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What Should You Do When Fueling an Outboard Boat With a Portable Tank

Written by J. Harvey / Fact checked by S. Numbers

what should you do when fueling an outboard boat with a portable tank

Handling flammable things is one of the common challenges boaters face because unless it’s an engineless sailboat, how else will their vessels run? Inevitably, the question, “What should you do when fueling an outboard boat with a portable tank?” pops up.

At best, your principal worry is the risk of fire and explosion. This requires doing specific steps such as:

  • Making sure the tank is clean
  • Using fuel funnels and filters
  • Working in an area with minimal or zero risk of accidental fuel ignition
  • Ensuring your passengers’ safety

Safety Tips Before Fueling

Let’s begin with what safety precautions you should take before you start filling the portable tank.

Even before fueling your boat, don’t even think about doing the refill in the boat itself!

Where should you do it?


Always do the filling ashore and in a well-ventilated place. Place the tank in an area where you won’t have to worry about burning something (you never know when a spill will happen, after all). Any open space made of concrete will do.

These pointers should give a complete answer to those wondering, “Where should portable gasoline fuel tanks be filled?”

Where should non-essential passengers stand during the fueling process?


They should be anywhere where they’ll be kept from harm’s way should, knock on wood, an accident happen. If you’re doing the refill in the boat (which is never recommended in this case), then they should be ashore or wait in the dock.

How will you reduce the risk of the fuel igniting?


Fire and gasoline are a match made in hell. Naturally, you’d want to avoid smoking, lighting a fire, or striking a match while doing any kind of refueling.

The same goes for using devices, especially those that may produce sparks, which could ignite the fuel. Check the quality of the fuel as well.

Last but not least, make sure the portable tank is clean, especially the interior. Gasoline and dirt don’t mix as well unless you purposely want a setup with a high fire risk. And make sure there are no leaks in the tank and fuel lines while you’re at it.

Tips for Fueling with a Portable Tank


Now that you know how to prepare the tank for fueling, let’s tackle which actions are the best to take when fueling an outboard with a portable tank.

  • What should you do to prevent static sparks while fueling your boat? Keeping the fuel pump’s nozzle in direct contact with the tank’s filler cap will already do wonders to take care of them.
  • Use a fuel funnel and filter to ensure smooth refueling. By doing this, you immediately take care of two important things: preventing fuel spillage and keeping the fuel and the tank clean.

Just put the filter inside the funnel then position the pump’s nuzzle correctly, as I’ve instructed.

Don’t fill the tank all the way! This will always be an important step in the fueling process of a boat to reduce fire hazards.

Once you’re done refueling, connect the tank to the engine properly. Secure it with straps so it won’t teeter and shake while you’re driving.

The entire process can be viewed in this video:

How Do You Quickly Address Potential Spills?

Spills can happen, one way or another, so you have to be prepared to do actionable steps once they do.

  • One great tip is to be on the lookout for them each time you’re doing a refill. Lay hold of them with an absorbent cloth even before they hit the ground so they won’t have any opportunity to spread.
  • Another solid tip is to contain the spill beforehand by placing an absorbent piece of cloth or rag under the tank so it won’t have any chance of spreading. Of course, that’s assuming you only spilled a couple of drops on the exact area where you placed the rag.
  • Wear gloves before you pick up the oil-dampened cloth and put it in a plastic bag or trash bag for proper disposal.

Tips for Other Fueling Methods

Many of the tips I shared above also apply to these two alternative methods, but they do require specific guidelines.

Fueling at the gas dock

  • Secure your boat to the dock and turn off its engine
  • Remove any possible igniters
  • Keep all the openings in your boat closed
  • Conduct the sniff test before starting the engine
  • Have your passengers disembark and maintain a safe distance while refueling

Fueling at the gas station

  • Refrain from filling up the tank to the brim. Follow the 90% full rule.
  • Beware of the new types of gasoline available in the gas statio They may damage your boat’s fuel lines, O-rings, and hoses.
  • Put off refueling if it’s windy or there’s overall inclement weather as it’s often during such conditions that accidents tend to occur.
  • Anticipate the possibility that some gas station fuel pumps are difficult to control. You may need to go elsewhere if that’s the case.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the correct procedure when refueling a portable gas tank?

Here’s how to fill a boat gas tank properly:

  1. Carefully remove the boat’s tank and take it ashore.
  2. Take it to a location where you’ll be able to keep the risk of fire low if not non-existent. Anything or anywhere associated with the word “flammable” should be crossed out.
  3. Ensure that the tank is dirt-free. Afterward, ask your passengers to stay at a safe distance as you refuel.
  4. Do the refill by using both a funnel and a filter to maintain safety. Remember the nozzle tip shared above!
  5. Once full, tightly seal the caps.
  6. If the tank is too heavy, don’t hesitate to ask for help to carry it.
  7. Check the engine for leaks before re-attaching the tank and turning it on.

Where should portable tanks be filled on a boat?

You can only do it off-boat, there’s no way around this safety recommendation. All refills must be done on a dock or any paved surface.


I may appear to have supplied many answers to “What should you do when fueling an outboard boat with a portable tank?” But the gist of it is already found in the intro. Ultimately, they’re all about ensuring everyone’s safety, you and your passengers – and yes, even your precious boat.

Never underestimate the boat fueling process and the safe refueling practices. What may seem like an everyday thing can turn into any boater’s nightmare with a single misstep.

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