There’s nothing likely to ruin a great sail or a great holiday than breakdowns. Maybe the skipper and some practical-minded mates might think it’s a lot of fun solve problems while underway, but your non-sailing crew of nervous nellies won’t share your sense of adventure.
..and don’t spend your holidays like this!
‘But what can I do?’ you might say. ‘I don’t do the work – I’m not a diesel engine expert, and I expect the engineers and shipwrights to have the boat in good working order for when I want to leave.’
This is true. However it is better, not only to have a checklist if you are doing the work yourself, but also to have the same checklist to inform your maintenance engineer of what you expect.
Laurence Burginsame, well-known shipwright around Sydney, gives excellent ‘Love your Diesel Engine” coursessame for those without knowledge of the workings of a diesel engine.
Here below he has listed all the items that you should know are in working order before you undertake, either your first voyage of the season, or are embarking on a longer than usual one.
Some of the checklist items are for checking by you, the owner, and some for the engineer. Print it off and keep it handy when you are dealing with your engine issues ……..
PRE-SEASON ENGINE CHECKS
· Check breather hose and outlet is not blocked
· Check tank is securely mounted
· Ensure fuel lines are good quality
· Check for bacterial growth after sea trial – growth lies in base of tank so give it a shake up first (as a storm would)
· Drain or pump fuel from base of tank to ensure no water or contamination
· Clean fuel is essential – don’t go to sea with bad fuel
· Ensure there is enough fuel in tank for intended passage, plus a healthy reserve
· Check fuel shut off valves are in good condition
· Replace primary fuel filter for water or contamination – drain water till clear
· Check no fuel leaks from system in operation
· Get to know lift pump operation
· Replace engine filter
· Test bleed engine at anchor so you will be able to do it at sea
· Check water inlet valve is in good condition
· Check raw water strainer is clean – remove strainer basket and clean if needed
· Check coolant level in header tank, top up if needed. (Where did it go?) Carry good quality spare coolant
· Check hoses and clamps for wear, looseness or leaks – replace if in doubt
· Dip sump and check oil level – top up if necessary. Change oil and filter every 100 hours or 6 months
· Check gear box oil level – some hydraulic boxes need the engine idling in neutral to check oil
· Always carry spare engine and gearbox oil and filters
· Turn on battery switches and check operation of switch mechanism
· Check battery hold down system is heavy duty (not just a plastic box with a crappy strap)
· Check all battery and engine wiring for loose connections – put your hand on and see if they rattle (engine off!)
· Clean terminals and grease
· Load test batteries
· Check belts for correct tightness (12mm or 1/2” deflection on longest run) and alignment
· Check pulleys for rust and running true
· Check for belt wear and carry correct spares
· Check operation of throttle and gear change – replace control cables if needed (cheap compared to ramming dock!)
· Grease throttle box (remove from boat) and linkages on box and engine
· Learn how to remove cables from engine for jury rig throttle
Do a sea trial with your motor
Give engine a good hard run (80% revs) for at least 10 minutes pushing into wind and sea/current, look at engine during this time
· Be aware of unusual noises, vibrations or smells
· Check for leaks – fuel, cooling or oil
· Check steering operation
· Check oil pressure gauge, temperature gauge, voltmeter for charging
· Make visual checks of engine for leaks, loose ancillary equipment
· Check stern gland for excessive leaking or overheating
· Keep an eye on fuel consumption – know the hourly consumption under load
· Check other equipment
Engine Mounts/drive system
· Check for worn or broken mounts
· Check engine alignment is good
· Check stern bearing and shaft not worn (slipway or dive)
· Check flexible coupling is in good condition
· If there are any doubts about the mounts have them changed
· Check propeller is tight and foul free (Prop speed is the go)
· Check engine exhaust dropper for blockage and excessive corrosion (a common problem)
· Check all hoses and clamps are in top condition
· Make sure your exhaust system is correctly designed and installed to prevent water backflow from wave action or syphon effect. Many systems are not up to passage making standards
· Have you a syphon break installed in system?
· Bi-annual removal and inspection of your cooling core (the boat’s radiator) for blockage
· Check anodes for wear, replace and carry spares
Impeller pumps – raw water
· Remove and replace the impeller in the engine (know how to do this yourself)
· Check oil seals if direct drive pump
· Carry spares
· Annually remove starter motor and have serviced
Spares – a complete list of recommended spares is available in “Marine Diesel Engines for Beginners” available from www.marinedieselsecrets.com, which can be purchased on line.
· Regularly remove alternator and have serviced. For long range cruising carry a spare
· Carry good quality tools and have engine manuals on board
Next week we’ll offer a recommended list of tools to carry on your boat, whether you’re an off-shore, or in-shore sailor.
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