Engine Room Efficiency - Sail Magazine

Engine Room Efficiency

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The fuel/oil filtration system installed aboard Brick House, our Valiant 40, is very easy to maintain. Part of the reason is that the boat was well sailed by several prior owners, with each one upgrading the systems. That meant there was not all that much for me to do. It also meant things are now much more efficient in the engine room.

Filter access

One important upgrade was to move the oil filter, which was mounted horizontally on the engine in an almost inaccessible location, to a vertical position on the engine room wall. This was accomplished by installing an engine oil filter adapter kit. Check with the local distributor for your engine to find out which adapter kit fits your engine. When you have the correct one, making the installation is simple.

First remove the engine oil filter and screw on the new engine mount adaptor. Run the two hoses from there to the new remote filter. When you screw on the remote hoses use a Teflon-base dope; do not use Teflon thread tape.
When the unobstructed oil filter is mounted on a bulkhead, you will be able to use a longer filter, one that has far greater filtering capacity than the engine-mounted filter. My wall installation also lets me wrap a plastic bag around the filter to catch any oil that might spill out when the filter is unscrewed. A slit Clorox or milk bottle placed underneath the filter mount will catch any residual drips.

Remove the engine-mounted oil filter and screw on the new engine mount adapter. The blue hoses lead to the remote filter (left); When the oil filter is mounted away from the engine, it is far easier to reach it from various parts of the engine room (right)

Remove the engine-mounted oil filter and screw on the new engine mount adapter. The blue hoses lead to the remote filter (left); When the oil filter is mounted away fromthe engine, it is far easier to reach it from various parts of the engine room (right)

Oil change

A 12–volt oil drain pump allows me to drain the oil from my engine in about two minutes. To install the pump, the oil drain plug on the oil pan is replaced with a threaded hose barb. Because there is no standard thread for a drain plug, you have to be very careful to match the threads. Oil change pump kits often come with a variety of threaded barbs for this reason. Connect one end of the hose to the barb and the other end to the oil pump, then mount the pump on a convenient bulkhead wall. Complete the installation by connecting the appropriate 12-volt wires and fuse to the pump.

I use a clear hose for the pump’s discharge hose so I am never surprised if liquid begins to flow. I have also installed an electrical wire support clamp above the oil pump where the discharge hose is stored. The higher elevation allows any residual oil to drain back toward the pump and engine. I leave the shutoff valve for this hose open for a few minutes to facilitate the draining.

The twin Racor filter setup lets you divert fuel to a clean filter if one becomes clogged

The twin Racor filter setup lets you divert fuel to a clean filter if one becomes clogged

Fuel line bleed

To bleed the air from many diesel fuel lines, you have to loosen the fuel lines at the injectors and other air release points, then flick a little lever on the engine’s fuel pump countless times with the tip of a finger. This is frustratingly slow, particularly when you are at sea and your chest and ribs may be clashing with much harder spots on the engine with each unpredicted wave. Heat from the engine can make the job even more irritating.
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Installing a small freestanding 12-volt fuel pump, on the other hand, makes bleeding the fuel lines as easy as pushing the switch. Tap into the fuel line leading to the fuel filter on the engine with a T–fitting so fuel can flow to the new fuel pump. Put another T-fitting on the return hose from the pump to bring the fuel back to the main fuel line, then put a shut-off valve between the two T–fittings.

A fuel line runs from the Racor filters to the engine; T-fittings allow the bleed fuel pump to tap into the fuel line (left); A 12-volt pump draws fuel from a dedicated pickup line on the fuel tank, allowing it to be used to fill the Racor filters or possibly a jerry can (right)

A fuel line runs from the Racor filters to the engine; T-fittings allow the bleed fuel pump to tap into the fuel line (left); A 12-volt pump draws fuel from a dedicated pickup line on the fuel tank, allowing it to be used to fill the Racor filters or possibly a jerry can (right)

When the inline valve is in the open position, fuel will flow directly to the engine–mounted fuel filter. When you need to bleed the diesel, close the valve to divert the fuel to the pump. Switching on the pump will force fuel through the engine’s fuel lines, which will bleed air from the system.

When the engine has been bled and is running, reopen the inline shut-off valve to stop the fuel from flowing through the pump. Another nice feature of this setup is that the pump can become a backup if the engine’s main fuel pump should quit.

 Oil change pump detail: the grey suction hose comes up from the engine pan and the clear hose is the discharge line

Oil change pump detail: the grey suction hose comes up from the engine pan and the clear hose is the discharge line

Fuel filter know–how

The fuel filter on your diesel is actually the secondary filter. That’s why every boat also has a primary filter to trap water and contaminants in the fuel before they reach the finer mesh of the secondary filter. Installing a vacuum gauge at the primary filter is a great way to check the status of the filter. Rising pressure is a sign that the filter is becoming heavily contaminated and may need to be replaced.

It’s a great idea to install dual Racor filters. With the system installed on Brick House, all I have to do is to rotate the yellow handle to direct the flow of fuel through the clean filter while I change the dirty one.

After I’ve drained the trapped water and contaminants from the first filter, I need to refill that now-empty filter with fuel. Because pouring from a can or small container almost guarantees a mess, I have plumbed a stand-alone 12-volt fuel pump into an independent fuel pickup line running from the fuel tank to the filter. I can also use this pump to remove water or contaminants that I think may be at the bottom of the tank, or use it to drain a fuel tank or fill a jerry can.

This pump must be mounted higher than the fuel tank so residual fuel will drain back into the tank. A fuel shutoff valve must also be installed between the tank and the pump to keep the engine room from getting an unwanted washdown with diesel fuel if the pump is turned on accidentally.

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