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Fuel systems for Giants — Update your gas tank

Fuel systems for Giants — Update your gas tank

During a recent rebuild project of a Ziroli 77-inch Stearman PT-17 biplane, I replaced the the fuel tank and plumbing with newer hardware. Here’s how to install a new gasoline fuel system in your plane.

(Above.) For the Zenoah G-38 engine powering the Stearman, I chose to install a 20 oz. fuel tank. I also used Sullivan’s heavy Duty gasoline tank hardware kit.

(Above.) I used a 2-line tank installation and used a DuBro fueler fitting shown above.

(Above.) Notice I am showing Tygon fuel line as well as clear plastic tubing from the hardware store. Both are acceptable. I use at least 1/8 inch ID (inside diameter) tubing.


(Above.) Here’s the Sullivan fuel tank hardware and the tools I use to cut and bend the brass tubes. K&S and Du-Bro make these tools and they greatly simplify the job.


(Above.) To determine the length of the upward bend of the vent tube, just estimate it by placing the tube as shown, fro the lower edge of the stopper opening and the top of the tank. Some tanks have a raised dimple on the top of the tank for the vent tube to fit up into. Just make sure you do not install the vent tube so it contacts the inside surface of the tank, Vibration will cause the tube to damage the tank wall. (Above right.) Here the tube has been bent to 75 degrees using the bending tool.


(Above.) Assemble the stopper and tube assembly and estimate the length of the outlet and vent tube lengths. They should be just shy of the end of the tank’s extended lower section, so the tubes do not push against the firewall when installed in the fuselage.


(Above.) Cut the tube to length with the K&S tubing cutter then use a sharp X-Acto knife to clean out the end of the tubing cut. The rotary cutter compresses the tube and this mustt be opened out so fuel floe is not restricted.


(Above.) Cut the output tube to length and use fine sandpaper to smooth the ends of the tubes so they do not chafe the flexible fuel lines. (Above right.) Here’s the complete stopper and clunk assembly. Cut the length of the pick up tubing so the clunk just clears the back of the tank and is free to flop around as the model moves during flight.

(Above.) Here’s the completed tank with fuel lines attached and secured with cable ties. Make sure to leave the fuel lines extra long so you can feed them into the model and out of the firewall and vent holes.


(Above.) Feed a flexible pushrod into the firewall hole and snake it into the fuselage. Place the tank in the wing saddle and attach the fuel out tube to the end of the pushrod and pull the tubing back out of the hole as shown (Above right.)

(Above.) Here you can see the fuel tank installed on a support plate (right side of the wing saddle.) I use stick on double sided foam tape and heavy duty Velcro to hold the tank in place while making it easily removable if needed. Also remember, when looking into the bottom of the wing saddle, your tank should be upside down.. When the fuselage is upright on its gear, the tank will be rightside up.


When you install the fuel fitting to full and empty the fuel tank, make sure to install the fuel lines so the fuel flows into the tank when the fueling probe is attached to the fitting. A fuel filter should be installed between the fuel  fitting and the carburetor.


Often you hear about the fuel’s oil-to-gasoline ratio. But what is it, exactly? Simply put, it is the amount of 2-stroke engine lubrication oil (measured in ounces) added to a gallon of gasoline. Here are some common ratios used with RC gasoline engines.

Here’s a quick reference chart for mixing up your fuel’s gas and oil ratios.

RATIO                   OZ./GALLON OF GAS

100:1                     1.28

90:1                        1.42

75:1                        1.7

64:1                        2

50:1                        2.5

40:1                        3.2

32:1                        4

24:1                        5.3

16:1                        8


With a couple of flips of the prop to prime the engine, It took only a few flips of the prop to start the engine. Check the fuel flow and watch for bubbles in the fuel lines. Any bubbles indicate you may have a pinhole somewhere or a loose fitting bleeding air.

Let the engine warm up for a few minutes and then adjust the throttle trim for a solid reliable idle. Adjust the low end needle-valve so you have a smooth transition to full power. That’s it! The first step to having a successful flight is installing your fuel system properly! Hope you found this helpful! What are you waiting for? Go fly something!

Updated: September 4, 2018 — 2:15 PM
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  1. Given all the vibration and jostling that goes on with giant gassers, I always solder barbs on the metal tubing, including the klunk’s tubing connection inside the tank. I have seen, more than once, older fuel line come right off when refueling. Especially when someone forgets to take off the Vent Plug. What a mess!

    I also use a couple wraps of wire instead of cable ties. I once had a very experienced old builder once tell me; “If I want the connection to to last, you tie it with wire.” Before using barbs, I have had older cable tied fuel lines slide right off. Guess there is a reason to replace those lines every couple years. Eh?

  2. Another suggestion is to rinse or blow compressed air into the fuel tank before putting it together. I have found chunks of plastic from manufacturing that can clog filters or worse needle valves.

  3. You can also use the “soft” Viton (shore hardness 60) inside your gasoline fuel tank to avoid having to rebuild it every year. Note that Tygon will stiffen with use, rendering it useless after less than one year. Viton will retain its flexibility for many years.

  4. Once again, a MAN artical recommends using cable ties on fuel tubes, despite many years of experience showing this is a BAD idea. Cable ties actually pinch the tubing at the point where the tie enters the ratchet lock, as the two surfaces meet at 90 degrees. Tie wire is a much better idea, and why most turbine modellers do so. Another alternative is to cut an 1/8″ or 1/4″ of fuel tube and slip this over the outside of the fuel tube, providing even compression all the way around.

    Please do not continue to recommend cable ties to your readers as it may cause the loss of a model.

    1. Jeremy, seems you don’t like cable ties. But, having used them for 20 plus years without a single “loss of an model”, I do not agree with you. The trick is to perform regular checks and maintence. Perhaps you need to increase your fuel system checks. We all have our own best practices, and this has been working for decades. Happy holidays.

  5. I have seen cable ties bunch up the fuel tubing in one spot, causing a leak. You REALLY don’t want an air leak in your fuel system, as then your fuel pump either won’t pump enough, or won’t pump at all. Very frustrating to trouble shoot. I always use fuel barbs and safety wire on all my fuel line connections. Another hint, you can use brass 1/8″ compression ferrules instead of fuel barbs. You can get them at the hardware store, and they are a lot cheaper than fuel barbs.

  6. Humm the artical good
    The radio install a bit rough!
    Thanks for the info

  7. When cutting brass tubing, if you’ll just cut it almost all the way through then remove the cutter and snap the tubing apart you’ll get a much cleaner break without the need to open up the tubing where the cutter pushed it in.

  8. You mention a fuel filter between tank and engine, Gerry. Any reason you don’t use the filtered clunks? I really like the QuikFire canister filter from JL Products for my in-line filter.

  9. A way to save money when using Tygon tubing when putting tank in plane , start with a 10′ length of Tygon , from the engine side run both ends thru the firewall and attach to tank , pull tank to where ever you plan to mount it and trim tubing to fit installation and use remaining tygon for your next planes . No waste !

  10. For fuel line I use Bing alcohol resistant fuel line as used on full sized 2 stroke powered aircraft. It is oil and alcohol resistant and remains soft and flexible for years. It will not rot on the inside like some of the others can. At $1.30 a foot for 1/8 in and $2.45 a foot for 1/4 inch it is cost effective and makes sense to use it. It is available from most aircraft supply house’s.

  11. I agree with Jeremy. The 90 deg. meeting point is a problem area. I always used barbs and wires till one day thought I would try zip ties on a glow tank. From the first engine start I had air in the line, not good. Took it apart and changed everything, same issue. Took it out of the plane, hooked the lines together, dipped in a bucket of water and squeezed the tank and air bubbles came out between the brass and the silicone line, right at the joint of the zip tie. It is back to barbs and two wraps of wire with a twist. I know Tygon is stiffer than silicone but there is no reason to tempt fate.

  12. Flaring the end of the tubing and using a wire wheel and fine grit sand paper to debur it and then using your choice of wire tie to hold it in place has always worked for me but don’t over flare it and don’t try to over tighten the wire tie. The wire tie is just to keep it from slipping off not embed it into the tube.

    1. Always flare the brass tubing on a gasser, especially if you insist on using antiquated tygon fuel tube – so many superior products are available now with more flexibility and longevity. My flare method is pretty simple – use a nail with a diameter slightly larger than the inside diameter of the pipe, tap it lightly into the pipe. Rinse out with fuel. Behold – a flare with no sharp edges to clean up.

  13. how do i install the fuel tank in a pusher type plane. i think it might be different than a plane with the engine in front ??

    1. Jim, install the tank as normal with the feed tubes facing forwards, clunk nearest the pusher engine. Take the fuel tube from the front and pass it back around the tank to the pusher firewall. This ensures the clunk operates properly with the forward motion of the plane.

      1. Jim, should have also mentioned that the standard nose up full throttle test for a lean carb setting is reversed – nose down for a pusher. Applies more to a nitro unpumped carb.

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