Sunday, February 1, 2009

More winter maintenance: Racor and Exhanger Zinc

More winter maintenance projects. Time to change my primary filter, which is a Racor 15S 2 micron on my Universal 5432 diesel. It had been just over one year and about 150 hours since the last change. Way premature, you may say, but an ounce of prevention... Also changed my heat exchanger zinc. I can never say enough about how much I believe in maintenance schedules. Virtually every engine and boat problem I hear of or experience could have been prevented with regular maintenance. Things need a little love, and they return it. In that regard, it is just like humanity.

I've learned that some folks are maintainers, and some aren't. Just that simple. I once had a 1968 VW bus that needed one quart of oil every fill up. She ran beautifully, and the rear seal was a major pain to replace and oil was cheap (never mind the environmental issues). Sold the van, told the guy 20 different times and different ways that she needed a quart every time you filled her with fuel, and not two months later, he had fried the engine. All he could do was hang his head and confess to having forgotten all about it. Now, there is nothing wrong with forgetting, but people I call maintainers just don't forget these sorts of things, or create systems so they don't forget them. It's not an intelligence issue, of course. It's just a personality type, like Meyers-Briggs or Emotional Intelligence. Anyway, back to Aeolus:

During the interval between fuel filter changes, however, I had used the filter to do a little fuel polishing as I had run my electric fuel pump and then drained the output right back into the tank. I figure at that time I ran about 150 gallons worth of fuel through, and the tank had about 50 gallons in it. I had agitated the tank pretty well with a fuel hose that I blew bubbles into as it moved around the bottom. So the shorter change interval was even more on my mind.

Pulling the old filter off required all of my fading 40 year old strength :-) and upon inspection the old filter was only lightly darkened from stuff. The bowl had a noticeable amount of crud in it too. Putting the new filter on is simple, but then I hit a snag. The primer pump wasn't working. You don't want a filter full of air as it will introduce more air into the system than the bleed off can handle. After taking everything back apart and checking the suction cups and the rest and finding nothing wrong, I finally decided to check the ball valve. Sure enough, there was a little wad of lint and dirt that had formed near the ball and kept it from seating properly. Without this ball seating, the Racor primer can't work. Once this was cleaned up, she primed just as she should and the job was done. Pictured on my finger is the little strand of junk causing the trouble with priming.

A quick tale that the PO (who evidently was not a maintainer) had had to swap this filter while crossing the Columbia River Bar, one of the nastiest pieces of water in North America. Bad enough to have your filter clog right then, but to not have the new one prime because of lint and crud around the check ball could really jeopardize your ability to quickly motor out of danger. Knowing these systems in detail makes all the difference between well found peace of mind, and misery waiting to happen. This filter photo shows the inside of my old filter, and this after 150 hours and using it to polish the fuel. This shows a clean tank, and one of the benefits of using biodiesel (after the first tank) and having a good clean fuel regiment.

The heat exchanger zinc on Aeolus lasts about 100 hours. I swapped mine out even though it had only been on for about 80 hours. It was about 20% gone. A good rule of thumb is to replace them when they are 50% gone. So, I was a little soon, but the damn things cost pennies and I was in the mood to do the belly work, so there you go. Now good through the summer pretty much.


TJ Radcliffe said...

Hi Brian... I'm a new owner of a lovely Gulf 32 and have been looking high and low for the engine zincs. I've got the same engine you do (Universal 5432). Any pointers on where this is? I'm in the process of doing a full-on change-everything (yes, I'm a maintainer: I want to know the baseline so I can plan future maintenance) and have pretty much everything figured out except where this zinc is (the zinc on the shaft is in OK shape but I'll likely change it in the spring.)

If you could reply here or to tj at I'd greatly appreciate it--I have the original manual for the engine and have searched around online but not come up with any info, and have crawled around the engine a bit but nothing has jumped out at me (although I'm sure it will in time, and then seem obvious!)

Fair winds!

TJ Radcliffe said...

And inevitably a little more searching tells me where it is... on the port underside of the heat exchanger. Now if I just knew what size it took (2" 00?)

Brian W. said...

Hi TJ.
Congrats on your new Gulf! Welcome to the family of happy Gulf 32 owners, we are a proud and smug group. Glad you have found this blog because as you go along it may be useful to you doing many of the same projects.

As you've found, it is on the exchanger. I don't recall the pencil size, but it is common. Have you pulled the old one off yet? The harder topic is cutting it down to the right length.

If the boat is new to you I would encourage you to remove the exchanger altogether, which is not hard, and remove both end caps and check the condition of everything. You can then measure the maximum length of the zinc. I have it written down in my engine maintenance journal but don't have that with me right now.

New caps and a new zinc and you are good to go. If you need a new exchanger, I had good luck with Lenco.

Best wishes on your journeys aboard, and inside, of your Gulf.