Complete Guide To Diesel Marine Engines


After many years in the boating industry and writing countless articles for your favorite boating magazines, John Fleming has put his wealth of knowledge into his new book, The Complete Guide To Diesel Marine Engines.

This book is not limited to the routine maintenance tasks or simple repairs that many engine books detail. These pages take the reader deep inside the engine by discussing the design, function and results of the entire "engine system". The book's design allows the ...

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After many years in the boating industry and writing countless articles for your favorite boating magazines, John Fleming has put his wealth of knowledge into his new book, The Complete Guide To Diesel Marine Engines.

This book is not limited to the routine maintenance tasks or simple repairs that many engine books detail. These pages take the reader deep inside the engine by discussing the design, function and results of the entire "engine system". The book's design allows the reader to start with the basics and progress through each skill level until a thorough understanding of diesel engines is achieved.

Although this book delves deeply into the technical aspects of engines, to more clearly relate the repair procedures, the information remains extremely easy to understand and follow throughout each phase.

You will not find another book that will explain diesel marine engines as completely or easily as this book.

One fact is clear; when you complete this book you will understand more about diesel marine engines than you ever thought possible. Illustrated
The diesel engine is surrounded by a certain mystery that conjures up visions of massive motors with the ability to move mountains. The fertile mind of German engineer, Rudolph Diesel is generally conceded to be the origin of the four-stroke diesel engine in common use today. The engine was initially a rather clumsy and primitive product as were most other types of engines we have produced, in their early incarnations. The first venture Herr Diesel made into the realm of internal combustion engines ended with an explosion that tore the engine apart and nearly ended the life of the gifted inventor.
The diesel is an internal combustion engine and it runs on a controlled explosion. That explosion is very real and it must truly be controlled. The second engine was an operating success. It was built and run in 1897. The diesel has performed well, ever since.
The four-stroke diesel has evolved over the years and spread out to almost every area of utilization. Less common but still very important as a modern day power source is the two-stroke diesel. Invention of this engine is generally credited to an Englishman named Dugald Clark.
The work of Dugald Clark won him a knighthood and he eventually became Sir Dugald Clark. The two-stroke diesel also found easy acceptance into the world of big engines and heavy loads. In this country the General Motors Corporation embraced the two-stroke diesel with open arms and Detroit Diesel was the result.
There are many kinds of diesel engines that power our locomotives, submarines, towboats, and other heavy-duty vessels. There is also a new generation of high speed, high performance diesel engines that run in sport fishermen and faster yachts.
As long as twenty years ago a Cummins four-stroke diesel actually ran in a racer at Indianapolis. It was so successful it was ruled out of competition. That Cummins had the potential to run the entire race without a refuel and at record speeds.
Diesel engines have run at Bonneville on the Great Salt Lake where sheer, blinding, speed is the only god and men risk life and limb for that last fraction of a mile per hour. I accept this and I enjoy it at some level for I am a racer at heart but this is not the view of the diesel engine that I grew up with.
The first diesel engine that I ever worked on was a 100 horsepower Atlas. This 100 horsepower engine weighed about 4,000 pounds. It turned 165 maximum RPMs and was still running in the same harbor tug after 35,000 hours. It looked as big as a house to me. In fact, it was as big as the voluminous engine room that contained it. I stood in awe and stared at that huge engine. The flywheel was as tall as I was and it had a ponderous power that seemed literally unstoppable. That was an honest hundred horsepower from a serious engine. I will always remember the smell. Diesel fuel from the engine, juniper from the planking, saltwater from the sea, and perhaps a bit of sweat from those who labored over that trusty power plant. All combined in one exotic fragrance I will never forget.

Wherever men go down to the sea in real wooden ships that smell is to be found and it is never to be forgotten. As I grow older I sometimes walk aboard a modern fiberglass yacht and find myself waiting for that smell to come, but it never does.
You cannot turn back the clock on the march of time and indeed, why try? Modern engines are lighter, faster and in many cases, stronger. You have only to listen to the high pitched scream of a turbo charger turning over 150,000 RPMs to know something special is going on inside the engine.
Electronics have added their special twist to the new age of diesel power and as you read, you will learn what contributions to diesel operation have resulted from the marvel of electronic controls.
Within these pages I will provide a detailed view of the construction, operation, and fascination of the diesel engine. I hope you will find the material within these pages to be both instructive and entertaining.

John Fleming has conducted a 60 year love affair with engines and never met one he did not like. There have been a few that were so exciting he remembers them like an old flame but they all serve a purpose and they are all a part of my memories.
The first engine he built was a 1948 model, 4.2 horsepower, Champion outboard engine. He was 9 years old which made it monumental task. To see and hold the parts his father had described was fascinating.
He held a United States Coast Guard, 500 ton masters ticket and has a total of more than 3,000 days at sea.
John has run boats of many types and varieties in 44 States and 3 countries: crossed the Okefenokee in an airboat and canoe, ran the Everglades from Flamingo Park to Chokloskee Island and from Whitewater Bay to the head of the Little Shark River.
For eight years he held a State of Florida Teachers Certificate to teach engine repair in the State.
John and his wife have run delivery charters across the Gulf of Mexico from Brownsville, Texas to Key West, Florida and up the Atlantic Seaboard as far as Barnegat Bay. They have owned vessels which they have operated for dive charters, fishing charters and towing services.
He has written more than 3,500 articles for magazines and newspapers.

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Editorial Reviews

Jerry Renninger
If you own a marine diesel engine, you owe it to yourself to read this book. At the very least you'll come away better equipped to communicate with your mechanic.
Southern Boating
Pete McDonald
    If you want to better understand the big iron toiling under the deck of you sportfish, pick up a copy of the Complete Guide To Diesel Marine Engines by John Fleming. The book takes you through the ins and outs of diesel power in terms even a landlubber could understand. It explains the hows and whys of diesel engines, but there's also a chapter on the basics of trouble-shooting and another on selecting the right engine for your boat. For the die-hard, there's even a chapter on the mathematics of diesels. If you want a solid understanding of how a diesel operates, this is one hands-on guide to bring aboard.
Boating Diesel Bible
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781892216243
  • Publisher: NetPV
  • Publication date: 9/5/2000
  • Edition description: Spiral
  • Pages: 180
  • Sales rank: 1,159,677
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.41 (d)

Read an Excerpt


I want to use this first chapter to discuss the abilities and the limitations of the diesel engine. I will explore the mystique of this special power plant and add a few myths. The diesel has been called many things.
It is an oil engine because it runs on fuel oil. It is also a heat engine because it uses heat to ignite the fuel oil. The diesel is a compression ignition engine because it uses compression to generate heat which ignites the fuel in the cylinder. It is an internal combustion engine because it burns fuel oil inside the cylinder of the engine. The diesel engine is many things but there are also some things, which it is not.
The diesel is an endurance engine, good for many hours of service but with limitations.
The diesel is designed to do a number of things very well but there are some things that it does not like to do. The diesel is not a start and stop engine. Frequent starts and stops are bad news for any diesel and the engine will wear disproportionately during start up and shut down. Steady RPMs and continuous operation are the forte of this engine.
Given the conditions of steady, reasonable operating speeds and continuous duty, the diesel engine may literally run for years without shutdown or service. Installed as a power source for electric generators for instance and running on a constant filtration system for the lubricating oil, the diesel will run indefinitely.
In this type of service, day in and day out, without a whimper, the diesel engines will tote the load. Under some conditions it may not last so long.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is a new breed of diesel designed to compete in the high performance boat arena. This engine is like a candle that burns brightly for but a moment, and is then extinguished. It does a great job but for a much shorter time.
Thus the diesel engine has many faces, so do not form judgments about exactly what it is, or is not, until you have finished this book.

Figure 1

This 1948 Clark Diesel engine turns 400 maximum RPMs.

A diesel may develop more torque than a gasoline engine of comparable horsepower, though this is not an absolute. It may not develop more torque than a gasoline engine of comparable cubic inches. This assumption is based upon the premise that both power plants are naturally aspirated.
The reasons for this verity are seated in the design and mechanics of internal combustion engines as a whole. In fact there are several mechanical principles involved in the torque/horsepower comparison between the diesel and the gasoline engine. I will describe each of these in detail for you as we progress.
It is odd to believe a diesel has more horsepower than a gasoline engine but many do believe.
Dr. Einstein gave us the Atomic Interval chart and in doing so took us out of the science of absolutes and introduced us to the science of comparisons. Instead of saying oxygen is light today we say oxygen weighs 16.
Instead of saying lead is heavy, today we can say lead weighs 200.59. These are exact descriptions with an understandable meaning. It was important to get these numbers accurate and it is important to get the horsepower ratings of our engines described accurately so we may know what to expect of a given engine.
One horsepower is an exact measurement. It is equal to 33,000 lbs./ft. of work, per minute and it makes no difference whether the source is gasoline or diesel. If the engines are disparate, one from the other, then the horsepower is also disparate. A dozen is 12 items, more than that is not a dozen. A foot is 12 inches, more than that is not a foot.
Respect the horsepower for what it is, a unit of measure. Expect the manufacturers to do the same. Advertising should be accurate and factually based. So long as the advertised horsepower is accurately measured for each engine, there will be no difference between gasoline engines and diesel engines.
If there is to be a new rule or a new measurement that rule or measurement should be advertised and made known. But until such time as this is done, the scientific value of one horsepower is not different between gasoline engines and diesel engines.


The diesel engine may have any one of several horsepower ratings and it generally conforms rather closely to that particular rating, whichever one is chosen. A Continuous Horsepower or Continuous Duty Rating and an Intermittent Horsepower or Intermittent Duty Rating are two of these choices.
The continuous horsepower rating is the amount of horsepower the engine can produce on a steady basis without over working the engine. It is the equivalent of the cruising speed of a gasoline engine. Operating at or slightly below this level, the diesel engine is quite happy.
The intermittent horsepower rating is the amount of horsepower the engine can produce for short spurts, a few minutes at a time. This is the full throttle rating of the engine and it is generally higher than the continuous horsepower rating. In some cases it is much higher.
At this speed the life of the engine will be much shorter.
There may also be a Yacht Rating, which is always based upon maximum output. To achieve this rating the engine may require special injectors, increased Rpm's and other modifications. The yacht rating is for light duty and it is not to be confused with what the engine can do on a day to day basis.

Advertisements often emphasize the intermittent, full speed, or yacht rating, ratings of the engine and often do not print the continuous duty ratings. Though that information is readily available, the failure of some advertisers to circulate the information may lead to the perception that the engine you bought was over rated.
Always ask for the continuous duty rating of any engine you intend to buy. You need this information even if you intend to run the engine hard at all times. The difference between continuous duty and intermittent duty ratings is not great on some engines but much greater on others. With this information in hand, you can better decide how much you are willing to give up in order to hurry up.
The diesel is a heavy duty, slow speed engine, but not always.
There are many slow speed, heavy duty diesel engines in use today, but the really startling development in diesel engines is the high speed, light weight, engine that powers our sport fishermen and faster yachts.
Roger Penske, Stewart and Stevenson, and Johnson and Tower are three of the sources for high speed, high performance diesels. How much performance? In the heyday of fast cars and mega engines we looked at one horsepower per cubic inch as a measuring device. The 427 cubic inch Chevrolet at 425 horsepower is an example.
A rarity was the 327 cubic inch engine, also from Chevrolet, that developed 375 horsepower. That has never been done, before or since. No one has produced a stock, factory production engine that made 1.15 horsepower per cubic inch in a domestic automobile.
I am presently working on a 6-V53 Detroit diesel that has 6 cylinders with 53 cubic inches of displacement for a total of 318 cubic inches. It has dual turbo chargers feeding into a supercharger and both systems pumping boost to the engine. This diesel engine produces 425 horsepower from just 318 cubic inches and that is about 1.34 horsepower per cubic inch.
Not what you would expect from a diesel but exciting, nonetheless. How far will this trend go? Who knows? We are in a new Century and the new ideas just keep coming.
I will tell you about these diminutive power house engines as well as the heavies.


In the '40's and even into the '50's the diesel engine had the long stroke, small bore configuration and the length of that stroke was the source of its high torque output. Very slow speed engines are still built in that under square configuration but many of the newer, high-speed diesels are not.
The newer Ford 7.4-liter diesel engines and the GM 6.2-liter diesel engines are prime examples of high-speed diesels with an over square configuration. In this system the bore is larger than the stroke. The short stroke diesel is a fact of life today but it is also a fact that this type of engine has sort of slipped up on the average boater.
We closely observe the outside of the diesel engine, the paint, the logo, and the graphics. The mundane and the ordinary are there to be seen but we seldom consider the internals and even if we do, the implications are often lost on us. I will try to remedy that also.


One of the very real differences between gasoline and diesel engines is the fuel they burn. The gasoline fuels are much more volatile than is diesel fuel. Gasoline has a lower flash point; thus it is more likely to cause an engine room fire than is diesel fuel. Fires at sea are scary indeed and this alone causes many mariners to choose diesel power.
However the fact that diesel fuel is less likely to explode does not mean it will not explode. Under the proper conditions diesel fuel will blow your boat away. Never forget it. Fumes from diesel fuel are lighter and more volatile than the fuel itself and they can be very dangerous.


Diesel fuel has about 19,550 BTUs of heat energy, per gallon while gasoline has about 21,400 BTUs of heat energy, per gallon. The advantage, by about 1,850 BTUs per gallon, goes to gasoline. There is about 0.095 percent more heat energy in a gallon of gasoline than in a gallon of diesel fuel.
This nine plus percent difference in the fuels contributes a number of interesting characteristics to the diesel/gasoline engine comparison. Those comparisons will become a part of this text. There are other properties of the two fuels that decidedly favor diesel fuels. Remember gasoline is an abrasive.


Environmentally friendly diesels with electronic fuel injection are becoming quite common on both the highways and the waterways of our country. These engines burn only the needed amount of fuel and make precious little smoke, if any.
How they achieve this remarkable performance is an interesting story in itself. Low emission diesels are a tribute to the ingenuity of those who build them. As you read this book, I will give you a close look at how they do it.


Every machine must have a purpose and the diesel engine is no different. It is designed to make usable power from a chemical fuel and the manner in which it does this can be described in a short form as well as in great detail. Let us begin with the short form.
The diesel engine takes a chemical fuel and converts it to heat energy by burning. It then takes the expanding gasses and converts them to reciprocating motion, back and forth or up and down. Next, it converts the reciprocating motion to rotating motion, around and around.
Now we have energy in a form we can utilize to do work. This is a simple description and of course a more detailed approach is needed. For this purpose we should consider the parts of the engine, the movements and the events that accomplish these results.

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Table of Contents

Chapter One
Myth & Mystique
Chapter Two
Parts Of The Diesel
Chapter Three
The Engine & Cylinder Block
Chapter Four
Cylinder Heads
Chapter Five
The Rotating Assembly
Chapter Six
Reciprocating Assembly
Chapter Seven
Balancing The Engine
Chapter Eight
Compression & Ignition
Chapter Nine
Diesel Injectors
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
How A Diesel Operates
Chapter Twelve
Mathematics & Mechanics
Chapter Thirteen
Naturally Aspirated Engines
Versus The Boost
Chapter Fourteen
Flame Propagation
Chapter Fifteen
The Four Quadrants
Chapter Sixteen
Diesel Engine Design
Chapter Seventeen
Gears & Transmissions
Chapter Eighteen
Propellers - Design & Selection
Chapter Nineteen
Graphs & Curves
Chapter Twenty
Gasoline Versus Diesel
Chapter Twenty-One
Trouble Shooting
Chapter Twenty-Two
Auxiliary Engines
Chapter Twenty-Three
Engine Selection
Final Thoughts
About The Author
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