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Old 09-15-2010
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The smell of Diesel in the cabin, Oil Changes, & Engine Maintenence schedules

Hi Everyone:

I have four general questions on engine maintenance and troubleshooting that I would like to air, and if they have been discussed to death before, then kindly point me in the right direction and I will do more online research.

Q1. I have heard a general rule is Oil changes are recommended every 50 hours of operation or yearly. If you run the engine just to get in and out of the marina, say for 45 minutes each way, about 12 times a year, ( I know, I need to sail more ), is it best to change the oil yearly, or is at 50 hours sufficient?

Q2. I am smelling a odor of diesel fuel in the cabin when the engine runs getting my sailboat in and out of the marina, and I see no visible evidence of a leak, so other than following the path of the fuel lines, any other places to check? Would an exhaust leak also smell like a diesel fuel leak or is it likely I have a loose hose clamp, bad hose, leaking fuel pump, etc. Any troubleshooting tips would be good.

Q3. When I start the engine, I notice it takes about 2 minutes for my tachometer to start registering rpm readings. Not sure if the sender on the motor is acting up, or if the dial on the panel is. Other than a visual inspection for coorosion, loose wires, etc, what is the best way to tackle this? Just get out the multimeter and start tracing voltages around? My engine is a 1980 2QM15 that may need an overhaul on some system components.

Q4. Speaking of overhauls, my 2QM15 runs great, starts up great, but has about 900+ hours on it. Any thoughts on when it is time to have it seriously checked out? Is just wirebrushing rust off, and doing touch up paint sufficient to keep it in good shape? At what point do you need to tear into exhaust elbows, etc. I replace the water pump impellar and engine anodes, so don't think I totally neglect the engine, but at what point does rust on the exhaust header = replacing the exhaust header? Do people actually replace the engine wire harness or sensors somewhere along the way?
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Last edited by LittleWingCA; 09-15-2010 at 05:06 PM.
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Old 09-15-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LittleWingCA View Post
Hi Everyone:

I have four general questions on engine maintenance and troubleshooting that I would like to air, and if they have been discussed to death before, then kindly point me in the right direction and I will do more online research.

Q1. I have heard a general rule is Oil changes are recommended every 50 hours of operation or yearly. If you run the engine just to get in and out of the marina, say for 45 minutes each way, about 12 times a year, ( I know, I need to sail more ), is it best to change the oil yearly, or is at 50 hours sufficient?
Usually, it is EVERY 100 HOURS, not 50 or EVERY YEAR, which ever is less...If you only motor 10 hours a year, you want to change your oil at least ONCE A YEAR. Used motor oil is very nasty stuff, and replacing it on a regular basis is good for your engine.

Quote:
Q2. I am smelling a odor of diesel fuel in the cabin when the engine runs getting my sailboat in and out of the marina, and I see no visible evidence of a leak, so other than following the path of the fuel lines, any other places to check? Would an exhaust leak also smell like a diesel fuel leak or is it likely I have a loose hose clamp, bad hose, leaking fuel pump, etc. Any troubleshooting tips would be good.
It could also be the smell of unburnt fuel coming in with the exhaust fumes. Clean the engine off very thoroughly, and then run it... and check to see if there is any visible fuel that appears.

It would help if you said what make/model engine and what kind of boat you have, since there may be something specific to the engine/boat that is commonly causing this issue. BTW, I see you said that the engine is a Yanmar 2QM15 in your next question.

Quote:
Q3. When I start the engine, I notice it takes about 2 minutes for my tachometer to start registering rpm readings. Not sure if the sender on the motor is acting up, or if the dial on the panel is. Other than a visual inspection for coorosion, loose wires, etc, what is the best way to tackle this? Just get out the multimeter and start tracing voltages around? My engine is a 1980 2QM15 that may need an overhaul on some system components.
The tachometer generally runs off of a contact on the alternator. Check the connections there first.

Quote:
Q4. Speaking of overhauls, my 2QM15 runs great, starts up great, but has about 900+ hours on it. Any thoughts on when it is time to have it seriously checked out? Is just wirebrushing rust off, and doing touch up paint sufficient to keep it in good shape? At what point do you need to tear into exhaust elbows, etc. I replace the water pump impellar and engine anodes, so don't think I totally neglect the engine, but at what point does rust on the exhaust header = replacing the exhaust header? Do people actually replace the engine wire harness or sensors somewhere along the way?
Keeping the engine paint in good shape goes a long way to protecting the engine from rusting out externally. Keeping the anodes in good shape will protect it from galvanic corrosion.

However, I'd point out that if it ain't broke, fixing it might cause more problems than it solves.
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Old 09-15-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LittleWingCA View Post
Q1. I have heard a general rule is Oil changes are recommended every 50 hours of operation or yearly. If you run the engine just to get in and out of the marina, say for 45 minutes each way, about 12 times a year, ( I know, I need to sail more ), is it best to change the oil yearly, or is at 50 hours sufficient?
The beauty of diesel engines in a sailboat is that they tend to be bullet proof. I just bought a boat from Socal and the PO had the oil changed every 50 hours. The boat is 5 years old and had only 210 hours on it when I bought it.

Up where I am, I always changed the oil twice a year, fall and spring. We could put hundreds of hours on the engine over the course of a busy summer but a diesel is happiest if it is being run, not sitting. That is why I would change the oil in the fall after the summer boating season, then change it again in the spring after the winter boating season.

For your use, I would change it yearly, regardless of the number of hours you put on the engine since your total hours will be so low.

As SD said, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Keep it maintained but if it is running well don't mess with it. Also, I would run it at max throttle a bit each time you use the boat.
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High output alternators are programed to warm up, usually about two minutes, before they take the load...then your RPMs will come up. Its all quite normal. I always wait the two minutes before I go into gear. Often you will hear a slight whine when the alternator takes the load and the tach kicks in.
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Yanmar does recommend oil changes every 50 hours. And ditto to the above advice of yearly changes if you're not making that 50h within 365 days.

Last edited by puddinlegs; 09-15-2010 at 07:21 PM.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LittleWingCA View Post
Ditto to all the advice above about oil changes. Your oil has a greater chance of break-down and contamination from storage and short run intervals than from houring out. It's better for marine diesels to run continously at near full load than to run in short intervals. I cycle my engine much more than it likes so I change my engine at less than 50hrs.

BTW, Yanmar recommends the first change at 50hrs and subsequent changes at 100hrs.

Q2. I am smelling a odor of diesel fuel in the cabin when the engine runs getting my sailboat in and out of the marina, and I see no visible evidence of a leak, so other than following the path of the fuel lines, any other places to check? Would an exhaust leak also smell like a diesel fuel leak or is it likely I have a loose hose clamp, bad hose, leaking fuel pump, etc. Any troubleshooting tips would be good.

Occasionally diesels will puke finely atomized fuel (gray/white smoke) out the intake at start-up and shut down so that may be what you are smelling. This is especially true if your engine doesn't fire up at the first attempt. I installed weather stripping around the engine covers to help prevent fuel odor. If you do seal the engine box make sure that the engine has plenty of fresh air through external vents or dorades. Just to be safe though I would still look for fuel leaks.


Q4. Speaking of overhauls, my 2QM15 runs great, starts up great, but has about 900+ hours on it. Any thoughts on when it is time to have it seriously checked out? Is just wirebrushing rust off, and doing touch up paint sufficient to keep it in good shape? At what point do you need to tear into exhaust elbows, etc. I replace the water pump impellar and engine anodes, so don't think I totally neglect the engine, but at what point does rust on the exhaust header = replacing the exhaust header? Do people actually replace the engine wire harness or sensors somewhere along the way?
Replace the exhaust header when it starts leaking. Disassemble and clean the heat exchanger, exhaust elbow etc if your water pump and impeller are in good shape but you still have low water flow or elevated engine temps. Otherwise, just follow the service intervals in the owners manual and you should have many years of trouble free service.

BTW, Yanmar recommends valve adjustment every 500hrs so you will be due in 2yrs or so if the first was done on time.

I would recommend that you buy Nigel Calder's "Marine Diesel Engines" if you don't already have it. It's an excellent guide to the care and feeding of your marine diesel.
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Think of it this way
1 hour of run time = 60 miles (in a car @ 60mph)
900 hours = 54,000 miles
average life of a diesel engine 250,000 miles +
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My comments on the fuel odor got captured in the quote box above.
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Old 09-15-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cruisingdream View Post
Think of it this way
1 hour of run time = 60 miles (in a car @ 60mph)
900 hours = 54,000 miles
average life of a diesel engine 250,000 miles +
Diesel engine runs 1MM miles before overhaul easy.
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