Friday, July 22, 2005

Favorite Gadgets - #4 - Oil Change Pump

We repowered Kavenga with a 75 HP Yanmar two years prior to the start of this cruise.  During the two months that the boat was engineless we took the opportunity to spruce up the engine room and make a few equipment upgrades and additions.  One of the additions was a bulkhead mounted pump to facilitate changing oil.  Those of you taking the time to read this blog probably know what an aggravating job it is to change engine oil on a boat.


The pump we installed is a reversible Jabsco pump designed for this task.  As luck would have it, Yanmar puts plugs on both sides of the bottom of the oil pan to allow the dipstick tube to be moved from one side to the other.  Whichever plug is not being used can be removed and be replaced by a fitting to attach a hose for pumping out the oil.  Having done that and installing the pump on the bulkhead nearby (prior to the new engine being installed), all that remained to be done was hook up the wiring.


The engine’s owner’s manual required an oil change at 50 hours, but being conservative on such matters and wanting to test the pump, we changed oil at 10 hours.  In the past it had taken at least 20 minutes to manually pump out the two gallons of oil.  With the electric Jabsco pump it took less than a minute, was much less messy, and no pumping.


Then I thought, why not use it for changing the transmission oil which is on the same maintenance schedule as the engine oil.  However, it seemed that installing another hose on the bottom of the transmission would be difficult.  Instead, I made a suction probe out of a short piece of copper tube and a flare fitting.  With this setup we can now suck out the 1.5 liters of transmission fluid in a few seconds without losing a drop into the bilge.


One more epiphany: if the pump can pump oil and transmission fluid it should also be good for pumping diesel fuel.  Could we use the pump to transfer fuel between tanks?  But why would we need to do that?  Aha!  In a year or even less, various kinds of impurities (crud) begin to accumulate on the bottoms of the tanks in sufficient mass to create problems when the fuel gets agitated (sailboats do tend to roll, pitch and yaw despite their sails and keel).  When this happens the suspended impurities can clog a fuel filter in a hurry.  Using the oil change pump, we could transfer fuel between tanks and filter it in the process—while safely at the dock.  To facilitate this process I made another copper tube probe, this one about three feet long to facilitate vacuuming the crud from the bottom of the fuel tanks.


So, a pump that was originally installed for one purpose, now serves three.