Changing your Oil

Dear Dr. Motorhead,

I have turned over a new leaf. After reading your column for years, I have the confidence and desire to do all my own engine repairs and maintenance. You have written on just about everything that can go wrong with our engines and how to make the repairs. I’ve saved all the articles and from time to time I will read them again just to refresh my memory. I have my wife quiz me on the problematic causes and the repairs to all the ailments. I know someday, for instance, I may be sitting over at Bob and Renee Clark’s Estate in fashionable Somerset, Wisconsin sipping on a mint julep when Bob will ask me, “How do you adjust these *%#@ carburetors, especially the one on that troublesome port engine?” Bob tells me it has never worked properly since the rebuild that took place in Wisconsin. I know with your training Doctor, I can get in there and fix it like a pro. Well, enough about me and my new found confidence.

Here is my problem, and it is a big one. I went down to the boat and lifted my engine cover to check everything out. You know, check for leaks, smell for gas, and check the oil level. This is when I started to think to myself — dirty oil — time to give it a change. It was Saturday; no better time but the present. Oh, I forgot to tell you, I also bought a new tool bag and tools with the Dr. Motorhead seal of approval. So, with my new tools and my previous experience changing
oil in my old cars when I was a kid, I was ready to get underway. I summoned my wife to help me pull the boat out of the water and on to the trailer. That being done and armed with my tool bag, I crawled under the boat to drain the oil and change the oil filter. But wait, I can’t reach the drain plug or the filter from under here unless, of course, there was a hole in the bottom of the boat. Naturally, that can’t be the case… I think. Then I thought, when the bottom was rebuilt, did they forget to put in an oil change plug to get to the engine? What else could it be? I must have forgotten to read one of your articles. Then I thought back on the quizzes and flash cards prepared by my wife. There are no articles on oil changes. Darn, if the restorer had only installed the oil drain plug in the bottom. How do I change the oil without this plug in the bottom? Do I have to send my boat back to the restorer to have one installed? Not to mention, upon
further investigation, I think the engine rebuilder forgot to install my oil filter and bracket — can’t find them anywhere. Here I thought I knew it all. Oh, I remember the “early times” when life was so simple. Help me quick Doc, I want to go boating.
Oily McPherson

Dear Oily,
I get it, this is a joke, and I bet you are Todd Schultz just pretending to be Oily. Here is what you need to do. Call Dan Nelson and have him put a hole in the bottom of your boat so you can change your oil immediately. He has the kit and knows how to install it properly. I know he has more time on his hands since Mike Favilla has slowed down the progress on his restoration. But make sure you hire an expert to do this delicate operation. I caution you, you do not want to install one of these plugs at home. Secondly, call your engine rebuilder and get your oil filter and oil filter bracket back. There is a huge and profitable secondary market for these pieces. The theft is serious. This market is even bigger than stolen air bag parts from your car. If your engine was rebuilt by a less-than-reputable business, they will say that these engines were manufactured without an oil filter. Be persistent. You will prevail. Threaten to leak this story to Peggy Merjanian and The Boathouse, you’ll get your parts back. These crooks hate the press. Next, look under a mushroom for a Leprechaun; they bring you good luck and a pot of gold. You’ll need both.

Back to reality — and your wife can thank me — you don’t have to pull your boat out of the water. You have to pump the oil out of your engine and, believe it or not, the flat-head Chris Craft engines were not installed with an oil filter. This is why it is important to change your oil
frequently. There is one and only one most important aspect to a happy and healthy engine; lubrication. You can do more for your engine than anything else by keeping the engine oil fresh. Remember in my last article I talked about the good old days with my Volkswagons? Those little bugs had a three-quart oil capacity without an oil filter. Engines would need rebuilding with 40,000 to 60,000 miles. This is because their owners did not change oil frequently. I used to change the oil every 1,000 miles on mine. The last one I owned had 130,000 miles on the original engine. Here is my calculation for oil changes: the average speed you travel in your car is 30 mph. Unless you live in Los Angeles it is 17 mph (seriously). That equates to 100 hours to travel 3000 miles. The recommended distance between oil changes is 3000 miles, so one might think you should change your oil every 100 hours on your boat. No, for two reasons: The first is, you don’t have an oil filter; secondly, your engine is always under a load and needs proper lubrication. he correct answer is, at least every 50 hours and always in the fall before lay-up.

Oil filters can be installed to your old engine if you desire. However, I think this practice only takes place in Southern Wisconsin. Does it help to have an oil filter? You bet! I won’t argue that point. Do you need it? Not if you keep your oil fresh and change it often. By the way, Chrysler engine owners are one up on the rest of us. Chrysler installed oil filters on their engines from early on.

Here is how you change your engine oil. Jabsco makes the electric oil pump with the Dr. Motorhead seal of approval. It is a little over $100.00 dollars. Expensive yes, however, if I add up all the money I have spent on electric drill and hand vacuum pumps that don’t work, I would have had my Jabsco for free. First, by warming up your engine, you will allow the oil to become thinner and easier to pump. Connect the two wires from the pump to your battery. Remove the dipstick, install the oil pump tube and suck out the old oil. When the oil stops
pumping through the hose, push the suction tube in and out and around the bottom of the oil pan. This will insure that you get all the oil out. Well, perhaps not all the oil, as there will be a small amount of oil left in your transmission housing if you have a manual transmission. No need if you have a hydraulic type transmission, such as a Velvet Drive. The best way to clean out all the oil is
to remove the inspection plate from the top of the transmission, and draw the oil out from there. Or, if you are from Southern Wisconsin you have already installed an oil filter so you may want to install a plug in your transmission inspection plate. Then you can remove the plug and not the whole plate to remove all the oil.
What type of oil should you use? Some argue that you should use straight 30-weight non-detergent oil. The argument being, without an oil filter, you don’t want the lubricant to clean the internal engine components as well as detergent oil will. If you don’t have an oil filter, this non-detergent oil will leave sludge in the bottom of your oil pan. To me it doesn’t matter, and the performance you get from high quality detergent 10W-30 oil is far better than a straight 30-weight non-detergent. Now, Les Mahlstedt from Lester Prairie Engine Rebuilders, might argue, as he is the one who has to clean out the sludge in the oil pan after 20 years of use.
Keep your engine well oiled, valves adjusted, and ignition timed properly, and it is not inconceivable that you will get 20 years use without any trouble. Remember my formula? Twenty years of use would equate to 60,000 hard working miles from your motor, specifically for you and your families pleasure. When was the last time you thanked your engine? Don’t delay change today. See you on the boat show circuit.
Dr. Motorhead.