Our camera is paying for itself. Here, we found a part number, which meant we weren't locked into buying a proprietary part!

The Photo That Saved Us $120

Yep, that photo just saved us $120.

It’s a valve from our watermaker, known as the Clean/Prime valve. It’s leaking and needs to be replaced.

So we called Katadyn, the tech support guy gave us their part number. I asked if it was something we could buy locally and was told “No, you need to order it from us.” He transferred my call to the parts department. It would cost $157 + tax and shipping. YIKES! I said I wanted to think about it.

The handle on the top said Swagelok but didn’t show a part number. We didn’t want to remove the valve until we’re ready to install the new one — the watermaker is working, although water seeps out and air in around the valve.

I couldn’t see the sides and bottom of the valve, but I could get my camera in the compartment.  I couldn’t really see what I was aiming at or whether the camera was even focused, but I took a slew of photos and then brought them up on the computer, where I could enlarge and enhance the “good” photos.

Lo and behold, I found the part number. Checking the Swagelok website, it certainly looked correct. I called the south Florida Swagelok dealer . . . he had the part for $98 + tax and shipping. Okay, better.

But I decided to plug the part number into Google . . . and found an Ebay shop selling surplus Swagelok parts, including this one. Got it — new in original packaging — for $38, no tax and free shipping. Over $120 less than buying from Katadyn. Sold!

UPDATE: We received the valve and Dave installed it. Works perfectly!

Lesson: if a part seems high-priced from a proprietary dealer, you may be able to find the part number on it somewhere . . . 5 minutes with a camera to take pictures and enhance them can help a lot . . . and with the original manufacturer part number, you’re not locked into a single source.

P.S. For things like this, I generally have better luck with my Olympus Tough TG-4 (it’s a high end waterproof point-and-shoot that I love) than my phone. The “real” camera has much better close-up focusing and low-light capability. Years ago, I wrote about my predecessor camera, the TG-2 . . . I’ve since had a TG-3 and now a TG-4. Highly recommend it — has image stabilization, and can use filters. It also earned its keep when we had minute cracks in a fuel hose (read about it here) and in a deck-fill o-ring (see that story). Check it out on Amazon. Unless you’re going to use it for SCUBA, you don’t need the underwater package (the camera itself is waterproof to 50 feet).

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11 Comments
  • Lisa Womack Bosch
    Posted at 10 May 2017 Reply

    Great post! Parts for recreational items like boats and RVs are frequently commonly used items across other industries. Swagelock is a perfect example.

  • Richard Baxter
    Posted at 10 May 2017 Reply

    I have a similar experience off the boat, locating a part number, doing an internet search, and finding the proper part at a much cheaper price.

  • Diana K Weigel
    Posted at 10 May 2017 Reply

    I use my camera on a regular basis to take pictures of parts and numbers to do research. Just now convincing DH it’s a great way to remember what we need. I have even gone to parts stores and used the photo to order what we need.

  • Kenneth L Cox
    Posted at 10 May 2017 Reply

    Same practice here. Often when the part number or other ID is turned to a direction you can not read the photo saves hours of work to get the needed info. Cell phones also work well but remember how to turn off the auto rotate when taking or viewing….

  • Steve Williams
    Posted at 10 May 2017 Reply

    I take photo of wire connections before removing part.

  • Lisa Witty Bromund
    Posted at 10 May 2017 Reply

    My husband does the same. Part numbers, wiring, everything. It’s saved lots of time and money!

  • kieran
    Posted at 10 May 2017 Reply

    its the same with engines. Westerbeke 30B is actually a marineised Mitsubishi L3E. Westerbeke head gasket (which is directly from Mitsubishi ) $198, from Mitsubishi $59.
    I had to get a valve rocker. Westerbeke said $98 and 4 months !!.. Called Mitsubishi distributer $49 and 1 week from japan. And strangely enough when the part arrived I called Westerbeke to cancel and they said oddly enough we just got a shipment in and its in the mail.
    Clearly Mitsubishi distributer supplied Westerbeke from the same order ( same packaging) .
    Injector for same engine $575. Westerbeke, Tractor supplier for L3E, $98

  • Bora Da
    Posted at 10 May 2017 Reply

    Its the same with engines. Westerbeke 30B is a Mitsubishi L3E. Headgasket : westerbeke $198, Mitsubishi $59. Injector : westerbeke $575, Tractor supplier $98. I needed a valve rocker, Westerbeke $98 and 4 months!!. Mitsubishi, $49 and 1 week ( from japan) and oddly enough after it arrived I called Westerbeke to cancel and they said guess what we just got an order i and ur rocker is in the mail. yeah in the same packaging………

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 10 May 2017 Reply

      Thank you for that bit of info — that’s our engine!

  • Dave & Lisa
    Posted at 11 May 2017 Reply

    Excellent point. I’ve already started taking notes of part numbers as I replace items and have been taking photos of hard to reach places for our records. When we’re out hopefully we can just search our file for the part name, S/N, and date installed.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 11 May 2017 Reply

      It’s a great thing to do. Listing dates put in service, rebuilt, etc. are good too. The previous owners of our first boat had a wonderful document that I wrote about here: Boat Details Document

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