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Damaged Plastic Oil Tank: How to Avoid It

Once damaged, a plastic oil tank is irreparable, leaving you with no choice but to replace it. A replacement can be both costly and inconvenient so it’s important to take good care of it to reduce the risk of breakages and leaks.

Regular checks now could save you thousands of pounds in the future.

Why choose a plastic fuel tank?

Plastic oil tanks are usually green and moulded from polyethylene, making them less prone to corrosion than a steel tank. They provide a lightweight storage solution and are therefore easily to install and manoeuvre.

As plastic is an insulator, the transfer of heat is delayed, reducing the risk of fuel becoming contaminated.

In addition, plastic tanks are often completely seamless which reduces the risk of failure, as deformed tanks can regain their original shape, providing there are no cracks.

Damaged Plastic Oil Tank

Are all plastic fuel tanks bunded?

If your plastic tank is storing over 3,500 litres of oil, the law requires it to be bunded. This means as well as having an inner plastic tank to store the fuel, it must also be surrounded by an outer tank to provide extra protection against contamination, leaks and theft.

Read our Fuel Storage Regulations Guide for more information on the regulations surrounding liquid fuels.

How long do plastic tanks last?

A plastic tank has a 10-15-year lifetime, however improper maintenance can significantly reduce this.

As plastic tanks are cheaper than steel tanks, people tend to think they are better value for money. But steel tanks are less prone to damage from the weather and environment, boasting a much longer lifespan.

Both tanks offer many benefits, so the choice is simply down to personal preference. Some users would rather the non-rusting characteristics of plastic tanks, whereas others seek the strength and robustness of steel.

Why do plastic fuel tanks crack?

Plastic tanks undergo a huge amount of stress when located outside due to weather conditions and temperature changes so it’s unsurprising that they become damaged over time.

Cold weather

Cold and freezing temperatures can cause a tank to become brittle and lead to splits and cracks. After a snowfall, you must ensure you clear the top of the tank to avoid additional weight putting strain on the tank and causing damage.

During the winter it’s important to regularly check your tank to keep an eye on any signs of damage and avoid your tanks running dry.

Damaged plastic oil tank


Single skinned plastic tanks are at risk from sun and UV exposure which can lead to whitening and discolouration and result in the plastic expanding. This can cause defects such as twisting and bowing which will eventually progress into cracks, causing oil spills and contamination.

It’s recommended that you locate your oil tank out of direct sunlight such as with a fence surround or in a shaded area.

Uneven base

An incorrectly fitted base can cause uneven pressure, especially when a tank is full. This can stretch the plastic and cause cracks and splits, so it’s important to ensure your oil tank is installed by an OFTEC-registered company who will fit the tank on a flat and concrete level base to avoid damages.


You must also check that the lid is properly closed to avoid rainwater ingress entering the bund or tank. Water causes bacterial contamination and sludge build-up which can clog fuel filters, lines and injectors.

Luckily, any damage to plastic tanks will show on the exterior unlike steel tanks, so the problem can be quickly but temporarily remedied before environmental damage.

Can I repair a plastic oil tank?

When a plastic tank is damaged, there’s no option but to replace it. Regular checks will allow you to notice any problems early on.

How to clean a plastic oil tank

Contact a member of the team today who will be able to advise you on the best way to clean your plastic oil tank.

Can I paint a plastic oil tank?

Plastic tanks require little to no maintenance so painting isn’t always needed as they aren’t at risk from rusting like steel tanks. However, there are several reasons for wanting to paint an oil tank, such as to:

  • Protect the tank from the effects of the elements
  • Camouflage the tank with the surrounding area
  • Add a company sign or logo

The best paint is an exterior acrylic house or elastomeric paint upholds flexibility and allows the tank to expand without chipping or tearing the paint. Some tanks will need lightly sanding before painting to remove the glossy surface.

How much are plastic oil tanks?

If security isn’t a big issue and the tank is located outside of direct sunlight, then plastic makes a great choice. However, it’s still important to choose a supplier with high-quality models.

Once you’re left with a damaged plastic oil tank, you must replace it as quickly as possible to avoid damage to the environment. We supply a wide range of plastic and steel tanks that adhere to OFTEC regulations. For a quick and competitive price, call our team today on 0330 123 1444.

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