Fuel Hose Rupture Escapade

While driving my 1987 BMW 325, I noticed a smell of gasoline.  I figured it was a leak, but I had no tools with me, so I planned to keep going and fix it when I got to my destination.

When I could see the fuel gauge descend, I became very worried.  The car had been parked for two years, and rubber tends to not age gracefully.  I pulled into a gas station, peeked underneath and saw fuel dripping onto the concrete — not good.  I opened the hood and saw fuel spraying from the high-pressure hose that connects the “T” to the fuel rail.

I limped the car to a nearby O’Reilly auto parts store, where a friendly salesperson lent me a screwdriver which I used to remove the bad fuel line, and for good measure also the similar one that led from the “T” to the cold start injector.  I showed them both to the salesperson, who sold me two replacement hoses, cut to the right length. The relevant size is 7.9 mm, which I assume refers to the inside diameter.

I also bought a thin-bladed screwdriver able to undo the small screws in small hose clamps, and a set of four replacement small hose clamps — all for less than $20.  I replaced the fuel hoses, noticing that the ones I’d just bought were marked for use in fuel-injected cars, and the ones I’d just replaced were marked as NOT for use in fuel-injected cars.  I don’t know who had installed them, but I don’t have many kind thoughts about their professionalism.

With the leak fixed, I was on my way again, but it occurred to me that a nice addition to my emergency roadside kit would be the sort of sharp knife that can slice through this sort of fuel hose.

It also seems like a good idea to have the correct lengths of hose as needed for the various parts that can rupture at some point.   I count four in the engine compartment:

  • From the metal inbound fuel line near the bottom of the driver’s side firewall area to the “T” atop the valve cover
  • From the “T” atop the valve cover to the cold start injector
  • From the “T” atop the valve cover to the fuel rail
  • From the fuel pressure regulator to the metal outbound fuel line near the bottom of the driver’s side firewall area

Probably, the fuel pump and fuel filter area have some more hoses.

I’d make a point of keeping the thin-bladed flat-blade screwdriver in the car, to undo the small hose clamps that go around the fuel hoses.

It seems like a good idea to have a couple of spare small hose clamps handy, in case one or two are destroyed in the process of being removed.

This was a time when I regretted not having a fuel extinguisher handy; the fuel was spraying very close to the exhaust manifold and I consider myself lucky that the car didn’t catch fire.  I trunk-mounted unit would be a good idea.

My hands were soaked with gasoline by the time the work was done, and a pair of vinyl gloves would have prevented much or all of that.

Had the longer fuel lines ruptured, I’d have been lying on the ground, peering up at the place where the rubber fuel lines attach to the metal fuel lines.  So, a large towel to lie on would have been nice.  Also, safety glasses and a flashlight could have been helpful.  I’ve seen someone experience gasoline being sprayed into their eyes, and it’s not something I plan to experience myself.

Sometimes rubber can be very stubborn to remove, and hot water poured over it can change all that.  Today, while struggling to free the ruptured hose, I seriously considered going to a nearby pub and ordering a hot tea to go, without any sugar, milk or tea in it.  The hot water would have made the rubber much more cooperative.

If I’d had a sharp knife handy, I could have had cut open the old hose at the point where it it’s stuck, thus making it easier to yank off.

Some spare hose clamps and additional fuel hose would be a good addition to my workshop inventory.

As a preventative maintenance item, it seems wise to replace these fuel lines every few years.

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