Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Boaty Way of Things

As a normal part of pre-season maintenance, I change the oil in the generator.

No big deal, right?  Should take less than an hour.

Before I remove the oil via a suction tube shoved down the dipstick hole, I heat it up - this makes the process go much faster.  I heat it up by running the generator, naturally.  So I started the generator.

After a while, it shut itself down.  Not the slowly chugging of a fuel starvation issue, but sudden - like I had hit the kill switch.

I pulled up the floorboard and was rewarded with an oil-spattered view...  the generator had spat out all its oil and shut itself down on lack of oil pressure.  What a mess!  Thankfully there is a drip pan under the engine big enough to contain the entire oil charge...  and that's where it was.  The part not on the batteries, walls, floorboards, etc.

I had had this happen once before due to the failure of the oil filter gasket, so I presumed that was what had happened here.  Consequently, I purchased (dearly) a factory authorized oil filter, presuming that the aftermarket filter that I had installed last year was the culprit.  And installed it. and filled the generator with fresh oil (whew!  that was the original objective).

When I started it, I was greeted with a spray of clean oil, right in the face.

OK...  not the oil filter.

A close examination revealed that the leak was likely at the oil pipe...  "Oil pipe," you ask?  Yes.  Kohler, the manufacturer of the genset, used a Yanmar 2gmf diesel engine as a power source.  But the Yanmar design has the oil filter screwed into the block in a horizontal position.  This means that when it is removed, it dumps a cup of oil all over the place, and more particularly, it would dump it outside the drip pan under the engine.  Kohler's answer?  Relocate the oil filter to the other side of the engine where there is a tight spot where it could be mounted vertically, and over the drip pan.

The fuel pump is in that corrosion... somewhere...
But sadly, this location is exactly under the location where the exhaust elbow will drip, if it is failing (uh oh...).  Yeah.  And so add the fuel lift pump.

So far, it seems that I need to replace the feed pipe to the oil filter, the lift pump, and the exhaust elbow.  Here are the costs:

Lift Pump$86
Oil Pipe$209
Exhaust Elbow$767

Now I want to put this into perspective...  A fuel pump for a big block Chevrolet engine costs less than $20.  And $209 for a 12" piece of 1/4" steel tubing??  But HOLY COW!  The exhaust elbow is breathtakingly expensive for an 8" long fabricated mild steel item.  I would have to bet that if I just bought the parts to build this generator from scratch it would cost as much as the entire boat!

In the boaty way of things, the perforated oil pipe cannot be removed without disconnecting and draining the sea water feed to the generator.  And a BIG wrench.  So, since I will have the feed disconnected from the sea water pump, I might just as well change the impeller there too, right?  Add another $40 and a big hassle.  And this presumes that I can get it apart without stripping any screws...

So, the current status is this:
  • I have a new fuel pump on order.  
  • I have a water pump impeller on order.  
  • I will order the oil feed pipe once I have everything apart and haven't (hopefully) broken anything else in the process.  I don't see any alternative to this yet.

And as for the exhaust elbow?  I have a query out there with an individual who will build me one out of 316 stainless for far less than the factory mild steel one...

Salnick's Law of Recursive Maintenance

Whatever you want to do, you have to do something else first...

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