By Bicki Howell, Nellie D. 37VT63
|The rather dirty engine|
Last summer we left Nellie D. on the hard in Port Charlotte, Florida. We returned in late November and splashed her after completing a few projects. Friends highly recommended visiting the St Petersburg municipal marina as it is smack dab in the heart of town. Museums, theaters, and excellent restaurants are all within easy walking distance. With that glowing recommendation, we headed north.
We soon discovered St Pete also afforded access to many marine services. This presented us with the opportunity to take on a project we'd long dreaded--the engine room. Before we purchased Nellie D. ten years ago, we had an engine survey conducted. The surveyor found the engine to be in good working order but stated, 'It's not the way I'd keep an engine." In other words, it was dirty and rusty. Over the years we dutifully maintained the engine, but the grease, grime and rust just continued to worsen.
The engine room overhaul project started innocently enough in January when Dave discovered a pinhole leak in the wet muffler. With the muffler and its hoses removed, it looked like the perfect chance to degrease and paint a portion of the engine. The access was too limited and cleaning, little alone painting was impossible. We removed the heat exchanger to obtain better access and still it wasn't enough. Before we knew it, parts were flying off and everything but the head, block and transmission were on the saloon floor.
The saloon was transformed into a degreasing area and paint shop. Tarps and cardboard protected the floor and the settee cushions were wrapped in plastic to protect them. Each part was scrapped, degreased, acid etched, primed (2-3 coats) and then painted (3-4 coats). Wearing rubber gloves and respirators throughout the ordeal was a must.
While I worked on parts in the saloon, Dave was doing the same in the engine room. POR 15's primer and acid etcher, which came highly recommended, were used throughout. Etching was a simple process after the parts and engine were clean. We first tried spraying on the etching solution, but found that a paint brush gave better control and coverage. We were warned that once the primer dried, it was impossible to remove. For that reason, we put the primer in pint sized plastic containers. They made pouring the desired amount a breeze and resealing the container after each use was simple. The primer was fast drying, easy to use and two coats usually did the trick. One quart was enough for the entire engine and all the parts.
We purchased Cummins' white engine paint to spray on the parts and engine, but it wasn't ideal. Spraying paint onto parts in the saloon seemed like a bad idea and getting an even coverage was problematic. It also proved difficult to get the spray can into many of the tight spaces around the engine block. We regrouped, choosing instead to go with a Rustoleum brush on white gloss enamel paint. It provided great coverage and with a shortened brush handle we could get into those tight areas on the block. The enamel paint also worked well in the bilge and was significantly cheaper than Interlux Bilgekote.
As we took things apart we learned a lot about the engine and even found a few unexpected things. One discovery was that a bolt head on the rear, port-side engine mount had sheared off in the transmission. It was certainly a relief when Dave was able to drill it out. You can see from the photo it was no easy task. Surprisingly many of the hose clamps broke when they were reused. For that reason we replaced every one of them. In addition, all the hoses were replaced; some were quite expensive at over $16/foot. To clean the heat exchanger we soaked it in a five gallon bucket filled with "Etch and Prep" phosphoric acid from Home Depot. We replaced the transmission oil cooler after finding several small pin holes around its hose fitting. The injectors were bench tested and proved serviceable. At a quarter the price of the OEM engine starter motor, we opted for an after market motor. It has worked well. All parts received new gaskets before being reinstalled. Worn bolts and crush washers were replaced and all bolts were torqued to Cummins' specifications. We also replaced the lift pump, coolant overflow bottle, thermostat, belt, filters, impeller and Cummins water pump.
Like any boat project, ours expanded beyond the scope of merely painting the engine. Many of the hoses were rerouted, the entire engine room was re-wired, the boat's bonding system was replaced, new sound insulation along the bulkheads was installed, the floor grates were cleaned and refinished, and the steering cables were replaced. We were careful to label every part and are happy to report there were no "extra" parts at the end of the job. After 400 hours, the engine is just purring. A big advantage is that now we can easily spot any oil or coolant drip against the new paint. Usually the repair is the simple tightening of a hose clamp. We wipe the engine and bilge down routinely in an effort to keep it clean.
The entire project took us six plus weeks, working an average of 8 hours a day, or roughly 670 man hours [ 2 people x (8 hours x 42 days)]. Would we do it again? Yes, even though at times it was overwhelming and exhausting. The bottom line is we're thrilled with the results and doing the work ourselves saved a bundle.
|Block with primer|
|The painted parts in the salon|
|The finished job|