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Basic Troubleshooting Tips for Marine Engineers

Updated on July 24, 2013
Follow a Systematic Approach and Proceed Along Logical Lines
Follow a Systematic Approach and Proceed Along Logical Lines

Normally we use four senses to get an input for analysis:

  • Touch
  • Hearing
  • Sight
  • Smell

Another sense which is often overlooked is COMMON SENSE.

Although you can touch a bearing to feel if it is overheating, hear the noise from a worn ball bearing, see the smoke emerging from a damaged bearing or smell it, the most obvious sense (common sense) is often not used. To know when and what is to be checked is often most 'uncommon'.

To find out what is wrong, we tend to rely too much on automation and remote sensing devices, and when these devices malfunction, we are helpless to locate any fault. To carry out any analysis, the most important point or the starting point is a complete understanding of the system. Working principles and operation of the system to be known very well. Unless this is clear, there is no point in trying out hit-and-miss methods, like replacing components which are prone to damage, until you 'hit' upon the real defect, more by luck than any good judgment.

Keep Machinery. Valves, Electronic Circuit Components, etc. Well Marked or Tagged. It Saves Time on Finding the Fault
Keep Machinery. Valves, Electronic Circuit Components, etc. Well Marked or Tagged. It Saves Time on Finding the Fault

In most control systems, especially electrical, finding the fault is the most time consuming part of the troubleshooting operation. The final rectification of the fault may take only a fraction of the time spent in trying to identify and locate the fault.

The next tool is to proceed systematically, checking and eliminating the obvious causes, till you arrive at the solution. This may seem like a 'common sense' but it is surprising how few people proceed systematically.

Most engineers have pre-conceived ideas about faults. There is a common saying that most of us heard "when this happened, he changed this valve last time, so we will try this first". It may seem ridiculous but it is surprising how many operates on this principle. Mostly it is because they either do not wish to know about the system, or have a 'mental block' and are not interested in any analysis. As far as shipping is concerned time is money. No matter where the ship is, at port or at sea, ship staff will be on continuous pressure from the office to rectify the fault as soon as possible. So there is normally a deviation from the 'systematic way'. Efforts will be on rectifying the problem first, rather than identifying and analyzing it.

Wear Proper Personal Protective Equipment and Follow Safe Working Practices
Wear Proper Personal Protective Equipment and Follow Safe Working Practices

Unfortunately there are no short cuts in troubleshooting. The best way is to proceed systematically, and check till you eventually come to the fault. The time spent in doing this will benefit you next time when another fault occurs, and the more experience you get, the faster will be your troubleshooting. Some people appear to have almost a magical ability to find out the fault and rectify it. This happens when you have sufficient experience, and have proceeded along logical lines.

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