What engine checks should you do before sailing?

25 May 2016

Most yachts have an auxiliary diesel engine to allow you to more easily manoeuvre in marinas and to bring you home if the wind stops blowing. They can also be useful if that 5 mile reach home turns into a 3 hours beat to windward in a mounting sea! 

One thing is certain. You can bet that if you don’t regularly service the engine and undertake some basic daily checks, when the engine is really needed, it’ll take that opportunity to breakdown! Seasonal checks of the engine and a full service in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations should give you hundreds of hours of trouble free motoring as long as you keep on top of your daily checks. 

These checks are simple and should only ever be undertaken when the engine is stopped. They can be easily remembered by using this handy mnemonic;


This can be used as follows:

I     -     Isolate the engine battery before working on the engine. This will stop someone accidentally starting the engine from deck and removes the risk of shorting wiring on the engine block.

W    -    Water (Check the water coolant level in the radiator / heat exchanger and also check the raw water strainer to make sure it is not blocked)

O    -    Oil (Check the oil level in the engine and gearbox by using the dip sticks.

B    -    Belts (Check the alternator belt is not damaged or too loose or tight).

B    -    Bilges (Check the bilges for oil or water. If there is oil or water where has it come from?)

L    -    Leaks (Check for leaks around the sea cocks and on the fuel lines)

E    -    Electrics (Check that all electrical cables are connected and that the insulation on the wires is in good order. Also, once the batteries are back unisolated check their charge)

D    -    Diesel (Check your fuel tanks and if you have a day tank check that is full).

U    -    Unisolate the engine battery after closing and securing the engine cover.

When you start the engine, always make sure the sea water is pumping through the coolant system and exiting from the exhaust. Leave the engine to run for a few minutes at a fast idle and check the gear selection is working properly before you set your lines to leave.

If you do all of this then there is no reason why you shouldn’t get many hours of trouble free motoring from your auxiliary engine for years to come.