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Friday, June 25, 2010

6/25/2010 - Oil changes can be fun

Okay, maybe "fun" is too strong of a word. But they don't have to be a total bummer either. Those of you without boats probably don't realize that on most boats you can't just shove a pan under the engine, remove the oil pan plug and drain the old oil out just like you would on a car. Why not? No room. The engine generally sits as low in the boat as possible. Beneath it is usually a narrow, inaccessible bilge. There's just no room to put a drain pan and you couldn't get it under there even if there was room.

So what do we do? Well, we have to pump the oil out. West Marine and all the other chandleries sell all kinds of gizmos designed to make this job easier. When I didn't have to worry about finding a place to stow the stuff (in other words, I still had a home to take stuff to), I had good luck with this:

It's pretty much just what it looks like: a gas can with a bicycle pump attached. What you do is insert a tube (catheter?) down the engine's dipstick hole, hoping you stop just at the bottom of the sump and don't end up having it curve up so that it's opening as above the bottom of the oil pan, thus leaving some old oil in the engine. Then, you close the valve on the tube and pump the bicycle pump about 20 times, creating a vacuum inside the gas can. Don't rest your foot on the can at this point or you might have a flat can before you know it. Then, you open the valve and the oil is sucked into the can for ultimate disposal. Works pretty well provided you don't curl the end of the tube as mentioned above. Pretty ingenious but it requires a fair amount of room to stow it.

One of Siempre Sabado's previous owners did me the huge favor of replacing the oil pan drain plug with a banjo fitting. He then attached enough high pressure hydraulic hose to reach the top of the engine and then screwed a plug into the hose end fitting. So, when I change oil, I just have to connect this hose to some kind of pump. But what kind?

I have had great luck with these:

These little drill-driven pumps can be gotten at those cheap-tool places (Harbor Freight, etc.) for just a couple bucks. I adapt from the garden hose that they're designed for down to the hose from my oil sump, stick the discharge hose into an empty oil jug, chuck up the cordless Dewalt drill and within minutes, the oil has all been drained with nary a drop spilled. They also are outstanding for transferring fuel from jerry jugs to the main fuel tank. At sea. While rolling like crazy. Without spilling a drop.

Now if I was really slick, I'd mount a permanent pump to the hose like they do on the Beta Marine Diesels. Then I'd be stylin' for sure.

Today I even managed to get the old oil filter off without spilling any oil. I tell ya, I'm living a charmed life. And, speaking of oil filters, in case you want to get away from using only the filters that your engine manufacturer sells, check out the Fram cross-reference website. Start on this page and just drill on in. You'll get to a place where you can choose your engine and then you'll go to the page with the Fram equivalent. But it doesn't stop there, They also provide cross-references to all, and I mean ALL their competitors. It's a little confusing as it lists for example, at least 5 Napa filters that cross to the Fram filter that crosses to my Westerbeke filter. My inside source at Napa tells me that the different numbers probably signify different physical sizes but that the gasket, thread size and filter media should be the same in all of them.

So there you go.

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