Five star service

There comes a time in every girl’s life when she needs to stop procrastinating and just get on with servicing a diesel engine. (I know there will be some sage nods as you read this, and maybe a few blushes from those of you, who, like me, have been putting it off for far too long.)  Enough was enough, and with a week’s trip out on the horizon, I could not really pretend that the engine was not really being used enough to warrant some attention.

I fished out the manual RCR gave me about engine maintenance.  It’s very wordy.  Quite technical.  Should any of you readers fall into the sweet spot of the Venn diagram below, I really would urge you to continue with physics and/or maths past the minimum age.  On reading the pertinent pages, I very much wish I hadn’t ditched A-level maths for no better reason than to annoy my maths teacher.


Luckily for me, the operator’s maintenance manual is much easier to interpret, with an easy-to-follow maintenance schedule. (Though hitherto not actually followed.)  After every year or 250 hours of running the engine, there is a pleasing checklist of things to do.  (I love a list.  Not quite as much as a flowchart, but there’s lots of affection for a list nevertheless.)

  1. Change engine lubricating oil

The messiest of all the jobs.  And made harder by my idle fiddling about.  At some point between now and the last service, I had screwed off the top of the oil pump and then dropped it into the bilges.  Given there is no room to swing an emaciated mouse in the engine room, I was unsuccessful in trying to find the top, and as such unable to use the pump.  I spoke to the lovely people at Beta, who told me I couldn’t just buy a pump top, I had to buy a whole new pump.  And then screw it in.  They made it sound simple, but I was sceptical.  The ‘hole in the engine’ saga has made me wary of trying to put new parts on an old engine, and so I went for the suggestion made by the also-lovely people of Midland Chandlers and used a hand pump instead.

The manual said the sump capacity (a technical term I can now throw around casually) was about 7.5 litres, but I could only manage to get about 3.5 litres out of the engine.  I reasoned that even if I hadn’t managed to get it all out, some new oil was better than no new oil, and so I refilled it with new caramelly-looking oil (which promptly turned a dark-treacly colour).  And I promised myself I would get a better pump and change it again at the end of the season.  (I won’t.)  Item one – tick.

  1. Change lubricating oil filter

The oil filter is located in an awkward, un-seeable place in the engine, and so is awkward to unscrew at the best of times.  And it seems I was overzealous two years ago when I last changed it, as I could not get it to budge.  But I knew there was a tool I could get specifically designed for loosening stubborn filters, and was about to set off to get one, when my neighbour asked how the servicing was going.  I explained my problem, and he insisted on having a go – after all he was probably stronger than me. I know the offer came from a kind place, but I couldn’t help but feel smug when he struggled to first locate the filter and then failed to untwist it.   Correct tool acquired, and it was a painless removal with no spillage.  I’d even guessed the right filter to buy.  Item two- tick.

  1. Check air cleaner element

I had no idea if the air filter was dirty or not.  So I took it to the chandlery, and I was not surprised when they told me I may as well buy a new one.  Selling stuff is, after all, their business.  I put it to the side with the other filter purchases and started the checklist.  Prior to changing the oil, the manual recommends you run the engine for 10 minutes to heat the oil to make it less viscous and easier to pump out.  Which I did.  And then a few minutes later realised the new air filter was still in its box, the old air filter was in my bag and so there was nothing stopping dirty air getting into and clogging up the engine.  I swiftly stopped the engine and changed the order in which I approached the check list.  Item three – tick.

  1. Spray the key switch with WD40 to lubricate the barrel

I typed the above sentence and then scuttled to the engine room to do just that.  Item four- tick.

  1. Check that all the external nuts, bolts and fastenings are tight.  See table for torque values.

I don’t know what torque is really, or how you measure whether external nuts have the right amount.  A cursory glance over the engine confirmed that there appeared to be nuts and bolts in appropriate places.   Item five – tick.

  1. Check the ball joint nyloc nuts for tightness on both gearbox and speed control leavers.  Grease both fittings all over.

One of the things I like about the engine manual is that it comes with handy pictures of things.  One of the things I don’t like about the engine manual is that it comes with handy pictures of things I already recognise, but neglects to include pictures of things like ball joint nylocs and their nuts.  Nothing has been greased.  Item six – seems superfluous.

And that, my friends, is how you service an engine.  Or rather, how I service an engine.*

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Radio’ by Darius Rucker.

*I think this post probably needs to come with a massive disclaimer.  You know the sort.  Consider yourselves disclaimed.



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