Because I’ve dealt with a variety of inboard diesel and inboard gas engines over the years, I’ve also dealt with many pencil-type zinc anodes. And no matter how many of these babies an engine has or where or how big they are, all of ‘em have one thing in common—they eventually waste away and quit doing the deal. Of course, the next step after this happens is you promptly remove and replace the little jewels.
But here’s the thing—removal is sometimes problematic. Generally speaking, all pencil-type zincs are threaded on one end and screwed into brass, hexagonal plugs that are wrench tightened into ports on heat exchangers, water pumps or a variety of other engine components. However, in some cases, when removal time rolls around, you’ll find that a chunk of the zinc (after considerable wastage) has simply fallen off, separating itself from both the plug and whatever zinc remains attached to it. Moreover, the chunk is simply lurking down there in the dark, preventing you from installing a new zinc!
This sort of situation is, as I just noted, problematic. Trying to remove a small chunk of zinc from a relatively narrow-gauge, tubular hole can prove pretty frustrating. There are numerous approaches to the task and some of them work fairly well. You can attempt an extraction via a set of fly-fishing forceps, for example, or try to pull the chunk out using the narrow blade of a pocket knife. Or you can even employ the business end of a Shop-Vac dialed up to wide-open throttle.
But I’m convinced there’s a tactic that’s head and shoulders above the rest: a No. 2 pencil with a dab of semi-dried (and therefore sticky) glue or adhesive on the eraser. Although you can go with all types of goop to get this little trick to work for you, Gorilla Glue seems to do the job better than most. Just remember to let the stuff get very tacky before you insert the pencil and then let the gooped-up eraser lay atop the chunk of zinc for a bit, while the goop thickens.
Although I’d love to take credit for this humble but useful little tip, I can’t in good conscience do so. Several years ago, a boat-lovin’ MacGyver by the name of Robert J. Kardy passed it on to me. He said it worked for him. I tried it. And guess what? It worked for me, too.
Capt. Bill Pike is deputy editor at our sister publication, Power & Motoryacht.