Parts and Preparedness

Parts and Preparedness
Parts and Preparedness
When things go wrong at sea, a little foreknowledge and the right parts and tools can make all the difference.

By Capt. Ken Kreisler — July 2001

 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Boat Repairs
• Part 2: Boat Repairs continued
• Essentials

 Related Resources
• Maintenance Q&A Index
• Maintenance Feature Index

Back when I used to six-pack my boat, I was at the end of an afternoon of fishing when I hit the starter button and heard the unmistakable click click of the solenoid without the sound of the engine starting. I put my hand on the casing and was surprised that it was hot. I figured that if I could cool it down, I might coax one good turn out of it. That's when I had the idea to use my CO2 fire extinguisher. A few quick shots at the starter produced a coating of fluffy ice, after which a push on the starter button had my little diesel purring away.

I credit my success that day to the right combination of luck and smarts. But I've since learned to rely on the right tools, parts, and preparedness and leave luck to others.

Your first strategy in dealing with an emergency is prevention. That means both preventive maintenance and having aboard an inventory of spare parts that you can replace if you need to. Be practical. Concentrate on things you can work with, like belts, hoses, hose clamps, impellers, oil and fuel filters, lube and transmission oil, coolant, and thermostats.

A corollary to this is having the right tools aboard to do the jobs you can do. These should include an assortment of tools (see "Essential Tools," this page) plus a few products like Marine-Tex, which can stop leaks even underwater, and a can of brush-on gasket material (see "Essential Parts," this page). All this shouldn't take up much space. A medium-size toolbox should hold everything you need, and one 2'x2' sealable plastic storage box should suffice for each engine.

So what can you fix underway? That depends on your mechanical aptitude, but here are a few things you should be able to do in a pinch. And remember this basic rule of troubleshooting: Always do the simplest thing first.

If your coolant temperature spikes, shut down and have a look--before the alarm goes off. Look around the engine for evidence of leaks. Check the coolant level in your expansion bottles. (If you don't have them, install them.) Do not remove the expansion tank cap until you can rest your hand on it, then remove it slowly. Make sure it's properly seated. If it is and you see leakage at the end of the rubber overflow hose, you may need only replace the cap and top off the coolant. If the coolant level and cap are fine, check the raw-water system. Start with the strainer; if it's full of water, check the flow of water out of the exhaust. If it's weak or nonexistent, your problem is likely a bad impeller. Replacing one is relatively easy (assuming you can get to it), but make sure you review the procedure beforehand. After all, this is no place for on-the-job training.

Next page > Parts and Preparedness continued > Page 1, 2, 3

This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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