Welcome to the PM Series: PM – Change Secondary Fuel Filter

Welcome to our new “Preventative Maintenance (PM) Series” where we will discuss a typical preventive maintenance task each month.  Our goal is to communicate a PM found on most vessels by highlighting the requirements for a specific piece of equipment and then expand on equipment variations and techniques.  While you may not have the specific equipment referenced in the PM Series, the concepts should apply to your equipment.  The PM Series presents actual PMs taken from the WheelHouse Maintenance Management System.  WheelHouse users will always have the PMs and related documents and parts that are specific to their equipment.  Non WheelHouse users  should always refer to manufacturers guidance for your specific equipment when completing maintenance.  Contact WheelHouse for a product demonstration and pricing information.

PM Task – Change Secondary Filter

Change Secondary Filter


Changing the secondary (engine mounted) fuel filter is essential to the reliability of any diesel engine whether used for propulsion, electrical generation, or other applications.  The details for your generator may be different than the  Northern Lights 16kw generator in our example, so please consult your WheelHouse or Manufacturer’s Manuals  for specifics.

Most modern yacht fuel systems consist of a primary fuel filter like the Racor Turbine Filter followed by the secondary fuel filter(s) that are usually engine mounted.  Multi-stage filtration using smaller mesh filters as you proceed towards the engine eliminates the harmful particles that can damage lift pumps, injection pumps and injectors, especially in modern high pressure common rail systems.  Northern Lights, and many other engine manufacturers recommend 10 or 30 micron filters for primary filtration (not 2 micron) to provide progressive filtration without putting undue burden on the lift pump.  Your secondary fuel filter is the last line of defense in providing clean fuel to your engine and should be serviced following the maintenance intervals recommended for your engine, or more often if fuel quality is suspect.

The following general practices should be observed along with the specific details included in your engine’s owner’s manual:

  1. Turn off fuel supply
  2. Remove fuel filter and wrap in a zip-lock bag for clean and safe disposal.  Some engines may require a filter wrench.
  3. Lubricate the o-ring on the new filter and install without filling with fuel.  Adding fuel will introduce unfiltered fuel into your engine.
  4. Turn on fuel supply and fill the new filter with fuel using the lift pump in combination with the bleed nut on the filter assembly.  Specific configurations and methods for filling the filter and bleeding the system are unique to each engine.

Providing clean filtered fuel to your engine is one of the most important steps in proper maintenance of your diesel engine.

The Importance of Routine Inspections

Most vessel owners religiously complete regularly scheduled maintenance and daily inspections such as checking oil and coolant levels. However, many overlook the quarterly, semi-annual, and annual inspections that are recommended by equipment manufacturers to ensure safe and reliable operation. Commonly over-looked inspections include: electrical distribution system and shore power cables for loose connections, corrosion, and overloading; mechanical shift and throttle linkage for corrosion and wear; steering components for chafe and leaks; bilge pumps, wiring, and hoses for failures and/ or leaks; and loose engine mounts.

While some of these recommended inspections may include de-energizing equipment or unscrewing access panels, many can be completed by a thorough walk-through of your vessel. When we are putting together a maintenance program, we complete a walkdown for some vessels which includes gathering the manufacturer make and model number for all on-board equipment. This takes about five hours and requires us to put our hands on every vessel component. While we are not completing an actual inspection, it is seldom that we do not find a failure or potential failure on a vessel that the owner did not know about such as a chafed steering hose, faulty linkage, inoperable suppression systems, or loose or corroded electrical components.

Inspection recommendations are included in MMS for those that subscribe to our service. If you are unclear about what inspections may be required on your vessel check MMS and consult your owner’s manuals for any installed equipment. Look back in your maintenance records to see what failures you could have avoided through proper inspections. If you do not currently use MMS, contact us for a detailed demonstration and we can show you the maintenance and inspection requirements for a vessel similar to yours.

Check Your Fire Suppression System

Correct design, installation, and maintenance are critical to the reliability of your fire suppression system. While the design and installation are largely decided for you, maintenance is the owner’s responsibility.

Our walk-down teams have noticed several cases where the commissioning yards have failed to remove the installation safety pin or have left the manual discharge cable off the actuator. While both are common practice during the build process to prevent accidental discharge, either of these will render the manual activation system useless and must be corrected at commissioning. Maintenance recommendations vary by manufacturer, but most include a semi-annual removal and weighing of your tank, verification of internal pressure on the installed gauge, annual cable inspection test, and a system shutdown test. These tasks may be performed by the owner/operator or a technician.

MMS provides the detailed procedures for these Preventive Maintenance tasks (PMs) and users will automatically be alerted to perform them at the correct maintenance intervals. However, as an immediate action we recommend each owner/captain inspect their system to make sure the safety pin is removed and the manual discharge cable is properly attached. As a matter of safety, non-MMS users may contact us and we will send them a copy of the PM for their reference. Call us if you have any questions.

Understanding and maintaining your fire suppression system as well as having the correct number of portable fire extinguishers will help protect the safety of your vessel and crew in the event of a fire. For more information on this subject, check out the September 2008 issue of PassageMaker Magazine in which technical editor Steve D’Antonio details the set-up, operation, and importance of fixed fire extinguishing systems.

Selling Your Yacht with MMS

As a Certified Professional Yacht Broker (CPYB), I understand how difficult it can be to sell a yacht in these tough economic times. Buyers and their agents are constantly prodding for information on how well a yacht was maintained and what documentation is available. While the survey provides an “as found” condition of the vessel, it does not reflect the material condition of all the yacht’s systems, equipment, and specific maintenance history.

The SeaKits Marine Maintenance System (MMS) can help a seller rise above the fleet of yachts on the market. I was so struck by the impact MMS can have on the sales process I now work with the company as a Program Manager. Here are a few ways MMS can make a difference when you buy or sell your yacht:

  •  MMS is a veritable “car fax” in the yacht industry, providing a detailed maintenance history of all the preventive and corrective maintenance performed on the yacht
  •  MMS provides an “as-built” of the yacht that is useful in developing a detailed listing or selling brochure
  • MMS identifies the onboard spare parts being conveyed with the yacht that help support the valuation
  • MMS provides an electronic library of the vessel documentation, manufacturer’s documentation, parts catalogs, data sheets, and troubleshooting guides

If you are a current MMS user, keep up with your maintenance and you will be rewarded should you decide to sell your boat. If you are buying a boat, specify MMS as part of your purchase agreement, or, buy your yacht from one of the builders that include MMS as standard equipment (visit our website for a list of partners). A modest investment in MMS will pay dividends in the safety, reliability, and value of your new vessel.

New Engine Break-in

Proper break-in of your engines is critical to a long life. Break-in requirements vary by model and manufacturer so be sure to read and understand the specifics for your engine. As a general rule, the first 100 hours are most important. During this period you should operate your engine at heavy loads with minimal idling. Also, be sure to vary your speed regularly.

Many manufacturers use a straight weight oil during break-in to control wear and allow components to properly seat which should result in maximum performance and engine life. For example, many Northern Lights engines require a break-in oil change at 50 and 100 hours while some John Deere models require it first at 100 hours. When changing your oil during this period and for the life of the engine, be sure to use oil that meets or exceeds the factory recommendations.

Other break-in service may include an initial 100 to 600 hour valve adjustment and/or injector bolt torque. Check your engine mounted zincs for accelerated wear and set up a maintenance schedule accordingly. Your transmissions may require an initial service including gear oil and filter change as well as suction filter cleaning, and linkage adjustment, tightening, and lubrication.

During break-in pay close attention to your engine, check your fluid levels regularly and look, listen, and feel for any hardware that may have vibrated loose. When planning this initial maintenance, don’t forget wing engines and tender outboards. These items may also require a proper break-in and due to their low hours are usually neglected.

Keeping Your Distribution System Safe

While many owner/operators are diligent at preventative maintenance, one item that is often overlooked is the electrical distribution system. This includes items such as shore power cables and connectors; selector switches; miles of wiring; thousands of crimps and terminals; circuit breakers; and fuses.

Salt water, humid air, and constant vibrations accelerate damage to these components. Routine inspection reduces the chance of system failure or potential fire. Because much of a vessel’s wiring is located behind panels, in bilges, and inside the helm console, we recommend a thorough annual inspection as a minimum. If any area is subject to extreme stress through high amperage draw, excessive vibration, or salt spray, it should be inspected more often.

In order to conduct a safe and thorough inspection, having a working knowledge of all of your vessel systems is important. Annual inspections should begin by de-energizing all AC/DC circuits to eliminate the chance of electrocution. Methodically inspect connections for corrosion, heat damage, tightness, and proper crimping. Don’t be afraid to wiggle connections a little as many connections appear fine until they are touched. Inspect your wiring harnesses for chafing, and pay particular attention to sharp bends and where wires enter and leave chases. Also, inspect your systems as a whole to look for any overloaded circuits or potential safety concerns. During operation, an infrared gun can be invaluable in identifying hotspots at connection points and sharp bends.

Loose connections, corrosion, and hotspots can be hard to find; an annual PM involving detailed and diligent inspection will go a long way toward preventing a dangerous electrical fire. Any items that come up should be flagged for a marine electrician to inspect if you are not comfortable completing the repair.