By Captain Scott “Fraz” Murie
I’ve participated in many major engine rebuilds over the years. In the process, I’ve developed great relationships with groups of elite mechanics. Working with these guys has taught me how to save thousands of dollars in labor. Recently, I’ve witnessed some super lazy crews just hanging out on the dock doing nothing while the mechanics are in the engine room. They could literally be saving the owner thousands of dollars helping the mechanics.
In my opinion, crew should be involved in every aspect of the project. They should be watching and learning everything, absorbing all the knowledge they can from the mechanics while the motors are coming apart and then going back together. To start with, we set a time for the mechanics arrival so that we can start tearing down the motors before they arrive. Then my crew and I get to work. First, we drain all the oil from the engines and remove the filters. We also drain all the water from the heat exchanger. By the time the mechanics arrive all fluids have been removed and disposed of so they can begin working immediately.
This saves time and money. As the specialists are working, the crew and I go through each part they remove from the motor. We clean every component, along with every gasket. Parts are sanded or wired brushed anywhere a seal or an O-ring will be found. We label every piece before cleaning and organize every nut and bolt. Then we prep and paint all the parts before they are reinstalled.
I always try to keep someone on hand for the mechanics to use as a runner for anything they need. This can range from handing them a tool or getting a part from the truck, to grabbing something from the parts store. This way the mechanics can focus on the rebuild rather than having to crawl out of the hole just to get something out of their pickup bed. At the end of each day, we are sure to clean and wipe down all the work areas and cover the cockpit area in preparation for the next day’s work.
I’ve seen plenty of rebuilds where the mechanics are left to do absolutely everything themselves—cleaning, scraping, painting, organizing, etc. This ends up taking twice as long and costing a lot more money. Highly specialized mechanics are paid by the hour, and the rate they command reflects their skill. It doesn’t make sense for the boss to pay for many additional hours of their time to perform work that can be just as easily accomplished by the crew.
Beyond the money side of the equation, there is also a world of knowledge to be gained by the crew in helping the mechanics. This is to say nothing of the fact that as crew you should know about your motors anyway.
When it comes time to repower, don’t be lazy. Instead, get dirty, learn a lot, and save your boss thousands of dollars while getting the job done much faster. You’ll develop a relationship with your mechanics that will last your career. Mechanics will remember this—your help goes a long way.