Generally speaking, engines do not receive the specialized pronoun treatment that boats receive. We rarely call an engine him or her, mostly just ‘it’ or ‘thing’ with a descriptive ‘blasted!’ thrown in for good measure. For the sake of expediency, I too will refer to my engine as ‘it’. However, if ever an inorganic object deserved human descriptions, it is this engine. Sometimes it (she) ‘purrs’ along, other times it (she) kicks and sputters in anger. Sometimes in fits of rage it (she) completely loses self-control and blows off great puffs of foul smelling smoke. In every way it has the all the qualities of a very selfish, high-maintenance, yet very beautiful woman.

My engine is an Atomic 4 by Universal – a gasoline workhorse that has been used in many different boats for many years. The use of this engine would, of course, be very much poo-pooed on by The Magazines as being dangerous due to the volatility of gasoline. They have no problem with propane though. Hmm – both can go ‘bang’ if used carelessly, but only gasoline is dangerous. I wonder why that is? Maybe because gasoline engines are generally half the price of diesel engines? Old boats (and engines) = bad. New boats (with new high priced diesel engines) = good. Cynical? – why, yes I am.

Anyway, after getting towed home, it (she) required some loving care. I started by getting out all the manuals left by the PO (previous owner.) Looking at lots of pictures and doing some sporadic reading lead me to believe that there was something wrong with either the fuel system or the electrical system. Ha – good one! Anyone that knows anything about internal combustion engines will find this kind of humorous. You see, unless something is physically broken, then the problem lies either with fuel delivery or the electrical system. I was not really any further along in trying to find the source of the problem.

Fortunately, the Atomic 4 has a large and very active newsgroup on the web. After posting my problems the consensus was that I should start with a complete tune up as it did not appear that the PO had done one in some time. So tune I did. Plugs, points and condenser were all changed. The parts all came from UAP and were really quite cheap as most were used at various times on other dirt vehicles.

Now, hit the key and … tada it runs! A little rough, but it was alive. After resetting the timing at the dock to make it run better, I took the boat out for a test run. Blasted! The engine would not go above 1300 rpm – it should easily go up to 2200 rpm or so. Back to the hole. (The engine compartment on many boats is very small and is often termed ‘the hole’.)

When I had done the tune up I had not changed the wires because of the old proverbial ‘they looked OK’. Well, they weren’t. One of the wires, cylinder number 4 was bad. It had high resistance and the charge for the spark was not getting through. So, another trip back to UAP. I quickly changed the wires and while tied up tight to the dock, dropped the engine into gear and throttled it up – ya baby – that’s more like it. Full RPM’s.

After a final tune up and engine timing change out on the lake, the engine was back to running smooth again. It did have one hiccup, which has not reoccurred since changing the fuel filter.

So, the moral of the story is … I guess … to have a harmonious time on the water, keep your engine in tune. Haha.

Next up – Winter lay up.

"My Engine plays a Tune." by was published on December 28th, 2005 and is listed in Uncategorized.

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Comments on "My Engine plays a Tune.": 1 Comment

  1. Anonymous wrote,

    Sure gas engines are cheaper than diesel engines, but gas is much more expensive (per mileage) than diesel, and the last thing the magazines want is people actually sailing their boats. People might clue in that modern construction dockaminiums don’t actually sail particularly well and then where is the ad revenue going to come from?

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