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Old 02-10-2016, 13:32   #1
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Operator Error, Diagnostic Procedure, Cascade of Failures.

This is a tale of my incompetence as an operator and mechanic, which I am posting in the hopes that it might help some other poor cruiser.
It all started when I cleaned the seawater strainers for main engine and genset.

There was no seaweed. But I forgot to open the generator one. This happens to me, for one reason or another, once a year like clockwork. I donít think Iíve ever done a routine replacement of the seawater pump impeller .

The results were drearily predictable, and changing the impeller wasted most of a lovely sunny Sunday morning.

A few weeks later, my generator just stopped. Maybe the second time in 2000 hours Iíve had an auto-shutdown (or what seemed like one). A feeling of dread filled me. I opened the sound enclosure to find a lot of seawater in the bottom. I spent a lot of time looking for the source, including taking off hoses, trimming them, replacing hose clamps, etc., etc. Ė another lovely day spent in the engine room rather than sipping cocktails in the cockpit. Boat repair in exotic .

Finally found the problem Ė O-ring in the seawater pump cover. So this is the result of my impeller change which was the result of leaving the seacock off

Washed it all out with fresh water. Then discovered a loose fuel hose. Repaired that, and the generator ran for a few more hours, then quit again.

Bleh! No fuel in the fuel filter. Obviously fuel is not getting pumped. Must be a bad fuel pump (someone with the same generator had just posted that his had gone out).

But what if itís a bad connection, blown fuse, etc.? I was about to fly out on business, and didnít really fancy spending a couple more hours screwing with that. Figured that having a new fuel pump would mean having a spare, if that was not actually the problem.

Two weeks later, back from my business trip Ė I replace the fuel pump. As usual it takes 3 hours instead of 30 minutes because of the usual sticky hoses, inaccessible connectors, etc.

And afterwards Ė nothing. I have to drain the waterlift muffler to be sure I donít backflood the engine. So I decide to do what I should have done in the first place -- check that there is power to the pump. I start pulling the connectors off and immediately see the problem Ė corroded and broken wires The most common cause of electrical problems on board . Why didnít I check that? So naturally, the pump has to come back off to properly get to the connectors. I get rid of the crappy push-on connectors and do a proper heat seal splice, and use the new connectors.

And now the generator is humming away. All this taking place during a glorious warm summer dead calm afternoon at anchor

Moral of the story? Be a better, more conscientious operator. If I hadnít left that seacock closed, I would not have done any of this work. Be a better mechanic Ė double, triple check your o-rings; use proper diagnostic procedure. Check the easy and obvious things first, and work systematically through the list. Re-read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Iíd also like to make a public apology to my generator. This beautiful beast has never broken down except as the direct result of operator error. 2000 hours of flawless performance. Kohler 6.5EFOZ. It deserves a better operator than me
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Old 02-10-2016, 13:39   #2
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Re: Operator Error, Diagnostic Procedure, Cascade of Failures.

Thank you for sharing - it brings back so many memories!
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Old 02-10-2016, 13:41   #3
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Re: Operator Error, Diagnostic Procedure, Cascade of Failures.

Been there, done that. Mrs. Mac and I know our Westerbeke genset quite well, and can now do an impeller replacement in 10 minutes or less.

This season also required all the sensors, glow plugs and solenoids being replaced along with the water pump">raw water pump on the Westerbeke. The heat exchanger was also serviced and.... a separate Racor installed just yesterday on the genset. "When it rains it pours." Pam brought all the parts over from Massachusetts and the total labor cost was us trading a used JBL Xtreme boom box for some diagnostic labor in Montenegro. The nice fellow wouldn't accept any money.

It all started with "why is there water under the generator?"
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Old 03-10-2016, 06:45   #4
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Re: Operator Error, Diagnostic Procedure, Cascade of Failures.

Get rid of the mechanical pump, replace it with a AC airconditioner pump

1. no impeller to go to pieces and clog up your heat ex
2. pump can't leak in generator compartment, cause it's not there
3. no damage done if you inadvertently leave sea cock closed, might overheat your waterlock though if you never figure it out.
4. don't worry about filling your waterlock and hydro locking your engine anymore, cause pump doesn't pump water until AC power is being made
5. MTBF mean time between failure is measured in the thousands, likely tens of thousands of hours for a March pump, an impeller pump, maybe 500 hours?

I'm still looking for the downside and all I can come up with is you lose an amps worth of power running the March pump?
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Old 03-10-2016, 07:02   #5
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Re: Operator Error, Diagnostic Procedure, Cascade of Failures.

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Get rid of the mechanical pump, replace it with a AC airconditioner pump

1. no impeller to go to pieces and clog up your heat ex
2. pump can't leak in generator compartment, cause it's not there
3. no damage done if you inadvertently leave sea cock closed, might overheat your waterlock though if you never figure it out.
4. don't worry about filling your waterlock and hydro locking your engine anymore, cause pump doesn't pump water until AC power is being made
5. MTBF mean time between failure is measured in the thousands, likely tens of thousands of hours for a March pump, an impeller pump, maybe 500 hours?

I'm still looking for the downside and all I can come up with is you lose an amps worth of power running the March pump?
I remember your writing about it, and thought it was a great idea at the time

You can add to your list of advantages:

6. No belt to faff with.

Furthermore, the disadvantage you list in 3 is no problem -- my generator has an exhaust overheat automatic shutdown in addition to the general overheat shutdown, PLUS an external exhaust alarm which I installed. A flow meter and alarm would be overkill.


I will put the March pump on my list. If the sea water pump fails before I get around to this, you can be sure I will be doing it this way The impeller pumps are horrendously expensive, and I don't see a single advantage compared to your solution
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Old 03-10-2016, 07:08   #6
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Re: Operator Error, Diagnostic Procedure, Cascade of Failures.

I find the older I get, the more stuff I screw up. Irritating when you have to repair something 2, 3, and even 4 times and after the final repair you ask yourself, "why didn't I think of that the first time"!!!
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Old 03-10-2016, 07:38   #7
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Re: Operator Error, Diagnostic Procedure, Cascade of Failures.

Hey--

It could be worse. I know a fellow in our marina that tore his entire fuel system apart in a fruitless search for an obstruction only to discover that he'd simply run out of fuel. It seems his fuel gauge was "stuck" and he didn't keep track of his engine hours between refuelings. Chalk it up to "lessons learned" eh?
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Old 03-10-2016, 07:50   #8
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Re: Operator Error, Diagnostic Procedure, Cascade of Failures.

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Hey--

It could be worse. I know a fellow in our marina that tore his entire fuel system apart in a fruitless search for an obstruction only to discover that he'd simply run out of fuel. It seems his fuel gauge was "stuck" and he didn't keep track of his engine hours between refuelings. Chalk it up to "lessons learned" eh?
I don't know whether to laugh or cry. That sounds like something that would happen to me

It is SO important to follow proper diagnostic procedure. I'm going to try to download and reread Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
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Old 03-10-2016, 08:17   #9
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Re: Operator Error, Diagnostic Procedure, Cascade of Failures.

I always say third times the charm, allows me more patience.
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Old 03-10-2016, 08:24   #10
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Re: Operator Error, Diagnostic Procedure, Cascade of Failures.

I thought *I* was the only one who'd ever heard of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I made an oblique reference to it in a blog post, and it turns out one of my best friends picked right up on the reference. Then I see it here, and everybody seems to know about it.

I'll have to re-read it too. Just finished re-reading Farley Mowat's The Boat Who Wouldn't Float for the first time since childhood. Next up is Two Years Before the Mast.
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Old 03-10-2016, 08:27   #11
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Re: Operator Error, Diagnostic Procedure, Cascade of Failures.

This is one of the best books I have ever read concerning vehicle repair



I had a matching 71 Westfalia and a 71 Bug, both Orange and 71 was in my opinion the best year, first dual port head, and emissions hadn't gotten nuts yet.
I wish I still had the Camper Van, it's really the vehicle I miss the most of all that I have had. Underpowered and HEAVY, all the furniture was solid 3/4 plywood
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Old 03-10-2016, 08:33   #12
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Re: Operator Error, Diagnostic Procedure, Cascade of Failures.

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This is one of the best books I have ever read concerning vehicle repair
Another one of my favorites. I had VW buses for a while when I was a teenager, one of which I tore apart and rebuilt a couple of times (undersized air cooled engine would fly apart if you drove too fast on the interstate, and I drove mine all over the country). Absolutely wonderful book with philosophical yet deeply practical approach, about a vehicle which was uniquely suited to home maintenance and repair. Also wonderful illustrations.
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Old 03-10-2016, 08:35   #13
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Re: Operator Error, Diagnostic Procedure, Cascade of Failures.

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I always say third times the charm, allows me more patience.
Looking at the bright side, the second time, and especially third time, you do the same procedure all over again, is already much faster and easier because of the learning you've done screwing it up the first time
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Old 03-10-2016, 08:39   #14
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Re: Operator Error, Diagnostic Procedure, Cascade of Failures.

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Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
This is one of the best books I have ever read concerning vehicle repair



I had a matching 71 Westfalia and a 71 Bug, both Orange and 71 was in my opinion the best year, first dual port head, and emissions hadn't gotten nuts yet.
I wish I still had the Camper Van, it's really the vehicle I miss the most of all that I have had. Underpowered and HEAVY, all the furniture was solid 3/4 plywood

That's the book I learned with. It kept my 1971 VW camper alive for 18 years since I couldn't afford mechanics. It was the original idiots guide which was just what I needed. It patiently described not only what size screw to use but which end of the screwdriver to hold. Perfect for me then.


S/V B'Shert
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Old 03-10-2016, 08:42   #15
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Re: Operator Error, Diagnostic Procedure, Cascade of Failures.

Busses are rare, Bus Campers even more so, verging on Unicorn status.
I wonder how many of us were previous Bug, Bus or Westphalia owners?
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