Saturday, September 13, 2014

A technical rant …

The heat exchanger guy called yesterday and said the bit removed from the WesterBeast was all prettied up and ready to go to the dance. Then he gave me a heart flutter by saying he had found a trace of oil floating around in the coolant. Bad juju. Really bad juju. The only way oil gets into the coolant is through a breach in the engine somewhere. Any such breach is going to be hard to find and expensive to fix. My day went straight in the dumpster.

Both Deb and good Friend / Boat Guru Bill (late of S/V Veranda) suggested there was no need to assume the worst just yet. There has never been water in the oil and what coolant that used to disappear stopped disappearing with the installation of a new cap. So assuming the worst was likely unnecessary. One shop's opinion does not, necessarily, bad juju make.

I assumed the worst anyway. After all this is Kintala and me, the world's most dysfunctional boat / owner relationship. Why wouldn't I assume she was presenting me with a blown head gasket or cracked block?  Kintala's WesterBeast has been the bane of my existence since the V-drive hand-grenaded itself and took the transmission with it.  But when I went to pick up said bit, the shop guy told me he had changed his mind. It wasn't oil after all. Thanks … I think.

Today started out with the newly refurbished heat exchanger sitting on the bench waiting to go back back on the WesterBeast, and thus offering us the chance to get off of this dock soon. So that was my job for the day. Would you like to take a guess as to how it went?

Shop man had been kind enough to make a couple of new gaskets for the install. The ones he handed over were about as thick as waffles. The ones that came off where more like cardboard. Mm … not sure that is going to work but hey, he is the heat exchanger expert.

When the heat exchanger came off the engine, one of the four mounting studs came off as well. Not a big surprise, though it meant a little more work when putting things back together. Included in the box of tricks from my old life are a set of stud drivers as well as a set of taps and dies, thus giving pretty good odds of setting things right, thread cut and stud wise. The studs were 5/16 with a -18 thread cut on the block side and a -24 thread cut on the heat exchanger side. Pretty standard stuff. As it turns out the stud that came out did so because the last fool who put this thing together (let's call him Fool 2) jammed a -18 nut on the -24 end. “Cross thread is better than no thread” is an old mechanic's tongue-in-cheek saying. Not sure why, but in this case a cross thread was barely good enough, it held and there was no leak. (“Barely good enough”, by the way, seems to be the “best practices” standard for much of the Marine industry.)

As the heat exchanger went on the forward port side nut would not tighten up. The waffle thick gasket was just too much, so off came the heat exchanger once again. But, what is this? When I went to check the threads on that stud, the -24 nut wouldn't go. Some fool in the distant past (let's call him Fool 1) had put that one stud in backwards, with the -24 end jammed into the block and the -18 end left exposed. Fool 2, who had put the -18 nut on the stud that had pulled out, was only half a fool. He had been hoodwinked by Fool 1. It likely never occurred to Fool 2 that Fool 1 would install three studs in one way and one stud in the opposite way. That would be incompetence desperately close to outright lunacy. He had four nuts and four studs, and made it work.

In my struggles to install the heat exchanger today, I was had by Fool 1, Fool 2, and the heat exchanger expert who had sold me waffle thick gaskets. So, after a couple of trips to the hardware store (Thank-you Craig for the use of your car!) things stand at the exact same place they did this morning, with the heat exchanger sitting on the bench waiting to be installed.

Tomorrow the WesterBeast and I will tussle once again. At least this time the gaskets will be of a proper thickness. There will also be three new -24 nuts and one new -18 waiting to be torqued onto the appropriate stud. (No, I didn't turn the offending stud around. No telling what is going on with the threads in the block side, but disturbing them now smacks of just asking for more trouble.) Most importantly work will commence with a fresh reminder that nothing (NOTHING!) done on this engine, before it came to me, was done by anyone who had a clue. And, truth be told, I am an old airplane guy and approach this marine stuff with, at best, just half-a-clue myself. Which, if you have followed me this far, puts me a half-a-clue up on most of the gurus.

When it comes to the WesterBeast everything must be checked, double checked, and then checked yet again. That means every nut, every stud, every screw, every gasket … cada sola cosa! Ghosts of fools past are lurking to open the hurt locker on anyone who thinks otherwise.

That “anyone” would be me.


Robert Salnick said...

Fools 1 & 2?

No... Ijits.

No competent mechanic puts a stud in backwards... It must have gone in *really* hard...


Alex Rooker said...

My Westebeke story is of the blue wire from the oil pressure senso to the alternator. It caused the Tachometer and volt meter to intermitently function. Once a new blue wire was run, even our fuel guages work- which the prior owner said had failed long ago. The amount of time it took to trace the wire down as the culpret was an education for me. I only know "red to red, black to black" when it coms to electronics.

RPM estimation by ear; and fuel level by dip stick had been my previous reliable guages.

Carolyn said...

You might want to tag stud #4 somehow that it's the 18 one. I know, you think you couldn't possibly forget. We learned that we had so much "interesting" info in our brains about our boat that we had to leave reminders to ourselves . . .

TJ said...

Good idea Carolyn, I think I'll paint that nut.

Lacey Jaye said...

If you have the room to do so, pull stud #4, drill and install a heli-coil. That will make it better than original and you will sleep better knowing that it is done right!

TJ said...

Lacey, to do that I would need to pull the exhaust riser. I may have to do that yet, so far I'm not sure I can get the heat exchanger back in. The normal procedure is to remover the exhaust riser to get to the heat exchanger, but that would involve disturbing a $70 gasket and possibly open up a whole new can of worms. I would like not to do that if possible.

If I have to pull the riser I may do what you suggest.