How to Tell If Water Is in Your Oil Fuel Tank


Oil tanks should be tested for water contamination at least once a year. If water is introduced into your oil tank, bacteria may grow and sludge may form inside the tank, heating piping or filter canister, your oil storage tank may corrode, oil may burn inconsistently and your oil filter or oil burner nozzle may become blocked or clogged. This will lead to heat loss resulting in frozen pipes and water damage. There are products that you can purchase for under 10 dollars to test for water in your tank.

Things You'll Need

  • Long stick, flexible tape or string
  • Purchase water-finding paste (sold by Kolor Kut, Sar-Gel, McCabe and other companies) that change color when it comes in contact with water.

  • Open the access plug or fill pipe on the top of your tank.

  • Coat the bottom few inches of an oil tank probing stick, flexible tape measure or string. A long stick is best, but flexible tape or string may be needed in some cases, such as if you don't have enough overhead room or the oil filler pipe is not straight.

  • Insert the probe into the tank until it hits the bottom of the tank. Some water-finding pastes require sufficient time for the paste to react with water, so check the label or instructions to determine how long the probe should remain in the tank.

  • Withdraw the probe and note the color of the paste. If the paste turned color, your tank is contaminated with water and further action must be taken to purge the water from the tank.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check your heating oil filter or oil filter canister (oil filters are installed at the tank or at the oil burner) for water or rust. Water, rusted metal and rusty sludge in the filter or filter canister indicates water contamination in your oil tank.
  • Your oil company can conduct this test if you don't have the necessary tools or can't access the tank's plug.

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