The Problems

Genuine faults or my mistakes !!!



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Generally, problems happen when we least expect them. We've all heard of Murphy's Law. Anything that can possibly go wrong, will. We had many problems on our journey across Australia, but fortunately nothing major that was life threatening.


No oil pressure.

Safety Chain

Metal Fatigue

Lock Nut not so locking

Your boat is on fire


Engine stalled when approaching marina


The Cause

The ECM switched the engine off because there was no oil pressure.

(A costly exercise)

A few months prior to departing on our long journey across Australia, I decided to service the engine as a precautionary measure. There was no need to replace the oil as the engine had then 32 hours. Before that at 10 hours I did change the oil (Mineral Marine grade15W-40) as recommended in the manual as well as adjusting the tappets.

I prefer mineral type oil over synthetic. Over the internet, I read many articles on the matter and many car owners especially in the US, commented that one should never ever use synthetic oil in a new engine. That arguments was not an issue with me as I did not need to be convinced or converted. I was already a believer that mineral is better than synthetic oil.

When I went to purchase the new oil, the shop only had marine synthetic. I was hesitant but the sales person was very convincing that synthetic oil is far superior than mineral. That's why it is also more expensive, he commented. You get the best protection for your engine. I explained that the engine is new with low hours. He showed me that the oil 10W-40 was suitable for the Yamaha marine engines. As I was in a hurry, I went against my belief and fell into the sales trap. I replaced the oil with expensive marine grade synthetic oil and also the oil filter.

After checking the oil level and connecting a water hose to the bottom leg, I started the engine and immediately noticed tappets noise which I definitely did not hear before. Off went the switch. I waited a few minutes and started the engine again. Same noise. Clack, clack, clack. Not normal. What the hell did I do? Switched off again and checked for leaks and everything looked normal. Third time lucky. The noise had diminished but I was very confused. I placed the cover back on and the noise seemed normal. The engine run for about five minutes with no sign of malfunction. I attributed the noise problem to the fact that it took time for the oil to fill up the new filter and eventually lubricated the tappets. Time for a proper run on the water.

We launched the boat at Mornington and went for an half an hour power cruise. When I got close to the marina, I slowed the engine and to my complete astonishment, the engine stalled. No power and the wind was pushing us towards the boats on the swing moorings. A collision was inevitable. I tried to restart the engine and again to my compete shock, it started. We got home safely.

What the hell went wrong?

In my mind, it had to be something with the oil. Back at home, a complete check-up was carried out. The oil level was normal and there was no leaks. Time to put an oil pressure gauge on this bloo.. engine. I installed a T junction and added an oil plug whilst keeping the existing sensor on so as not to interfere with the electronics of the engine, the ECM (Electronic Command Module). First test showed that the idling oil pressure was less than recommended in the manual but acceptable. Time to rev the engine a bit and the pressure went up. A big smile was on my face as I was very pleased that it was not the synthetic oil after all. So I pulled the throttle back and sh..., the pressure dropped to zero and the engine stopped. My bottom jaw followed the direction of the pressure gauge needle and dropped into a wide open mouth wiping the momentary smile.

Conclusion. The ECM switched the engine off because there was no oil pressure.

Time for drastic action. I purchased new mineral marine oil 15W-40, of course from a different supplier, to replace the synthetic one. I drained the old oil completely before adding new one and redrained again so that there was nil or negligible synthetic oil left. Not taking any risks, I also installed a brand new oil filter. I started the engine (water hose on) and there was no tappets noise. Switch the engine off and did the test again and there was oil pressure all the time even when slowing the engine to below idling speed.

I connected the Yamaha Software Diagnosis to the engine and all readings were normal. Quite a relief!!!

That is why I now have four gauges on the pedestal, oil pressure, water temperature, rev and vacuum.

In my opinion, synthetic oil is thinner than mineral for the same grade. Did using the lower grade 10W-40 synthetic instead of 15W-40 mineral affected the oil pressure? It was summer when this service was done and the temperature was about 29°C.

What do the oil numbers mean?

Multigrade oils are those oils that have two numbers on the grade, indicating that the oil is able to maintain engine performance in high and low temperatures. A multigrade lubricant minimises viscosity differences under temperature variations.

The first number on a multigrade oil is normally followed by a W, which stands for winter. This number represents the lubricant’s viscosity under lower temperatures, giving an indication of how the oil will flow in the winter. The lower the first number, the thinner it is at low temperatures.

The second number, which appears after the W, represents the oil's viscosity under high temperatures.  The higher the number, the thicker the oil will stay at high temperatures. Using the correct viscosity for the engine increases performance, reduces wear and increases fuel efficiency.

The experts say that synthetic oils usually have better low and high temperature properties than normal mineral oils.  This maintains protection while allowing better fuel economy and cold starting.

No one will ever convince ME to change to marine synthetic oil again. It is a very personal issue.

Throughout our journey across Australia, the Yamaha 60HP 4 stroke fuel injected engine performed like a Swiss clock watch..


Lake Argyle Western Australia (North)

While retrieving Jorjia from Lake Argyle, I heard a loud bang. At this stage, the boat was completely out of the water and the ballast was just started to flow out. The boat was heavy. As I pulled up on rocky surface, the strap broke. Fortunately, I had the chain on otherwise the boat would have slid off the trailer and fallen onto the rocks with engine first and I would hate to guess the possible damage that would have occurred.

      Safety Chain !!!! YES



The Cause

When we last retrieved the boat, I noticed that the strap was damaged by the cogs of the winch wheel digging into the material. While at Broome, I visited the marine shop but they did not have stock of a new strap and the price was excessively expensive. So I postponed the purchase of a new one until the next town. But we didn't find any on the way to Lake Argyle.

Looking at the strap before launching, I took the chance that it might still be ok. Bad decision on my part.

It does not pay to cut corners.


Metal Fatigue

Take a paper clip and bend it back and forth a few times. Eventually it will break. Without going into extensive scientific explanation, metal fatigue is the weakening of a material caused by repeatedly applying loads on and off. It is the progressive and localized structural damage that occurs when a material is subjected to cyclic loading.




The front guide on the trailer was built and installed to facilitate retrieving the boat in high winds.


When we reached the west coast and we had completed the first part of the journey, crossing the Nullarbor, the vibration was an annoying problem that needed attention.       

Whilst driving, I noticed from the rear mirror that the aluminium rod was constantly vibrating. There was no cause for alarm as it was not a safety issue. I mounted the blue PVC tubing to reduce the vibration but it made no difference.

To reduce it, I attached a rope from the top of the aluminium rod to the boat. (Must not forget to undo before launching). This had dampened the effect, but there was still vibrations.



Is that bad luck, stupidity, poor design on my part or what?

Before we reached Broome, at a filling station, I noticed that the bracket was loose. Before I could checked the bolts, the complete structure came off in my hand.  That was definitely not something that I expected. The whole things was just about to fly off and damage the hull. Fortunately the rope would have stopped it from hitting a car or a person on the road. OMG....

At this stage, for safety reasons, I decided to remove the other bracket until we get back to base.

The cause.

Metal Fatigue. The constant vibration which is equivalent to bending a clip up and down, eventually weakened the aluminium tubing where mounting holes were drilled. The bottom end of the tube was fixed on the trailer whilst the other end was pulsating.


The solution.

  1. Leave the bracket out completely
  2. Redesigned the whole structure using steel instead of aluminium.

Steel was not an option for me. 

A front bracket was mandatory as it had proved on many occasions to be an advantage when retrieving the boat especially in high winds.

I choose to rebuilt a new bracket except this time I inserted a smaller aluminium tube inside the main one before bending the structure to shape. As per the photo on the right, this act as a brace on the inside of the main tube and has greatly reduced the vibration. Also I made the tubing shorter.

It worked.


Mudguard Brackets

Other parts that suffered metal fatigue on our journey touring the great Australian outback were the port and starboard middle mudguard brackets.

To mount the mudguard onto the trailer, I used heavy duty aluminium L shape brackets at each end of the mudguards. But for the middle, I used thinner U shape brackets. ( I run out of the L shape length and had spare thinner U shape).




The metal fatigue happened in the centre of the bracket where the hole was drilled.


Holes were drilled on the bottom of the bracket to tie the 12V wire for the side light mounted on the mudguard.

To repair the damage temporally, I purchased two small plates to join the broken brackets. It lasted until we got back to base.

That was definitely a poor design on my part. I thought that the middle bracket was just to hold the two mudguards together and onto the trailer. Never thought that metal fatigue would test my beautiful design !!!

The solution.

Replaced the thin U shape bracket with stronger L shape ones, same as used at the ends of the mudguards.


Locknut not so locking

To upgrade to dual axles, five brand new light truck tyres and rims were purchased to replace the US made single axle system (four tyres on the trailer and one spare.)

Aligning the axles were done from the centre of each hubs. Before departing on our long journey across Australia, I checked the measurements and they were less than 1mm between the hubs on each side of the trailer. Also the axles were aligned to the back frame and checked against the front towing bar. Measurement from axle to axle was spot on. This confirmed that the wheels were rotating in line with each other. 

After about 5000Kms from Melbourne, whilst on the west coast, the above photo showed what the port rear tyre looked like. I was a bit surprised and could not work out what was the cause. I decided to proceed up north to Darwin keeping an eye on the wear of the tyre. By the time we reached Broome, the threads were much thinner. At Alice Springs, it was time for a new tyre.

I was offered a good price for a new light truck type and decided to also change the rear tyres of the Kia.

The Cause

When we got back to Melbourne, before parking the boat at home, by pure luck or coincidence, Margaret was following me in her car and noticed that the port rear tyre was wobbling. (The new tyre bought in Alice Spring).

At first, I suspected that the tyre was mounted incorrectly in Alice Springs but the whole tyre/rim was not turning evenly. Could it be loose or faulty bearings but that was not the case. Finally, I traced the fault to the rim. Undoubtedly a manufacturer's fault. The other rims were perfect. Regrettably, too late to return to the company for warranty. Although there was no sign of hitting something, they would without any doubt blame me for having damage the rim.

I checked the measurements of the axles and notice an increase in the alignment on the port side while the starboard side had barely moved.. This could have contributed to the wear of the tyre. The bolts and locknut was still tight but in my opinion not tight enough. I attributed the movement of the rear axle on the port side to the fact that maybe the wobbling of the rim would have loosen the bolts slightly. It could also be possible that I did not tighten the locknuts properly and that was the cause of the excessive tyre wear. Further more, no Loctite® was used before as I though it was not necessary when using locknuts.

The Solution

Replace the faulty tyre with the spare for now which will ensure that all wheels on the trailer are in good order. Realign the axles and this time use Loctite® (Blue) on the all bolts and nuts.

Breaker, Breaker, your boat is on fire.


A couple of weeks before we departed on the 'journey', we just left home on our way to Painesville, Gippsland Lakes when a persistent voice came out of the CB speaker shouting, "breaker, breaker, your boat is on fire."

That's not the sort of jokes anyone would play on the radio. "Hi there, good buddy, did you say my boat is on fire", I replied in a nervous voice. "Yes, mate, there is smoke coming out at the back of the boat". "Thanks mate" was my reply.

We immediately pulled over on the side of the road and to my complete astonishment, there was smoke coming out of the port side of the trailer.

The front bearings hub was excessively hot. It's probable that the smoke was caused by grease overheating. That can only be attributed to a faulty bearing, I estimated. But that impossible because I checked them only days before. Brakes were only installed on the front axle wheels. Rear brakes were added after our journey. I decided to wait for the hub to cool down for more diagnosis. Ten minutes later, I could not visually see any problems and decided to slowly drive back home. All seems to be going well but after about five minutes, the smoke appeared again and at this stage, the car was struggling to pull the boat. No doubt brake locking was the cause of the overheating.  As we were only about 20Kms from home and I decided to backtrack at turtle speed with emergency blinkers on, keeping an eye on the hub temperature.

Why am I cooking the brake pad?


The Cause

I regularly greased the bearings especially after the second or third launching and retrieving sequences.

During the previous maintenance,  I also sprayed the hub and surrounding parts with 3-in-one Lithium Grease to prevent rusting. I've done this for many years and never had any problems even when the white grease got onto the pads and disc surface. This time things were very different.

Grease came out at the back seal and ended being sprayed everywhere. Not a problem because, that would prevent rust and a good insulation against water entering and damaging the rear bearing, the more grease the better. But there was so much mess that I decided to do a bit of cleaning and sprayed Heavy Duty Degreaser before washing with water. I thought that Lithium grease onto the pads did not cause any problem so degreaser would also cause no problem especially after washing the whole thing using high water pressure. Wrong.

Degreaser penetrated inside the pads material like a sponge soaked in water. When driving, heat generated by the rubbing of the pads against the disc eventually increased the thickness and locked the brake.

In an attempt to get rid of the degreaser-soaked pads, I tried to cook them on a portable gas stove. After many attempts, it seemed that either the gas heat was not hot enough or degreaser was too deep below the surface of the pads.

Time to replace the pads with new ones. Where do you get new Macgregor trailer brake pads in Australia at a reasonable price?

After lots of research, I discovered that brake pads for the following cars were identical to the ones on the Macgregor trailer. The metal springs had to be removed.

Kia Mentor 10/96 - 6/00
Kia Sephia 1.8L 1998 on
Kia Spectra 5/01 - 6/2004


The brakes never gave us any more problems during our journey across Australia.


Copyright © 2015, Sylvio Belcourt