Summer time is the off season for many in the Caribbean, whether you are a cruiser sitting out Hurricane Season or a Charter vessel taking a well-deserved break. Before you put the boat up on the hard, or leave it at the dock for the summer, do your diesel engines a favor. Before you leave your hard working Northern Lights generator for the summer, be sure to change the oil. The oil is the life blood of your engine. It holds all the dirt, acids, soot and by products of combustion in suspension. That contaminated oil sits on all the surfaces serviced by your oil and expedite corrosion if left for prolonged periods. In addition, oil oxides when left exposed to the air, reducing its effectiveness at lubricating your engine and holding contaminants.
So do your engine a favor and change the oil before you put it in storage. While you’re at it, why not do your Annual Maintenance?
Annual Maintenance? What is Annual Maintenance?
If you look at your Operator’s Manual, you will notice a section that says “Every 12 Months”. Everything in there is due every year. Generally this includes: Oil Change, Valve Adjustment, Air Filter replacement, Fuel filter replacement and Injector Testing. Check your manual to see if there is anything else included, but the above are fairly common with most diesel engines and Northern Lights generators.
We discussed the oil change. Even if you don’t have the 200 or 250 hours dictated by the oil change interval, remember that oil oxidizes even if not being used. So changing oil makes sense, but why check the valves? Besides making sure that your engine is “breathing” properly in terms or air in and exhaust gases out, it also can pick up signs or engine wear. If the valve clearances are narrow, that can mean that the valve in question is wearing the valve seat. This may be a sign that your engine is getting ready for a top end overhaul. If caught early, this is fairly routine. If caught too late, the repair could be far more costly. You could be looking at a new cylinder head, or a “dropped valve” which can be catastrophic.
You might think that, because your engine is clean, you don’t need to change your air filter. Many Northern Lights generators have foam air filters which, not only filter the air, but aid in noise dampening. These filters deteriorate with heat and over time. If not changed, they will start to turn into powder and fall apart. The foam will not hurt the engine but we have seen cases where large pieces of the air filter were sucked into the intake valves. In such a case, the engine loses compression (because the intake valve will not close completely) and will not start or run. This is not only difficult to troubleshoot, but requires the removal of the cylinder head. So the $20 spent on a new air filter is a very good and wise investment.
Not everyone checks injectors every year. If you are not putting a lot of hours on the generator, it starts quickly and is running clean, you might be able to skip this. But the service interval on injectors can be as low as every 700 hours (or once per year). In addition, an injector nozzle that is “squirting” rather than “spraying” can melt a piston in a very short period of time. So if you have a shop that can test the injectors, the process can offer great peace of mind.
Take the time to review your Operator’s Manual or discuss its maintenance with your local dealer. Your generator was an expensive investment. If given reasonable maintenance and operated properly, your Northern Lights generator should give 20,000 hours of operation or more. But we’ve seen improperly maintained units struggle to provide half that life. Doing your Annual Maintenance is a good way of assuring that your generator will give you the reliable life expectancy Northern Lights customers have come to expect from their product.