*Barrel Pump Repair*
By: AGreyMan
31 May 2011

Like many survivalists, I have taken steps to insure at least a short term fuel supply in the event of a crisis. After securing an appropriate fuel tank, I was faced with the option of either elevating the tank to allow for gravity feeding into vehicles, gas cans, 4 wheelers, etc., or some sort of pump to lift the fuel out.

Elevating the tank would necessitate the construction of some manner of stand, either of metal or substantial pressure treated wood. The tank's capacity is 300 gallons, so the structure would need to support about 1830 pounds, plus the weight of the tank. In addition -since I prefer to keep my fuel supply as private as possible and would be filling the tank myself with 5 gallon cans- I would need some means to clamber up the side of the tank and pour in the gasoline...multiple times.

I then received a Harbor Freight flyer with an advertisement for a fuel-rated rotary barrel pump (model 34679) for the low, low price of $30. It seemed a simple solution to my problems, and I promptly ordered the pump:

Rotary barrel pump

The pump arrived, the tank was filled and I began the process of rotating my fuel, in addition to it's treatment with PRI-D. I would weekly fill my truck with the fuel from my storage tank, then replace the fuel with fresh fuel from cans.

I was initially impressed with the pump: It's promise of one quart every four rotations seemed true. After a several months of use, the pump began to leak around the shaft onto which the crank was attached, where it came through the pump housing. At first this was a small amount, but it became steadily worse with time. Finally - in the immortal words of Popeye- "That's all I can stands, and I can't stands no more!" It was time to attempt repair.

Opening the pump revealed it's simple innards:

Pump innards

It also revealed the source of the leak:

Leaky seal

This rubber seal is supposed to ride on the shaft, sealing it against gasoline leakage. The Chinese specifications did not apparently call for a smooth finish on the shaft, and over time -my conjecture is- that the rough shaft essentially "sanded" the seal down, allowing the fuel to leak through.

After fuitless calls and e-mails to Harbor Freight in search of a replacement seal, I decided to construct my own. I had a motorcycle inner tube that had a hole, that I had been using to make sturdy rubber bands, etc. I cut a rubber washer out and tucked it behind the existing seal.

DIY rubber washer

After several months, the repair seal seems to be doing it's job. There is no leakage from the pump to date.

Final thoughts:

  1. Inner tube rubber is not rated for exposure to gasoline. I do not expect a lifetime of use from my repair. On the other hand, it is very simple and inexpensive to replace.
  2. Next time I need to disassemble the pump for repair, I will ask a friend with a lathe to lightly polish the area where the seal rides. I feel it will prolong the life of the seal.
  3. Two is one, one is none: I have a spare pump in case of the complete demise of the present pump.

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