Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Engine Maintenance 101

Our Universal 25 diesel engine.  Although it's dirty, it's not that black around the edges ... something with the camera.  That pretty orange thing is the new FRAM oil filter.

Continuing with Nirvana's maintenance, Ken tackled the filters and fluids on Nirvana.  There was the oil (15W-40), oil filter (FRAM PH3593A), fuel filter (WIX 33390), water/fuel separator filter (Racor 2010TM-OR), transmission fluid (Type A), and impeller (Oberdorfer) ... enough to fill an afternoon.  

Impeller ... what's an impeller?!  Until recently, I'd never heard of such a thing.  I learned that the impeller is a part of the raw water pump that circulates water in order to cool the engine's internal cooling system.  You can see what it looks like in the pic above (that rubber piece in the middle that kinda looks like a star).  I also learned that this one little part is about $45 bucks!  Luckily, this impeller came with the boat.

  Nothing is easy on a boat right?!  When Ken changed the impeller, there was a little metal ring (snap clip) that needed to be removed and replaced (see the ring in top left corner of impeller package).  The ring came off easily, but putting the new one back on ... not so much.  Basically, Ken had to make his own little tool to get the thing on there by grinding down a pair of snap ring pliers.  About an hour later it was finally on.  There were two metal rings that came with the impeller (see pic).  Those are oil seats, which usually don't come with the impellers.  We didn't install those at this time since that's a whole other project.

Our impeller definitely needed changing, as you can see in the picture below.  The rubber was pretty beat up, and was starting to crack.  When I researched the maintenance schedule online, I found that it's recommended that an impeller should be replaced every 200 hours or every 2 years in clear water.  It should also be removed every winter to prevent the vanes from being bent all season.  If your engine over-heats for any reason, the impeller should be replaced.  Our engine over-heated shortly after owning Nirvana.  Perhaps that's why it needed changing, or maybe it's due to the fact that we've owned Nirvana for over 3 1/2 years and we're changing it for the very first time.

The old impeller, with the oil seats (seals) and an extra paper gasket.

Although Ken had changed the oil and oil filter before, he'd never changed the Racor fuel filter/water separator filter until now.  Needless to say, it was filthy and we plan on changing this annually.  Also, per Universal's recommendations, the oil & filter should be changed every 75 hours, the transmission oil (fluid) every 100 hours, and the fuel filter every 100 hours.  When changing the fuel filter, Ken also needed to bleed the air out of the diesel line in order to be able to re-fill the filter with fuel and restore pressure to the system.  He said it was easy ... just open the bleeder valve until you get fuel.   When removing the oil and transmission fluid, Ken used a hand pump.  When replacing the oil, Ken just used a funnel.  However, adding the transmission oil (fluid) was a little trickier.  The transmission is located at the back of the engine, underneath the heat exchange.  This makes it a PITA to get to the transmission, so Ken used a long spout to replace the transmission oil (fluid).

Cleaning out the hand pump and spout with Dawn soap and water ...

Our engine is located underneath the salon cushions, around the galley's counter.  If you're familiar with Catalina 30's, you'll notice that the port side settee has been raised (thus the wood strip at the top of the engine, under the cushions) by the previous owners.  We think they did this to allow more space for the Universal 25 engine, which about 3" higher than the standard engine.

It's always good to have spares nearby, so we plan on buying more filters, another impeller and a water pump soon to have as a backup.  If you have a Universal diesel engine, did you know that you can buy Kubota tractor parts much cheaper?  That's what we did when our engine over-heated and we needed a water pump.  We saved a lot of money!  The details and where we ordered the pump from are in our post here.

I'm starting to learn the basic concepts of the engine, and the next time Ken does all this work I plan on learning how to do it myself.  We never know what situations will arise when cruising, so the more I learn the better.

Hasta luego ... until then.  Mid-Life Cruising!

*UPDATE:  A reader commented that we didn't mention changing our zinc ... what zinc?!  Yep, we didn't know about that, but we do now.  Check out my post about the condition (and location) of our zinc here.


Sandee said...

Yep, we are well aware of all this maintenance. We also learned the hard way about impellers. When you have one disintegrate you learn about them very quickly. We change them every year and carry extras at all time.s

Have a terrific day. Hope Ken is feeling better. ☺

Carolyn Shearlock - The Boat Galley said...

Instead of just saying you'll change the Racor once a year, it's a good habit to check it before you start the engine EVERY time . . . and any time the engine sounds funny, it's one of the first things to check. Since the housing is clear it's easy to check it for water and anything plugging the filter -- and a quick way to stop a potential problem before it becomes a big problem.

John Wanamaker, s/v Emerald Lady said...

Changing fluids is at the heart of a healthy engine. We have 10 spare fuel filters just in case we get bad fuel have to change a clogged one underway. Recently a boat coming into the Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico ended up on the beach and heavily damaged due to the engine failing after the fuel filter clogged as the were entering the channel to the marina in moderate surf. We also have several spare impellers just in case. Normally they last at least 100 hours but we had to replace our last one after just 20 hours. Finally I agree with one of the other comments. You should check the condition of your fuel filter every time you go out.

Bliss said...

You can throw away that PITA split ring on the impeller. It was used during assembly of the pump at the factory but serves no purpose in practice. There have been many discussions of this in the Yahoo owner's group.

You didn't mention changing out the zinc in the heat exchanger anywhere. I found mine would last about 3-4 months.

Ken n Cheryl said...

Thanks for all the great advice!

Bliss ... don't need the split ring? That's great news! Also, a big THANKS for telling us about the zinc on the heat exchanger ... we didn't know it had one. Going to check it out (and replace it) soon!

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