Time for a Change

A variety of boat systems rely on fluids for cooling, igniting, lubricating and pressurizing their components. When the fluids lose their chemical potency, they need to be removed and replaced. Here’s how you can build a pump system to handle changing multiple fluids.

The Bucket List
For this project, you need a pump with intake (suction) capability. I purchased a bi-directional Rotary Barrel Pump from Harbor Freight Tools for $35.99 (with a 20 percent off coupon). You can buy two 5-gallon buckets from a hardware or marine store — a working bucket and a replacement. Also, get two sturdy, tight-fitting lids. The pump will be mounted on one. The other will be used to cover the removed fluid for transport and disposal. I used old 5-gallon motor oil buckets that I had in my garage. You will also need to reinforce a lid to support the weight of the pump. I used ¼-inch polyethylene marine lumber, but you could also use plywood. Last, you will need small-diameter tubing and rubber stoppers to connect to the pump’s spout.

Get it Together
Make sure the pump is fully assembled (picture 1) before mounting it. Pour oil into the spout and turn the handle to prime the pump. If your pump has a metal impeller like mine, make sure it is well lubricated before using it.


Next, determine how to mount the pump on the lid. My pump came with a 2-inch bung adapter that is normally used to attach it to large drums. I kicked around some mounting ideas with Mike and Derek between boat runs at U.S. Water Taxi. Derek came up with the winning idea. He cut the bung from the lid of a 55-gallon drum and drilled screw holes for it to mount in the center of the lid (picture 2). One word sums up his contribution: genius.


I traced the bung’s screw holes onto the center of the lid and onto the Starboard material (pictures 3 and 4). I removed the vent and pouring spout from the lid and drilled the holes. I secured the bung on top of the lid and the Starboard on the bottom. I connected the bung adapter and used a hole saw to make the opening through the lid and Starboard material. Then I inserted the pipe and mounted the pump (picture 5).


To connect the tubing, use a rubber stopper that completely seals the pump’s spout. If you are using multiple tubes, you will need a stopper for each one. Use a corkscrew to create a small pilot hole in the stopper (picture 6), then use a drill bit slightly smaller than your tubing to make the actual hole. The tube may be difficult to insert, but you will get a tight seal and good suction.


Out with the Old
There are three types of fluids that you can remove with this system: coolant, fuel and oil (motor and hydraulic). You should not transfer water, acids, alkalines or corrosive liquids with any pump that has a metal impeller. To remove motor oil, you need to run your engine to warm up the oil, which makes it easier to remove. Allow the oil and engine to cool before inserting the pump’s tube into the dipstick tube, otherwise you could melt it.

If you plan to transfer gasoline and are concerned about a spark from static electricity, you can run a ground wire from an unpainted metal part of the pump to a ground on your boat. Use a ring wire connector on both ends, and make sure it has metal-to-metal (not paint) contact.

Take Responsibility
Before removing fluid from your boat, find a facility to legally and properly dispose of it. Coolant, fuel and oil are categorized as Hazardous Household Waste (HHW), which is a common consumer product that is considered dangerous to humans and the environment. There are many public and private facilities that collect and dispose of HHW. California has permanent collection locations called S.A.F.E (Solvents, Automotive, Flammables and Electronics) centers. Check your local and state government website for collection facilities in your area. Otherwise, you may be able to find information about one-day collection events posted in community bulletins, libraries or newspapers. Marinas, automotive stores, car dealerships and repair shops are also good sources for information. Once you locate a facility or event, find out the amount of HHW it will accept in one trip. Also, do some research to determine how much HHW you can transport. In California, it is illegal to transport more than 15 gallons of fuel in a non-commercial vehicle.

Now, how about racking up some hours underway so you can actually use your pump to do an oil or coolant change? I hope you won’t need to remove old fuel. You should turn fresh fuel into noise to prevent it from aging.Time for a Change


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