Part I Engines
by David Pascoe
This is where the newbies and novices start to become old salts, if they have any wits about them. A bit of a preamble follows here just to give you an idea of why this topic can generate so much controversy.
- Three Types of Boat Owners
- Three Basic Prblems with Boat Ownership
- Water is the Enemy
- The Plan
- What's Your Time Worth
- Regular Inspections
- Engine Maintenance
- Engine Cooling System
- Water Pumps
- Closed Cooling Systems
- Engine Coolant
- Oil Changes
- Check Oil Hoses
- Gas Risers and Manifolds
- Diesel Exhaust Systems
- Engine Mounts
- Fuel Systems
Three Types of Boat Owners
There are three types of boat owners:
The first are those who really like boats, and are distinguishable by the fact that they have taken the time to learn a lot about them. You know them right away when you talk to them. They know their subject because they have a real interest in boats.
The second kind are those who basically buy boats as a status thing, of doing the "in" thing or just the latest fad in recreation. These are the folks who tend to get into the most trouble with boats because they buy them for reasons other than the sheer love of boats. It's not the boat, but what it represents that counts.
The third type are newbies, who could end up going either way, but who know nothing about boats for a different reason.
So why am I engaging in this desktop psychology? Mainly because these are the people I deal with in my everyday work, and it's rather obvious that the owner's reasons for owning a boat has everything to do with the condition of the boats I see, and those clients who propose to buy their cast offs. It's one thing to be able to purchase one, something else again to maintain it in good condition.
I like to think of boats as analogous to aircraft. To own an aircraft without thorough knowledge of the machine is risking your personal safety. To own a boat is risking your financial security as well. That's because one cannot truly appreciate the real cost of ownership without experience. Yes, it is quite possible to own a boat for 3 years and be lucky enough to have few large expenses. Those odds decrease dramatically with your second boat, and disappear with the third.
Whatever reason has motivated you to buy a boat, this essay will not only help educate you about the necessary maintenance required, how and when to do it, but the costs as well.
Some say that I am overly negative and trying to scare the hell out of people. Well, yes, because owning a boat is a serious and costly business, even though the decision is often taken lightly. I see too many people get into big trouble with boats, large boats and small boats alike. That's because they don't know what they're getting into because, if they did, they wouldn't have done it. They were thinking in terms of status symbol (I was once a member of an exclusive yacht club, so I know all about that) or thought they were buying an RV or Floating Jaguar. Instead, it turns into an horrendous financial loss due to ignorance.
Three Basic Problems with Boat Ownership
The basic problem with boat ownership stems from three points:
(1) Decent quality boats are very expensive.
(2) Boating is often regarded as a recreation, which it is not (some say it's a form of madness).
(3) The objective is to have fun and not always be working your behind off on the dang thing.
Unfortunately, to keep your boat from going to rot and ruin, many boats end up becoming bottomless pits in terms of the time and expense required to keep them in decent shape. This is why you'll find in most of my reviews considerable discussion about whether a boat is easy or difficult to maintain.
Some of you are probably familiar with the modern automobile where, just in order to change the spark plugs, a mechanic has to disassemble half the engine to get the darn things out, and you end up with an outrageous bill for a simple tune up. This happens a lot with boats, too. With boat maintenance there's a lot more to it than just tune ups.
Some people (a minority) regard boats as hobbies, and as such they love to spend their time working on them. A friend over in Texas calls them "fiddlefarters." Yet, the vast majority of boat owners regard a boat as a recreational vehicle, something to be used, parked and forgotten when not in use. Back in the days of wood boats, adopting the later attitude was a prescription for disaster because wood boats were basically little more than make-work projects, they deteriorated so rapidly. Fiberglass, along with a better knowledge of materials, has gone a long way toward reducing maintenance. Even so, one cannot regard a boat as just another recreational vehicle to use with a park-it-and-forget-it attitude. While fiberglass hulls don't deteriorate rapidly, everything else in a boat is pretty much the same as it was 30 years ago. Without some frequent TLC it goes to hell in a hurry.
Think of it like keeping 10 godzillas in a cage that is not quite strong enough to ensure that they won't break out. Rather like the old King Kong movie. There's that nutcase who brings a monster to New York in weak cage. As long as you feed them and keep them happy, they'll stay in the cage. But neglect them, let them get hungry and angry, and they are going to go on a rampage and destroy the world. Your world, that is.
Water is the Enemy
And here you thought it was your friend. Oh, no, every good hath its evil. Yin and yang, now that we're all China happy. Remember that book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? Never read it because motorcycles don't float. Anyway, water is both an electrolyte and a solvent. Being an electrolyte, simply put, means that it facilitates corrosion, essentially an electro-chemical reaction, of many materials, particularly metals. A solvent means that it will dissolve certain materials to which it is exposed. Water is also a facilitator for the growth of certain microbes and especially fungus. Boats are made of wood, plastic and metal, all of which deteriorate with varying degrees of speed. Needless to say, the general rule is that the more expensive the material, the slower it deteriorates, whereas cheaper materials deteriorate more rapidly. Which is why cheap boats go to hell so fast, and good ones cost so darn much. That's the yang part.
The best way to deal with the issue of boat maintenance, both from the standpoint of knowing what it takes, and getting it done on time, is to develop a plan. Oh, I know you are a busy person and don't have time for that sort of thing, but let me tell you something. When I do surveys on larger boats that are well maintained, one of the common traits to these boats (or yachts) is that I usually find a drawer full of lists, and not infrequently a maintenance log, even if just a small notebook. The fact is that without some kind of schedule or list, much of what is needed just isn't going to get done. It's too easily overlooked.
You know how it is; if you make a punch list, things will get done ten times faster and you'll wonder how you managed to get so much done in one day. That's because we rarely work from plans, but waste our time going in circles.
Small leaks invariably become big leaks. This is your warning sign that something bad is about to happen.
This fellow waited a little too long as his engine is about to drop into the bilge as Big Bill comes a-calling. Imagine how long it will take a mechanic to straighten out this mess.
What's Your Time Worth
Newbies rarely appreciate how time consuming owning a boat can be. In thinking a bit about maintenance, some folks get their priorities bollixed up. First, whatever you do for a living, figure how much you earn on an hourly basis. Take that hourly rate and use it to set priorities on what you will do and what you will pay someone else to do. One of the hidden costs of boat ownership is the amount of time a boat will take away from your income earning time. Whether it's time stolen from work, or because you're too tired to work effectively because you busted your cojones working on the boat, believe me the boat will cause you to become less effective in your business. That's part of the cost of ownership too. Pay attention to this and use this hourly rate scheme to utilize your time most effectively and it will ultimately save you money. If you earn $80/hr. and it only costs $40/hr. for someone else to do it . . . . who should be doing this job? Fiddlefarting also has a price.
Most folks get behind the maintenance eight ball because they won't take the time to find out what's going on with their boats. It's a procrastination thing, and we are all victim of it. Here's the deal: we don't check things out because we don't want to know. Out of sight, out of mind. We don't want any more work or problems, so we avoid that by not going looking for them. Right? Right.
Now relax, take a deep breath, or go to the fridge for a beer. It's easier and cheaper to keep up with things. I would also suggest that it won't cost very much to hire a surveyor to make a quick punch list of things that need to be done. Applying the under-the-rug theory costs a lot more, and to stay ahead of things is both easier and cheaper. That's because nipping small problems in the bud is better than waiting for their full bloom. The rule here is: Blooms cost more than buds.
Working from your list, making a routine inspection isn't going to take more than 30 minutes or so. Just lift the hatches and stick your head down there in those holes and look at that stuff you really don't want to see. Another rule is: The things you don't want to look at are most important. Take a note pad and start making a list. Maybe you're not going to do everything that needs to be done. You needn't have a guilty conscience about it, but don't stick your head in the sand. Open those hatches and stick your head down there. Later on you may find the odd hour to get something done, but if you don't know about it, that won't happen.
What! You say you don't have time for all this? If you're not willing to do it yourself, and unable to write a check to pay someone else to, then you should sell the boat. You don't need that millstone hanging 'round your neck. Join the golf club and no one will ask you to do greens maintenance. Otherwise, be prepared to foot Big Bill when his time has come. If you make a pact with the devil, he will always collect.
Keeping the engines going is the big item and is a top priority. Engine maintenance on boats is not well understood. Nine out of ten boat owners I talk to will put the emphasis on oil changes, but that is not really where it should be. You see, unlike cars, boat engines don't put their nasty emissions back into the engine, which is what can wreck a car engine in a hurry. In fact, oil related engine damage in boats is quite rare. All you have to do is follow the recommendations by the manufacturer and that's it. Just be sure that you use the properly rated oil. Go to the manual, pick out those service codes and write them down in big letters on the front of the manual so you don't have to go rooting around for it every time you change oil. Make life easier.
Marine Engine Cooling System
The vast majority of engine damage results from the failure to maintain the cooling system.
A marine engine cooling system is NOT like a car. Here's the deal: Whether you have an open or closed cooling system, the engine is using the water that the boat is floating in to cool the engine. Whatever is in that water is also going through your engine. Hopefully that statement lifted your eyelids a bit after drinking that beer. If your boat is floating in rotten, stinking polluted water, then that is what's going through your engine. If it's salt water . . . . and so on.
This photo of the internal water jackets of an engine was taken with a fiber optic boroscope. Corrosion scale like this inhibits cooling transfer and resulted in chronic overheating. Once this happens, it is irreversible.
Point #1: You need to have good filters on your engine water intakes. These are called sea strainers, and if your boat doesn't have good bronze ones with removable strainer baskets that can be easily cleaned, then you should have them installed. Under no circumstances should they be el cheapo plastic strainers which are only going to break. And after they are installed you need to check their condition every time before you start the engines. That also means that you have to keep the insides of the plastic lenses clean so you can see when they get all fouled up with gook.
Point #2: If you have an open, or raw water cooled engine, hopefully you are in fresh water and not salt. Salt water cooled engines don't last long. If so, then gasket failures are your number one problem, and you need to inspect your engine for gasket leaks. Cylinder heads, thermostat housing, manifolds and riser gaskets are the things to look at. If it's all rusty or you see rusty water trails around gaskets, this indicates that salt water is weeping through the gasket surfaces. If you don't do something about this pronto, it's going to cost you big time. If you drink salt water you will get very sick, and possibly die. Your engine will definitely die. Count on it. More about this in the Risers and Manifolds article.
All inboard, closed cooling system engines have two water pumps. The first is called the seawater pump and is a pump with a replaceable neoprene impeller inside. It doesn't last forever: up north you should have the impeller pulled and inspected annually. Down in the southland, biannually. And you must replace the cover plate gasket too. Don't wait till the impeller fails. It will always do at the worst possible moment.
Now, here's an interesting point. If for any reason your water pump impeller gets all chewed up (like because you don't have good strainers), and when you open it up and find big pieces of the blades missing, where do you think those pieces went? That's right! They are jammed against your heat exchanger tube bundle, blocking off water flow. That's yet another reason why cooling systems need to be serviced every two years.
The second pump is the circulating pump. Be it gas or diesel, this is a pump attached to the front of the engine. On a gas engine it looks like part of the engine and is driven by a belt. On a diesel, it will look like a separate part. Both have cast iron impellers which do not need servicing, although the drive belts do, so don't forget those. These are rarely a problem on closed cooling systems. For open cooling systems, beware of shaft bearing and seal failures. Inspect the shaft behind the pulley. If you see any sign of leaks, particularly in sea water, pull both pumps immediately and have the seals and gaskets replaced. This is not very expensive and will save big $$$ later on. When the bearing is going bad, it will often squeak and sound like a belt. Beware of squeaks; they are trying to tell you something.
Closed Cooling Systems
Also referred to fresh water cooling, closed systems utilize a sort of radiator called a heat exchanger. Basically, your engine is cooled by a mixture of engine coolant chemical (ethylene glycol) and water. This goes through the closed side of the heat exchanger. On the other side, where the air would be on a car radiator, the outside water flows over the cooling tubes to cool the engine coolant that is flowing through them. The excess heat is exchanged from the closed side to the open side, hence the term heat exchanger.
Needless to say, with sea water flowing through one side of the system, all sorts of scale and other bad things can attach themselves to both sides of the cooling tube bundles in the heat exchanger. This build up of crud begins to act like an insulator and will gradually retard the heat exchanging process. It begins to look like the photo above. I don't think I need to tell you what the result of that will be. Ergo, heat exchangers need to be cleaned occasionally, at least every two years, depending on the nature of the water you're boat is floating in. For example, if you kept your boat on Biscayne Bay, crud develops so fast in that water that you need to do it annually.
The heat exchanger is contained in that big tank with the cap on it that you put the coolant into. Now you may have noticed that what you put in there doesn't always stay in there. Damn stuff seems to have a way of escaping, and if it's escaping fast you need to find out why equally fast. Otherwise, Big Bill may come a knocking at your door. Could be several reasons, benign or malignant. Usually it's because you have a leak somewhere to the outside of the system. We're going to hope and pray that it's not to the inside of the system because that would mean that the coolant is going somewhere inside the engine where it is not supposed to be. And that is really Big Bill Country.
So what you're going to do here is check over the outside of the system to see if you can find where that nasty stuff is going to. That's easy because it usually leaves little piles of crud at every point that it is leaking out. Don't ask me what that stuff is because I have no idea. In any case, what you are going to do is to check all the gasket surfaces around the heat exchanger, water pump, manifolds and hose connections. When you find them, you are going to get them repaired because they will not just go away, but only get worse. It's a good idea to go to Sears and get one of those little mirrors on a telescoping shaft. It will help you see in all those places that are hard to get to. Makes the job a lot easier.
Okay, so by now you've got the picture that leaks are serious business, just like leaks in your roof. The longer you wait to fix it, the more it's going to cost. If you wait too long, it will probably mean the cost of an engine.
If you are opening up the cooling system and just pouring liquids in there without regard to proportions, please stop doing that. Too much coolant, like ordinary anti freeze, can cause the inside of the cooling system to gum up. This is not good, so take a look at your engine manual, find out the correct ratio of coolant to water and again write it down on the front of the manual. When you need to add coolant, you must premix it before adding it. That means you need measuring cup, bucket and funnel or something like that. Good idea to get some dedicated stuff at the beginning so your not wasting time trying to figure out how to do it without the right stuff. If you have diesel engines, everything I've said here is doubly important.
For diesels oil changes every 100 hours is the norm. The reason for this frequency is because of the carbon build up that ends up in the oil, not because the oil goes bad. This will transfer to the piston ring grooves and eventually cause the rings to stick, and when that happens you are going to be one very unhappy camper. So follow the 100 hour rule. I've heard some people say they do it every 50 hours, but that is unnecessary, unless perhaps you have a worn out engine.
Oil change frequency for gas engines on the basis of operating hours is much less critical. As the oil accumulates combustion by products, it will gradually darken, eventually becoming black. By this point it will have become highly acidic, and that acid is going to cause internal damage. Therefore you want to change oil before it becomes black, like about at the point where it goes from medium to dark amber, or somewhat before it gets really black. As long as it has some translucent quality, and is not completely opaque, it's okay. Marine engines are not prone to sludging up. In the north, you may not use the boat enough that it does become very dark. In that case, you should do an oil change before layup.
You do NOT want to lay up an engine full of old oil. No, no, no. The reason is acidity that can attack metal parts, particularly bearings. Up north you may be able to go all season without an oil change, but do change it before layup time.
Filters: Please don't go out and buy discount oil filters. They ain't worth a diddly. What that guy says in the oil filter commercial really is true. I recommend that you use only name brand or OEM filters like Fram, AC Delco, etc. The good ones always cost more.
Oh, yes, one more thing. Lately I keep seeing people overfilling their engines. Apparently they think this is a good idea. It's not. Don't do it. Bad things will happen. Fill only to the level marked on the dipstick. Do not overfill transmissions either.
This is a sludged up intercooler from an engine that had had no maintenance for six years. When analyzed, the sludge contained a 40% salt concentration that came into the engine room through the vents.
Check Oil Hoses
On gas engines you will have a transmission oil cooler and possibly an engine oil cooler. There will be hoses connecting these coolers to points on the engine or gear box. Here's where that little mirror really helps. These hoses don't last forever either, and in many cases they get damaged due to vibration where they are cutting against abrasive or sharp surfaces. You need to check over the hoses and make sure that this is not happening. If so, you need to add some protective chaffing collars to prevent this. Also look for badly corroded end fittings and replace them.
Your engines should not be developing a lot of rust on them. If they are, something is wrong and you need to correct the cause. Water getting into the engine compartment is one of the major causes of serious engine damage, and it's often due to poor design of the boat.
The main reasons why engines get rusty are (1) spray coming in through engine room vents, (2) water leaking down through decks above and, (3) evaporating water in the bilge. I'll take them one at a time here.
Engine Room Vents A lot of boats bring in spray through these vents and it's most pernicious with salt water. You need to look around the area of the vents and see if everything is getting all corroded in the general area. If you do, there's water coming in. The best way to stop it is devise a filter using something like high quality air condition filters of the spun fabric sort. This will trap most of the salt. Salt spray in engine rooms is a major cause of reduced engine life.
Leaks These occur in all sorts of ways so I can't tell you what to look for, except that leaks always reveal their presence in some form or another. Most of the time it has to do with the gutters around that hatches and the drainage system that doesn't work too well, or the drains get plugged up. I don't need to tell you that you shouldn't have water dripping down on you engines, though I just did. You'll end up paying one way or the other, so why not fix it?
Wet Bilges Standing water in the engine compartment will result in a high humidity environment that will cause everything in there to corrode. Thing to do is get the water out and keep it out, whatever that takes. This is particularly troublesome in stern drive and open cockpit boats where the machinery is under an exposed deck.
Gas Risers and Manifolds
These are the two parts of the exhaust system that need frequent attention, whether it's gas or diesel. Both these components get very hot, and because of that they have to be water cooled. In fact, They get so hot that even on closed system cooled boats, these components are often raw water cooled, particularly on gas engines.
With gas engines, you need to consider cast iron risers just like the muffler on a car. They're only going to last so many years -- like about four -- until they have to be replaced. The really bad news is that when risers begin to fail, they leak water to the inside of the engine. Check out the photo below. Here's what happens: When you stop the engine, the cooling jackets remain full of water. When corrosion eventually makes a hole in the water jacket, the water will then leak into the manifold and eventually get into the valves and cylinders. The leaking usually goes on undetected for a long time until serious internal damage eventually stops the engine, at which time Big Bill has announced his presence. And I don't mean Monica Lewinsky's lover.
This is what exhaust risers look like on the inside after the owner has waited too long to replace them. Notice that the corrosion has gone right through the casting into the exhaust passage as evidence by the corrosion scale on the inside. This is the infamous Mercruiser riser that has wrecked so many engines because its poorly designed. Note the casting thickness between water jacket and exhaust passage.
Here's what to do. By the time a gas engine is 3 years old, the risers should be removed and inspected internally. An expert can tell whether they're going to fail soon, or have some life left in them. Take special note that how long risers last can be highly variable, and without inspecting them there's really no way of knowing. Secondly, pay attention to the gasket joints. Because of the high temperatures, these tend to weep a bit, so a bit of corrosion is not abnormal. But if there's a lot of corrosion around the gasket joints, they need to be pulled and inspected. Avoid doing this at your own peril. For more details on this, see the Exhaust Risers article.
Gas engines, of course, produce high emissions of carbon monoxide, the invisible, silent killer. If water is leaking out of the exhaust system, so are exhaust fumes. It's your life, so take it from there. Consider all leaks as potentially deadly.
The intercooler lies between the turbocharger and the air intake manifold. Because the turbo is operated by hot exhaust gases, the air needs to be cooled before it enters the engine. Intercoolers are one of the most neglected items on our maintenance list.
You should think of the intercooler like the air filter on your air conditioner. It gets dirty and needs to be cleaned occasionally, particularly if you don't have a good filtration system on your engine. shown above is a picture of an intercooler that hadn't been cleaned for six years.
Failure to maintain the intercoolers results in some very serious consequences indeed, starting with severe performance reductions. As dirt builds up, this restricts cooling ability and air flow. The net result is to reduce power and increase operating temperatures, which further reduces power. The most common symptom of dirty intercoolers is engine smoking at low speed. In 12 month operating climates, intercoolers should be cleaned once every two years, or around 300 operating hours.
Diesel Exhaust Systems
With these engines, exhaust systems are more variable in design, and so are the problems that plague them. I could write a whole book on this subject. Since it would surely not be a best seller, I'm not going to do that. Suffice to say that the same basic problems with gas exhaust systems apply to diesels. Leaks and age are the enemy. If there are apparent leaks on the outside, be assured that it's leaking on the inside as well.
In the past, the major part of, if not all, the exhaust riser systems have been water cooled. This resulted in a tremendous failure rate with ensuing catastrophic engine damage. In the last decade or so boat builders have changed over to dry insulated systems to avoid this problem. Warranty claims apparently became a bit too much for them. Permanently installed insulation is called lagging, the removable type are usually referred to as blankets.
Engines vibrate. A lot. Because of vibration, insulation degrades over time and looses it insulating ability. Exhaust riser temperatures typically run 600 - 800 degrees, not enough to set wood and plastic on fire. I think you're getting my point already, right? NOTHING, EVER should be in contact or close proximity to hot exhaust risers. That means wires, hoses, cables or anything else of any kind. If there are things in contact with the riser system, you MUST move them immediately or risk a fire. So, too, if the insulation is old and falling apart. If you are avoiding replacing old insulation because it costs a lot, then your real problem is that you can't afford to own the boat and hopefully the fire department will send you a bill and the insurance company denies your claim when your boat goes up in smoke. Insurance is a form of socialism, which is why it costs so much. Everyone gets the pleasure of paying for people who don't maintain their boats.
Diesel exhaust leaks contains various forms of acidic sulfur. Even exhaust leaks so small that you can hardly detect them can create a poisonous atmosphere in the engine room that causes all metals to start to corrode. Traces of black soot will usually highlight the leak, and if you see these, get them repaired immediately. Don't wait for the leaks to become profuse, as it inevitably will. LEAKS DO NOT GO AWAY. Ever. Should your engine room become blackened with soot, it cannot ever be removed short of spending a whole lot of money in the four digit range.
Air You need to breathe and so do your engines. In fact, you should think of engines as air pumps, because that's what they are. Take the cubic inch displacement of an engine and it will move half that amount of air with every revolution. A pair of 454 gas engines is moving 788 cubic feet of air every minute, which is quite a lot. Anything that restricts air flow to your engines is serious business, starting with keeping the filters clean, to whether or not the vents are allowing enough air into the engine space. This huge volume of air is one of the reasons that the engines are capable of pulling spray in through the vents. It is a little known fact that poor engine room ventilation is a common cause of poor engine performance. There's a tight line to be walked here in keeping a balance between getting enough air and keeping the water out.
If you have diesel engines but do not have a good set of air filters such as the Walker AirSeps, you should have them installed.
People are always bitching about leaky stuffing boxes, and how they repack them, only to have them start leaking again. So they go out and pay a huge amount of money for the so-called packless glands. (For you newbies, stuffing boxes and packing glands are the same thing) This is unnecessary because most often the cause of the endless leaking stuffing boxes was worn out engine mounts. Engines put tremendous strain on mounts which like everything else don't last forever. When they're worn out they sag, meaning that the shaft is going out of alignment, and the engine is moving around and that's why the stuffing box is leaking. If you buy packless glands, the moving shaft will ruin those too. So what you got to do is bite the bullet and replace the engine mounts. See my detailed essay on Engine/Shaft Alignment Problems located in the Engines section.
Maintaining the fuel system for diesel engines is ultra critical for one single reason: the very high tolerances of the fuel injection pump and injectors will not tolerate dirt or water. Most diesels will have two sets of filters, the primary and secondary. You should have secondary filters (the primaries are the ones on the engine) with visual sight bowls such as Racor or Dahl (two of the best) so you can see when the filters are becoming fouled. When that happens, you need to take action to correct the cause, not the symptom.
Algae, bacteria or whatever that gunk is that grows inside a tank of diesel oil is the result of water contamination. Most likely it came with the fuel you bought, but it is also possible that water is leaking into your tank through (1) improperly installed tank vents, or (2) a fuel filler cap on deck that is leaking. I see a lot of the later. If you have a momentary problem, it's likely the result of purchasing contaminated fuel. If it's chronic, then it's likely that water is getting into your system, in which case you have to find the cause and stop it. Don't always assume that you are getting bad fuel; check the vents and fillers. I often find fillers on decks that get submerged when it rains, so how could it possibly not leak? Otherwise, your fuel system should pose few, if any, problems for you.
If you are having trouble with chronic water contamination, the first thing to do is check your deck filler cap and the O-ring to make sure that it is sealing properly.
Gas engines are more tolerant of water contamination, but what happens is that water being heavier than gasoline, stays at the bottom of the tank so when you run down the fuel level, suddenly you start picking up all the water and the engines crap out suddenly. Soooo . . . . if you don't have Racor filters, it's a good idea to get some because those canister things aren't going to do the job. The first time it happens, leaving you stranded out in the boonies, your day ruined and your wife on the warpath, you'll suddenly come to realize that the price of these filters is not so bad after all.
Old fuel: the gasoline produced these days has an absurdly limited shelf life. No lead, no life. By the time the fuel is two months old, it will have degraded substantially, resulting not only a significant power loss, but it will crud up your engine as well. Hard engine starting is a common symptom of aged gas. The best way to deal with this problem is to not fill your tanks up unless you intend to use the fuel. And if you have good filters, you need not worry about condensation.
Your engines have a lot of wiring and hoses hanging off them. Over time, this wiring and hoses vibrate and chafe against other components and, if not caught in time, the little damage can result in serious damage. For this reason it is important to at least go over all hoses and wiring circuits, inspect them for signs of damage, and add chaffing protection to prevent further damage. By all means, make sure there are no wires or hoses touching any part of the exhaust system, including the manifolds.
Well, that about covers it, and what we didn't cover here should be in your engine manual. I've got a number of manuals sitting on my shelf here, and I can tell you that most of them are very good. Do what it says and you'll get the most bang for your buck.Getting organized is the best solution for dealing with maintenance issues. Make a list, reduce the procedure to a habit and things will get done quickly and efficiently. Only in this way can you take a stitch in time to save nine and keep Big Bill at bay. Preferably at the bottom of the bay.
And if all this seems like just too much malarkey to go through, sell the damn boat and join the country club. That's a whole lot cheaper. Or join a yacht club and invite yourself out on other people's boats like I do . . . .
Posted December 6, 1998