BONEHEAD BLUNDER: Introducing dirty gas
THE BONEHEAD: A city-bred retiree
BONEHEAD RATING: Five plus
WHAT HAPPENED: Last fall we had a boat owner launch his boat one fine fall weekend. I had just spit-shined the carburetors on his V-6 Yamaha and he was ready for rock fishing. Just about dark I received a call from him saying my work was faulty, that the engine wouldn’t start. With apologies, I made the trek to his house the next morning to correct my transgressions.
I didn’t remember little dots of white being on the midsection, nor an interesting green on the 18-footer’s deck. When I turned the ignition to start, there was no response from the engine. The battery switch was under the aft seat, so I raised the seat to see if it was on. It was. However, nothing was attached to it. Or the two earlier-submerged batteries, one of which had had the lead attached to the automatic bilge pump.
“Did you ever get the engine started?”
“No, your work didn’t work.”
“Before we get into that, how far did your boat sink?”
“It didn’t! The engine wouldn’t start!”
I pointed to the carnage in the bilge.
“Well, maybe it got a little wet.”
“Forgot to put the drain plug in, did we?”
“Yeah, but I got the boat right out!”
“Did the engine go under?”
“Only the hood latch in front.”
The foam in the cover was so-so dry, so I hooked my tank of premix to the filter and ran the engine for a short time.
That conversation changed our relationship, at least from my perspective. This summer, when he launched his boat July 4, when the house was full of relatives, it was no surprise to receive a call that the engine wouldn’t take throttle. The trusty Dodge and I made the trip to the ramp, where I told him he could easily make it home at idle, and I’d check it out when he got there, away from the madding launch crowd. I got to his house and it was hard to tell if I’d be safer at the ramp or the house. I took the carbs off, removed the bowls, re-cleaned the main jets, and then reassembled, reinstalled and balanced everything. I installed a genius-of-an-idea clear water separator canister with a floating ring, so he could note if any water was still in the tank. That night, a serious bill was typed and mailed.
This weekend: “I’m seeing the orange ring float. What should I do?”
“Drain it. There’s water in it.”
“Where’s the water coming from?”
“Unless you sank it again, it’s probably coming from above the tank.”
“Oh. Well, it has lots of rust in it.”
“Rust? You have a ‘plastic’ tank.”
“I know that.”
“Then how do you account for the rust, which is generally attributed to metal?”
“Do you think I got some bad gas?”
Ignoring that lead, I asked, “What did it come from?”
“Some five-gallon cans in the barn.”
“Mmm … I think so.”
“OK, I’m going back to eating dinner while you think about how rust might have gotten into the tank and the filter.”
He’s either still thinking, and all his family is enjoying the boat, or he’s figured it out and decided it wasn’t worth calling back.
LESSON LEARNED: It’s stated beautifully on a T-shirt a son-in-law got me: “I Might Be A Mechanic, But I Can’t Fix Stupid.”