Easier Oil Changes

Posted: May 1, 2013

Yes, it’s a chore, but it doesn’t have to be burdensome.

By: Capt. Frank Lanier

Regular oil changes are arguably the most important thing a boat owner can do to increase an engine’s service life. As with most preventive maintenance, however, the easier the process, the more likely it will happen. Here’s a look at how to make your oil-changing routine as painless as possible.

How Often?

Most engine manufacturers recommend that oil changes be completed every 100 hours, or annually at a minimum. Some engine manuals may allow for longer intervals; however, more frequent oil changes are a better strategy to extend the life of the engine. This is particularly true for diesel engines, which tend to be harder on oil’s lubrication properties than gasoline engines — one reason many experts recommend diesel oil be changed after every 50 hours of use.

Another recommendation is to change the oil before a long layup period, not afterward. You want clean oil in the crankcase during storage, rather than dirty oil laden with grime and potentially corrosive combustion by-products.

Prepping for Success

In addition to your normal oil-changing preparations (i.e., purchasing the correct type and amount of oil, gathering the necessary tools), it’s always a good idea to place catch pans and oil-absorbent pads under the engine and oil filter, to add an extra layer of prevention against accidental leaks, dropped filters, etc., from reaching the bilge.

Remember: Warm oil flows easier, making removal easier, and holds more contaminants in suspension, meaning more abrasive gunk and chemical impurities will be removed from the engine when the oil is changed. Knowing that, make sure you bring the engines up to operating temperature prior to an oil change.

Out with the Old

Changing the oil in your boat’s engine isn’t like changing the oil in your car’s engine. Many marine engine installations provide little or no access to the oil-pan drain plug or space below the engine to place an open container to catch the old oil. Engine installations that lack drain-plug access must use some oil-evacuation system, such as one that uses a manual or electric pump to transfer oil from the engine into an open or (better yet) closed container. Closed oil-changing systems range from portable vacuum pumps designed to remove oil via the dipstick tube to permanently mounted pumps plumbed directly to the oil-pan drain.

Oil Filters

During all regularly scheduled oil changes, you should replace the oil filter.

Spill-free oil filter replacement can be a challenge, depending on the filter’s orientation. Vertically mounted filters can usually be removed with minimal mess by keeping the filter level during removal, but horizontally mounted filters — or, worse, those mounted upside down — require additional precautions to minimize spills during replacement, including positioning oil pads or a catch pan beneath the filter, and placing a large Ziploc-style freezer bag around the filter prior to removal. Once the filter is removed, the bag can be sealed and used to transport the filter without fear of oil leaking out.

In with the New

Once the old oil is removed and the filter is replaced, you need to add new oil. The design of modern screw-top containers simplifies pouring oil into the filler at the top of the engine (provided you have the space to invert the container), but using a funnel will make adding oil easier in almost all cases. You can even add a short length of hose to the funnel to assist with those hard-to-reach oil fills.

Once the oil is added, start the engine and look for leaks, particularly around the oil pan and filter. Keeping a fresh oil-absorbent pad beneath the engine will aid in spotting leaks both after and between oil changes.

Posted By: CSkinner On: 12/27/2013

Title: Easier Oil Changes?

This article must have been written with the idea of appealing to the lowest common denominator in a boating community made up of penguins. Frankly, I can't imagine there are one in a hundred boat owners that don't realize they need to change the oil frequently or that a funnel will make the job easier. Really?
If we are going to talk about innovation on this subject, how about suggesting some new automated systems like electric pumps or manually operated vacuum pumps that allow removal of the oil without gravity. Let's not assume your readers are total mechanical morons.

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