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Date: 29 October 2016. Transmission Fluid in Bilge.


The day started with a Good Idea. A neighbor suggested we go for an outing on his boat. Like prudent mariners, before starting the engine an inspection was taken of the engine and bilge. One look told us the trip was off! Transmission fluid was in the bilge.

A diaper (oil absorption pad) was tinted dark pink. The color told us there was a transmission fluid leak.

Checking the bilge each time before you start your engine is wise. When I shut down Betsy (my 18hp Kubota) I also look.  I am not an expert at things mechanical however I can spot something different. Different is bad. Usually! It is at the very least a point to explore.

After spotting the transmission fluid the next thing done was look to see if we could find the point of failure.


At the back of the transmission we saw what we did not want to see:


I am well aware that wires should be secured. This is an older less expensive boat. Previous owners have not always done right by her. After a dozen years sitting she is being turned into a live-aboard vessel capable of coastal cruising.

There is a lot of work to do. Though not perfect she soon will be Good Enough.

Buying the perfect boat on a limited budget
 is like finding the needle in a haystack.

If you are like most of us you will buy a boat that is Good Enough and work to make her yours. I know my Seaweed is nothing like the boat I bought 8 1/2 years ago. She is practically perfect now. Your work in progress can have similar results given time and persistence.

We identified the problem. WIRE had wrapped around the shaft behind the COUPLER:

TRANSMISSION on a Cummins B-series

The fist job was to remove the GROUND WIRE from between the transmission and the coupler.

The Coupler holds the shaft to the transmission. Four large bolts hold it to the transmission.

A Key holds the shaft so it spins when the engine is in gear. To learn about Keys see the
Inexpensive Line Cutter article.


Side Note: I was familiar with the wire around the shaft problem. Years ago I was working with a fellow wiring his lights and came across a bundle of loose wires in his bilge near the shaft. Two different times I asked if he wanted them removed.

He said "No" and to leave them. So I did.

One day he started the engine and those wires wrapped themselves around the shaft removing it from the engine. He was very lucky he had good bilge pumps. His choice cost him a tow to the boatyard and an emergency haul-out.

Then he paid me to remove the wires. It would have been a lot easier to remove them before they were tightly wrapped around the shaft! Additionally, I should have been more insistent/explaining the reason why the wired needed to be removed ASAP.

If someone more than one time makes the same suggestion, find out why.

I know I can initially be dismissive of suggestions from others. That has been to my own detriment on more than one occasion. Although I try to always consider what experienced boaters say sometimes I miss important stuff. That said, it generally takes me a bit of time to have outside advice become Mine. And then of course it is a wonderful idea!

To those whom I have caused consternation because of delayed agreement, I apologize. I do eventually come around. The old familiar ways are not always proper nowadays. I would like to think I am teachable. Eventually.

As for the wire, we did manage to remove it all.

The next step was to fill the transmission with fluid.

We were not sure if any damage had been done to the seal inside the transmission. To check that we filled the transmission with ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluid) and placed a diaper (oil absorbing pad) under the tranny.

The next day we saw a DRIP:

That is an expensive drop of fluid. It meant the transmission would have to come off the boat. We needed to have a new seal pressed on/in. The wire had caused internal damage. The local guys at Mastry Engine Center have the tools and experience to do the job properly.

Doug at Mastry [727-522-9471] took possession of the tranny and a few days later we had it back.


Mastry Engine Center is a Yanmar and Suzuki dealer located in St. Petersburg, FL.

We watched someone's big Yanmar engine get carefully loaded on a truck for delivery.

Finally we had the transmission back aboard the boat. Fortunately by that time my friend Edwin was here. He put everything back together. That was a huge blessing. We compliment him still for the work done. Edwin worked hard and made miracles. We were very fortunate. Thank you Edwin!

Here is Edwin on the day the engines ran for the first time since his arrival:

Edwin worked serious miracles. He understands engines and did
 a wonderful job. He is one of the good guys. Thank you again Edwin!

I am tickled with the air-conditioner cover Edwin made for me. That made a great deal of difference in my happiness quotient. Plus I am safer now. I told you about that in the Moby-Cool a/c cover Installed article. He also helped me with the alternator upgrade. That was big too.

Life aboard Seaweed is good. I am having fun taking my boat for little jaunts though none are likely until Tuesday. My boat registration expired on my birthday, not at the end of the month like I thought. Oops! The new stickers are due to arrive by Monday. If so I'll probably be going to Publix, McDonald's and the American Legion on Tuesday.

See you there!

Have you ever been surprised by something floating in your bilge water?
And, do you check your engine each day before getting underway?

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2016, 2023

Categories: Boat Talk, Characters, In the Bilges, Locations,

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