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Old 28-11-2015, 06:22   #1
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Asleep at the wheel

I recently purchased a 1987 Sea Ray Sundowner 300. On my second excursion upon my 30 minute return to the marina at about 3000 rpm I idled down to moor it. Much to my surprise I saw quite a bit of white smoke (steam?) and looked at my temperature gauges. My starboard engine was showing a 270 degree reading. I immediately shut her down and limped in on one engine. Both engines have under 500 hrs on them... One of the reasons I bought it.

I called a highly rated mechanic in the California delta region and told him the previous owner replaced the thermostat. My guess was the water pump. His response to me was that if the gauge read 270 then I may have created problems with hoses (rated at 220) melting, blown head gaskets and other possibilities. He also stated that water pump was not necessarily the culprit, could be manifold. He recommended a compression check as well. Sound on the up and up?

I bought this boat for $10k and without a survey. The gentleman had poured $8k into it with electronics, windlass, outdrive service, recent bottom job and other work done on same starboard engine (thermostat, ignition and a couple things I don't immediately recall). He took us on an abbreviated test run and my first trip after buying the boat went flawlessly and we ran both engines for probably 3 hours. My question is would it be possible that the previous owner knew of this problem? He purchased the boat a year earlier for $12k, poured $8k into it and bailed quickly for $10k.


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Old 28-11-2015, 06:37   #2
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Re: Asleep at the wheel

Kind of parallels medicine. If you ask a surgeon, he will generally tell you that you need surgery. Have you done some damage? Probably, but before you jump on to compression checks and changing hoses-determine what caused the problem, insure that the same is not about to befall the other engine, and then just see what happens when you run her.


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Old 28-11-2015, 06:42   #3
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Re: Asleep at the wheel

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Originally Posted by Klamathman View Post
My question is would it be possible that the previous owner knew of this problem?
Possible? Of course. Does it matter? Probably not.

I guess you could ask him. You could even sue him, if you want, but your odds of winning are minuscule at best.

Good luck, whatever you do.
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Old 28-11-2015, 06:53   #4
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Re: Asleep at the wheel

If 'ya bought her without a survey or sea trial, the best that could ever happen is you get away from the dock long enough to figure out what the last guy was working on most recently.


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Old 28-11-2015, 06:59   #5
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Re: Asleep at the wheel

Engines are approx 28 years old, presumably gasoline. Have them checked out by a GOOD mechanic and take it from there. Don't ask how I know.
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Old 28-11-2015, 07:04   #6
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Re: Asleep at the wheel

500 hours in that amount of time is a red flag to me.

Are they raw water cooled?

Are the impellers in good shape? ( I don't even know if they're mounted in the drive legs or on the engine)

Are the seawater pickups clear?


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Old 28-11-2015, 07:51   #7
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Re: Asleep at the wheel

Engines are fresh water cooled. He just flushed them both and put in new antifreeze. My guess is he had no idea this was coming. I kick myself for not watching the gauges. I think I might have tripled the repair expense by falling asleep at the wheel.


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Old 28-11-2015, 08:09   #8
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Re: Asleep at the wheel

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Originally Posted by Klamathman View Post
... I kick myself for not watching the gauges. I think I might have tripled the repair expense by falling asleep at the wheel.
Exact reason why high temp buzzer/lights are usually installed in addition to gauges.
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Old 28-11-2015, 08:17   #9
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Re: Asleep at the wheel

Mechanics always try to make the most money for. Each job generally by ripping you off. It suits them to rip off a few people than to do good jobs on many. Maybe they dont like the travel time?
No I don't like mechanics.

Get another one to have a look.

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Old 28-11-2015, 08:22   #10
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Re: Asleep at the wheel

Assuming repair is economically practical, the next things I would do is repair/replace the engine temperature alarms and install exhaust temperature alarms. As for suing, forget it. Your mechanic's phone diagnosis is worth what you paid for it, nothing!
Next step get a good mechanic to trouble shoot the engine and stay on his hip the whole time. Treat it as a learning experience.
Your deal reminds me of the old saying, "if it's too good to be true, it probably isn't.
Fair winds and less exciting cruising to you.
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Old 28-11-2015, 08:22   #11
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Re: Asleep at the wheel

I doubt he knew of a problem if you ran for 3 hours without a problem. Impellers do go out. It's part of boating. The key is watching the Gage's and engine alarms. I had an impeller fail once while I was running. It got so hot the engine locked up. All belts and hoses melted. Replaced everything, changed oil and the engine ran fine for another ten years till I sold it. You never know but you may be fine.
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Old 28-11-2015, 08:34   #12
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Re: Asleep at the wheel

The easiest and least expensive first step is to replace BOTH impellers. They are probably due anyway - if either is damaged on removal, check the heat exchanger for impeller pieces.

If you can, blow some air backwards thru the heat exchanger and see if it blows easily - a canister vacuum on the heat exchanger output is the easiest second step.

If the heat exchanger is not clear, remove it and have it "boiled" by a radiator shop - inexpensive third step.

Steam on a fresh water cooled engine usually indicated raw water intake flow blockage or failed raw water impeller. If you have the 351 sometimes used on the Sea Rays, it is likely the raw water pump - they are a weak point in the cooling - but, fortunately, not terribly expensive.

Does your boat have sea chests? If so, check them and clean them - often if the boat sits, the crap in the sea chest petrifies and clogs after a few hours of being re-wet. Unlikely since I don't think Sea Rays used them.

Good luck.
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Old 28-11-2015, 08:38   #13
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Re: Asleep at the wheel

Chances are your engine is fine since it did not lock up on you. Start by replacing all the things that should have been done in the beginning and that would be a matter of good normal maintenance. Check you strainers, replace your hoses, clean you heat exchanger, change your impeller and see if she restarts and runs cooler. My bet is that she will.
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Old 28-11-2015, 08:45   #14
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Re: Asleep at the wheel

Is antifreeze cooled by air (radiator) or water intake (heat exchanger)?
If water cooled; check water intake from under boat, water strainer, hose plugged, water pump, kink in hose.
Check belts for tension.Are they on? It sounds strange but they do break.
Take thermostat out and run without it. Worst thing would be it runs cold. At least you know thermostats are not stuck.
Check color of engine oil. If yellow, water got into engine, do not run engine. Head gasket, etc. If black, you were lucky.
Try to eliminate one possibility at a time. Check list? Little by little you can isolate the problem, then you can fix it.
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Old 28-11-2015, 09:01   #15
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Re: Asleep at the wheel

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Possible? Of course. Does it matter? Probably not.

I guess you could ask him. You could even sue him, if you want, but your odds of winning are minuscule at best.

Good luck, whatever you do.
...sue him... hum. In Europe, we would walk up to the guy with a beer or a bottle of wine and ask him for help. It works surprisingly well. Besides, I am sure that his wine tastes are cheaper than those of your lawyer.
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