Thursday, March 13, 2014

On the Eve of Destruction...

...or disaster, or maybe major inconvenience, or minor inconvenience, or nothing at all ...

As any regular reader of this blog well knows the WesterBeast and I have the definition of a dysfunctional relationship. For my part I try to keep it happy, well fed, and puttering along living an easy life. For its part, well, I don't really know what is in its evil little mind.

The coolant is going somewhere. Not a lot of it, and not very fast, but it definitely disappears at an irregular rate. In response I have been searching diligently for a leak, checking the fluids regularly, and generally pampering the thing. With Deb doing errands this morning off the boat, I set about pampering the thing some more. The coolant level was down a bit, no surprise. But the oil level seemed to be up a bit. Somewhat large and unpleasant surprise. The oil wasn't foamy, didn't particularly smell like anything but oil out of a diesel engine with slightly low compression, but there was just enough too much to catch my attention (maybe 3/16 inch more on the stick then I expected).

So I topped the coolant and awoke the Beast, running it enough to bring all the temperatures up to normal. Then, engine still running, I started looking around (being careful to stay clear of the belts.) No sign of coolant escaping, and just the normal sheen of oil that keeps the Beast's skin nice and young looking. (Not really.) If the coolant is leaking outside the engine I sure can't find any sign.

Shut down, and now the oil level reads a bit low. Also, I can almost imagine just a hint of hot coolant stink wafting out of the oil filler cap. You see, today's exploration is the result of Deb complaining about the smell in her galley after the engine ran long enough to get us into the harbor. She thought it might be something else until I mentioned "coolant", whereupon she said, "Yep, that's it."

So I don't know what is going on with the Beast. Were I a real diesel guy, and were this some customer's engine, I might be suggesting they get ready for a noticeable nick about to be taken out of their bank account. Coolant level down, oil level up equals a) head gasket, b) cracked head, or c) cracked block. But I am not a diesel guy, this is not a customer's engine, and we are a long way from anyplace where "a", "b", or "c", can be easily remedied, especially "c".

For now all I can do is keep and eye on the Beast, say nice things about it, keep it watered and oiled up, and hope it wants to make it back into the States. Like my old Gramps used to tell me, "If it works, don't fix it. I don't know if the Beast really is working, but I don't know that it isn't working either. As long as it keeps moving the boat when I need it to, I guess we'll just keep going being as gentle with it as we can.

The fact is, whatever happens, we will figure it out, do what we need, and keep going. If my experience with Kintala has taught me anything, its that some fool built this thing in the first place, I can probably figure out a way to keep it going.

6 comments:

Mike B. said...

When you checked the oil and it was high, had the engine not been run in a while compared to the previous reading? I'm no Westerbeast expert, but I've been fooled by the time it takes oil to drain down to the pan after shutdown in other applications (sorry...trying to come up with some better sounding alternative explanations for you). Or maybe yours magically gave some coolant to mine to blow all over my engine room. Must be the week for Westerbeast coolant issues.

Hope you find a simple and inexpensive explanation.
-Mike
ThisRatSailed

Latitude 43 said...

Geez. You check the line going to your water heater? I had a tiny leak there once. Smelled coolant but never saw any leaking around the engine. I was losing it somewhere. I left a rag on the battery box, under the water heater lines accidently. After running the engine for a bit, I went to check it for leaks and saw the rag was wet with coolant. A leak in a fitting was allowing coolant to drip into the battery box through a vent hole. Would have never seen it if I hadn't left the rag there.

Hope your relationship with the beast continues to improve.

PJ

TJ said...

Mike, the engine has been shut down for a couple of days, so the oil level should be accurate. I topped the coolent and will let it set overnight ...

Paul, I did check it when looking a time or two ago, but it will be worth checking again. I am hoping for the best, we are a long way from maintenance support ... of course.

hypathia hunter said...

Had a similar problem with a Volvo. Checked all the fittings, etc, nothing... Sent the oil off to be tested and there was no coolant in it. Now I just watch and check carefully. No idea where it goes...

John Clark said...

My 2 cents worth: If its a head gasket you'd be getting pressure back into the cooling system. I had a VW diesel with a cracked gasket, it took replacing all my hoses to finally figure out what was making them blow out....

penny2: could it be escaping from the heat exchanger? Kint has lived in fresh water for so long, maybe the salt water has done its magic on something inside? hope not.

Being stranded in paradise couldn't suck too bad...? besides, you're a sail boat!

S/V Veranda said...

I've never seen a heat exchanger fail where the fresh water side lost water. The raw water pump usually pressurizes the fresh water side w/ salt water and you suddenly have extra coolant...