Boat Daily Engine Checks

Although an engine on most sailing boats is considered an auxiliary form of propulsion, it is essential for convenience and safety, for example to enable a boat to get from outside a harbour safely into a berth or to aid in recovery of a person overboard.

Although most charter and sailing school boats are used regularly, it is prudent to check the engine on a daily basis.  If you own your own boat and you haven’t been sailing for a number of weeks, a proper check of the engine is recommended before you have to rely on it. Spotting a small problem early can save money in the long term and prevent a potential issue at sea.

In this blog we will cover daily checks that can be carried out quickly and easily.  For anyone who has been on an RYA course they may be familiar with the acronym WOBBLE used as an aide memoir for engine checks.

W – Water is essential to keep a boat engine cool.  Check that the water strainer is free from debris and the water intake seacock is open before you start the engine. Salt water is used to cool the engine coolant via a heat exchanger.  Check that the coolant tank is topped up.

O – Oil is essential to make an engine run smoothly, without it the engine would create to much friction between all the metal parts causing it to cease.  The dipstick should be used to ensure there is the correct amount in the engine.  Top up if needed.

B – Belt this drivers the alternator and sometimes the water pump, making sure that the batteries are charged and that the water can cool the engine. The belt needs to be tight enough so the longest length will flex approximately 1cm.  The alternator is normally on a bracket allowing the belt to be tightened or loosened.

B – Bilges should be clean and free from water and oil. If they are kept clean then it makes it possible to identify and fluid leaks from the engine.

L – Look at the engine to make sure that all hoses and wire are where they are supposed to be.  Loose wires could get caught in the belt or pulley.  It can also be a good idea to re look at the engine once started to ensure that the engine is not moving on the engine mounts excessively.

E – Exhaust, once you have completed all the other checks it time to start the engine.  A boat engine is cooled by water and this water is used to also cool the exhaust and is discarded from the exhaust.  If there isn’t water coming out the exhaust within 30 – 60 seconds, stop the engine as you may have an issue with the water.  Common reasons are that the sea cock is closed, the water strainer is blocked or your water impeller that is used to pump the water around the engine has failed.

Replacing an impeller is a relatively simple job assuming you have access to basic tools and a spare to replace it. Replacing the impeller is covered along with other common faults in the RYA Day Skipper practical course.

Performing these daily engine checks can provide piece of mind, that if required your engine should start and run.

If you would like more information or some hands on experience you should consider the RYA Diesel Engine course.

For further information on RYA courses please contact us on 020 7002 7676 or email [email protected]

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