Monday, November 4, 2013

On Balance

The goal today was to get started on the routine engine work; oil and filter change, fluid change in the V-drive and tranny, fuel filters and zincs. The job went completely off track when the first engine cover came off to reveal a bilge full of oily water. For some reason the bilge pump wasn't on; don't remember turning it off nor is there an obviously reason why I would have done so. Whatever the reason it kept us from pumping oily water into the marina so, on balance, a good thing.

A quick check showed that the engine oil level itself wasn't down noticeably nor was there any obvious oil trails drooling off any part of the engine. The first rule of maintenance is, when one isn't sure what to do next, do the obvious. Cleaning up the bilge made it pretty clear there was just a tiny bit of oil involved so, on balance, a good thing.  (The first glance in the bilge inspired visions of holed cases with hot, broken parts like rod caps leaking out.)

The actual water in the bilge, once it was determined not to be coolant, wasn't much of a puzzle.  Rain fell with enthusiasm in Oriental the other night. Some of the water that enters the cockpit manages to find its way into the hell hole rather then going overboard through the scuppers.  From there it flows down the engine pan, under the engine, soaks through the oil absorbent pads, and dribbles into the bilge. Less than four gallons total had dripped in, a bit much maybe, but quite possible given hours of heavy showers. 

With the bilge cleaned up and the oil level checked the next obvious step was to wake up ye 'ole Westerbeke to see what might be amiss.

(An aside; once in a while during all of the motoring we have done, engine rpm would sag 100 or so then, a few seconds later, spin back up to where it was. It was just enough to notice when the water was placid and the winds naught. Any wind and wave would mask it and it went unnoticed motor sailing.  Still, it was enough to bother me and probably helped provoke the thought of stopping here for some work.)

The engine barked to life.  It took about a minute, then the beam from the flashlight glinted across a small rivulet of pink sneaking down the port side of the engine pan and under the oil mat. Pink? Moving into the aft cabin to see better, the pink stream had its origin up high on the motor and behind the accessory case, a place impossible to see. Bringing a small mirror into play (no toolbox is complete without several) the fluid first appeared to be leaking from the fitting on a small tube in the case. The manual suggested the tube carried oil, and this fluid was clearly not oil, in fact, it was diesel.  Diesel?  Four more times of running the engine in 5 seconds bursts and it seemed clear that we have a high pressure leak flowing from the flange between the fuel injection pump and the engine.  Truth be told, I don't really know what that means but, on balance, I suspect it isn't good.

My best guess is that the pump is suffering an impending, catastrophic, internal failure; the kind that brings engines to a clattering halt just when needed the most.  The rpm surge of the last few days was, in 20 / 20 hindsight, a clear indication of fuel delivery problems.   Another guess is that it is getting worse fast. Had that much fuel been leaking all along the inside of the boat would have reeked of diesel fumes; something Deb would have noticed immediately even if I had missed it. In any case the leaking fuel had washed some oil off the engine, mixed with the rain water of the other night, leaked into the bilge, and caught my attention.  Fortunately this sent me looking for a problem rather than trying to deal with an engine failure while working to get on a tight dock in a 20 knot wind or motor bashing hard into a 30 knot blow.  Unfortunately, finding such a fuel leak brought me to the limit of my diesel engine knowledge. Time to call in help.

We walked up to Inland Waterway Provisioning Company store to borrow a couple of bicycles with the intent of heading over to another marina in search of a diesel mechanic. While there we asked the man behind the counter (whom we have talked with several times and who seems to know everyone in town) where could be found the best diesel wrench in the area. He picked up his phone, dialed a number, handed the phone to me, and I was talking to Randy. Randy is a long time boat and engine guy. We talked a bit, he agreed we have a problem, and will join me at the boat tomorrow in the early afternoon to help sort it out.

I should be discouraged by yet another mechanical set-back; one that may prove both costly and time consuming.  But Kintala is securely tied to a dock already rented for the next month. It is a bit cold today but there is AC power for the heater and warmer temps are in the offering for next week. Oriental is a town we like while proving to be a good place for help when things go wonky.   And we didn't fill the bilge with diesel fumes and blow the boat into the middle of next week.

On balance, a good thing.


mike kienlen said...

hope it is a simple fix with a health dose of diesel education from the mechanic

Matt Mc. said...

So, on balance, how did it turn out?

Matt said...

Yikes, fuel at the pump mount? If so the pump is leaking internally and dumping fuel in to he engine oil sump (?) I've heard of this with auto diesels where the sump fills with fuel/ oil and eventually is thrown up in to the cylinders and with no way to stop the 'fuel' from getting in to the combustion chamber, the engine over revs and internally blows up.