So the airplane is in the shop. The left fuel cell has been drained (and the valuable 100LL is stored in drums (left) and will be returned to the new fuel cell using a filter-equipped pump).
N631S is a 1977 vintage Q-model Cessna 182. The adoption of the O-470U engine in 1977 triggered the change in model designation from 182P to 182Q. The '77s had 14 volt electrics and rubber fuel cells. The '78s went to 28 volt electrics and the '79s (last year for the Q's) went to a "wet wing" fuel system, eliminating the rubber fuel cells. There are two schools of thought on rubber fuel cells. On one hand, they inevitably require replacement. On the other hand, the "wet wing" design, if it ever does leak, can be very hard to fix. Also, in the event of a crash, it has been suggested that rubber bladders are less likely to burst than a wet-wing tank. (I am not aware of any definitive evidence supporting this.)
After querying my knowledgeable friends at the Cessna Pilots Association about the best sources, I opted to purchase an overhauled fuel cell from Eagle Fuel Cells of Eagle River, WI. My options were: (1) have them overhaul my cell, for $395 to $425 and a three to four day turn-around; (2) purchase an overhauled cell outright for $550 with the option of selling them my failed cell for up to $100; (3) purchase a new cell for $950. Options 1 and 2 come with a 5 year warranty, while option 3 comes with a 10 year warranty. I chose option 2 for the quick turn-around and to keep the cost down.
Other 182 owners have told me that the manufacturer of this cell had "quality issues" in the early years of the last decade and that I am far from alone in getting less than the expected life out of cells manufactured during that period. The unpleasant message is that I can probably anticipate a need to renew the cell on the right side before too much longer.
For those interested, I'll update this post when I get the bill so you'll know the number of shop hours needed for removal and re-installation. And, of course, this weekend's trip to the DC area and back will be courtesy of AMTRAK.