Recommissioning your engine

A few engine checks from Simon Phillips of Seaway

After a lifetime of sailing, maintaining my own and other peoples’ yachts, I have put together a brief checklist of items for the re-commissioning of your engine.

At the start of the season, the re-commissioning of your engine is important as part of preventative maintenance. My checklist below is designed to be thought provoking and to offer some help.

Impeller – this should be changed for a new one for the new season. Keep this one as a spare if you don’t have a new spare

Seaway Impellor

Drive belts – change these at least every other year. They do wear and become harder to tension. They should deflect no more than half an inch when pushed with a finger. Again, keep the one you’ve just swapped as a spare until you find a new one.

Seaway Drive belt


Filtration – change your primary and secondary fuel filter elements as a matter of course. There may still life left in them, but that’s not a chance you want to take – you want and your engine needs clean fuel.

Seaway Secondary fuel filter

P-bracket and Cutlass bearing – hold of the propeller and push it from side to side. There should be little, if any, movement. If there is, you may well have a problem with your P-bracket or cutlass bearing.

Seaway Cutlass bearing


Propellor – this should be as clean as possible – some special antifoam can be used on it to keep growth to a minimum.

Seaway propellor

Stern Gland – dependant upon the type of stuffing in the stern gland, this may or may not need any grease. If there is a grease screw, then ensure there is a good, waterproof grease available in there. Over time, the packing material gets compressed and hardens, and the lubricating grease wears off.

Anodes –  those on your prop shaft will certainly need to be replaced. If you have a saildrive, check the pencil anode in the drive leg, and if it is more than third eroded, replace it. Raw-water cooled diesels may have one or more pencil anodes situated in inconvenient locations around the block; these too must be checked and probably replaced. Some freshwater-cooled diesels also have zincs in their heat exchangers. 

Seaway Shaft anode

Oil in your engine and transmission – this ideally should have been changed at the de-commissioning of the engine, however, if not, then this is the time to change it and the filter. If the oil is milky, then there is water in it, which is a whole different and probably an expensive problem. You can’t change the oil in a saildrive leg when the boat is in the water, so this is one job you should do annually before launching.  

Seaway Oil check

Diesel – add some biocide to the fuel tank, as diesel “bugs” thrive in the water / fuel layer in the tank. Minimising water in the tank is done by keeping the tank full.

Coolant – this should be changed on a regular basis – as in the manual for your engine. The level should be between the minimum and maximum levels in the expansion tank.

Next article will be on the steering system onboard. Thanks for reading!

Simon Phillips of Seaway yacht delivery, has sailed over 325,000 miles in many oceans’ across the world, on many different sizes and types of yacht.