Case Study: Troubleshooting At Sea 101

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Troubleshooting at Sea 101: Diagnosing and Fixing Engine Problems

Have you ever broken down at sea? There’s nothing worse than the realization that something is wrong with your boat. Especially when everything was functioning fine! Unfortunately, this scenario is not that uncommon. Luckily, majority of the times it’s a problem you can fix onboard with the right know-how and a good set of tools. Even though you can’t fix every problem at sea, you can increase your chances of getting out of a pickle by knowing what to look for. With diesel engines, it is important to know that the engine mainly needs two elements. It needs both air and clean fuel in order to run. So if you are missing one in the equation, you’re going to have problems.

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Do NOT do this when the engine is hot, otherwise you could get burned. The coolant level should be within a couple inches of the filler point.

If low coolant is the problem, fill it back up to the appropriate level. If you do not have any coolant, top off with fresh water. However, once you get home drain and refill the system with coolant. Also, the coolant had to go somewhere, so check the hoses for any punctures or kinks that are preventing flow.

If your engine thermostat is high and you are experiencing a drop in engine RPM’s, check your prop shaft. Traps can get tangled and wrapped around the prop, creating excess friction.

A bad thermostat can restrict the flow of coolant even once the engine is warm. If you have a spare on board, replace it with the new one. Otherwise, the engine will run without the thermostat so remove it if it’s the culprit. Just make sure you put in a new thermostat as soon as you get home.

If your problem is due to a malfunctioning sensor, a bad head gasket, or has something to do with the heat exchanger and you are a novice mechanic, do not venture any further. Get ahold of a professional.

ENGINE FAILS TO
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Check with your multimeter that there is a strong current to the starter. If there is current, the problem could be a bad starter motor or a bad solenoid.

Check your oil level. Refill if low.

Do you have fuel? Check the fuel level, at the gauge and with a dipstick. There is always a possibility the gauge is broken!

Check your fuel to see if it’s dirty. The color of fuel should be a clear red or a amber color. If you see dark on top of light, you probably have water in with your fuel. If your fuel is dark, it could be contaminated with particles.

If you have contaminated fuel, drain the glass bowls in your fuel-water separator until the fuel is clear. Replace the filter, and then refill the separators to the top with fuel so your engine does not become air-bound.

If the fuel is clean, there could be a leak in the fuel system that is letting in air. If this is the case you will need to bleed the fuel system of air. Usually the leaks are found betwen the tank and the lift pump. If this does not solve the issue, bleed at the injectors next.

If your fuel is clean, it could be from the air supply. Check for any blockages in the intake, and look to see if the air filter is too

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