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Old 24-03-2015, 21:15   #1
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Can I fill my gearbox when under way on engine?

I have a leaking lever seal on my gearbox, which is leaking enough to empty the gearbox after 5 hours of motoring. The nearest town to get this fixed is 5 hours away. Could I stop mid-journey, put the gearbox in neutral, take the dipstick/filler bolt out and top-up with the gearbox hot from use, or would the fluid be under pressure and likely to bubble out dangerously like a hot radiator? If this is the case, how long would I have to leave the gearbox to cool down before topping up?

Gearbox is a Hurth 250.
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Old 25-03-2015, 04:15   #2
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Re: Can I fill my gearbox when under way on engine?

I am not sure, but if it is a standard mechanical gearbox, not hydraulic, there may be a bit of splash (minimal I should think), but no great geyser, even if hot. Why not try a test at anchor? Won't be hot, but I doubt that matters much.
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Old 25-03-2015, 04:50   #3
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Re: Can I fill my gearbox when under way on engine?

Anchor test is a good idea. I've asked couple of yachties with engineering backgrounds and they agree that it shouldn't be a problem. Just release the dip stick slowly and it should be OK.
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Old 25-03-2015, 06:26   #4
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Re: Can I fill my gearbox when under way on engine?

I would shut down the engine, not just put it in neutral. The heat should not be an issue.
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Old 25-03-2015, 06:32   #5
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Re: Can I fill my gearbox when under way on engine?

I have a Hurth HBW 10 / ZF 12M. I think itīs construction is closed to yours.
The upper shaft, which is connected to the engine is always turning.

So it does not help to put it in neutral. You should stop the engine for a refill.
The ZF 25 M should be the same as the 250.
Usually it rotates counter clockwise (seen from the engine). The rotating shaft moves the oil directly to the filling screw:

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Old 25-03-2015, 07:07   #6
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Re: Can I fill my gearbox when under way on engine?

doubt it would be pressurized but i would still shut the engine down. you could probably be on your way in less than a minute.
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Old 25-03-2015, 07:25   #7
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Re: Can I fill my gearbox when under way on engine?

The gearwheels on the upper shaft produce a decent air flow which transports the oil upwards (I opened the screw once for a check while the engine war running ). I think itīs not easy to fill in the oil against that airflow.
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Old 25-03-2015, 08:17   #8
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Re: Can I fill my gearbox when under way on engine?

It's a sailboat. Learn how to heave to. Turn off the engine and do the service whilst heaved to. Also, if the engine is leaking fresh transmission fluid, and I assume your supply of this is not infinite, rig a roasting pan or some other non-flammable way to catch the excess so you can recycle it. If you draw it out of the bilges it would likely be contaminated and useless or needing a hell of a filtering.
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Old 25-03-2015, 09:58   #9
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Re: Can I fill my gearbox when under way on engine?

Quote:
Originally Posted by S/V Alchemy View Post
It's a sailboat. Learn how to heave to. Turn off the engine and do the service whilst heaved to. Also, if the engine is leaking fresh transmission fluid, and I assume your supply of this is not infinite, rig a roasting pan or some other non-flammable way to catch the excess so you can recycle it. If you draw it out of the bilges it would likely be contaminated and useless or needing a hell of a filtering.
Good point. Plus, catching the leaked fluid, you could avoid contaminating your bilges and/or the environment.
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Old 25-03-2015, 10:18   #10
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Re: Can I fill my gearbox when under way on engine?

I think just putting the boat in neutral is enough. But I probably would turn it off for the couple of minutes it would take. I also would be catching the fluid to keep it out of the bilge so I don't have to be cleaning it, and maybe more important so I can keep track of how much leaked to know when it is time to add.

BTW - doesn't take much leakage to really lower the fluid.
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Old 25-03-2015, 10:35   #11
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Re: Can I fill my gearbox when under way on engine?

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Originally Posted by sailorboy1 View Post
I think just putting the boat in neutral is enough. But I probably would turn it off for the couple of minutes it would take. I also would be catching the fluid to keep it out of the bilge so I don't have to be cleaning it, and maybe more important so I can keep track of how much leaked to know when it is time to add.

BTW - doesn't take much leakage to really lower the fluid.
Yes, the Hurth boxes don't have much fluid and it's only at the bottom when at rest. Think about what you do to FILL it: just a tad at the bottom of the dipstick, right? The whole fill is 8-10 oz.

Turn the engine off, it'll be too hot when it's running. Since the transmissions are at the rear of the engines, unless you have a unique layout, you have to lean over the engine to get to the dipstick to fill it, right? Open the engine bay and let it cool off. I agree that trying to capture what's leaking makes good sense. If you have a reasonably good fill of a quart of fluid as your source, you should be good for many refills. Do NOT be tempted to overfill, you'll screw it up.

Good luck.
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Old 25-03-2015, 10:44   #12
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Re: Can I fill my gearbox when under way on engine?

Another point:If itīs leaking out of the shaft seal, the leakage amount can rapidly increase.
I had this problem last year. Suddenly the fluid was gone and after a refill it took only 5 minutes until the whole fluid dropped out.


If it is the seal on the lower shaft (at the propeller side) you should find a service immediately. Donīt try to fix it on your own. To change this sealing the whole gearbox including the clutch has to be dismounted.
This canīt be done without appropriate tools and lots of experience.


If it is the seal on the upper shaft it can be changed without dismounting the clutch. Only the gearbox must be opened.


But if one of the 2 seals is broken or hardened / dried, itīs likely that the other follows not to far in the future.


If you loose your propulsion in a "bad wheater condition" you get into trouble.
We lost it in the middle of dover strait at zero wind and dover rescue had to pick us up, because we were adrift in then separation zone .
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Old 25-03-2015, 11:02   #13
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Re: Can I fill my gearbox when under way on engine?

Maybe this helps a bit: http://www.foleyengines.com/resources/tech-tips/hurth-marine-transmissions-ins-and-outs-basic-service
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Old 26-03-2015, 19:43   #14
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Re: Can I fill my gearbox when under way on engine?

Just a follow up. We made our passage before I read the remaining answers and went ahead and topped up when in neutral. It was just a 25 mile hop from a remote island to a main island with some facilities.

It wasn't difficult to top up as access to the gearbox is good. It was impossible, however, to get a true reading of the level of atf. Every time I put the dipstick in, it came out covered in oil. I guess this goes back to Charlie73's post about airflow. Anyway, I was able to put in enough (I put in less than I thought for fear of overfilling it) to make the passage.

A full service is in order but I just need to sort this immediate problem out to get us up to Phuket where I can attend to all our remaining shake-down maintenance issues properly.

Thanks for the replies and the link.

Cheers,

Jamie
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