Sorting the engine – Part 3

The engine saga continues but as Lindsey at Seapower told us, it is lots of small steps that get us closer to the goal and improves the engine.

We started this process a little while ago by adding sensible lighting into the engine room so that you could see what you are doing.  The LED strip lights are brilliant and really let you see what is going on in all corners of the engine room.  This revealed the full horror that was the engine room floor with a mix of old oil stains etc so this was cleaned up and made spotless so that we will see if there are any problems with the engine.  In the interim we had run the engine and found some oil back in the bilge so clearly a proble that needed to be investigated some more.

The next stage of the engine improvement programme was combined with an education for the crew.  In the future, when we are travelling we will have to be as self sufficient as possible and that means being able to maintain the engine.  We had not personally serviced the engine and so Lindsay agreed to give us a course on how to maintain the Yanmar engine.  This took nearly all day since Adam did most of the work himself under the watchful eye of the engineers and this was the first stage, more advanced engine maintenance will be covered in a subsequent day.

The stars of the show on this particular day were:

  • Lindsay, “The Master”, main role seemed to be telling everyone else what to do while chatting up the other skipper, a certain Mrs D 😉
  • Callum, “The talented apprentice”, actually did the guiding and was hands on
  • Adam, “the untalented apprentice”, got all the scrapped knuckles!
  • Maria, “the supervisor”, able to chip in “useful” comments from the safety of the navigation seat while chatting up Lindsay.

Lindsay started with a quick explanation of the various elements of the engine and a high level view of what we were going to do.  After this we set to work by draining the oil from the engine and the oil from the gearbox.  This was replaced with fresh lubricants.  So far so good, access and visibility are good.

it was then time to start to attack the filters.  The oil filter was quite simple and not too messy with a screw on and a screw off and then we were onto the fuel system.  Firstly, we had to shut down the fuel lines with “lobster” clips, I have no idea what they are called but they looked like red lobster claws to me :). The first stage filter mounted ahead of the engine looked simple enough and had a drain at the bottom of it.  We opened the drain and expected fuel or gunk to emerge, nothing. We loosened off the top bolts of the fuel filter but still nothing.  At this stage, we realised that the work was going to be a little more onerous than we first thought.  We would have to take apart the fuel filter and understand what was going on, and it was likely to get messy.  Having loosened off the top plate bolts we set to doing the same to the bolts lower down that hold the lower part of the filter to the case.  We also removed the fuel filter that needed to be replaced.  On inspection, this was filled with black gunk which was clearly part of the problem.  The lower half of the mechanism was also filled with black gunk and hence why the drain wasn’t working.  All of this needed cleaning up and then reassembling with some of the bolts being “fun” to access unless you had the hands of a five year old.  We eventually got this resolved and with a new filter we were ready to move onto the second fuel filter.  This was a simpler job, similar to the oil filter (I wonder whether this was the only one that had been changed on previous services).  Bleeding the fuel system was a lot easier than I had expected, I had heard stories of having to bleed each injector and had thought we may have to do that at sea if there was a fuel problem.  Actually on the Yanmar it is a lot easier with a single bleed screw at the top of the fuel pump above the fuel filter. So gearbox is done, fuel filters are done so onto the impeller.

We had recently had an overheat problem, which we think may have been related to us not double checking the coolant levels after the hot water system had been changed.  We made the mistake of checking the expansion tank which wasn’t being touched because the coolant level was so low. As part of our investigation of this we had spent some time looking into the cooling system to see what the problem was.  Again, in retrospect we should not have trusted the expansion tank to tell us the water level but that was a lesson learned.  As part of the investigation we had taken the cover off the impeller to check that it was working properly.  So this was familiar ground even if the access under the bottom of the engine isn’t perfect and it doesn’t give a good angle to see what you are doing. The plate coming off was easy and it was time to use the impeller remover, something to be added to our setup.  I couldn’t get it to bit on the screw and subsequently discovered that the central extractor bolt was too far in and was stopping me getting it attached to the impeller, another schoolboy error.  We got the impeller out which was consistent with being a couple of years old and in good condition.  In the past I have been clear where in the past things haven’t been done to the standards I would have expected.  One thing I have to say was that the was a fine selection of spares for impellers, oil filters and fuel filters (just a shame some of these had t been used….sorry couldn’t resist 🙂 ).

We were able to get he new impeller in placealthoug hat first it didn’t seem to want to go in without a bit of “jiggling”.  Lindsay had noticed a flaw in the impeller plate that was looking damaged, and for lack of a replacement, had filed down the reverse of the plate so that this could be used.  Clearly not a long term solution but certainly better than the part worn plate that was there.

The final step of the engine service was the fan belt change.  Our Yanmar comes with three fan belts which includes an aftermarket setup that appears to be bolted onto the front of the engine.  The two alternators had different ways of attaching to the engine and adjustment so this provided good experience.  We had also noticed that the fan belt and indeed alternator that had been added later were very loose and needed tightening up.  This could have been part of the reason that the engine seemed quite “rattly” although we had put that down to being an old diesel.

Callum and Adam set to work on these and we able to get everything changed.  We also tightened up the big aftermarket alternator to hopefully reduce the fan belt movement and alternator movement.  At this stage we saw what we think is the cause of the oil leak. One of the bolts securing the big alternator seems to have oil coming from it.  This will take a little more investigation but hopefully means that the oil leak can be resolved quickly. The proof of all this work of course is restarting the engine and this also went smoothly and I’m sure it is quieter and purrs a little more than it used to….

So next steps are to resolve the minor oil leak so our engine room floor can stay spotless and replace the older pipe work on the engine which with age combined with the slight overheat look a little worse for wear.  We will get them done and then hopefully the engine will feel it is being looked after properly.




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