Maintenance Tip of the Week: Vessel Use 12/21/2015

Maintenance Tip of the Week – Vessel Use 12/21/2015

So, you have religiously followed the maintenance schedule for your engines as outlined in your manual. Everything should be good, right? Not necessarily. You need to pay attention to how you use your boat. If you only use your vessel 25 hours per year, fuel deteriorates, condensation occurs, and corrosion keeps up its’ never ending march. This is why your maintenance schedule is often broken down into time periods of use, as well as calendar time.

Diesel engines perform best when they are started and used frequently. Always follow the storage procedures as detailed in your manual if the vessel will be sitting idle for long periods of time.

Use it, or lose it


Time is not your friend when it comes to marine diesel engines. Diesel engines, by their nature, operate best when they are started frequently, and operated at WOT (wide open throttle) every once in a while. In a way, this is counter-intuitive, since diesels are often discussed in terms of life cycle, how long they will last before overhaul, and sheer number of hour used. However, a long time between overhauls does not mean much if the engines simply sit in storage or if the vessel spends most of its’ time tied up at a dock.

Diesel engines are complex pieces of machinery. Routine starting and operation keeps internal components lubed up and free from rust or deposits. Additionally, seals and gaskets take time to properly seal, and operating the engine makes good, tight seals. Additionally, diesel fuel degrades and becomes contaminated over time. Routinely starting and operating the engine keeps the fuel fresh, and fuel lines clear with periodic fuel flow. This is why MarineDiesel has a very specific winter storage procedure for owners to follow.

Commercial and government vessels typically have very heavy, continual use. Indeed, we have seen some of these vessel types operate up to 3,000 hours or more per year, under the harshest of conditions.

The problems associated with non-use are typically experienced on recreational, or pleasure, boats. They simply do not get the high use that commercial vessels. (Sometimes as little as 50 hours use per year). This is why it is important that pleasure boat owners start their engines, minimally, at least monthly, letting them run at WOT at least for a little while. If this procedure is followed, the engines should last as specified by their rating, giving years of reliable use.



How long will an engine last?


How long will an engine last?

This is a fair question, and one which can be fairly difficult to answer given the number of variables involved. Some of the factors that influence engine life include:

Type of engine. Is the engine marine or industrial? Industrial, or on-road engines have a much longer life span than marine engines. Why? Several reasons: Better efficiency of cooling; Less variation in RPM; Typically, much lower resistance (water gives much more resistance than friction from four small tires, in addition to vessels being subject to wind resistance also); Fewer devices that can “go wrong” or break (particularly with the cooling system); Typically higher quality and more consistent quality fuel; Much, much less environmental stress, such as corrosion.

Use. Marine engines typically use higher throttle with more variation than engines used on land. Engines used as gensets, in particular, with a low, continuous RPM tend to last a very long time.

Maintenance. Maintenance performed according to the manual’s maintenance schedule have a significantly longer lifespan and service life.

Environment. The marine environment is harsh. Salt air, corrosion, rust, and contact with water all reduce engine life cycle.

In general, using our Marinediesel 6.6L engine as an example, customers can generally expect to receive a service life from their engines:

Marine: 10,000 to 15,000 hours.

Land: Approximately 1,000,000 km.

Genset: Approximately 80,000 hours.