To find out what condition your diesel engine is in, you can have it monitored while it’s running. That’s a simple enough idea. We’ve all had car mechanics listen to our cars’ gas engines to try and find out what’s wrong. You know the drill.

But a problem with a diesel engine in your workboat is potentially far more expensive than a problem with the gas engine in your daughter’s Nissan Sentra.

“By knowing what’s going on with your machine, well, that’s the bottom line,” Rich Merhige, president, Advanced Mechanical Enterprises/Advanced Maintenance Engineering, told a crowded room of attendees at the WorkBoat Maintenance & Repair Conference and Expo  in New Orleans today. “You’re always trying to get the maximum performance out of your asset.”

But how you go about doing it is far more complicated. One of the most efficient ways to spot trouble with an engine is by its vibration. If the engine is vibrating too much, it‘s obviously not performing efficiently. “When an engine is not running right, you can do a lot of damage to it,” said Merhige.

He said vibration, noise, and alignment problems are common and can be detected rather easily if the engine is being monitored. What owners have to decide is how often do they want their engine monitored. The price you pay for monitoring can help you find problems in your engine before the engine problems can cost you big money. “And when an engine is not running properly, fuel consumption goes up and fuel costs go up,” said Merhige. “Sometimes you don’t know something is wrong, and you just keep running it,” which can lead to bigger problems.

The WorkBoat Maintenance & Repair Conference and Expo runs through Thursday at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.