Report from the Diesel Doc

While Stephanie and I were enjoying the dockside life last night Rode Trip was nervously awaiting her first check up by a real professional since 2009. This morning Gary our mechanic arrived right on time at 7:30 and asked for all the details. I gave him all the information that my equipment troubleshooting had enabled me to collect.

1. After we had been running the engine for a while the oil pressure would drop slowly
2. When the oil pressure dropped the oil level in the tank would go up.
3. We were collecting approximately 3/4 pint of additional volume every 3 weeks/20 engine hours
4. The engine seems to still start and run normally other than the fact that we were “making” oil
5. The tachometer fluctuates slightly (50 rpm) for the first 30 seconds to a minute after starting the engine.

Gary listened carefully to all the details that I gave and started asking questions. He still wasn’t sure, but we moved on to looking at the engine. His first reaction was ” this engine looks like it is in great shape”. After taking a quick look around he had me start the engine, he looked for a smoky exhaust, or a hard start. Our good old perkins started up right away, just like usual. He made another comment that most Perkins require quite a bit more cranking than that to get going. He reassured me about the fluctuation in the tachometer. Apparently our tachometer reads off of our alternator and if the engine belt slips at all then the tachometer will fluctuate, but the engine is really running fine. I suggested that I would tighten the belt later, and he said that it would be better to leave it the way it is, better for the alternator.

After gathering all this information his opinion was…that it almost had to be a bad fuel lift pump. We talked about how that had recently been replaced with a new unit. He suggested that with the symptoms that we were having it seemed most likely that we had been sold a bad fuel lift pump. We made a plan that he would check the new fuel lift pump first, and then move on to the injectors. While he was starting the fuel lift pump check he found that we had a glow plug (fuel preheater for starting the engine in cold weather) that he missed on his initial inspection. He decided to check this first as it was very easy to pull and check. His check indicated that the valve inside was most likely leaking past! Whew! Talk about relief, it seems that our problem was caused by one small valve that we don’t need and weren’t using. Ten minutes later the glow plug was replaced with a bolt, and I have instructions on how to install a new glow plug if we decide to do some cold weather sailing.

I was ecstatic! I had been convinced that we were going to be stuck at the marina here at Point Judith while we waited for parts and had to have major engine work done. Instead the mechanic was done in about 1 1/2 hours, we didn’t have to order any parts, and I got some of my lingering engine questions answered.

1. There are no pencil zincs on our engine or raw water cooler
2. The prop will always spin slowly even when we are in neutral.
3. The transmission fluid should be changed every 1000 hours approx

I also asked about what usually breaks on a perkins, and he told me “nothing, these engines are just about bulletproof”

Thanks to Rich and Carol for recommending Point Judith Marine. We were very happy that our problem was solved so easily, although I imagine that the marina was probably hoping we would at least have to buy some parts after we stayed at their dock and used their showers!