More Spring Engine Tips

Email from Dr.

I hope you don’t mind that I am still here on Mt. Ararat.

I have not yet found the old boat I heard about while vacationing on Easter Island. This has become more of an endeavor than I could have imagined. I have looked in every barn and garage on two sides of the mountain. They say that at one time this whole area was under water. I can believe it, there are a number of boathouses located in fields not even close to the shore. I have summoned Piston to help me with my quest. He is boarding the airplane as I write. What this means is my obsession has prevented me from responding to our readers questions. As Piston is also incommunicado, we have nothing to submit. Perhaps you could ask Jim Aamodt to fill in for me for this edition of The BoatHouse.

Although I have not seen Todd or Mitch, word has it that they have been inquiring. Got to stick with it. I will keep you informed.
Best Regards,
Fred & Piston

As suggested by the good “doctor,” I have imposed upon Jim Aamodt to fill in for this issue. As always, Jim was right there with some good advice. — Editor

We’re all anxious to get our boat in the water. The normal checklist of engine maintenance, oil changing, charging the battery, safety equipment and a clean-up makes the boat almost ready for the water….but not quite. Following is a reminder list of items untque to older wood boats that should be done annually — some of which you may not have done for years if you have normal procrastination tendencies. Run down the list and see if you’ve addressed all of them.

Battery and Cables
If you have a 6-volt, or a large engine with a 12 volt system, you have large (#00) cables and need clean connections (clean with water and baking soda.) Test batteries – replace if needed and be sure to clean the battery cable to engine ground post.

Steering – Gear Type
If loose, secure brackets and check for gear play. The
sliding upper collar will adjust bearing load while the
eccentric side plate will adjust gear mesh. Final adjustment is usually a compromise as gear wear is in center of steering wheel pattern and removal of same will eventually lead to too-tight a fit at each extreme of steering turns. Be sure to re-seal with a liquid sealer any adjustment moved items before final tightening. Also check ball socket and Pittman arm. Arm should be bolted solid to shaft, ball joint spring should have tension and grease in it. The steering box usually contains #90 lube, and check fill hole so it shows to within 1/4” of base. Check and replace leaky seals. A gear filled with grease is second best and will work, but it is only this way because leaking oil seals were not replaced.

Older units with rod and ball socket system should be checked for ball socket wear (replace as necessary) interference and undue friction in routing. Apply some waterproof grease to binding areas. Replace loose clevis pins, cotter keys, or worn levers, steering and mechanical shift leakage should be checked for the same. Cables for tachometers, 90 degree tack drive elbows and push-pull cables should all be checked and lubricated. If push-pull cables are frozen, replace the unit.

In addition to checking all functions, consider a dedicated ground system. Chris Craft and others relied on copper oil lines, rods and levers, etc, to act as a ground circuit. Add dedicated wires from engine ground to base of dash, steering gear, rear light, and fuel tank. Most importantly, make sure there is a ground wire from metal gas filler to gas tank to prevent explosions. Ground wires from engine block to strut, rudder, and other thru hull fittings will also prevent electrolysis.

Fuel Lines
Check for leaks. If copper, make sure lines are not chaffed, or free to vibrate (and crystallize and break.) Rubber lines should be free of kinks, double clamped, and insulated from any hot areas.

If you have a pre-war boat with an actual ball-socket
bearing built into the stuffing box, get rid of it pronto!! This should be converted to the modern flex hose – stuffing box so that as the boat flexes, it will not bind or break the prop shaft. After your boat has been in the water a few days, align your prop shaft if this has not been done in the last two years. First, check your strut bushing (under the boat in the strut.) If it is rubber — a slight movement laterally of the shaft is OK, but if the shaft can wiggle loosely in it, replace. Next, loosen the coupling on the rear of transmission, usual four bolts holding the two flanges together, split apart the flange (maybe 1/8”), then re-tighten bolts so there is from .010 to .050 clearance at the 12 o’clock position. Whatever is the test dimension, use a feeler gauge to check at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock for a dimension that each are within .004 of original selected dimension. Adjust the motor mounts to correct tolerance and check for loose mounts, separating rubber cushions, broken bolts, etc. Replace as needed. Tighten up (and perhaps new grade 5 or 8 bolts) when correct.

Engine Thermostat
If you have one, remove and replace if automotive style (restrictor) or hot water test, clean and re-use if by-pass style, using new gaskets and sealer. Replace if it fails. If you don’t have one, consider a universal mount by-pass style (about $100 new) as it will improve performance, engine life and economy.

Spring Hint
Before replacing spark plugs, with battery hooked up, disconnect coil wire, squirt some oil (a teaspoon of engine oil) into each cylinder and crank engine 10 seconds with plugs removed. Next, check engine boxes and water pump packing, fill block with water, recheck for leaks and leave water in engine for launching fire-up. Do your normal safety item checks, add fresh fuel, stir briskly in the lake and go boating!