Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Summer maintenance tips

If call-outs recorded last year during the summer months are anything to go by – 140 per week - River Canal Rescue predicts a busy season ahead. By the end of June, monthly call-outs already topped 500 and the first week in July had RCR’s engineers working flat out.

Call-out logs show fuel problems, alternators, electrical issues, batteries and cables are causing the most problems for boaters, followed by cooling systems, gear boxes, starters and fouled propellers.  To help reduce call-out numbers, RCR Managing Director, Stephanie Horton, offers the following tips:

“Fuel problems – these are mainly caused by diesel bug and contaminated water. Diesel bug is an enzyme that lives off water in the diesel. It either appears as black dust or soot (mildest form) or a black slime or jelly (at its worst). Once in the system it clogs the engine’s fuel arteries and stops the engine working. Mild cases will response to a fluid ‘Marine 16’. It prevents bacterial growth and kills anything that may be forming in the tank so is also a good preventative measure. More severe cases will require a diesel bug shock treatment. Blocked filters and fuel contamination due to dirt and debris getting into the fuel system are also culprits. Avoid this with regular checking and servicing. Some marinas offer fuel polishing which cleans the fuel without having to treat or dispose of the contaminated fuel.

“Starter motors and alternators – alternators operate in a damp, hot environment which is not good for any electrical product. The damp winter resulted in a lot of water left sitting around these components and if your bilges are full of oil and water when the engine is running, it will be thrown over the engine, hitting the electrical components.  If left for a long period of time, rust can also develop and affect their operation, so check the bilges and run your engine as frequently as you can.

“Electrical issues – these are mainly caused by a lack of attention to connections. Check for corrosion, any wires coming away, loose connections or disconnected wires before starting a journey and use a water resistant spray or petroleum jelly to stop damp getting into isolators and block connectors.

“Batteries – make sure you have the right battery linked to your starter system. A cranking battery delivers a high output quickly while a leisure battery delivers a lower continuous output, but needs to be charged regularly to maintain capacity. If in a good condition, each battery in your bank generally requires two to three hours charging to get back to full performance once fully discharged.  Each battery cell can affect the whole battery bank so to prevent deterioration, regularly check and top up the water levels in the cells using de-ionised water. If one cell’s water level drops to below 50% it will bring the battery bank capacity down to the same level, irrespective of how good the other batteries are. Never mix batteries and always replace a whole bank of old ones with new ones.

“Cables – this is primarily due to their exposure to the elements as most of the cable terminus is set outside. If not used regularly, cables will rust so to prevent this, grease the end of the cable, particularly if leaving the boat for a long period of time, and when you do set off, check for any roughness or stiffness. If fitting new ones, keep any cable bends to a minimum as these are the areas likely to suffer high stress and so may fail in the future.

“Cooling systems – overheating problems are usually caused by an air lock in the system. To identify this, feel the top and bottom of the swim tank – if everything is fine there should be a difference in temperature – if there isn’t, find and unscrew the bolt that sits on top of the swim tank. This will release the air locked in the system. Overheating can also be caused by a coolant hose rupturing, a water pump failing, a fan belt shredding or at its worst, a head gasket failing.

“Gear box and drive plates – general wear and tear is the main call-out reason so regularly service the gear box. If you hit an underwater object the drive plate is usually the first victim. If you damage the drive plate however, it’s unlikely you’ve damaged the gear box.

“Fouled propellers - loss of propulsion is commonly caused by the prop being covered in debris such as weed or leaves.  By putting the engine into reverse you should be able to clear it.”

To find out more about River Canal Rescue, search for the firm on Facebook, visit www.rivercanalrescue.co.uk or call 01785 785680.