Puzzled by marine engines? Read the RYA diesel engine manual

This marine diesel engine manual is a must read for any boat owner who wants to understand, repair and maintain their boat’s engine.

the RYA Diesel Engine Manual is essential to understand marine engines. If you want to maintain your boat’s engine and even try to repair it if something goes wrong, this book is for you.

Book for new boat owners

As the proud (and slightly intimidated) owner of the new PBO Project Maximus boat, a Maxi 84, understanding the MD2020 engine was a top priority. I spoke to Richard Falk, Director of Training and Qualifications at RYA, and a surprise package of books arrived in the post! Among Boat maintenance, the Yacht Master’s Manual and An introduction to sailing (all great books), was the RYA diesel engine manual.

Saildrive Volvo MD202o

Maximus, a Maxi 84, is fitted with a Volvo MD2020 saildrive, fitted in 2005. It’s an excellent engine – which has run brilliantly so far – but we had a few setbacks including running out of fuel during the passage and a dodgy alternator. Understanding how the engine works, so you can properly care for it, winterize it, and understand why things go wrong, has never been more important. In fact, I read the RYA Diesel Engine Handbook cover to cover over the Christmas holidays and enjoyed every page.

Marine Diesel Engine Manual

the RYA Diesel Engine Manual is written by PBO contributor Andrew Simpson, who has a disarmingly brilliant way with words. He is able to reassure even the most mechanically illiterate reader (i.e. me) and hold their hand as they run through the basics of the motors.

Understanding Marine Engines

Andrew breaks down the marine diesel engine into distinct, easy to understand chunks, from the four-stroke cycle to diesel fuel, air system, engine cooling, electrical system, lubrication, transmission and controls. Each chapter is accompanied by clear illustrations, which I could easily relate to Maximus’ engine, especially after filming Stu Davies, our PBO engine expert, performing engine maintenance.

Marine engine maintenance

The sections on maintenance and troubleshooting are particularly useful. Maintenance is divided into “daily in use” – for example, checking for leaks, fuel level and fresh water coolant – to weekly (i.e. belt tensions, sediment or water in the fuel tank), annual (i.e. hoses, air filter, engine mounts) and winterizing (i.e. changing oil, replacing filters, etc). There are also jobs to be aware of as recommended by the engine manufacturer, after some time. For example, saildrive diaphragms after seven years or gearbox oil every 150 hours.

Engine spare parts

Andrew explains which tool kit and spare parts you need to carry to be able to carry out these jobs, how to diagnose faults and, above all, how to repair them. Nothing replaces an engine manual – and it urges you to take it on board – but lists tasks common to all engines, such as flushing a water tap, replacing filters, bleeding the fuel system and changing fuel. ‘oil.

It also includes emergency procedures, such as dealing with engine overheating or racing and extinguishing an engine fire.

An opportunity to learn

I’m still very new to marine motors, and there are many tasks that I know I’ll end up paying people to do, or more likely, twist the arms of old sea salts to demonstrate to me . I will definitely be involved in marine failure recovery, but at least now I can see an engine failure as a great opportunity to learn more, and maybe – with my RYA Diesel Engine manual on board – be able to fix a thing or two.

There is also the option of purchasing the RYA Diesel Engine e-book, which contains enhanced animations and videos to help the reader understand some of the more complex topics.

The RYA Diesel Engine Manual and Andrew Simpson’s eBook are available at Amazon and the RYA bookstore

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