Maintenance of diesel engines is directly tied to life cycle and reliability. Modern marine engines are proven to perform well over long periods of time, provided that regular routine maintenance is performed.
One factor that is often neglected is the harshness of the marine environment. Salt is corrosive. Humidity causes corrosion. Fuel quality can vary greatly from one place to another. These issues help explain why most marine diesel engines have a much shorter time between overhauls than a similar engine that is installed on a truck or other type of vehicle.
Engine ratings also have a bearing in longevity. Engines that are rated for recreational use, for instance, are designed to be used in a recreational application. Use one of these engines in a heavy commercial setting, and problems are certain to ensue. Maintenance costs will certainly multiply exponentially. At MarineDiesel, we see this situation quite frequently. A potential customer will ask us for a quote on a commercial vessel, but they choose a cheaper engine that was rated for recreational use. Will the engine function? Certainly. Will the boat explode? Certainly not. However, the maintenance expense will be much higher, the life cycle will be much shorter, and the vessel performance will be lacking.
Is it still a good deal…?
All engines require periodic maintenance. As a manufacturer, we are in the “Front Lines” regarding maintenance issues. We see patterns as to what issues occur, not only in our engines, but in engines manufactured by competitors. The three most common maintenance issues that we see are often avoidable, and if diligently monitored, can greatly extend the service life of a marine engine (of any brand):
- Fuel quality: The number one (by far) problem we see is the use of bad fuel and neglected filter and polishing.
- Exhaust temperature: This is probably the number two issue. The biggest leading indicator of required maintenance.
- Smoke: Smoke tells you a lot, from a diagnostic perspective. It is nearly always an indication of required maintenance.
Though a bit of a cliche, engineers often state over and over again, “Read the manual”. The maintenance schedules we develop and publish are based on extensive testing results and are updated based on customer feedback, experiences, and warranty returns. In other words, the schedules are not simply made up out of thin air. If we recommend filter changes every 100 hours, there is absolutely a reason.
Bottom line: If maintenance and service schedules are followed, your engine will give you a far longer service life, and cost you far less money over the long term.