Indoor oil storage tank, abandoned (C) Daniel FriedmanRetrieve Something Dropped Into a Fuel Tank
Oh Damn, I dropped it

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Oil tank retrieval tools to fish out something you dropped:

This article describes steps to take if you dropped a tool, fuel spout, or additive cap or something else into the heating oil storage tank.

Don't panic, probably you'll be fine and so will the oil tank. We describe the use of retrieval tools taken from the mechanical or well drilling industries to retrieve objects dropped into inaccessible spaces.

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Need to Fish Out What You Dropped into the Oil Tank?

Question: oil tank retrieval tools to fish out stuff dropped into the oil tank

(Feb 26, 2014) Joseph said:

Is there a strainer or some kind of guard at the outlet of the tank (on the inside)? Mine is a single line out the bottom side. I may or may not have dropped an oil can nozzle cap down the fill pipe and am worried it could block the oil flow.

(Aug 17, 2012) DP said:

Hi. I didn't have the funds to put the minimum oil delivery of 50 gallons (210$) in my oil tank. I bought a yellow diesel container and bought 2 gallons of diesel. It was simple enough to pour it into my 275 gallon tank BUT then I wound up dropping the 6" clear plastic spout from the yellow container into my oil tank.

I see no way to get it out. Any assistance would be appreciated. Maybe this plastic will dissolve and pass thru. Maybe it doesn't. The line leading from tank into my home and the burner is more narrow than the plastic nozzle I dropped in the tank. I am in the N.E. but we are in a heat wave right now so I really didn't need much fuel and needed to wait three weeks for my next pay check.

Reply: using a mechanic's retrieval tool or well retrieval tool at an oil tank


There are mechanic's retrieval tools that use a flexible rod and plunger that extrudes a wire "grabber" that could pick up an object from the tank bottom if you found or made a tool that was long enough, but once getting the fuel spout to the tank top you'd need still to manipulate it to move it end-wise out through the opening - a difficult but not impossible job.

The plastic fuel container spout that you dropped into the oil tank is probably not going to dissolve in the heating oil; as long as it is not interfering with the movement of the oil tank fuel level gauge nor movement of oil into the heating oil piping it's not going to hurt the system.

Also see WELL RETRIEVAL TOOLS - where we provide a complete list of tools used to fish out or retrieve stuff dropped into confine spaces.

Even if you leave the fuel can spout in place in the oil tank, reading that there is a whole industry of retrieval tools made for people who dropped something down into a well, oil tank, or other impossible location (such as inside of an automotive engine) will make you feel better.


I'm not aware of any in-tank filters, nor does one sound feasible - how would we get it in the tank, or get it out for cleaning. There's no strainer inside the tank.

But darn, I understand the worry of dropping something in the tank. And we can't just assume that the cap sits harmlessly on the tank bottom: oil tank contents are rather stirred up during an oil delivery.

If the top you dropped was metal there's a slight chance you can fish it out with a magnet retrieving tool, though it'll be tedious as the tool will want to stick to the tank too.

if the top you dropped into the oil tank was plastic ... well I'll continue to think about it, but for now I can just hope it either stays away from the tank outlet, or that its shape and position will prevent a total blockage. You'll know if it blocks the outlet.

You might get some ideas about making your own retrieval tool by reading our article found by searching InspectApedia for

Well Pipe Grabbers & Fishing Tools for Retrieving Stuff you Dropped Into the Well

or at least take comfort that you're not the only devil who's done something like this.

Also see

which will take you to a PDF link of the article - free

You'll see a panoply of home-made scoop-strainer type retrieval tools. Yours will have to be small enough to fit inside the tapping at the top of the oil tank. And there'll be some plumbing to disassemble and re-assemble. It's not trivial IMO. But a right-angled strainer-scooper might work if the magnet doesn't.

Send along photos of your tank and piping arrangement and I may be able to comment further. Keep us posted.

HEY before going to a lot of trouble look more carefully for the lost oil can cap; you'll be ... upset ... if you find the cap lying on the ground after you've already torn things apart and fished.


Continue reading at OIL LINE CLOGGING FIX or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

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