When to retire oil tank, or do they fail big or small?


I have home heating oil tank (in the basement) that is original to a home built in the 50's. Is there a rule of thumb as to when to replace them? I also wonder if when tanks fail do they usually develop small leaks or do they "split" open and release a tank of oil all at once?
Thank you for any advice!
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andy everett wrote:

More likely it will develop pinholing along the bottom since that's where the sludge and water accumulate. A good backup is a long plastic tray (mud mixing) under the tank.
If your home insurer does inspections or asks for documentation, that may force a replacement.
OTOH, it might last another 50 yrs...
Jim
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At 50 years, if it were mine, I'd replace it now, as it's well past the safe lifespan of 30 or so years for an indoor tank. And if you do it now, it won't be an emergency and you can shop around. I doubt it will fail with a sudden massive leak though. I'd expect more of a slow drip, but even that can make quite a mess if you don't catch it quickly.
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wrote:

Absent some sudden and high-energy "event", you will almost certainly be able to observe minor leaks as an early indicator of impending failure.
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GMT, andy everett wrote:

I replaced a 40 year old tank a few years ago. It had developed a few small pinholes along the bottom, and at the bottom of the seam on the side of the tank. It was just losing a few drops of oil a week.
I showed it to my oil guy when he was in for the annual summer tune-up. He said it would get progressively worse, but was very unlikely to rupture catastrophically. He suggested replacing it in the "next year or so" time frame. I replaced it a couple of months later.
--
Seth Goodman

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wrote:

Shine a bright light under the tank and look for what appear to be "threads" running from the bottom of the tank to the floor. Those will be the beginnings of leaks. They almosty look like some sort of spider web at first glance. Whne you se those, it's time to start getting quotes on tank replacement.
CWM
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I rely on my nose. A few drops of diesel on the floor will smell like 10 gallons. Of course the first thing to leak will likely to be water/ sludge.
Harry K
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wrote:

I would continue to keep it under observation and keep using it for a few more years. By then, there may be another type of heating system that will be much more efficient.
Meanwhile, keep it clean on the outside surface and keep a couple of packages of gas tank epoxy putty handy. ( QuikSteel ) With that stuff, you can repair a major leak in seconds and the repair will last for years.
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If it were mine I'd ditch the tank and oil furnace and get a geotherman heat pump.
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In some areas, home insurers have become very interested in the age of domestic fuel oil tanks. I was forced to replace mine based on the fact that the date of manufacture was unknown. This even though the tank wasn't leaking, had a UL tag, and showed no signs of corrosion externally.
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