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Oil Filter: Had spin on, put on fulfo, washer leaks, boiler hard starts

VelvetFoot Member Posts: 48
My tale:

Thought I'd do annual maintenance.

Spin on filter, I think Garber, WOULD NOT COME OFF. Didn't have wrench that fit flutes on filter. Totally mangled filter with filter wrench. Put a screwdriver through the filter. No dice. Had deja vu of car nightmare experiences until discovery of the fluted wrench. Only with the car I wouldn't twist off an oil line, ha!

So I go to the local HD and buy the most expensive, drop in type filter they had - a Westwood F80 fulflo type-the big one. Remember, I'm totally disgusted with the spin on idea at this point.

Fast forward through half the heating season or so. The (low capacity, 65k) boiler starts hard once in a while, doing a restart. Like it's fuel starved. This is when I noticed it, so who knows. I tried a couple things and came to the conclusion that re-gapping the electrodes did the trick. It still seems to sag some starting up, but carries through the low point and then runs fine.

I look at the filter and there's just a wee bit of oil weeping through the washer-not much at all. I'm thinking...could this little seepage cause an air bubble in the line? Or, could some other properties of the filter be an issue?

So, I come onto this site and see the hate directed to the Fulflo-type drop in filters, lol.

My current thinking is to replace the F80 with a spin on model, maybe with a gauge to measure vacuum. If only for best practice reasons. And buy a filter end wrench with fluting to match the cartridge.

Any thoughts, recommendations, etc, etc, etc?

Thanks much.


  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,132
    If oil is leaking out, then air is most likely leaking in (vacuum leak). The only sure way to know is with a vacuum gauge. You could also have a vacuum leak at any fitting, the pump cover, or the plugs in the pump.
    I don't know what "...still seems to sag some starting up, but carries through the low point and then runs fine..." even means.
    Spin on's are fine, with a few caveats:
    1. Are you using bio fuel? If so, what mix, and is the filter's gaskets rated for bio.
    2. Make sure you lubricate both gaskets, spin on filter until it stops, then turn it by hand as recommended on the filter.
    I've never had to use a filter wrench to remove a filter on any spin on I installed.
    Over tightening probably compresses and damages the gaskets.
    As far as a vacuum gauge on the filter that comes with the filter, they're usually are cheap and don't last. I've had more than a few not even work out of the box.
    Hard starting could be a number of issues:
    -improper air mixture
    -improper draft
    -improper pump cut-off and/or bad/weak oil soleniod valve
    -air in oil line
    -no post purge, causing after drip
    -weak ignitor
    and on and on...
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,988
    In other words, it's time to call a pro. Where are you located?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • VelvetFoot
    VelvetFoot Member Posts: 48
    Thanks for replying Steve!

    It's been idle for a couple weeks now since I have another source of heat. I just turned it on 5 minutes ago and it started smoothly, after a period of inactivity, as I said.

    What it WAS doing was chuffing. It would ignite, run for a short time, chuff, lose flame, and shut down. The second time it would start it would more than likely go through that rough patch and run smooth til end of cycle.

    I tuned it up this past fall and checked CO2, soot, draft, installed low flow nozzle and baffle, checked fuel pressure, replaced strainer, swept chimney, brushed boiler, and replaced filter (hah, again). I even replaced the refractory, made necessary because of my imperfect brushing technique, duh.

    To try to fix this starting issue, I threw some parts at it like ignitor (no), nozzle (no-plus visualized same flame type) and electrodes (yes, I think!). I made sure the electrode gap was exactly as spec'd, bending them slightly to bring them into compliance--I don't think I did that last time, and my theory (currently, ha) is that it needs a good spark on startup.

    I've spoken to a Westwood rep who was helpful. He said the washer might have a crack in it, I might have cranked on the bolt too hard and cracked it, or there might be a burr on the metal surface. He sent me a couple of gasket sets, which was very nice, but I haven't installed it yet.

    I might be selling the Fat Boy filter short...they have been in use for many years, after all, and it seems very robust. But reading here made me leery of it. I don't want to throw good money away either, and my filter unit is brand new.

    I do recall that my 2000 VW TDI diesel had a canister-type fuel filter with a paper-type element that you replaced, similarly to the fulflo.