Saturday, August 20, 2011

DiY come-uppance

Not long ago I did a post boasting about how easy it was to repack the stern gland and said that I would probably find that some supposedly simple job next time would turn out to be really difficult.  Well I didn't have to wait long folks.

I decided to install new heater (glow) plugs in the engine as it was beginning to take a long time on the button before the engine would start.  These look pretty much like a spark plug in your car.  I bought a new set on special offer from Calcutt and set aside half an hour to put them in.  I mean how hard could it be?  Just take off the wires, unscrew the old plugs with a spanner, screw in the new ones, replace the wires and job's a goodun.

Four hours it took me!  Four hours, and I nearly gave up a couple of times.  Admittedly the old plugs were in tight and took a bit of force, but that wasn't the problem.  It was the sheer inaccessibility of the flippin things.

I suppose when they build the engines it's easy.  They just screw in the plugs and then later add all the injector pipes, then bolt on the alternator and connect up the throttle cable etc.  All on their nice work bench no doubt.  The trouble is that all that extra stuff blocks off any access to the heater plugs.

The last plug was the worst -right up the alternator end of the block.  There it is, that shiny thing just underneath the curving bit of injector pipe.  This one took over an hour.  There is nowhere to get a spanner on the nut and turn it by more than five degrees.  It took me ten attempts to get this photo, because only at a very narrow angle can you see the plug..  And of course this is down in the engine bay where only a midget can operate in comfort.  Using a socket set and an extension (thanks Rick) I was able to just turn the socket by inserting the extension bar at an angle into the square hole at the end of the socket.  So the extension bar wasn't really engaged and kept slipping out but could just turn the plug a millimeter at a time.

Worse still was the little nut that holds the wire onto the tip of the plug.  There was nowhere to get two fingers at the plug to start the nut.  The handles of my long nose pliers were to bulky to get past all the bits of pipe.

I went off to try and cadge a bit of blu-tak from a boater nearby to see if I could stick the nut to the end of a pencil and somehow work the nut on.  He didn't have any, but his pliers were more slender than mine and in the end allowed me by some miracle to screw on the nut.

There was another way of course.  I could have removed the alternator and the injector pipes, but who knows what a mess I would have got into.

Next day it rained so I thought I'd do a nice easy indoor job.  Replace the radio aerial.  The old one had got rusted up at its base and not earthing properly to the inside of the boat roof.  Radio reception had got very poor.

There is a little cover plate in the saloon ceiling to give access to the underneath of the aerial.  Just whip that off, unscrew the old aerial, screw on the new one, reconnect the cable and Bob's your uncle.  How long did it take?  Four hours again.  The problem this time was getting at the cable to reconnect the new aerial.  I had to remove the lighting board behind which are all the cables, and to do that I had to remove a lot of other hardwood trim.  These all fit together like a jigsaw and I had to remove several seemingly unrelated pieces in order to get he lighting board down.   I had a huge pile of brass screws in a little pot by the time I had it all to bits.  Herbie hides its cables very neatly, but behind the trim is a jungle.

Anyway it's done now and the radio is a lot better.

I am pleased to say that other jobs went a lot more sweetly.  I replaced the fuel filter which had been leaking (split rubber seals), and even managed to bleed the fuel system without too much drama.  Then I wired up my starter battery to the Smartgauge so I could get a more accurate reading on its voltage.  It turns out that the analogue voltmeter on the instrument panel is worse than useless and miles out in its readings.  Don't trust 'em folks.

Then just for fun at the end I put another bit of packing in the stern gland. Just to get my confidence back.  It was easy.

Now I have only another twelve jobs on my to do list.  Deep joy.


Halfie said...

And you managed to do it all without dropping anything in the engine 'ole? I'm impressed! Or perhaps you just didn't tell us that bit.

Completely unrelated: I think your "cast list" might need updating with regard to your near neighbours ...

Simon said...

Ha - yes, I think I managed a little more than five degrees on my glow plugs, but not much more - easiest technique seemed to be turn the nut a as far as it would go, then rotate spanner to get it a little further, turn it again to reach the next flat.

I didn't change mine, but just cleaned them out and it's made a huge difference to starting.

Don't forget to let us know when you've done the battery in the clock! ;-)

John - if he changes the blurb, he'll have to think of something else to call us, and it may not be repeatable... ;-)