With proper and reg­u­lar lu­bri­ca­tion, the twin scourges of any cruis­ing boat’s sys­tems — fric­tion and cor­ro­sion — can be ban­ished for­ever.

Cruising World - - Contents - Monthly Main­te­nance by Steve D’an­to­nio

A drip of oil, a daub of grease — both pay off when it comes to keep­ing rust and wear at bay.

Fric­tion and cor­ro­sion. Th­ese, un­for­tu­nately, are con­stants aboard any cruis­ing boat. How­ever, with a lit­tle bit of pe­ri­odic at­ten­tion and main­te­nance, both can be all but elim­i­nated. Fric­tion comes into play the mo­ment you start your ves­sel’s engine or gen­er­a­tor. Were they not coated in oil, the crankshaft, con­nect­ing rod bear­ings, pis­ton rings, rocker arms and cam shafts would quickly grind to a halt. Crankcase oil off­sets the bulk of fric­tion’s side ef­fects, en­abling en­gines to run for thou­sands of hours with­out ever hav­ing to be dis­as­sem­bled to re­place any of th­ese com­po­nents. Oil also acts as a cor­ro­sion in­hibitor by coat­ing the engine parts that would other­wise rust or cor­rode.

It’s worth tak­ing the time to se­lect your diesel engine’s oil wisely, mak­ing cer­tain it meets the man­u­fac­turer’s two-let­ter code, such as the Amer­i­can Pe­tro­leum In­sti­tute’s CI or CJ. Typ­i­cally, the higher the sec­ond let­ter in this two-let­ter group, the more “mod­ern” the oil. Vir­tu­ally all diesels call for C-pre­fix oil, while gaso­line en­gines uti­lize oil with an S pre­fix; never use S-pre­fix oil in a diesel engine. If your engine man­u­fac­turer calls for CF (which is now ob­so­lete), for small aux­il­iaries it’s usu­ally safe to use a cur­rent des­ig­na­tion such as CI (API’S take on this sub­ject: “For diesel en­gines, the lat­est cat­e­gory usu­ally — but not al­ways — in­cludes the per­for­mance prop­er­ties of an ear­lier cat­e­gory.”).

Be sure to fol­low your engine man­u­fac­turer’s guide­lines for oil weight as well. Most mod­ern diesel en­gines call for a mul­ti­weight oil, such as SAE (So­ci­ety of Au­to­mo­tive En­gi­neers) 15W-40, while some older en­gines spec­ify a “straight” or sin­gle-weight oil, such as SAE 30 (that’s usu­ally be­cause it was the only op­tion avail­able when that engine was man­u­fac­tured). Change the oil sea­son­ally (typ­i­cally when de­com­mis­sion­ing), or at the des­ig­nated hourly change in­ter­val, which­ever is sooner. Don’t for­get to pe­ri­od­i­cally change trans­mis­sion fluid. This lasts a long time; for the small quan­tity and cost, my sug­ges­tion is to do so ev­ery two years even if it fails to meet the man­u­fac­turer’s hour thresh­old.

Grease is a mariner’s friend. It too is used to pre­vent fric­tion and cor­ro­sion. Tra­di­tional cone-style sea­cocks, for in­stance, are de­signed to be greased. But many will be sur­prised to learn that even the ball-valve sea­cocks that don’t re­quire grease will ben­e­fit from it where a grease fit­ting can be in­stalled by fill­ing the cav­ity be­tween the ball and body to ease move­ment and dis­cour­age foul­ing. Wa­ter-re­sis­tant ma­rine trailer-wheel-bear­ing grease from Lubri­matic has served me well in this ap­pli­ca­tion. How­ever, at least one me­tal­lic sea­cock man­u­fac­turer, Groco, of­fers its own pro­pri­etary grease, which in­cludes a growth in­hibitor. In cases like th­ese, where grease comes into di­rect con­tact with sea­wa­ter, the more vis­cous and stick­ier it is, the bet­ter. For this rea­son, avoid us­ing light sil­i­cone, Te­flon or lithium-based greases. While th­ese have their proper uses, they are less than ideal in wet lo­ca­tions, where they can be more eas­ily washed away.

Cable-over-sheave steer­ing sys­tems also ben­e­fit from heav­ier wheel-bear­ing-type grease, where the ca­bles pass over the sheaves and quad­rants, and for chains and sprock­ets and sheave axles. Wa­ter-re­sis­tant trailer-wheel-bear­ing grease is also well-suited to lu­bri­cat­ing con­ven­tional rud­der and shaft stuff­ing boxes when be­ing repacked (some stuff­ing boxes even in­clude grease cups to in­ject grease into the pack­ing). You can never have too much lu­bri­ca­tion here, and sticky grease helps hold pack­ing in place dur­ing assem­bly.

Shift and throt­tle con­trols also ben­e­fit from lu­bri­ca­tion and cor­ro­sion in­hi­bi­tion. Most ca­bles are “lubed for life” and don’t re­quire ad­di­tional at­ten­tion. How­ever, levers (where they pass through bin­na­cles) and cable ter­mi­na­tions (at en­gines, trans­mis­sions and levers) will ben­e­fit from a few drops of light oil (crankcase oil can be used) once or twice a year, both for lu­bri­ca­tion and to stem cor­ro­sion.

From left: Shift and throt­tle cable ends, par­tic­u­larly the spring-loaded va­ri­ety, can suf­fer from both wear and cor­ro­sion; a few drops of oil or other light lu­bri­cant will keep both at bay. Steer­ing chains and sprock­ets, with their many mov­ing parts, should be pe­ri­od­i­cally cleaned and greased. In or­der to max­i­mize ser­vice life, cable-over-sheave steer­ing sys­tems re­quire lu­bri­ca­tion of both the cable-to-groove in­ter­face, and the sheave axle.

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