Here we have a practical, illustrated guide for marine diesel engine maintenance. The main advantage of this guide is its clear and simple illustrations. This guide fills a gap where a person is just getting into diesel engine maintenance. Sometimes Nigel Calder’s books assume a level of knowledge that the neophyte mechanic simply doesn’t possess. Imagine trying to tell somebody how to check the oil that has no idea what a dipstick looks like or where on the engine to find it. Berwick’s guide is a huge asset for those wishing to get a little more hands-on in the engine room due to its simple, visual directions.

The guide sets out five sections: general maintenance, lay-up, winter protection, tropical storage, spring recommission. To most readers the general maintenance section will be the most important as it teaches the reader how to do most engine maintenance tasks, from checking the oil level to servicing the cutlass bearing. I would estimate that 99% of the work I do on our engine aboard SV Monark is covered by this manual.

In addition to the simple illustrations, what I found quite refreshing was the practical nature of the directions. I’ve read too many manuals that specify a unique tool to do a job that a pair of pliers will adequately handle. A good example is Berwick’s direction for removing the impeller from the pump housing. In most manuals the direction is to use an impeller puller. Honestly, who has one of these aboard? We all use needle-nose pliers and feel badly about it. Berwick suggests using a variety of methods, including how to do it with needle-nose pliers. And at the start of each section, he outlines what tools and materials will be needed to complete the job so the reader doesn’t get half way through and realize that they needed a spare gasket.

While this manual will not supplant Calder’s Marine Diesel Engines: Maintenance and Troubleshooting, it makes an excellent companion guide. I would venture as far as to say that it is essential material for anybody just starting out on diesel engines due to its clear illustrations. It would have saved me hundreds of hours of researching and watching long-winded YouTube videos when I began tackling our own power plant. Even after 5 years of full-time cruising and engine maintenance, I discovered new tips and tricks in this guide. I highly recommend it.

Marine Diesel Basics 1 by Dennison Berwick (Voyage Press, 2017)