Friday, 30 May 2014

Sorting out the bilge pump, changing the oil and worrying!

This post would work much better with photos, but they will have to wait until I get back home. Sorry. Anyway, we detoured to Braunston after our running out of diesel episode, and ate in the Boatman pub (two curries for £11 with drinks thrown in. No, that doesn't sound right: two curries and two drinks all for £11. Pretty good value, despite (obviously) not being up to curry house standards).

The next day, Thursday, we went back up the Braunston locks, through the kinky tunnel meeting at least three boats, and on to just before Norton Junction where we stopped for lunch. The sun came out (hooray!) and so I decided to do the overdue oil change. When I'd lifted the various deck boards I saw that the sump where the bilge pump sits seemed wetter than usual. Before doing the oil, then, I thought I'd better tackle the bilge. More than 24 hours later my hands are still dirty!

Before sponging out the water I scraped off the grease which had oozed from the stern gland. I could think of no better tool for the job than my fingers. An old kitchen sponge mopped up the water well, but the most difficult thing about the job was the incredibly uncomfortable position I had to get myself into. My right leg was being burned by the still hot coolant header tank; my left knee was kneeling on a deck board; and, most painful of all, my left elbow was supporting seemingly all my weight on the steel swim. During this process I lifted the bilge pump out, whereupon it fell to bits. The pump was bolted to a square steel plate which rested in the bottom of the sump directly below the stern gland. One advantage of the pump having come apart was that I was able easily to remove this plate, with the strainer part of the pump still attached, for cleaning. Large chunks of black corroded metal fell away when I dug at it with an old knife, until I dared not attack it any more. A shallow steel mesh dome rested in the strainer, which I cleaned with a toothbrush and canal water. Large quantities of old, hard grease coated the main part of the pump housing. I cleaned it up as best I could and then reassembled it. Turning it upside down caused the internal float switch to activate the pump, so at least I know that I have the main switch in the correct position (it isn't labelled).

There seems to be more water appearing in the bilge here than there should be, so a job for tomorrow will be to see if the stern gland can be tightened a little. I have never done this, so I'll be careful!

I've just thought: I can put a container under the gland to catch the drips. Then I'll be able to verify - or not - that the extra water in the bilge is due to a leaking stern gland. It's not gushing in, and I'm not aware of the automatic bilge pump ever having cut in.

Then, at last, with hands already nicely greased up, I changed the oil and filter. This was a much easier and cleaner job than sorting out the bilge, I'm glad to say. I discovered an empty 5l oil container hiding by the weed hatch, so I didn't have to resort to using old milk "bottles".

Another job "for tomorrow" is to replace the fuel filter. This is something else which I haven't done before, so I'm slightly scared. Will the fuel cutoff valve work? Will loads of diesel spill everywhere when I remove the old filter? Will it screw off just like an oil filter? Will the engine start again after I've done it, or will there be an air lock? Will I need the bleed the fuel system? Aargh!


kevin t said...

Hi Halfie,
No worries with the fuel filter, If it's one like mine ( the unit has three parts. The header at the top where the fuel comes in and out, the filter, and the bowl at the bottom. Firstly shut off the main fuel cock and then remove the screw on the underside of the bowl and catch the waste fuel in an appropriate container. It'll be helpful to crack open the bleed screw (Highest on the header)so that all the fuel comes out. Remove the bolt adjacent to the bleed screw and remove the bowl and filter. Remove old upper and lower seals from header and bowl. Fit all screws with new 'O' rings supplied with the filter and assemble bowl to filter and header with new seals supplied. Tighten all screws and turn on fuel cock. Carefully open bleed screw until there are no more air bubbles coming through and then tighten securely. Wipe dry the whole assembly and periodically check for leaks. Job done.

N. B. Tranquility

Halfie said...

Thanks Kevin, I've been busy on other things today but I'll give it a go tomorrow. I have tried to open the drain screw in the past, but it felt rubbery and didn't want to turn. I'll have to be prepared for a diesel hand wash...

Neil Corbett said...

Some people slip a plastic bag up and onto the diesel filter before unscrewing it. That catches a lot of the spill.

As to the stern gland, we use a bucket underneath it but it doesn't catch it all because sometimes the shaft rotation sprays the drips around. I knew a boater who liked to let his stern gland drip very freely to cool the bearing, and he just ran his bilge pump daily to clear the water.

I remember the first time I replaced the gland packing having worried for weeks that I would flood the engine bay. When I came to do it not a single drip came in! We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

Last point. I have an old wet and dry vacuum which I bring out to the boat now and then. That gets out any water / oil / diesel really easily and leaves the sump and the bilge bone dry.