Amrum 9171Y 11:19am, 9 July 2012
I've been a bit quiet over the last couple of weeks due to a number of engine problems. It started with my first solo sail on Amrum. All was going well - the ancient autohelm was performing, and i'd furled the sails to motor home and charge the batteries on the way. A mile from the mooring the engine slowed and stopped, and wouldn't restart. Ho hum! Up with the sails again, and prepare to sail on to mooring, only to find the wind died away and was dead on the nose once I got in the Pill about 50 yards short. And the tide was going out. I rang my daughter (who was camping at the club), and her husband and a couple of others towed me in with dinghies.
Then, strip down the fuel lines, and eventually trace it back to a blockage at the tank. So, drain all the fuel - very slowly - through the drain tube, disconnect the tank, and find a 2" slug tail of congealed black goo hanging out of the pipe. Get the tank out, wash around with clean diesel and get lots more black slugs of diesel bug out, then steam clean and wash, and take to friendly welder to fit a hatch in the top. Then clean and vacuum, and clean again, before refitting. I took the opportunity to move the first fuel filter from an impossible position behind the engine to a cupboard under the sink, bought some new hose, put in some diesel and biocide, and started bleeding.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing! I couldn't get it to bleed the air out all the way, so had some help from a friend who in all innocence removed a screw, which was NOT the bleeder. Anyway, we then found the right one, bled it, started the engine, which revved uncontrollably, and would only stop by shutting off the fuel.
So, take my diesel expert friend (Gary) out to have another go 9 days ago, started the engine, but hadn't turned the water on, it revved uncontrollably again, started to pour out smoke into the cabin, and Gary just managed to disconnect the fuel and get into the cockpit before he ran out of breath. The engine stopped, and we then started to try and work out what was happening. The next problem seemed to be water leaking in round the seal on the saildrive. Oh s**t! it was blowing a F6, and getting the boat out if it was sinking would not be easy even with an engine! Thoughts of staying on bard and pumping her out for days entered my mind... We then discovered that it was exhaust water coming out from the waterlock, which had melted, hence the smoke and water.
So, next thing is to buy a new waterlock - expensive new, but found one for 2/3rds the price on the web - and fitted it with some new exhaust hose. Then last Saturday Gary spent 5 hours stripping things down to work out the problem. To cut a very long story reasonably short, we could get the engine running, but only by manually working the throttle with the throttle box dismantled. After much scratching of heads Gary deduced that when the screw was removed and replaced when initially bleeding the engine it had bent the bar which controls the fuel to the jets. Hence the engine would run, and accelerate/decelerate when manually controlled, but the spring in the throttle box was not strong enough to overcome the friction of the bend in the bar when using the morse controls! Oh, more s**t!! However, he was not dismayed (I was !), and stripped even more down, removed the bar ... and it was indeed bent. So he straightened it, put everything back together, and we were 2 washers short, and had snapped an end off the leak off pipe. By this time the tide had nearly left us, so jobs today are to get the leak off pipe repaired, or buy a new one at an astronomical price, get some washers, then - hopefully - finish the job.
I have learned more about diesel engines in the last 3 weeks than I ever wanted to know. It was so much easier with an out board on Snifter!!
I only took a few pics of the work as I was covered in oil and grease most of the time - still a couple can be found here -
rothwell_neil 6 years ago
Sounds horrendous, I will be changing the oil on mine and keeping the diesel tank topped as that is supposed to help keep bug at bay. Hope I don't have to do much else! Also semi clear plastic tank so at least can see in it.
Amrum 9171Y 6 years ago
Thanks, Neil. Yes, it has been horrendous, but at least it happened in home waters, and I can fix it (with massive amounts of help) on the mooring. It does show how little mistakes can escalate into major problems so quickly.
I bought some biocide from Force 4 and it only needs a tiny amount to prevent diesel bug recurring, so hopefully the problem is fixed. The tank had been kept full, but the boat had been standing for a while, so it had time for the bug to develop.
I'm looking positively at the experience - I really do know a bit about how the Volvo Penta 2002 works now!
VP 2002 works now
Skykomish E29 6 years ago
Well one good thing from this... I'm not the only one who suffers from engine problems! we had a fair amount over the past couple of years, all little things but enough to stop us enjoying some fine weather. When they work diesels are brilliant and you can get fuel in most marinas, try getting petrol!!! very few marinas stock it and it is not always easy to get a can filled either.
We use the fuel bug killer in our tank, however I was horrified to see how much sludge there was in the filter housing when I recently changed it, which just goes to show that regular maintenance is essential.
Anyway at least you are now an expert at fixing diesel problems.
BTW I too have noticed that the engine ALWAYS packs up when there is either no wind or bang on the nose against a racing tide.. must be a law of the sea!
busy home [deleted] 6 years ago
We dont get fuel bug in our cars do we?
Only in our boat fuel tanks.
This is because during the winter when marina tanks are standing idle
condensaition forms on the inside half empty tank wall.
This moisture contaminates the diesel in that tank from then on...
When I had the Gib sea 33 I had huge problems ... cured by buying diesel in 5 gall containers from a garage,
rothwell_neil 6 years ago
I was told to keep it fully topped up up the filler pipe in winter to avoid condensation.
busy home [deleted] 6 years ago
Skykomish E29 6 years ago
The problem it seems is exacerbated by the increased use of bio diesel added to normal diesel and so even road diesel is a problem for marine engines these days, due to the lack of throughput. not an issue in cars as the diesel is not sitting around too long but in boats where it sits idle for weeks on end there is time for the sludge to grow. There was an article on this in PBO last year, highlighting how the poorer quality of road diesel is having a detrimental effect on marine engines due to the bio additives... let's hear it for the E.U. who brought in these rules.....
Super Snoopy 050 Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Super Snoopy 050 (member) 6 years ago
To make matters worse, I understand that there are at present two grades of red diesel. One is old style kosher red which is rare but available while the other is road diesel adulterated with FAME and dyed red. I've managed to get a year's supply of the kosher stuff (kept in full plastic drums) as in addition to the propensity to grow bugs, the FAME adulterated stuff is not very kind to older engines. As Super Snoopy's engine is 33 years old, it must surely be regarded as vintage, if not veteran.
busy home [deleted] 6 years ago
Commercial fishing boats are plagued with the problem.
They use dual in parrallel filter systems, cleaning one whilst running on the other,
Their tanks are never stagnant. ???
busy home [deleted] 6 years ago
Snoopy.. add some 2t oil,
Amrum 9171Y 6 years ago
Thanks for the sympathy, guys!
Chille - are you suggesting 2 stroke oil, and how much?
busy home [deleted] 6 years ago
Yes two stroke oil.
A common additive I believe, Lots of discussion on YBW forums,
Ive only tried it on my diesel merc,, a few times ,, about 100/1
Did not notice any difference in running. Something to look into..
Raydock 6 years ago
I had been reading on adding 2 stroke to the car because of the problems with low sulfur diesel. If your going to add 2 stroke it should be low in ash content and not be a synthetic type. I also add Millers Diesel Power Ecomax which boosts the cetane value of the diesel. The car dose run better on it, no smoke now and I do get slightly better mileage. It isn't however going to do anything for the bug.
Amrum 9171Y 6 years ago
Thanks - appreciate the advice!
RRatCalypso 6 years ago
Snifer534.. I could have written that exact same tale of woe... But on a different day and I was off Llanstephan ! I have yet to identify the problem(s) but Looks like I'll get that old fuel out and clear the lines.
I have been told adding a little petrol is ok (for winter use) would this help or hinder do you think?
Skykomish E29 6 years ago
What about Diesel Redex would this be of benefit? anybody tried it? or is this another one of those "placebo" products that doesn't actually do anything but makes you feel good that you have added something to the fuel?
I remember treating my old Austin 1100 with standard Redex frightened the life out of me when I followed the instructions and poured some directly into each cylinder then fired up the engine... huge amounts of smoke billowed from the exhaust... not sure if it made any difference, and I had mixed advice from people in respect of the wisdom of using such a product.
RRatCalypso 6 years ago
How about rain water as an addative? I have plenty right now :(

Years past, my dad bought petrol from the garage (put in the car by a forecourt attendant @ 2 shillings a gallon) and he paid a 1d per 'shot' for an addative...I think it may have been redex. In those days one had to 'de-coke' the head every few miles too. Is modern fuels already clean enough to negate the need for this 'Redex' type treatment.
On my 'woe', I cleaned the lines, changed the filter (no sludge or warer in the glass bowl) and rigged up a 1 gal. plastic container with fresh white diesel. It started immediately, ran as sweet as a nut. Its very difficult for me to get the fuel out of my tank, no drain.I have connected a small dia. tube to the outlet, but it will need pumping/sucking out I guess. (I wonder, have I cured the problem or will it stop again....)
Skykomish E29 6 years ago
Yes I believe that that was the original intention for using Redex (de coking cylinders ) however reading the blurb on the bottle it suggests that it cleans the fuel system and injectors.. so wasn't sure if it was worth adding bearing in mind fuel is being diluted these days with vegetable bi products.

Well if it runs on fresh fuel it clearly indicates some form of contamination in your fuel tank, can you not syphon it off using one of those little gadgets that you buy for about £3 designed for this purpose? It sounds like it would be worth cleaning out the tank even if it is just for peace of mind.
rothwell_neil 6 years ago
I was always sceptical of the additive but on my last car with a diesel engine the engine was a bit rough on revving after 80,000 miles, garage recommended adding injector cleaner to a few tanks and the difference was remarkable.
RRatCalypso 6 years ago
Encouraging comments,thanks. Syphon job today. Its a long tube, filler being up on the gunwale and has an acute 90 deg bend at the tank. Will buy all kinds of chemical addative/ cleaner soon.

Snifter... hows your diesel... still clear?
Skykomish E29 6 years ago
as long as the outlet is lower than the tank you should have no problems though I don't recommend sucking the pipe to get the diesel to flow tastes horrible.. a proper little plastic pump for this job only costs a few pounds and is well worth buying.
Amrum 9171Y 6 years ago
Sorry, haven't updated for a while due to other tasks catching up (read 'wife'!). However, picked up the repaired leak off pipe from a friendly engineering shop today. He charged £10, so if it fits, I'll have saved £130 on the Volvo spares price. Hopefully going back to Amrum with the pipe, washers, and Gary tomorrow evening to join everything back up.....and hope it then all works. I'm not holding my breath, but have everything crossed,
RRatCalypso 6 years ago
Grrr.... Having tried to syphon the fuel, I now recall that I made the tank inlet connection with an anti-syphon device to prvent theft !!! Tank will have to come out (engine out first !!). Howver, I have sucked out about 4 ltrs of fuel through the engine supply line. Clear and free flowing, so I'll assume its ok. Reconnected everything and now wating for the tide and some good weather to motor off. (when IS the sun going to shine.. at least when is it going to stop raining).
I may have a new tank made (stainless steel) and locate it temporarily in the side locker ready to use in an 'emergency'. I'll make the new one to fit through the side access and not through from the front (through the engine !!). Anyone know of a low cost s/s fabricator?
Super Snoopy 050 6 years ago

May be yet another old wives tale but I understand the conventional wisdom is that plastic tanks are better at keeping the diesel bug at bay. I've had no trouble on Snoopy or Super Snoopy as yet - both plastic tanks - (I'm touching wood with my fingers crossed, clutching a four leafed clover) but in view of the debates on this and other fora, over the winter I'm going to add a further fuel inlet via a quick release bayonet fitting to connect a small plastic emergency tank of white diesel. - just in case I have a problem 50 yards from the mooring on a falling tide in a flat calm!
Skykomish E29 6 years ago
I believe plastic tanks are favoured as they produce less condensation in side and this I understand is contributory to Diesel Bug formation
RRatCalypso 6 years ago
Found the problem... not the fuel quality at all !! When fitting out Calypso, I re-fitted the fuel leak-off pipe into the fuel line between the tank and the fuel stop cock/ filter. I reasoned that the fuel was on its way back to the tank anyway.... it may as well rejoin the fuel in the line. However small bubbles were being introduced in the leak off pipe (dont know why !!) and hey presto... air bubbles introduced into the fuel supply. Now the leak off fiel is going back into the tank and only fuel is picked up and on its way to the engine. Job done. BTW, I have a plastic tank. Drained out fuel looks clear of sludge.
Skykomish E29 6 years ago
Are we had a similar problem with Skykomish this weekend, she would start then stop then start then revs die etc attributed this to air in the fuel and several pumps with the primer seemed to clear it but broke off the small handle in the process. We were then out on the Swale happily motoring in zero wind down the river and the temperature alarm started, checked the exhaust.. yes water pumping out, so water circulating, however the drive belt had been squealing a lot, and once I had checked the water level was fine in the heat exchanger header tank, tightening of the belt seemed to resolve the problem.
Amrum 9171Y Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Amrum 9171Y (member) 6 years ago
Finally got back to Amrum with Gary on Wed night. Put leak off pipe back on and it fitted with a little persuasion (success), but when everything else was reconnected the engine would run, but stopped after 5 mins. Seemed to be air getting in. While checking for diesel leaks, Gary managed to snap the drain pipe outlet off the bottom of the tank! Little Dutch boy act with finger in the hole while I found pipes and containers to catch the diesel, and then we got the tank out again!
On Thursday Gary got a bung fitted in the drain hole, and on Friday night I reconnected the tank again.
On Saturday it finally all came together! Gary traced the joint where diesel was leaking and air getting in (a spot of paint on the joint was scraped off and new washers fitted), and she started and ran smoothly. We then left the mooring for a run upriver against the tide for 30 mins, a quick sail for 10 mins including a hoist of the cruising chute, and then a return to the mooring under power just before the tide went out. Marvellous!
And the icing on the cake was glorious sunshine - the first sail this year in a t shirt rather than layers of fleeces - thanks, John, your effect on the jet stream is appreciated!
Hopefully I'll get out for another sail tomorrow, and start making up for lost time.
Amrum 9171Y 6 years ago
No wind today, so cleaned out all the diesel from bilges, lockers, the engine etc with some spray stuff my wife had in a cupboard called Chomp! Supposed to use microbes to harmlessly eat all the oil, render it harmless and environmentally friendly. Not sure about that, but it seemed to work very well, and the interior is starting to smell less.
Then varnished the sides of the hatch, filled the main diesel tank, put in a drop of biocide, and started the engine. It ran for 5 minutes and then stopped, so still getting a bit of air in somewhere. I bled the filter, and it started and ran well from then on.
Hopefully there'll be some wind tomorrow.....
Skykomish E29 6 years ago
I was wrong changed the drive belt today, amazed at how stretched the old one had become, took the boat out then on the way back the temperature alarm started whining again. Starting to think that maybe it is the sender unit as all else seems fine. However the manual talks about clearing out some tube in the heat exchanger unit as debris can collect in this Anyone with a Beta Engine have a similar problem?
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