Friday, June 11, 2021

Update on Engine Issues

 I think it is about time to write an entry about the last two weeks. To say that it has been difficult, would be a huge understatement. And the bad news is that it is not over yet. 

In my last entry, I wrote about me working on the engine to get it ready for the replacement of the fuel injectors. I hired a mechanic to do the injector job. That is unlike me. I normally like to do my own work, but I have never done this before, and was hoping to make it easier on my ageing body. 

When Steve the mechanic arrived, he went to work preparing for the removal. He did an excellent job getting everything out of the way and removing the fuel lines. I got in the area and cleaned around the injectors to ensure no debris would fall down into the engine and noticed that I was able to move the #3 injector by hand. That was a good sign, I thought. I have read and watched videos showing that removing them can be very difficult. Our Yanmar engine has three cylinders. Numbered 1,2,3 from front to back. In a short time we had #3 out and then just as easily removed the top precombustion chamber below.

This is a shot of the intake manifold below and the three injector ports above. #3 has been removed.

Steve then tried to remove #2. It would not budge. He tried all the tricks he had in his bag and it would not move at all. He tried #1 and it would not move either. After trying for about an hour, he left to think about what to do next. He has been working on diesel engines for a long time and had never seen injectors this tough to remove. 

I spent the evening doing research and reading horror stories of other people having a difficult time removing their injectors. Some had to disassemble the engine and take the head to a machine shop get them out. There are many reasons why I didn't want to do that. One major one is that we are now in hurricane season and the marina we are in, requires us to be operational. We have to be ready to leave if a storm is coming. They evacuated this marina 6 times last year for storms. At this point, I was still OK. I would reassemble the engine and get underway if needed. 

In my research, I found a tractor supply company in Texas that sold a slide hammer that was set up to remove Yanmar injectors. Yanmar engines are used in many John Deere tractors. It cost $100 to get it here, but I placed the order. Steve agreed it seemed like the best plan. We waited through the Memorial Day weekend and on Tuesday the beast arrived. 

The first problem was that it was too long to fit in my engine compartment. I made the first of many trips to Harbor Freight to buy a grinder to modify my new slide hammer. 

My 9 lb. slide hammer with a short shaft made of allthread for getting into tight spaces.

I then determined to use the hammer, I would have to remove the studs in the head and disassemble the injector. That sounds a lot easier than it was. It took me about 4 hours hard labor to be ready to try to pull #2 injector. All of that work paid off and within about 30 minutes of hammering the injector was out. Then came a small piece below called the precombustion chamber. I worked on it with a pick for about an hour and had it in my hand. Ok, now for #1.

As you move forward in the engine compartment, the front corner gets in the way. I had to further modify my slide hammer to barely fit it in there. I hammered well into the night and into the next day before it finally let go. I was happy, now to just remove the chamber. I worked on it all of the rest of the day and it would not budge. I made another trip to harbor freight to by a seal removal tool. I have one just like it at the ranch, but never thought I would need it on the boat. $75 for that. My hands at this point, were bruised and sore and every muscle in my body was sore from the contortions I had to make to get in the best position to work.  

I inserted the seal puller, which I had to modify with the grinder to fit, and began to hammer. The damn thing would not budge. It was at that point Kim told me to take a break. I walked the docks thinking about what to do next. I found a good friend that agreed to come take a look. We agreed that we may have to cut that thing out with a grinding bit on a rotary tool. I did not want to do that because of the fear of getting debris down in the engine. I decided to go by some allthread rod to replace the shaft of the hammer to get a better angle for hammering. That worked well, but the chamber still would not budge. It was at that point that the bit broke and the lip on chamber also broke. 

This is looking down in the injector port at the top of the precombustion chamber.

 Now, I was really screwed. I had to get that chamber out. I decided to drill it out to the next larger bit size, which was 5/8". I stuffed it full of rags to try to prevent any debris getting down into the engine. I attached a tube to the end of my shop vac to create a suction tube, like you see in a dentist office. Kim was right there with me during this entire ordeal. She would hold the suction tube as I drilled catching most of the debris. I think it worked well. 

I inserted the new larger bit and went to hammering, still no movement. I went for a walk on the docks and met another boater that was a diesel mechanic for 30 years. He brought over a torch to heat it up to see if that would help. No go. It was now 10 PM. He said, the best bet it to cut it up. I went to bed Wednesday night exhausted, depressed and nervous. 

I got up on Thursday and drained the coolant out of the motor. I wanted to try more heat first. After two hours, I gave up that effort. I went back to Lowes and bought a diamond cutting tool for my rotary tool. We went back to the dental office thing with the suction. I drilled and then ground for a couple of hours. I cut it into pieces. It still would not come out. I was beginning to think it was welded in. I then got a chisel and began to try to break the smallest piece loose. After about an hour it finally moved. And just like a dentist, I worked the piece back and forth until it came out. The rest still would not budge. I got my slide hammer reinstalled and hit it with my poor aching, bruised hands and after about 10 hard hits it was out. 

This is what is left of the chamber.

I am not sure who was happier, Kim or I. We spent the rest of yesterday getting everything ready to reinstall the injectors. I think I could do it myself, but I have asked Steve to help me. We are hoping for this afternoon, but it may be Monday. It will be after that, we can test the engine to see if this solves the original problem of emitting the smoke. I will try to update this blog after that test.

I was up early this morning and took my coffee in the cockpit and watched the sunrise. I needed that time to remember why I do this crazy life. 

Sunrise in Gulfport, the day after the ordeal was over. 


  1. Wow, you are a brave and determined guy. I have had four sailboats with diesel engines. I cannot imagine tackling that job!

    1. Thanks for the comment. I have been working on motors much of my life, but never on diesels. I have confidence, not intelligence.

  2. That’s a lot of tough work! I’ll bet after that you were relived! Hope the rest goes well and your on your way out soon.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Debbie. It went back together well, but the bad news is that it did not fix the problem.

  3. Ugh! That sounded horrible and frustrating. I am not sure a mechanic would have been as careful and committed as you were.

    Great job, I hope the rest goes smoothly!

  4. Thanks Jim! If I can do the work, I do prefer to do it. I am sure I care a lot more than they do.

  5. Man O man! In my younger years I MIGHT have been as determined as you. But I really doubt it. But after all the hours and hard work to finally GET'er done! I remember that feeling. Unbelievable. I sure hope by now you are getting ready for some smooth sailing.
    Be sure and tell Kim we said hello.
    Dick & Cathy

    1. Hey Dick and Cathy, Thanks for stopping by. It was a difficult project, but at least that is behind us. Check out the new entry to get an update.