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Hi all,
   
I am a new boater, excited to be on the canals, enjoying the experience, and learning a lot in a short period of time.


After a recent visit from a River Canal Rescue (RCR) engineer, who was very helpful, I found myself in need of a tank clean and an informal recommendation to use Tankbusters.

 

As this seems to be an issue many boaters will come across at some point I thought an honest review of the Tankbusters service and what to expect from their pricing would be useful. I've seen a request on this forum for advice too.

I called Bruce from Tankbusters and after a pleasant phone call ended with a quote for cleaning the fuel tank on my narrowboat which amounted to £275 for a "base clean and removal of contaminants", plus extras and the hire of their generator, filters and £0.22 per mile for travel.

A few days later Bruce and his Wife arrived in their van. The actual tank cleaning was pleasant enough. We helped with the fetching and carrying of equipment from the van, the Tankbusters along with a very friendly fellow boater helped us pull my boat a short distance to the nearest bridge.

 

Before Bruce started I asked how much the actual total would come to and in a joking way Bruce told me a story about a large river boat "at least twice the size of yours" whose tank he had recently cleaned  "they had change from a grand" at the end of the process. This was given across with a joking reassuring tone the implication being "so yours will be nothing like that". With the £275 quote at the time I was assured that all would be well.

 

During the cleaning conversation flowed, and I kept the tea and biscuits coming. The Tankbusters gave me a few samples of the nitrile gloves they were using, we used my power cable for their generator.

 

For interest, the process was simple, a generator runs a pump connected to a long metal nozzle and a filter, sucks up the diesel, filters it and runs it back into the tank. This is repeated as required.

At the end of the cleaning (approx two hours) I was given three diesel samples from my tank, a sample pre-cleaning, a sample post-cleaning and one Tankbusters considered as minimal requirements for any diesel we put into the tank. I was advised strongly against taking fuel from any work narrowboats on the canal and informed I should take the "minimum requirement" sample to any refueling station from here on in and not to refuel if the diesel was dirtier than the sample.

 

When it came to starting the engine up, the Tankbusters sprayed a little quick-start to get things moving. We helped pack the gear away I was given an invoice for the job (which I confess I did not pay close enough attention to - it was getting dark and I wanted to move the boat to out of sight of the bridge to moor overnight. We said goodbye with the understanding we would take care of payment the next day.

 

The next day I looked at the invoice for the service, this amounted to £679.70

 

The original quote was £275

 

The extras had totaled £407.70

 

  • Water filters (£192)
  • 1 micron filter bags (£68)
  • Fuel additive (£24)
  • All year fuel additive (£18)
  • Generator (£12.50)
  • Mileage had been added at 0.55p a mile. (£90.20)


I called Bruce to discuss the invoice, he insisted that I has misheard the cost per mile for travel, I had written this down during the quote conversation and certainly would not have been happy with 0.55 a mile. I also communicated that I believed he had over charged me for an extra set of filters (£94) which had not been used and also that I believed he had misrepresented the final cost of the job when he had given me the quote.

 

He told me the invoice was correct and that he cannot give a full quote at the time of quoting as he does not know the full extent of the job before arriving. Personally I think it would be an honest better practice to give the price of the filters and a general impression of the final cost. Also to give the correct price for mileage.


The next day Bruce called and informed me the 4 water filters were added accidentally to the invoice and he would subtract them from the total. I requested an updated invoice to reflect this which I would pay. Bruce demanded I paid the full amount before sending the invoice and after a back and forth of text messages Bruce agreed to produce the invoice.

I pressed the point for an invoice as by this time I was concerned at the amount of trust I should have and I wanted to cover myself in case something more were to happen.

Bruce emailed the invoice through, a total of £583.70 (still a £308,70 difference) & I paid.

 

On a personal note, I would consider that if the 'extras' for a job are to exceed the quoted price to this extent then an explanation of these costs of those extras should be explained at the time of the quote. The jovial demeanour and impression over the phone in my case certainly did not reflect this and was, in my opinion a calculated decision.

Now I must stress that this was my personal experience and I have no experience with any of the Tankbusters team beyond Bruce. Obviously it goes without saying that you are free to make your own choices.

My sincere hope is that my experience is useful to anyone who is looking to have their tank cleaned in the future. As a new boater (and as such in a vulnerable position) I certainly would have benefited from this information and I would have made a very different decision at the time.

It is probably obvious that I had a disappointing experience here but I have tried to be as objective as possible so other boaters might benefit from the experience either way.

Happy boating!

  • Greenie 2
  • Horror 1

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I thought £275 was a bit steep

 

i was going to say I suppose there are overheads but if that doesn’t include consumables then it’s amounts to more than £130 quid and hour virtually profit

 

I’m in the wrong business....

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Just now, jonathanA said:

I thought £275 was a bit steep

 

i was going to say I suppose there are overheads but if that doesn’t include consumables then it’s amounts to more than £130 quid and hour virtually profit

 

I’m in the wrong business....

You have to carry a can of easy start

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5 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

You have to carry a can of easy start

Yeah that seemed very odd why would fuel polishing need easy start to start the engine ? 

 

Its not clear if the engine was running prior to the visit so maybe that’s why the  easy start was needed

Edited by jonathanA

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A can of easy start is hardly good practice to get an engine going under any circumstance let alone one that has just been fuel polished....

 

55p/mile isn’t bad. HMRC allow 45p/mile for tax purposes and that means I just break even. I would however expect some of those  “extras” to be included in an original quote. 

 

I always quote jobs on the higher side of what it might be...customer then gets a nice surprise if it works out less. 

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Invoice the greedy blighters for the use of your cable, fetching and carrying,  tea and biscuits, plus your time making and serving it and gas used for making it and for water pump use and washing up liquid used for washing up.  :closedeyes:

Edited by bizzard
  • Greenie 1

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Thank you to our tiny feathered friend for this comprehensive and honest report.

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How big is the tank?. For that money you can ditch the current contents (disposed of sensibly) pressure wash the tank, drain it with a wet vac,  dry it, change all filters and flush the fuel line and still have enough to buy a few hundred liters of red.

  • Greenie 2

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We used Tankbusters in late 2017, again on the recommendation of RCR. I think the guy we dealt with was called Phil. Can't remember the exact quote and price but I think we were clear in expecting that there might be an extra charge for extra filters if needed. The total cost was more like £400, which I don't recall being an unpleasant surprise (although it was of course an unwelcome expense!)

 

Quoting a 'base price' and treating so many essentials as 'extras' does seem a bit off and is surely guaranteed to wind customers up. Maybe you should leave a review on their Facebook page, if they have one? It might just make them think twice about their approach to quoting for jobs.

  • Greenie 1

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That's a lot of money. To anybody else with problems - diy. Go and buy some sort of plastic barrel. pump /syphon all the diesel into it. Somehow get access to the inside of the tank or cut a disc out of the top and clean the inside thoroughly with rags (Nappies can break up and lose all the gel stuff in the tank)  refill with clean fuel or take the old crappy stuff somewhere for cleaning/disposal.  As for the big hole in the tank get a plate or disc made to cover the hole. drill and tap threads into the tank, get a nice gasket and bolt it back together. Horrible job but the best way to do it.

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It is good practice to fit a day tank with a sump that can be easily drained. Fill at the end of the day and check in the morning when any water  can be seen and drained. In my experience other contaminants will find their way into the sump ready for removable. The one we have which has served us well for many years has a capacity of about two gallons . Regards, HughC.

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My rule is to only buy from places with high turnover (sometimes based on assumptions) and so far no problems.  Next time I refill the gods will show me their anger for tempting fate...........

 

added - so some ‘working boats’ probably have a high turnover, so I would use them.

Edited by Chewbacka

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2 hours ago, captain birdseye said:

 

Regarding his comment never to use working boats to refuel. I think this is a bit unfair. We always our local fuel boat and have never had any problems. We always use them as they have nice clean plastic bunds which are all but emptied each run and filled up with fresh diesel before the next run so you always get fresh and clean diesel, something which can't be said about some yards

I’d always use a roving trader to refuel over a marina that might have a large tank and a small turnover.....that statement together with the easy start is enough to make me think twice...let’s hope they come on and say what their side is.....

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You should have paid him the Quotation price of £275.

Only an Estimate would allow him to charge more.

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2 hours ago, Chewbacka said:

 

 

added - so some ‘working boats’ probably have a high turnover, so I would use them.

Nobody thinks twice about using Ryan on Southern Cross or Jules other boats for diesel, and no fleets of boats come along needing diesel bug shifting or tanks purging on their routes.

On the face of it - from what we are told, quite poor service and rather poor advice too.

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I regard diesel boats as one of the safest suppliers of fuel, after all they are almost certainly running their own engine on it, and have an obvious high turnover of fuel.

In our ten or so years of CCing we have had only one batch of really bad fuel and that came from a reputable hire base, though it was most likely a delivery driver mistake rather than poor fuel house-keeping.

 

I wonder if the easy start is used to give a quick start to infer that the fuel is really clean???? 

 

A while ago a forum member was very positive about tankbusters  and their website does suggest that they know their stuff, I wonder what has gone wrong??, maybe its a franchise thing, or maybe it was not really tankbusters but a little business using tankbuster equipment?????

 

..............Dave

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I once had a (lengthy) telephone conversation with Bruce regarding his Tankbusting service. In fairness, he did make it very clear that there was a base price plus mileage, then additional charges for filters etc which could not be predetermined. When I worked out the potential total (not far off the OP's final invoice) I decided not to proceed. 

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23 minutes ago, dmr said:

I regard diesel boats as one of the safest suppliers of fuel, after all they are almost certainly running their own engine on it, and have an obvious high turnover of fuel.

In our ten or so years of CCing we have had only one batch of really bad fuel and that came from a reputable hire base, though it was most likely a delivery driver mistake rather than poor fuel house-keeping.

 

I wonder if the easy start is used to give a quick start to infer that the fuel is really clean???? 

 

A while ago a forum member was very positive about tankbusters  and their website does suggest that they know their stuff, I wonder what has gone wrong??, maybe its a franchise thing, or maybe it was not really tankbusters but a little business using tankbuster equipment?????

 

..............Dave

The OP said it was Bruce himself and it's his business. 

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15 minutes ago, rgreg said:

The OP said it was Bruce himself and it's his business. 

Right, in that case I was talking rubbish. I would like to hear Tankbusters side of this story but its not looking good, especially the "accidental" charging for the filters.

 

................Dave

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Nice to meet you all!

 

Hi rgreg, this happened in October so maybe their policy has changed since, depends when you approached them. Hopefully this is the case:)

 

Bee & hughc I like your style! I would definitely get my hands dirty & go the diy route now. I listened to advice at the time but I should have approached this forum earlier for sure. Being on the canals has certainly sharpened me up xD - as well as introducing me to lovely folks too.

 

I did do a web search before calling Bruce & found a lot of Diesel bug stuff, the fault had been diagnosed as the engine being 'full of water', had I known the final price I would have had second thoughts before going ahead. Easy to say now but at the time I took the base price at face value (with extras).

 

Detling, I'm not sure of the volume of the tank sorry but it's a Piper 58ft if that helps.

I wonder at the value of using '1 micron filters' for the job from the get go, but I am no expert - though having spoken to a friend who sold filters in the food industry he was suprised that these would be needed. The fuel was definitely clean when the job was done though:)

 

I've not had any experience of roving traders, hopefully this didn't come across as my opinion, I was just repeating what I was told by Tankbusters. They all seem lovely.

 

Cheers

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I'm no longer surprised when I hear tales off folk being ripped off by so called experts, it happens in all manner of businesses unfortunately.

 

There is a simple answer, just refuse to pay, invite the firm to sue for the money and let them take you to county court. Almost always these sort of cowboys won't because they know that they cannot pull the wool over a registrar's eyes.

 

Were gold plated filters used?

Never seen any filters at that sort of price, the makers would never get any sales.

 

Always demand a "Quotation" not an estimate.

 

The whole episode was uncalled for anyway, if the fuel is so contaminated simply suck it out and dump it, your tank if full to the brim holds around 200 litres.

All I have ever done is use a vac and  a length of copper pipe to suck the bottom of the tank in the lowest corner via the fill access. Never used a fuel additive.

In the old days the boater would dump his sump oil into the fuel tank and burn it, its only these fussy new engine fuel pumps that don't like a bit of dark in the fuel.

Water in diesel will settle out if left long enough.

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7 hours ago, Boater Sam said:

I'm no longer surprised when I hear tales off folk being ripped off by so called experts, it happens in all manner of businesses unfortunately.

 

There is a simple answer, just refuse to pay, invite the firm to sue for the money and let them take you to county court. Almost always these sort of cowboys won't because they know that they cannot pull the wool over a registrar's eyes.

 

Were gold plated filters used?

Never seen any filters at that sort of price, the makers would never get any sales.

 

Always demand a "Quotation" not an estimate.

 

The whole episode was uncalled for anyway, if the fuel is so contaminated simply suck it out and dump it, your tank if full to the brim holds around 200 litres.

All I have ever done is use a vac and  a length of copper pipe to suck the bottom of the tank in the lowest corner via the fill access. Never used a fuel additive.

In the old days the boater would dump his sump oil into the fuel tank and burn it, its only these fussy new engine fuel pumps that don't like a bit of dark in the fuel.

Water in diesel will settle out if left long enough.

But were we not told that the initial price was 'plus extras'? In which case it does not much matter whether the base price was an estimate or quotation, it will still end up loaded, perhaps with things that cannot be checked after the event.

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