Changing engine oil

To the editor: We change the engine oil faithfully every 100 hours; roughly 30 times now that we have more than 3,000 engine hours on our 30-hp Westerbeke diesel. This can be a messy exercise, and it took us a few tries before we found a clean system.

I made a mess the first few times I tried to extract the engine oil through the dipstick hole into an empty 4-quart jug. At first I tried using a hand pump. After “messing up” with the hand pump I tried a 12V electric pump.

Finally, my wife Kathy suggested using tough 1-gallon plastic freezer bags held under the sump drain tube in the cramped space under the front of the engine. Fortunately, the Westerbeke diesel came with a drain tube attached to the bottom of the sump. I suppose I could attach a permanent oil drain pump to the drain tube, but it’s one more 12V pump to deal with.

Kathy’s system involves placing oil-absorbing cloths under the oil pan and under the oil filter element. She then places the freezer bags under the front of the engine as low down in the bilge as possible. After running the engine long enough to heat the old oil, I remove the drain hose plug and Kathy inserts the sump drain tube into the freezer bag carefully so as not to puncture the bag. When the bag is nearly full it’s placed into doubled plastic grocery bags along with the old oil filter and dirty, oil-absorbent cloths. Usually she uses two freezer bags so as not to overfill either one. After that we add new oil to the engine. The oil in the freezer bags is then funneled into the now-empty oil jug. The full oil jug and empty, oily freezer bags and oil filter element are carried ashore for disposal. No pumps to stow and no mess.

– Dick de Grasse is a U.S. Coast Guard veteran and holds an auxiliary sail master license. He and his wife Kathy live in Islesboro, Maine, when not voyaging.

By Ocean Navigator