Optimize Your Boat’s Fuel Economy and Range
Advice from the fuel experts at Chevron
from The Fishing Wire
If you’re an avid power boater or fisherman, what truly fuels your passion for time on the water is, well, fuel.
While they are unquestionably the most fun way of getting from Point A to Point B, boats are inherently un-economical conveyances when it comes to fuel consumption. Not only do boats consume a lot of fuel (measured in Gallons Per Hour rather than Miles Per Gallon), they operate in a dynamic environment where wind, waves and currents can cut “normal” fuel economy in half on any given day.
On land, the maximum fuel range of your car is rarely of critical concern — cars are generally fuel efficient and there are gas stations everywhere. Boats are different. Once you leave the harbor or launch ramp, you are generally limited to the fuel your boat carries onboard. On the water, fuel range is the limiting factor that dictates everything — from how far you can run to find fish to how long you can stay out looking for and/or catching them.
There are some simple steps all power boaters can take to squeeze every drop of fun out of their boat’s fuel tank, whether it’s an aluminum walleye rig, high-performance bass boat or multi-engine offshore fishing machine that holds 400 gallons.
1. Always start full. Well, duh…but you’d be surprised how many fishermen try to save a little time or money by not fueling up before each trip. You never know what a fishing day will bring, and you don’t want to have to stop short if the fish are farther away or the weather comes up. Also remember the rule of thirds when it comes to estimating your boat’s range – a third of a tank for the day’s fishing, a third of your fuel to get back, and a third to keep in reserve. Smart boaters who’ve learned from past mistakes know that “empty” can sneak up pretty fast when conditions change, so they keep a good amount in reserve just in case.
2. Lose some weight. Carrying unnecessary weight or having an unbalanced weight load can change the way a boat rides and drastically reduce fuel economy and range. Go through your boat and consider removing things you don’t really need, like extra fishing gear you never use, boxes of lead sinkers, extra anchors and chain, old expired fire extinguishers, and the like. Water weighs about 8 pounds per gallon, so it’s easy to see how filling live bait tanks and livewells when they’re not needed can really weigh you down and cut fuel economy.
3. Know your boat’s “sweet spot.” Every boat/motor combination has its own “sweet spot” where it’s operating most efficiently. In magazine boat tests, this is often referred to as Most Economical Cruising Speed. Depending on vessel style and hull type, it may be quite a bit faster than you imagine. Most modern boats/outboard engines come equipped with fuel computer systems, which allow you to track fuel consumption at various engine RPMs and boat speeds. You can compute your Most Economical Cruising Speed by looking at the Gallons Per Hour being burned and cross referencing it with the boat’s GPS speed. For example, if you’re burning 10 gallons per hour and traveling at 20 miles per hour, you’re netting 2 miles per gallon. You might find, however, that your boat burns 13 gallons per hour at 32 miles per hour, which works out to almost 2.5 miles per gallon. At this cruising speed, you’ll get where you’re going faster while ultimately burning less fuel. It’s important to figure this out with your boat loaded the way you normally use it, which might be loaded with a full tank, gear and fishing buddies.
4. Propellers matter. Your boat’s propeller(s) is responsible for efficiently translating the RPMs of the boat’s engine into forward movement of the vessel. There are a wide variety of propeller types and sizes, and finding the right one for your boat may require some trial and testing. One of the key propeller measurements is pitch, which refers to how much forward movement it provides. For example, a propeller with a pitch size of 21 will move forward 21 inches for each turn, while a “less aggressive” 18-pitch propeller will move three inches less. When you consider that high performance outboard engines can run at 5,000+ RPMs for sustained periods, this can make a huge difference. A propeller with too much pitch will make it hard for a boat to get “out of the hole” and accelerate from a standstill. A propeller with too little pitch might over-rev the engine and reduce top-end performance. Either one can negatively impact fuel range and economy. A well-matched propeller will allow the engine to fall within the manufacturer’s recommended maximum RPM range (say 5,000-5,500 RPM) when the boat is well trimmed and running at Wide Open Throttle (WOT).
5. Keep the engine and fuel system clean. Techron Marine Fuel Treatment provides boaters with the cleaning power they’ve long counted on in their automobiles and tow vehicles. The fuel experts at Chevron developed this specialized formula to clean gasoline engines used in the harshest marine environments. When used with every fill up, Techron Marine restores power and maximizes fuel efficiency by cleaning fuel injectors, throttle bodies, carburetors, intake valves and combustion chambers, preventing corrosion and removing gum, varnish and carbon deposits. It also keeps the entire fuel system clean, preventing gunk, corrosion and deposits in the tanks, fuel lines, filters and fuel pumps from interrupting fuel flow and compromising performance. A fuel system kept clean with Techron Marine will also deliver quick and easy starting in any weather, smoother idling and faster response when it’s time to hit the throttle. With a range of economical bottle sizes and a treat rate of just one ounce per 10 gallons of fuel, Techron Marine is a cost-effective way to stretch the fuel range of any gasoline-powered boat.
Doing these things will help maximize your range and time on the water between visits to the fuel pump. It’s also important to remember to treat your fuel when you won’t be using your boat for an extended time. In addition to cleaning your engine and fuel system and keeping everything running like a top, Techron Marine Fuel Treatment provides best-in-class corrosion protection and stabilizes fuel up to 24 months.
To learn more about optimizing your boat’s fuel efficiency and range, while protecting your boat’s fuel system and engine in the harshest marine environments, visit www.TechronClean.com.