Fuel system saga

· 6 min read · benin maintenance fuel dust

Last week, after crossing the border into Benin, I couldn't find a fuel station in Djougou. I resorted to Kpayo, a contraband petrol imported across the porous border from Nigeria that is stored in jars and bottles under direct sunlight at the roadside that have a brown tinge. Three litres should be sufficient until the next town.

Three miles from the next town, the engine sputtered and hesitated. Reduced to 10 mph, I limped the motorcycle into Natitingou. Previously, refueling to above quarter of a tank seemed to stop the issue, so I did that at a fuel station. It worked. Perhaps poor quality Kpayo was the culprit?

From the Atakora region, I headed East into the Borgou region. The track cut through the bush and was more remote than recent roads. Possibly not the smartest move, because the sputtering and hesitation started again. Safe to say, I was now well and truly committed into the 100-mile route. No easy way out other than ride!

Péhunco boasts a fuel station on the map; however, the analog fuel pump was not operational. Directed to another, it was digital, but covered in dust and not operational.

Fuel station marked on map but analog fuel pumps not operational. Péhunco, Benin.

Camping overnight, I arrived in Parakou the next day. Arriving on the edge of town with a quarter tank of fuel, the motorcycle started sputtering. The nearest hotel wasn't too far. The sputtering was now very bad and the engine was cutting out every few hundred metres. A moto taxi saw my predicament and approached me. I explained I was looking for a cheap hotel and Salomon guided me to one. Salomon was incredibly patient as my engine was now cutting out every few metres. I walked to the hotel, it looked good and was cheap, so took the room. Salomon helped push the motorcycle up hill 200 metres to the hotel. I was so grateful. I was also absolutely shattered and sweating heavily under the 35℃ mid-afternoon sun!

The following day, I removed the tank for inspection. There was sediment at the bottom and there was a thin layer of dirt lining the inside walls. The sediment was new, as I'd been checking regularly and I suspect it's from the Kpayo. The dirt lining appears to have built up over time. The fuel breather hose attached to the cap was also lined with dirt. Aha! I think fine dust from riding tracks and The Harmattan has entered the tank through the fuel breather hose. Potentially, this can propagate through the entire fuel system and into the engine. Not good. I have a fuel sock sitting in the fuel cap to prevent debris entering the tank when the fuel cap is off; i.e., when refueling. Perhaps the sock allows fine dust to pass through.

Looking inside the fuel tank from the top where the fuel cap sits, a lining of dirt can be seen.

Inside my fuel tank there was a lining of dirt that needed cleaning. Parakou, Benin.

Over the following days, I removed and cleaned the fuel tank, fuel filter, fuel pump, and fuel injector. My hotel room stank of fuel! I learnt a lot. The service manual I purchased in the UK has been invaluable!

Cleaning the tank was a challenge. A toothbrush zip tied to a tyre lever enabled me to poke and scrub inside the fuel tank. An initial attempt with gaffer tap didn't fare well.

Toothbrush gaffer taped to tyre lever for cleaning inside of fuel tank. Parakou, Benin.

Not the most glamorous alternative to a garage, but the bathroom served a new purpose for me!

Not the most glamorous alternative to a garage for cleaning fuel tank, but the room served a new purpose for me! Parakou, Benin.

Some dubious electrics in the hotel room!

Dubious electrics in light in hotel bathroom! Parakou, Benin.

Loving feedback from a family member was not to publish the following photo...

Cleaning my fuel tank with toothbrush zip tied to tyre lever. Parakou, Benin.

Disassembling the fuel pump, I discovered the fuel filter was covered in gunk. The toiler paper shows the gunk well. I sprayed carburettor cleaner through the filter until the black liquid eventually turned pale.

Dirty fuel filter from Honda CRF250L. Parakou, Benin.
Dirty fuel filter from Honda CRF250L. Parakou, Benin.

The fuel injector was more challenging to clean. There's plenty of good guides online demonstrating how to do this. A pressurised can of carburetor cleaner is fed into the fuel injector and the injector is powered with two cabled connected directly to the 12V battery. With limited resources (e.g., miscellaneous hoses and spare bits), I struggled to connect the carburetor cleaner so it was pressurised. Eventually did it, and had the fuel injector squirting carburettor cleaner in a pattern that showed it was free of blockage. Here's the fuel injector sitting in some cleaner.

Fuel injector from Honda CRF250L sitting in small amount of cleaner. Parakou, Benin.

Putting the fuel system back together and re-installing it, I had a healthy balance of nervousness and excitement that it would work again! My motorcycle started first time! However, an error code was flashing on the fuel gauge. There was an open circuit in the electrical system. Maybe I nudged a cable loose? Maybe I forgot to connect something? Inspecting the fuel pump, I noticed one wire wasn't installed correctly. I checked the wiring with that in the service manual and swapped two wires. Motorcycle wouldn't start, so I reverted the two wires I had swapped. Then I noticed an O ring had fallen onto the ground when I had disassembled the fuel pump. Slightly embarrassing! Anyway, my motorcycle finally started with everything correct and present. Phew!

A freshly cleaned fuel system requires decent new fuel. After walking far, I found an operational fuel station. I didn't understand why the gentleman asked if I had money until he started the generator to power the fuel pump. I purchased only 1L for my auxiliary fuel bottle.

Attendant asks if I have money before he starts generator to power the fuel pump. Parakou, Benin.

A small test ride hasn't shown any problems. Hopefully, this was the end to the fuel system saga. I'd like to run a full tank of fuel through the system to determine whether this has been successful.

Whilst the fuel tank was off the motorcycle, I noticed the subframe's top mounts were barely secured! My luggage is secured very close to this area. There should be two nuts and two bolts, but there was only one bolt. Very concerning! I replaced them and used thread lock. The last time I inspected the bolts was when installing the tank in the UK. This photo shows the problem, and also demonstrates how the fine dust gets everywhere!

Nuts and bolts had worked loose from top mounts of subframe (Honda CRF250L). Parakou, Benin.

Whilst residing in Parakou, I've eaten decent street food! Here's Fufu with Wagasi cheese in sauce and a fried green leaf of some sort. Eaten with hands. A really tasty snack is Kuli-kuli, which is ground peanut fried into sticks.

Fufu with Wagasi cheese in sauce and a fried green leaf of some sort. Parakou, BeniN.

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