Maintenance All Articles


Bilgewater Treatment

Many years ago, because a now-defunct marine towing outfit I was working for at the time found itself a little short of qualified personnel, I became an instant chief engineer for a few months. I say chief, by the way, because there were no other

Trouble-shooting an overheating boat engine

Question: I have a 1990 Carver Yacht with two 375-hp Caterpillar 3208 diesels. The starboard engine works fine, but at 2000 rpm the port engine overheats. Once the temperature hits 200F, I slow down to prevent damage and everything returns to normal.

Garmin’s Tip of the month - March 2011

To keep plug-in-type low-voltage chargers for electronics sorted so you don’t inadvertently use an incompatible charger on a pricey piece of equipment, put a dot of nail polish on each of your onboard gadgets (rechargeable spotlight, hand-held VHF, etc.) and a matching dot of the same color on the appropriate charger. You’ll never goof up again.

Bilge Pump Early-Warning System

Just the other day, I received in the mail a device called a BW8 Bilge Pump Activity Monitor from British manufacturer Celectron. Manufacturers occasionally send me products in hopes I’ll feature them in this column and, after looking the little unit over (and reading the

Seasonal Storage For Fuel Tanks


Question: When I took your one-day Introductory Diesel Maintenance Course several years ago, I forgot to ask one question: What is the best way to lay up a fuel tank for seasonal storage? For years now, I’ve been topping off my tanks when fall lay-up comes around in order to reduce the air space above the fuel and thus minimize algae growth. Just

Aluminum in engine oil


Question: I just did my first oil analysis on my Cummins 6BTA diesel, and the results seem somewhat disconcerting. According to the report, there was aluminum in the oil at 28 ppm (parts per million) and iron at 20 ppm. The oil that was tested had approximately 43 engine hours on it. And since I bought my boat some nine years ago, I have

Dinghy Replacement

Recently, I underwent a profoundly meaningful conversion experience and, like a whole passel of converts before me, I’m hot in the heels to share it with the world. The whole thing started several weeks ago when I felt the pain of being dinghy-less for the

The Ultimate Upgrade

Disaster struck at seven o’clock on a wintry North Florida morning. Tim Martin and his buddies were idling along in Martin’s seasoned battlewagon, 30 miles offshore, having deployed lures for the early wahoo bite. “Hey,” yelled Adrian Heilman from the cockpit as one of the exhaust ports burped black smoke. From the helm station on the flying bridge,

Caterpillar 3208 low rpm


Question: I have a 1989 Sea Ray with 375-hp Caterpillar 3208 diesels. Last year I overheated one of them and blew a head gasket. Overheating had been a problem for some time prior, incidentally. Anyway, I determined shortly thereafter that the gasket had blown into the cylinder although no cooling fluid had escaped. So I hired a diesel shop to

Onan genset spewing black smoke

Question: I have a 4-kW Marine Onan genset with 600 hours on it. If I let it run for a lengthy period it produces so much black smoke that a residue discolors the hull around the exhaust port. A year ago, I cleaned the heat exchanger and installed a new raw-water pump. There are no overheating issues. Do I have an injector or rack problem?—Charlie Carpenter, Morristown, New

Noisy Engines

Question: I have a pair of Detroit Diesel 6-71 TIBs in my 1990 Ocean 48 Super Sport. I love both the boat and the motors, but the Detroits have always been loud at the exhaust end of things. As I grow older, this noise is starting to bother me, particularly at times when I have to shout to be heard on the flying bridge at cruise speed. Muffler companies tell me that modern

Garmin’s Tip of the Month - November 2010

To loosen a sticking oil filter that you can’t get to unscrew with a standard filter wrench; simply attach a hose clamp around the filter’s base, close and tighten it, and, after positioning a flat-head screwdriver sideways against the screw housing of the clamp, gently tap it with a hammer. I’ve had success with this method on more than one

Labor of Love

The 30-foot Carver Santego was for sale and up on the hard. From a distance she looked gray and tan instead of her original white with navy and black trim with...

Twin Engine Temperature Disparity

Question: I have a 1994 Mainship 31 with a pair of 315-hp Yanmar diesels with 2,000 hours on them. While running at full throttle (about 33 knots) for five minutes, the starboard engine temperature creeps up enough to set off an alarm. If I ease ‘er back to half-throttle, the temperature returns to normal after a couple of minutes. The starboard engine has always run a bit warmer

Algae On My Racor

Question: While performing routine maintenance on my Caterpillar C7, I was surprised to find a substance about the size of a quarter at the top of my Racor—it looked like algae. There was no water in the bowl, and the engine-mounted filter was found to be clean. My Cat runs fine now and I would like to keep it that way. I am getting a lot of suggestions from friends as to what

PMY TRIES... Nautic Air

It was an interesting suggestion, really.

Some weeks before, Heath Schuman of Nautic Air had UPS’d me an experimental version of his portable NA20 air purifier to temporarily try out on my trawler Betty Jane. I’d placed the thing on the dining table in Betty’s saloon straight off, plugged it into a nearby 110-volt outlet, and after securely closing all

Battery Blasphemy?

A contrarian take on battery replacement

All batteries have terminals and cable connectors that need to be periodically cleaned, preferably with a battery brush. I’m guessing I’m in the same boat as a few other folks these days. I’ve got three marine batteries salted away aboard my trawler Betty Jane...

Walker Engineering

Walker Engineering has been making diesels breathe better for more than two decades.

I used to crew on a 43-foot sportfisherman that was powered with twin 625-hp Detroit Diesel 6V-92s, and those engines were tank-like. In fact, the current owner of that boat has 3,000-plus hours on those original motors and they’re still going strong. But after

Vinyl Fever

It was astonishing, really—the near-total absence of useful information on the Internet concerning the renovation and/or replacement of marine vinyl cushions. Sure, there were plenty of canvas and upholstery shops listed and some were even conveniently near where I keep my boat. But the related Web sites were pretty unsophisticated and, when I telephoned them, the results were often less than

Yacht Restoration

Any boatyard can refurbish an elderly vessel, but where do old yachts get new lives using traditional techniques? The answer is the Newport, Rhode Island-based International Yacht Restoration School (IYRS), a non-profit organization that’s devoted to teaching boatbuilding and boat preservation the way it was once done. Indeed, IYRS students and faculty focus solely on bringing back to life

Professor Diesel

Q. I have a 2003 Sea Ray Sundancer 420 and am moving from the New York City area to Florida soon. Do I need to do anything different in Florida in terms of boat maintenance? I am especially concerned about the warmer waters down there and the algae growth in fuel tanks I've heard so many bad things about.


Dan Markow
North Haledon, New Jersey


Back to Basics

Fort Lauderdale's International Yacht Training offers a true hands-on dieselengine course with small class sizes.
Instructor Hartley MacDonald lectures to his students during an in-class segment (the author is at right). The course is five days long.

The Applied

Nautic Air Module - Got Allergies?

As an unabashed booster for boats and boating, I’m a tad amazed to find myself admitting that we boaters have a wholly invisible but smelly problem: onboard air quality. Consider my own 21-year-old, meticulously maintained trawler Betty Jane. Like lots of other vessels, she mostly gets used on weekends, and throughout any given weekend, especially during the summer, she’s likely to be almost

Jabsco Oil Changer

When my buddy Bruce said he had a like-new Jabsco Porta Quick oil changer he’d give me for free, I was happy. When I discovered the unit sells for $209.99, I was ecstatic.

The Porta Quick is a 14-quart plastic container/reservoir with a 12-volt electric impeller-type pump on top. A cord with alligator clips supplies battery power, and a toggle switch

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