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Motoring Today

Buying a new diesel engine is a worthwhile, yet pricey endeavour for any boat owner, and all owners want to make sure they get good use out of their new engines.


That's why Power Equipment, the authorised distributor of Yanmar, MASE and JCB products, hired Nick Lee to take over as the company's national engineering and customer service manager in late August 2014. He and his team are now working tirelessly to help customers and dealers better understand their engines and how to care for them by providing aftermarket support.


Fortunately for many diesel engine owners, aftermarket support might not be needed as often if they take proper care of their engines. See some extra advice? Read on to learn what you can do to make your diesel engine run better and last longer.


Understanding the engine

The first step to keeping your engine up and running is understanding how it works. Despite what you might think, car diesel engines and boat diesel engines are not at all the same. Different maintenance is needed.


To start out be sure you are paying close attention to the amount of maintenance requested by the manufacturer as outlined in the owner's manual. Some owners feel the amount is too high and they're reluctant to spend additional time and money. At the end of the day, it's up to you, but we recommend keeping close to the manufacturer's maintenance recommendations.


So let's start by looking at the two most important systems that require frequent maintenance: the lubrication and the cooling systems. These two systems are responsible for keeping the engine running and cool.


Lubrication System

In diesel engines, metal-to-metal contact is the one thing you want to avoid. The heat from that contact alone would melt the metals entirely. To help ease this process, the lubrication system provides a thin film of oil on all moving parts. The oil lubricates the bearing surfaces and cools them by absorbing the heat generated by the friction of the engine parts moving together.


To keep this system running smoothly, you should be changing the lube oil every 100 hours or so of use. Large amounts of carbon by-product tend to get into the oil, which lessens the oil's ability to lubricate. The by-product also slows down the cooling functions by blocking the heat transfer. As if this wasn't bad enough, sulphuric acid can also build up and damage the engine bearings.


When purchasing lube oil, don't cheat yourself. Follow the recommendations found in your diesel engine's owner's manual. The information comes straight from the manufacturers, and they're not trying to dupe you.


It is also important that you have good filters in your engine. Though they can be a bit pricey, it's best to choose high-quality filters that will get the job done right the first time. You don't want your engine to fail on you when you're out at sea, after all.


The Cooling System

On a hot summer's day, you're going to be especially grateful that your engine's cooling system is doing its job properly. The cooling system circulates antifreeze throughout the engine to keep it from overheating and shorting out. It also circulates seawater through the heat exchanger, which keeps the antifreeze nice and cool.


Diesel engines actually operate under a piston compression of about 350 to 550 psi, which is roughly three to four times the amount of a gas engine. This compression puts a lot of excess strain on your engine, and heat tends to build up at an alarmingly-high rate if the cooling system fails. All it really takes is about 60 seconds for your engine to overheat.


The truth is that diesel engines are not equipped to deal with even minor overheats in the way that gas engines are. The internal parts cannot handle high heats and will suffer serious damage if the engine is even a little overheated.


To prevent this as much as possible, it is essential that you check your engine before leaving the dock each time you decide to take your boat out. You should be looking for leaks and signs of age in the hoses. Clean the engine after returning to the dock each time to stop any build-up. Don't add water or straight coolant. Your owner's manual should guide you through mixing a solution of recommended coolant, which will keep the cooling system clean and stop corrosion.


Other things to watch

Keeping the lubrication and the cooling systems clean is essential for getting the most out of your diesel engine, but there are a few other things to be on the lookout for when it comes to maintaining a diesel engine.


Vibrations and age can cause system gaskets to start leaking, and sometimes, these links are difficult to see. Coolant leaks out, and the engine overheats. Make sure you're always checking both the coolant and the oil before taking your boat out to sea. You'll pay a high price if you fail to do so. Remember that if you want to replace one gasket, it's best just to replace them all. If one gaskets is leaking, there's a good chance the others will follow suit.


Like smoke alarms in your house, some engine alarms give out over time, but unlike those smoke alarms, engine alarms do not beep obnoxiously until you change them. As these alarms are vital to the health of your engine, it is imperative that you maintain these alarms. You might also consider installing an exhaust temperature alarm. They function longer and they're relatively inexpensive to install. The amount of money they save you in repairs should pay for the installation costs several times over.


When caring for your diesel engine, you have a plethora of options. Your owner's manual should have all the information you need on replacing parts, cleaning the engine and who to call for technical support. Yanmar, JCB, Goir, PSS and MASE customers can take advantage of Lee's new aftermarket support team.


No matter what, the key to keeping your diesel engine running is good maintenance. Don't wait until it's too late to get your diesel engine serviced.

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