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Sunday, 25 April 2010

Unveiling the mystery of the marine diesel engine

Back to school in Morcambe for a one day course in diesel engine maintenance yesterday. It's not as exciting as sailing but it's something we need to know about. So today it's seawater filters, water fuel filters, fine filters and impellers.
When I bought my first car back in the 60s I did quite a bit of tinkering with engines, although they were petrol, but the bit's of engine exploded on the table looked vaguely familiar.

Seems that marine engines, which are diesel, are just a bit simpler with fewer bits to go wrong, although I learned that sea water is not very kind to them. But if we stick to the manufactures recommended checks and regular maintenance then they should go on for years with very little trouble, so that was reassuring.

John, our tutor, led us out to a lock up where he unveiled his practice engine mounted in a small trailer. With one pipe stuck in a bucket and a big rubber exhaust pipe in another we tinkered with changing filters and tensioning the alternator belt. Then the big moment came as John hit the starter button. The poor old engine, rescued from some long gone tub coughed and spluttered but refused to kick into action. Johns partner in this enterprise, Ken looked on hopefully as the garage filled with pungent smoke but she wouldn't start. Ken reckons it's the valves that need grinding in as it's been standing too long and has lost its compression. We were losing interest as starting the engine wasn't a big priority, and the fumes were just getting too much for everyone. Give it one more go said Ken, but thankfully John said no.

Anyway we've got a good working knowledge now of engines, the mystery has been unveiled and we feel more confident that when our engine fails out at sea we'll know what we can fix, what we can't fix and the wisdom to know the difference.

The only fly in the ointment as far as I can see is that our practice engine was very accessible where as most of the pictures I have seen of boats for sale seem to have very little access coupled with a series of previous owners additions to the wiring and the plumbing making for a very chaotic engine room, or should I say cubby hole. But if they seldom go wrong then maybe Jackie won't have to crawl about there too often.