Not long after I purchased Betty Jane II and brought her down to Florida, I got in touch with a Yanmar mechanic, a really good one, and asked him to make a close inspection of Betty’s 240-hp diesel engine. Yeah, I’d had an “engine guy” do a basic examination as part of the pre-purchase survey in Connecticut but what I was hoping to extract from a designated Yanmar mechanic were specific details and assurances that his more generalistic colleague had not had the time or the expertise to provide.
Mr. Yanmar put a full morning in. And he wound up making a suggestion or two concerning the continuing health of my turbocharger, discovered the source of a modest oil leak and, with great diplomacy, remarked upon my engine’s overall cleanliness. “You know,” he noted, “you can hose an engine off with fresh water after you use a little marine degreaser.”
But the most remarkable thing the guy did seemed just a bit insignificant to me—at least at first. Toward the tail end of his stint in my ER, he put a ratchet wrench on one of the hose clamps nesting at the top of my primary fuel filter and asked me to try turning it. What resulted was memorable. While both the screw and the clamp itself had looked secure to me, neither was even close. More to the point, both were so loose that I had to put three or four turns on the screw before the hose underlying the clamp even began to feel snug around its barbed fitting.
“Funny—the effect that constant vibration can have on hose clamps,” the Yanmar mechanic observed while going on to tighten every other hose clamp he could find. Of course, loose hose clamps aren’t the only thing worth checking on as we reach the mid-point of summer. It never hurts to pull your zincs as well, make sure they’re still reasonably intact and replace ‘em if they’re less than 50 percent. And it never hurts to check the tightness of your drive belt or belts (if you want to keep your batteries charged and coolant flowing), the condition of your engine’s water-pump impeller (if you want to avoid overheating problems) and, although it’s not directly related to engine maintenance, the ease with which the levers on your seacocks move back and forth. Unexercised marine valves can sometimes seize due to the buildup of calcium and other mineral deposits.
None of these chores, even when done in concert, is a serious time-burner. You should be able to finish off the whole shebang within the confines of a rainy, late-start Saturday morning. But addressing such simple stuff dockside—where tools, lubricants and electricity are readily available—may well prevent what seems like a “little thing” from going big-time somewhere down the line, spoiling an entire day on the water for you and your family.
Capt. Bill Pike is deputy editor at our sister publication, Power & Motoryacht.