ASK THE EXPERTS
heating. If you’re experiencing vibrating
or the box is “wobbling” as you run, misalignment may be your answer, although
that doesn’t readily explain why the water
stops dripping. This could be explained
if the packing becomes so hot it swells
in the box, but that would mean the box
would be heating quite significantly.
You also may have an obstruction
in the shaft tub, or outside of it, which
prevents water from coming in. Packing
needs a little water for cooling purposes.
If you overtighten the stuffing box, preventing water from coming through and
also causing excess compression of the
packing, this could cause overheating.
But it sounds like this isn’t the case.
Is your packing installed correctly? It
should be cut in sections, each one just
long enough to wrap around the shaft.
Each section should be tamped down
carefully before the next section is insert-
ed, and the ends of each of the sections
should be staggered rather than lined
up. There are different types of packing,
ranging from classic flax rope impregnat-
ed with wax and lubricant, to synthetics.
These can cause varying degrees of heat
but should not cause overheating.
Another possibility is that your shaft
could be slightly bent. This could cause
the problem, although this would still
leave me wondering why the dripping
stops when you’re underway, unless, of
course, there is enough heat to expand
the packing. Has the prop hit any debris
in the water?
Your shaft could be worn inside the
stuffing box, and/or the inner surface of
the box could be worn. Sometimes the
shaft is worn from the packing being too
tight. Sometimes it suffers from crevice
corrosion, which can occur in stainless
steel when water is stagnant next to the
stainless, thus allowing oxygen depriva-
tion. When there are no drips from the
box whatsoever when the shaft isn’t turn-
ing and this goes on for some time, crevice
corrosion can occur on the shaft. Any of
this could cause overheating if the shaft
surface is rough enough on the packing.
Here are some things you might do to
diagnose the problem: Carefully eyeball
the shaft when it’s turning to check for
any wobble; although it would be diffi-
cult to determine this from just “eyeball-
ing,” unless it’s really bad. Also check to
see that the box remains relatively still
when the engine is running rather than
vibrating or jumping slightly. Sometimes
I’ve placed the end of a long flat-bladed
hard-handled screwdriver on the box to
see if I feel jumping. (Be very careful of
moving engine parts.) These signs could
indicate a bent shaft or misalignment.
Also, loosen the locking nut and pull
back the packing cover (stuffing box).
The packing should not come with it,
still inside the “box.” Carefully remove
the packing, taking care not to scratch
the surface of the inside of the stuffing
box or the shaft. Use an inspection mirror
(you can get one at any auto parts store)
and a flashlight to look into the box to
see if there’s any damage to the inside.
NEEDS A LITTLE WATER
FOR COOLING PURPOSES
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