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Old 20-01-2016, 11:49   #16
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

Thanks, folks for your varying opinions. You have not helped at all.

But seriously, I'll probably keep looking, not a shortage of boats, just need to remain patient. Engines are certainly my Achille's heel, I'm no mechanic. I'm willing and able to learn, but I probably want an engine a little more prominent.

That being said, If I were to go forward, I'd certainly have the engine checked out thoroughly.
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Old 20-01-2016, 12:04   #17
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

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Originally Posted by surfprimal View Post
But seriously, I'll probably keep looking, not a shortage of boats, just need to remain patient. Engines are certainly my Achille's heel, I'm no mechanic.
Yup, buyers market so take advantage of that

Not being 'good' with engines is a vote for a simple engine that doesn't require too much knowledge to maintain. Maybe look for something like a MD6A, they're about as basic as an engine can be

(I excel at not being helpful and lame jokes)
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Old 20-01-2016, 13:24   #18
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

For what it's worth. I inherited a boat 4 years ago, one that I knew the maintenance had been deferred on. She's got an MD11C, newer, but still 37 years old. It's also raw water cooled. I was not mechanically inclined to begin with, but I've certainly gotten there. I heard all the scary things about parts being ridiculously expensive, and not available. I had the overheating issues, and for the first couple of seasons I just reverse cycled the cooling system with a pump and bucket running CLR through, and it cleared enough of the deposits to get a stable temp. Last year I decided I had enough experience to clean the cylinder water journals mechanically. It took a good solid weekend and about $320 in parts (gasket kits mostly), but I got most of the deposits out, and learned a bit more about my engine.

I'm with everyone else who suggested getting it checked out by a Volvo guy, or even just running it hard (not on the dock) for an hour or so. Bring along an infrared thermometer and measure the temps all over the engine at the end of the hour. Any cooling issues will present themselves, and you can evaluate from there. I wouldn't be afraid to walk away, but maybe not just yet, if you love the boat.
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Old 20-01-2016, 13:39   #19
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

I had this same crossroad, I bought a islander 37 with a md3 Volvo diesel, after purchase had the injectors rebuild. 1000 that included mechanical evaluation. As a rawwater I try to start every two to three weeks . I have looked strongly at replacing with a all Electric system. As my long term goal is to travel around Vancouver Island, as I do local cruising for my entry years, will probably re power prior to longer adventure. diesel / electric Fair winds
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Old 20-01-2016, 16:53   #20
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

Hello and good luck with your search. I have three 27 foot Dufours (two 1973 Safari's and a 1976 27") and all have the MD6A engine and I love them. First the negatives. Parts, as mentioned earlier, can be expensive but not necessarily so. I recall I needed a pair of braided fuel lines and four years ago they were almost $100 Euro each! I ended up just using top quality fuel hose with stainless clamps with brass fittings. The cost was something like $30 at the time instead of almost $300. For some things you can find alternatives.


Flushing the cooling has helped quite a bit and it should be done often to keep it in top condition. Routine maintenance will keep the engine running practically forever.


It is a very robust engine and simple to maintain. Additionally, as pointed out, complete engines are available if you are patient. They are also not expensive.


If you do replace the engine, there are several ways to go. If you are cruising you will want to stick with a diesel. If you are just pulling in and out of your slip, then you may want to think about an atomic 4 or an electric set up. If you are just pulling in and out of your slip then gas is in some ways the better option. Diesels like to be run with a load and when you just run it for fifteen or twenty minutes then the diesel can suffer. Outboards work however if you are in choppy water they often come out of the water and that will ultimately affect the longevity of the outboard, not to mention that it is disconcerting to hear the engine rev like crazy every twenty seconds! If you are in relatively calm waters then you should have no issues with this.


I thought you said this will be your first boat and if so, this is a good beginner engine for several reasons. First, it is simple. This will help you learn diesels. The filters are not that expensive and are still quite easily found (I am on the east coast; two of the boats are in NYC and one is in Rhode Island) at least where I am. Second, it is a tough engine and if you take the time to learn it, and maintain it, you will get many years of good service. Third, an older boat sometimes (often?!) has electrical issues, and this engine has a hand crank. It works well and it is nice to have this "get out of jail free" card. This will come in handy until you learn about electrical systems!


One thing to consider is that being an older engine, it is a heavier engine. This is good in that it runs smoothly. If you replace it, you will most likely gain payload (The beta 13HP replacement is almost half the weight per Beta) but may affect the boat's balance slightly. More important, the prop will may to be changed since the Volvo turns in the opposite direction as the Beta.


I like the MD6A and would keep it. Whatever you do, I wish you the best of luck.
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Old 20-01-2016, 18:10   #21
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

IIRC, that engine has a vulnerability when used with sea water (raw water intake) in that the sea water can corrode cooling passages in the block, and literally eat a major hole IIRC (again) from the cooling passage to the exhaust manifold, or something equally critical.


So it becomes necessary to really open up and inspect ANY raw water cooled engine which is that old, to make sure the raw water hasn't eaten something you can't replace--at any price.


IIRC (again, again) you can access that by removing the water pump housing and looking down the passages.
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Old 20-01-2016, 19:30   #22
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

Dgz3 gave you good advice imho. It would be good for you to have or get a bit of diesel knowledge with an engine that old. After you have it checked out feed it with clean air,oil&fuel & it could last for more decades but if it needs a rebuild I'd walk away. Just been thru that rebuild process with a 1980 Yanmar & would not do it again if I'd had to buy new parts or pay someone to do the job.
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Old 20-01-2016, 19:50   #23
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

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Originally Posted by Island Time O25 View Post
So my take on it would be to go in on an assumption that you will either have to put in some serious $$ into the upkeep and/or rebuild or just throw it away and install something more modern and less expensive parts wise.
I disagree. The engine is currently running, and with proper maintence may well continue to do so for another decade or two. While a rebuild or replacement may be necessary sometime in the near future, that outcome is far from certain.

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Originally Posted by Island Time O25 View Post
Volvo is notorious for their new parts price gouging, even worse than Yanmar. Look for an older boat with an updated Yanmar or Beta/Universal engine. And although my diesel mechanic friend swears by mid age to older Yanmars (not the very new light weight and electronically controlled ones) Beta/Universal would be my personal choice as they are marinized Kubota tractor engines and often parts can be picked up at Kubota tractor dealers for a fraction of the cost at marine dealers.
This I agree with. Could be wrong but my impression is that Volvo's business strategy for marine diesels is based upon flooding the market with inexpensive engines and then making profits through expensive parts. That approach is obviously attractive for boat manufacturers; for boat owners, not so much.
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Old 20-01-2016, 20:44   #24
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

I don't come from a yachting background, so I don't need everything new and chrome.
Chances are, if it lasted 41 years, it will last a few more.

If you like the boat, the engine runs well and a mechanic says it's ok, then it's probably ok. Later, you can make a salt water cooled engine into a freshwater cooled engine. Used heat exchangers are around and many marine store sell them. You need a pump-strainer-thru hull, the exchanger, some hoses and an expansion tank.
If you overhaul the engine, go to a company that does rebuilding, not Volvo. Chances are the pistons can be used again. The bores have to be sleeved, but can be matched to the existing pistons. Rebuild companies have access to after market parts makers we don't. Their list price is probably half of Volvo's. Also, Ebay is a good used part source.
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Old 24-01-2016, 03:55   #25
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

Not sure why you would buy a day sailor when you live so close to marina del rey. There is a cheap sailing co-op there and you will pay $500 for the entire year. The co-op gets together once a month and they go through all the boat maintenance together to keep costs down. I would be all over this is I lived closer.

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Old 24-01-2016, 04:28   #26
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

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You are buying an old boat. For a low price getting a diesel inboard is a big plus. If it runs well, looks decent, I wouldnít worry about it. The old Volvos were great engines. Everything is a gamble, but donít over worry about something that isnít broke yet.
A pretty big gamble though.

No one with a brain would repower a boat like that, so if the engine fails beyond economical rebuild, the boat is either scrap, our outboard powered.

Those are pretty tough old engines, though. Are you able to rebuild it yourself, if you needed to? If the answer is yes, and if the engine starts and runs well, has good compression and oil pressure, doesn't overheat at WOT, is not too badly rusted anywhere, doesn't spew too much oil, or smoke inordinately, then it could be a gamble worth taking. You might get 20 more years out of it.

If you would have to take it to a mechanic in the event it failed, maybe not.

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Old 27-01-2016, 19:32   #27
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

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Not sure why you would buy a day sailor when you live so close to marina del rey. There is a cheap sailing co-op there and you will pay $500 for the entire year. The co-op gets together once a month and they go through all the boat maintenance together to keep costs down. I would be all over this is I lived closer.

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I used to belong to a co-op, I found when I wanted to take a boat out, they were usually booked, needed to reserve well in advance, not my strong suit. Also, a major use of my boat will be diving in Catalina. But yeah, the co-op can be great, if they work for you, usually they have power boats too for a change-up, just wasn't my deal.
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Old 27-01-2016, 19:53   #28
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

Update: I found a boat I liked more with a 16hp Universal 5416 freshwater cooled diesel, and it's only 30 years old . Offer accepted. Sea trial this weekend.

Thanks for the feedback on the Volvo. I wasn't comfortable purchasing it, but this thread should help others who run into the same engine make their own decision.
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Old 27-01-2016, 19:58   #29
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

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I don't come from a yachting background, so I don't need everything new and chrome.]
LOL, Who said anything about new and chrome?
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Old 27-01-2016, 20:52   #30
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

I have a boat with relatively few hours on a rebuilt MD7A. I had a few issues related to some poor work in the reinstallation but I think I have that sorted now. I ended up motor sailing about 2,000 miles into head winds a couple of years ago. Other than the exhaust elbow going she was flawless. I later fabricated a new exhaust elbow.

I have thought of replacing the engine but a couple of thoughts come to mind, the engine rotation is reverse of normal (left instead of right?) and the cooling is on the opposite side from a Beta/Nanni, so you need a new prop and to rework the exhaust run. That will add to the cost of the replacement.

While ruminating on a new engine I found a MD7 sitting in the mud at a junk shop. I bought it for $250. I got it home and knocked the cylinders loose. At the moment she seems to have no compression, but I may have done something stupid. Reversed the cam shaft? No matter, a full rebuild will cost a lot less than a new motor and it is a direct drop in replacement for the existing motor. Having pulled and reinstalled the existing engine I know I can do that in a couple of days by myself. In the meantime I now have a spare alternator, starter, and injector pump.

I got lucky, for sure. Just my personal story.
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