fuel system? Download our free e-Book that was written to help you do just that. This free 50+ page e-Book contains everything you need to know when designing your fuel system, including where to buy the best parts!

This is a 50+ page e-book that was written to help beginner and intermediate DIY mechanics tackle one of the most complex and overwhelming subjects when building a race car or doing an EFI engine swap!

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