A bit of knowledge, know-how, and maintenance can keep a boat’s engine more efficient and working longer. Most aircraft operators know the importance of inspecting an aircraft before taking off. Although this is imperative in aviation— because you can’t just pull over to the side of the road when something goes wrong— it’s also important to keep a checklist when operating any other mode of transportation. Although a boat or car can stop and fix the issue, it still causes issues, such as diverting traffic or being stranded. Not to mention the cost of fixing an issue that could have easily been prevented.
It's very important to change an engine’s oil at the proper intervals, which can be found in the engine manufacturer’s manual. Because of advanced technology, it’s rare to need an oil change sooner than recommended. The reasons why someone might need to change the oil sooner is if the engine is subject to unusually heavy loads, high temperatures, or dirty air. The most common reason to change the oil sooner would be because a diesel-powered engine that has traveled outside of North America may end up using fuel that contains high levels of sulfur. Because the sulfuric acid accumulates in the oil and cannot be filtered out, it will cause damage to the engine; so, it’s important to monitor the levels and respond accordingly. Another important note to point out is that the oil filter should be changed every time the oil is changed— the filter contains dirty oil which will contaminate the fresh oil otherwise.
An easy way to prevent issues is to maintain good situational awareness— listen to the boat. A squealing noise may indicate that a belt is loose; a metallic tapping may indicate that the valves, lifters, or rocker arms are causing issues. Grinding, or grating, metal may indicate that a pump bearing needs to be replaced. If the exhaust is loud and emits a high pitch noise, it may indicate that there is less cooling water running through it.
Most operators know that an engine has a distinctive smell when it’s running well. However, there are also smells that indicate something is going wrong. Paying attention to these can prevent more issues and can save the operator money— the initial cost to fix a small issue is worth it compared to the cost of allowing further damage to occur. Burning rubber smells may indicate that the water flow is not reaching the water pump’s impeller. If this smell is coming from the engine, it’s important to check for a clogged water tank immediately. It may also indicate that an insufficient supply of cooling water is not reaching the exhaust manifold, the V-belt has slipped, or a coupler in the stern drive has failed. The smell of oil may indicate that the oil is leaking and dripping on the hot engine. A sweet smell may indicate an antifreeze leak. And last, but not least, a burnt hair smell may indicate an electrical shortage.
There are many ways to prevent corrosion and failures in marine engines. It’s not only important to follow the engine manufacturer’s recommendations, but also to maintain good situational awareness and not neglect something that seems off.
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