Friday, January 16, 2015

Car v Boat, a brief analysis

There are interesting contrasts between a car and a boat. I'll start with the car. An average car has on the order of about 30,000 parts. These range from cam shafts down to the cheesy squeeze on hose clamps. How many parts are there in a boat? Who the heck truly knows. This question could be answered by manufacturers who have some sort of good configuration control management, but few really have any idea.

So I thought I'd look at a car repair I recently did and contrast it with similar jobs on a boat. It's admittedly a rare case for me. I try hard to obey my cardinal rule. Find out what things you don't do well and then don't do those things.

A combination of avarice, curiosity, and reading the horror stories owners have told online about the costs charged by dealers drove me to attempt the task. Just so you know in advance I'm going to remove the car's fuel tank, pull the fuel sender assembly, replace the fuel pump and reassemble. Don't worry this isn't going to be pedantic passive voiced filled DIY droner.


I thought about this for a day before I did this. Not having a hydraulic lift laying around I used the car jack to lower the tank, and a bunch of short pieces of 2 x 4's on the sides for support.

Tools required were a socket set, needle nose pliers for those pesky squeeze together hose clamps, and a screwdriver for the regular hose clamps. Total elapsed time about three hours with some nicks, bruises and extensive use of pejorative vocabulary.

Let's remove a fuel tank from a boat. What, remove a fuel tank from a boat? You mean those big square tanks that were dropped into the hull before the deck was installed? Through the years I've participated a couple of times in this odious activity.

One was on a small boat. The tank was fairly easy to get at, but it was foamed in place and it took 2 days to dig out enough foam from around the sides with specially Macgyvered tools. Then a couple of hefty pry bars incrementally lifted it out of place.

The bigger boat was a major job taking over a two weeks to do in a yard. The tools then become large, and none of them included a wrench. It conjures visions of the tools Michal Myers would use like sawzalls, angle grinders and the ilk. You might as well total the boat in many cases.

Big or small this task could take many days, and require substantial and expensive fiberglass repairs afterward. The difference here is car manufacturers know the tank will eventually have to be removed, and plan for this. The boat manufacturer figures the fuel tank will last for all time. Figure that.

Now for the sender assembly. Twenty minutes tops to get it out with the majority of the time going to wrangling off tight hoses. On a boat this can vary from easy, to nearly impossible depending on whether there is access to the sender, or not.

The issue was the car wouldn't start. This was happening more and more often, until one day it was a lost cause.

The problem was the fuel pump wasn't running hence no gas was getting to the spark makers in the engine. The subtle part of the problem was the pump had been running but more slowly than it should have.

This caused more amps to be pulled, and the power wire connector heated up and the connection started to char increasing resistance further causing more heat until no more current would flow. I did a repair to the connector, replaced the pump with new and $76.00 later all is well. Of that the fuel pump was $48.00.

But the real difference between the boat and car is the documentation. The other part of the repair cost was the $28.oo dollars I spent to buy an original dealers service manual. It's over 2000 pages, and two volumes of drawings, troubleshooting flowcharts, wiring diagrams, assembly and disassembly procedures and so on.

The last boat I was on sold for around $300,000 and came with a manual pamphlet. I understand they made a lot of these cars, and the volume for most boat builders is miniscule in comparison, but seriously boat builders can and should do better, much better. Don't worry my follow marine engine repair brethren, I'll never take a job from you, ever. I stop at the positive wire going to the alternator and go no further.

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