From cleaning an engine to inspecting the oils, the hoses, the cooling, and the fuel system, five women joined me the weekend after Thanksgiving to work on preventing and identifying early signs of diesel engine failure. "The last thing I want," shared Cassie, "is to be out and have something go wrong that could have been prevented with a basic working knowledge of properly maintaining our boat." Here, I include two of the seminar's topics: oil and fuel.
A diesel engine wants to run smoothly, and without doubt, we want it to be reliable. Thus, like learning a foreign language, we simply need to understand what it is communicating. A perfect illustration of this is in the engine oils pictured below. Starting at the left, new diesel oil is honey colored, smooth when rubbed between your fingers, and "elastic". To test, place a drop between your thumb and pointer finger, then slowly pull your fingers apart. You will see an hourglass shape appear (pictured in Robert's tip on a previous post). The bottle pictured in the center, is oil dark in color with soot, or carbon. Though a normal outcome after running your engine for just a little while, it will grow increasing thick, break when pulling your fingers apart, and may feel gritty when needing to be changed. Milky oil, pictured on the right, is a clear sign that your oil is contaminated with water or coolant. Immediate action, time, and a bit of trouble shooting will help determine if the cause is moisture from running a "cool" engine or a damaged gasket. Applying this knowledge to preventative maintenance turns performing routine oil level checks into a three-part, multi sensory experience: look at level, identify color, touch for grit and viscosity.
When I hear the word petroleum, I envision a jar of Vaseline; not something I'd normally associate with an engine. Yet, here's an interesting fact...diesel fuel is a liquid petroleum product which works as a lubricant in your engine. Well, if that caught your attention, this next fact will really send you dashing to your boat; diesel fuel contains sulfur, and the combination of sulfur and moisture make sulfuric acid! How do you feel about running ACID through your engine? YIKES! These eight tips will help keep moisture out of your tank and thus, acid from deteriorating your engine's gaskets, scoring pistons and cylinders, and causing fuel pump and injector failures.
Be sure your fuel, regardless of color, remains transparent and has nothing sitting on the bottom like the one pictured on the left. The sample on the right contains water which supported the growth of "diesel bug", microbial contaminants. With contaminated fuel, expect to: experience engine failure due to clogged fuel filter(s) and injectors, dispose of all the fuel in your tanks, and endure the task of actually cleaning the inside of your tank(s).
If "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," then establishing, maintaining, and recording a
maintenance routine will support the longevity of your diesel engine. Though not a comprehensive list, here is a summary of the preventative maintenance covered in our first seminar.
Giving thanks to Robert for believing in me, to Leah, Cassie, Kay, Holly, and Emma for their questions and support, and to all of you for reading. Happy Thanksgiving.