NARROW BOAT PROBLEM - Changing The Engine Oil
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Mon Jul 17, 2017 at 8:09am

Changing the oil on your narrow boat is only a problem if you don't know how to do it. You have a few options available; 

1. You can ask another boater (can be difficult especially if you're a man!)
2. Call in the experts from a marina which of course will cost you a few quid or 
3. Learn to do it yourself. 

If you are still reading I am assuming you have opted for option three and are going to give it ago yourself. Good for you!


The engine is the heart of your boat it not only provides power for cruising but it also provides you with hot water, electricity and heating. So a certain amount of pampering is required to keep her in good working order. 

Changing the oil and filters is a major part of keeping the engine in tip top condition. 

The oil and filter will get dirty through use so these will both need to be replaced every so often. The oil filter is a replaceable cartridge that cleans the oil as the engine runs. 

First things first you need to work out is when the oil change is required. The best way to understand when you should tackle this task is to refer to your boats engine manual. Which will state how often this job should be carried out. 

Next prepare to start the work. It's a bit of a messy job so dressing appropriately will make sense, a set of overalls or your general work clothes will be just right for this occasion not your favourite jeans and t shirt! Not necessary but disposal gloves will help keep your hands clean. 

Also having the right tools and all the equipment at hand will make changing the oil a lot easier. 


  • Oil
  • New filter
  • Container to pump oil into
  • Large oil container to empty old oil into and dispose of.
  • Rag
  • Funnel
  • Wretch
  • Disposal gloves

How to do it:

To change the oil, first run the engine up to its normal operating temperature. This thins the oil and stirs up any sludge from the bottom of the sump so that it can be removed with the oil. Warming the engine normally takes about 15 minutes, so to avoid waiting it’s worth planning some time at the end of a day on the water when the engine is already hot. .

To get rid of the old oil. Extract the oil using the drain plug, cock or pump. locate the cap on the oil container of the engine and unscrew it. When this is done, remove the old oil from the crank case this is done by pumping a little handle which sucks the oil from the engine block and into the container you have ready.

Top Tip; Employee a rhythmic motion to ensure the oil exits smoothly and predictably don't get impatient and give the pump a great heave; this will only ensure the oil spatters over every surface except into the waiting container.

Now pour (using a funnel) the oil into an old oil can which you should have handy from the start, preferably one designed to hold at least 5 litres of oil. 

With the engine empty of the old oil its time to replace the dirty oil filter with new ones. 
We are almost done!

Finally steps

Most engines will hold approximately 5L of oil. However, you can’t be sure exactly what yours will take. So, fill up slowly bit by bit, checking the dipstick each time to ensure you don’t overfill it. If you discover you have accidentally overfilled it use the pump again to remove the excess oil. 

Screw the oil cap back on and viola you have successfully changed the oil on your narrowboat!

Clearing up. How to responsibly dispose of the oil;

There are plenty of marinas and boatyards who will accept used engine oil for free in their waste disposal facilities. But always ask before presuming your local marina will accept your waste.