Seems like only yesterday when pod drives were only a twinkle in the eye of marine propulsion engineers. But today azipods have proliferated to point where all of the major players offer one, including Volvo-Penta's IPS, Cummins MerCruiser Diesel's Zeus, as well as Yanmar Marine and ZF Marine. Pod motors are literally in use on hundreds of models of boats around the world. That said, like any mechanical device, they require preventative maintenance to keep them running at peak performance. Even so, there's significantly less maintenance than a conventional propulsion system fitted with a propeller shaft, coupler, Cutless bearing and the stuffing box. And don't forget, because of joystick control your boat doesn't have a bow thruster and the attendant maintenance chores. So exactly what steps are involved, you might ask? Here's a run down.
First comes routine maintenance. You already know the diesel component requires clean air, clean number 2 diesel fuel, adequate coolant and fresh lubricant. So every day or when refueling take the time to check the diesel engine's vital fluids. In other words, pull the crankcase dipstick; check the sea strainer and coolant level and drain the fuel/water separator. On the pod drive check the steering actuator and trim tab fluid levels. Note the level in the gear lube monitor and check the transmission fluid level.
At around 100 hours check and or replace the sacrificial zincs; check the sea strainer (clean if necessary); check the air cleaner for restrictions; check/adjust the sea water pump's drive belt and check electrical connections. It's also important to inspect the battery connections and the battery electrolyte levels. On the pod drive proper check the steering back up pump fluid level. Change the engine oil and filter. Know that according to Cummins MerCruiser Diesel, using synthetic oils (engine or drive) does not increase the oil change interval.
At the one year mark, or about 500 engine hours, the checklist grows more intensive. Diligently inspect the sea water pump; the drive belt tensioner; the drive belts; flush the after cooler; flush the gear oil cooler, flush the heat exchanger; check the air cleaner; check the engine mounting bolts; check the vibration isolators.
And the last item for routine maintenance, whenever the boat is hauled for bottom paint, or if you're paying a diver to scrape off barnacles and slime, remind the diver to take a close a look see at the propeller blades to make sure there are no nicks or gouges in the blades.
Scheduled maintenance follows a similar pattern. After 25 hours replace the transmission fluid. Volvo-Penta warns: Don't make the mistake of exceeding 30 hours.
At the 250 hour or one year mark, whichever comes first, change the transmission and drive leg gear oil and also steering and trim tab reservoirs. On models fitted with a steering fluid filter, change it (drain old, refill with new). Replace any sacrificial zincs that have corroded away to less than 50 percent of their original size.
Once a year or every 500 hours of engine operation, (haul-out)lubricate the propeller splines and torque the propeller nuts. On the drive check the exhaust system connections for damage or leaks. On a Volvo-Penta, every five years or 1200 hours the propeller shaft seal needs a look see.
Inspect the cooling system for hoses that have become brittle and any hose clamps that have comes loose due to vibration or corrosion. Look for damaged wiring and loose electrical connectors. Inspect hydraulic system fittings and hoses for damage.
You should also know that depending on the brand and whether or not you opted for an extended protection plan, many of the procedures are performed by a marine technicians at no cost to you. Similarly, create a paper trail, saving all of the work orders and receipts.
Finally, it's good practice to keep a maintenance log. It can help troubleshooting if anything goes wrong. And more importantly, it can boost resale price.