Servicing Your Yacht's Cooling System

By: Marinetrader

Most used boats with inboard engines are provided with fresh water cooling systems. These fresh water systems in conjunction with the raw water system cool the engine during operation. The fresh water circulates within the engine and transfers the engine heat to the raw water system as it passes through heat exchangers. This article will explain the step by step approach to servicing your yacht's raw water cooling system

But raw water cooling systems often become plugged with scale, calcium carbonate deposits, creating an unhealthy condition for the engine. Heat exchanger cooling tubes and piping will become totally blocked if left unchecked.

How does calcium carbonate form in the engine you ask? When hard water comes in contact with heated surfaces, the minerals in the water fall from suspension, Minerals, primarily calcium will then cling to any surfaces that might be there. The same occurs inside hot water heaters and in industrial power plants that use untreated water.

Become familiar with your engines

Prior to servicing the engines on your used trawler, motor yacht, sailboat or cruiser, it is important that you take some time to familiarize yourself with the raw water cooling system of the engines. Get drawings and parts diagrams if at all possible. Examine your engines and trace the raw water flow from the intakes to the exhaust. Make a mental note of each component.

There are two methods to service your used boats

Method 1 - Disassemble the Engine Cooling System

Using your parts manual as a guide, disassemble each component of the cooling system. You will need new seals and gaskets when you put it back together so keep a running inventory as you remove components. The principle sections of the raw water system are the raw water pump and impeller, the oil cooler, perhaps an aftercooler, a heat exchanger and transmission oil cooler.
Clean the cooling system

After the sections have been removed, each section must be examined. Oil coolers and heat exchangers will possibly have a calcium deposit inside them. A professional radiator shop can clean these for you but a cheaper way is to mix a 4-1 solution of Muriatic Acid and water. Immerse the components into the solution and allow it to "boil" until all activity is complete; your components will be clean. Use care to protect your eyes and skin as the acid is very hazardous.

Re-assemble the cooling system.

Once your system is clean replace all the sections back on the engine using new seals and gaskets where needed. Replace older rusted bolts too. Now is a good time to replace the impeller too

Test for leaks and proper operation

When you are refilling your engine with anti-freeze, be sure to bleed the system of trapped air. You should find that information in your operators manual. Following the re-assembly, the only remaining task is to start up the engine and check for water flow and stop any small leaks by tightening bolts

Method 2 - Clean in Place

Inspect your cooling system and locate your raw water pump on your used boat. Next, locate an intake in the raw water system downstream from the pump where you can connect a hose. On my Volvos, I have a hose that runs from the water pump to the oil cooler that I can temporarily remove. Then locate an outflow from the raw water cooling system where the water leaves the engine.

Assemble the following:

1. 50 gph bilge pump
2. About 20 feet of wire to connect the pump to your batteries
3. A 5-gallon bucket
4. About 10-15 feet of hose sized to fit connections
5. 1 gallon of Ph-Ospho-Ric (Home Depot paint department) phosphoric acid

Connect a portion of the hose to the bilge pump and the other end to the intake you have located. Place the bilge pump into the bucket and fill full with water and of the Ph-Ospho-Ric. Connect another portion of hose to the outflow of the engine and route back to the bucket. At this point remove the engine zincs and replace the holes with plugs.

What you now have created is a closed loop where the acid can be circulated through the engine. Start the bilge pump and begin circulating the water and acid. The water will turn a dark gray and bubble as it neutralizes the calcium deposits. You may have to add more Ph-Ospho-Ric as you continue the process.

Finally, after you are confidant the deposits are cleaned out, reassemble the engine, install new engine zincs and start the engine to flush the remaining acid.

Mike Dickens is a live aboard trawler owner. He also operates as Paradise Yachts Broker in Florida USA.

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