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Old 19-01-2016, 20:17   #1
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Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

I'm looking for my first sailboat for day sailing, coastal cruising and Catalina. I've come upon an Islander 30 MK II, she's got her original 41-year-old Volvo MD6A engine (working, new shaft, strut and prop, no past service records, unknown hours, unknown rebuilds). From my limited research, I gather should I need to repower (new), it would be about twice the cost of the boat. I wouldn't want to repower my first boat.

I really feel like I should walk away based on what I've read about this engine, it's age, lack of parts or expensive parts.

Am I walking too soon?
Have I not considered something?

I don't generally ask the internet what to do, but man, I really want to find "my" boat. It's been like 6-7 months and the market's somewhat dried up compared to the summer. My own impatience is killing me...
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Old 19-01-2016, 20:27   #2
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

Quote:
Originally Posted by surfprimal View Post
I really feel like I should walk away based on what I've read about this engine
If it doesn't feel right to you, then yes, you should walk away imho.

Having said that: if you like the boat, have someone (help you) check the engine to figure out what state of maintenance it's in. Reading about it won't tell you half as much as a good check

I have the exact same engine, and that damn thing will probably outlive me ...
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Old 19-01-2016, 20:35   #3
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

OK so my friend recently bought a Cheoy Lee with an MD7A. First these engines have a great reputation. But I'd worry less about hours of running compared to hours in the water. As raw water cooled engines they will build up a black gunk throughout the engine that, if it has not been rebuilt and cleaned out, will make the engine unable to cool itself. The MD6A being older will more likely have the cooling problem. It gets compounded because as a raw water cooled engine runs, when it runs hotter than 145 degrees, it causes even MORE gunk build up. To make a long story short my friend's boat had overheating problems early on. Another mechanic friend and I pulled the engine out and he rebuilt it and cleaned it out. So far, so good, but if you have to hire a mechanic to do it, no, I'd say not worth it. Parts have become hard to come by and are expensive as well. It was a great little engine in its time. Now maybe this engine was rebuilt and is in good shape to run another 10 years. Or not. I hate to say it for your sake, because I can sense your anxiety, but if you can't be sure of the engine's condition, assume the worst and make an offer as though the boat has no engine. The good news is, I have HEARD, that Beta, (marinized Kubota I believe) makes an engine that fits in MD6A mounts (need to check on that.) So if you can get the boat cheap and you can afford a new engine, it might work out for you.
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Old 19-01-2016, 21:08   #4
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

It also depends on your price range and what you want in a boat. There's dozens of Catalina 30's in the area pretty cheap, with all kinds of different engines. I just searched for 30-33 ft boats in socal on yachtworld, you'll hit 100 or so boats. I only mention the C30 because there's so many of them.

My A4 has been in the water since 1980. Still works. I need to acid wash the cooling, but I think the rings will give out first. So you may want a mechanic to look at the MD6A and see what they say. Hey, you could buy a 4 year old boat for $200K and it may puke it's engine in a month. Far less likely, but it may. For any boat under $20K my attitude is that the boat is essentially 'free'. The maintenance and the slip fees are the real costs. I'll assume you've got a slip lined up, as most places in so cal they're impossible to get. (Waiting list at Dana Point for a 30' slip is around 2 years now. I'm on the 35' list and never expect my name to come up - so I guess I'll keep the 30' boat.)

Other option used on older boats of this size is the 'bolt the 9.9 outboard to the transom' solution. I think it looks awful, but it'll work.

So if you give up on the Islander, look around from San Diego up to Santa Barbara. There's no shortage of boats.
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Old 19-01-2016, 22:47   #5
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lizzy Belle View Post
If it doesn't feel right to you, then yes, you should walk away imho.
In theory I completely agree. But I always get pre-buyers remorse before a large purchase. And I don't know about you all but, buying a used older boat, if far more stressful than buying say, a new car. I'm a fairly impatient shopper too. I'm pretty proud of myself that I haven't just gone and bought some random boat, I've done my homework, I've shopped around, I'VE BEEN PATIENT!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lizzy Belle View Post
Having said that: if you like the boat, have someone (help you) check the engine to figure out what state of maintenance it's in. Reading about it won't tell you half as much as a good check
Definitely, if the process goes any further, I'll get a marine mechanic out there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lizzy Belle View Post
I have the exact same engine, and that damn thing will probably outlive me ...
I've heard that too. It's really the availability of parts that has me worried. I've read of failures where the only option was to repower and as I said, I don't want to have to repower my first boat, of course, anything can happen, but I'd certainly be far more comfortable if it was Universal or A4.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Don C L View Post
The MD6A being older will more likely have the cooling problem. It gets compounded because as a raw water cooled engine runs, when it runs hotter than 145 degrees, it causes even MORE gunk build up. To make a long story short my friend's boat had overheating problems early on. Another mechanic friend and I pulled the engine out and he rebuilt it and cleaned it out. So far, so good, but if you have to hire a mechanic to do it, no, I'd say not worth it. Parts have become hard to come by and are expensive as well. It was a great little engine in its time. Now maybe this engine was rebuilt and is in good shape to run another 10 years. Or not.
Thanks Don, yeah that's basically the gist of what my research turned up. This is Southern California, so without any information to contradict, I must assume it's been in the water the whole time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeepbluetj View Post
It also depends on your price range and what you want in a boat.
Day sailor, coastal cruiser and Catalina. I'd like to keep my budget right around $10k for the initial boat itself. I don't expect it to be kitted out for my end use, no major issues.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeepbluetj View Post
My A4 has been in the water since 1980. Still works. I need to acid wash the cooling, but I think the rings will give out first.
I'd actually be fine with an A4, plenty of parts and people who can fix em.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeepbluetj View Post
I'll assume you've got a slip lined up, as most places in so cal they're impossible to get. (Waiting list at Dana Point for a 30' slip is around 2 years now. I'm on the 35' list and never expect my name to come up - so I guess I'll keep the 30' boat.)
I've heard that, not a problem up here, I hear MDR is 20% vacant, King Harbor had slips last time I called to. http://file.lacounty.gov/dbh/docs/cms1_151852.pdf

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeepbluetj View Post
Other option used on older boats of this size is the 'bolt the 9.9 outboard to the transom' solution. I think it looks awful, but it'll work.
Agreed but I have looked at a couple. The old engine (if is truly dead) has to be taken out, free up storage for a dive compressor or something. I don't want some dead engine in my boat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeepbluetj View Post
So if you give up on the Islander, look around from San Diego up to Santa Barbara. There's no shortage of boats.
That's exactly where I have been looking, it is picking up a bit lately, seemed to slow down over the last 3 months or so, it was hopping over the summer, but I didn't really know what I wanted at the time and I was sailing every weekend so I was happy. I was tracking trends and local prices on certain models, getting ideas of maintenance and repair costs, etc.
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Old 20-01-2016, 01:40   #6
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

Quote:
Originally Posted by surfprimal View Post
I'm pretty proud of myself that I haven't just gone and bought some random boat, I've done my homework, I've shopped around, I'VE BEEN PATIENT!
I know how hard that can be ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by surfprimal View Post
I've heard that too. It's really the availability of parts that has me worried.
Not a problem here, nor are people who really know -and dare I say, love working on- these engines.
But I can't speak for the US, of course.

Your best bet is a good mechanic, and -if that goes well- a survey if you can agree on a price with the seller.
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Old 20-01-2016, 09:13   #7
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

Just something to keep in mind. The MD6A has (I believe) the older starter/generator combination that is even harder to get repaired or parts for than the conventional starter on the MD6B or MD7A. The old Volvos are great engines, but you need to be a bit of a mechanic to own one. On another note, there was an MD7A on craigslist recently in Socal for $1000. Another MD6B was for sale in Oregon for even less, so they are not impossible to replace for not much money, but any engine of that vintage can be a problem. Pay your dime and take your chances. Good Luck. _____Grant.
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Old 20-01-2016, 09:40   #8
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

I have an old MD6A in my Dufour Arpege. No idea what the hours are on it, but it has operated flawlessly for me for the last 4 years. Always starts right up, can be easily cranked by hand, if the battery goes. Yes, some parts are getting scarce, maybe even unavailable, and expensive. I've had to fabricate part of the exhaust housing on mine. However I've also seen complete MD6A engines for sale for around $1,500 bucks, including the transmission. I keep that in mind in case I ever need a repower. Also, mine has the freshwater pump, and runs fresh through the engine, and raw water to cool the fresh. My biggest complaints are that there were a couple of times I could have used a bit more than the 10hp, but that isn't a big deal. The other is the starter/generator. Easily found and replaced, but I've been unable to find anyone around here that knows how to wire one into the boat, so it starts and charges.

One other thing. It sips the diesel. Run all day long on 6-7 gallons.
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Old 20-01-2016, 09:55   #9
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

Put a long shaft, electric start outboard on the back and stop worrying about engines :-)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by surfprimal View Post
I'm looking for my first sailboat for day sailing, coastal cruising and Catalina. I've come upon an Islander 30 MK II, she's got her original 41-year-old Volvo MD6A engine (working, new shaft, strut and prop, no past service records, unknown hours, unknown rebuilds). From my limited research, I gather should I need to repower (new), it would be about twice the cost of the boat. I wouldn't want to repower my first boat.

I really feel like I should walk away based on what I've read about this engine, it's age, lack of parts or expensive parts.

Am I walking too soon?
Have I not considered something?

I don't generally ask the internet what to do, but man, I really want to find "my" boat. It's been like 6-7 months and the market's somewhat dried up compared to the summer. My own impatience is killing me...
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Old 20-01-2016, 09:55   #10
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

Mount a 9.9 on a stern bracket while you rebuild the engine.
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Old 20-01-2016, 10:01   #11
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

Dont walk, run. volvo is a Swedish term for "at least another thousand." :-)

This is a country with beautiful women and ridiculously expensive marime diesels and both require equallly expensive maintenance. Been there, done that, got the t shirts. Get a boat with a Yanmar or something else reliable amd reasonable.
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Old 20-01-2016, 10:02   #12
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

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 wouldn’t worry about it. The old Volvos were great engines. Everything is a gamble, but don’t over worry about something that isn’t broke yet.
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Old 20-01-2016, 10:10   #13
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

My first boat, 10 years ago, a 1982 27 footer, had an original MD5A. That thing was ancient when last sold in the early 80s but boy did it chug along in all kinds of conditions. It gave me 3 seasons of problem free (and maintenance free ) run but knowing that this was my "training" 1st boat and having picked the boat up for the price of a haul to the marina I did not put any $$ into the maintenance or upkeep and that caught up with me when the engine conked out on me during the spring service.

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 (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. There should be a thread somewhere on CF with references to part numbers compatibility chart or some such.
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Old 20-01-2016, 10:34   #14
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

Right now, I'm pulling the leaking Volvo MSB trans from my Formosa 30, (looking for a really small mechanic )
but it looks like about a grand or more to fix it.
if the dealer can find the parts.
Anybody here know of a good used MSB?
Something that bothers me, if I can get the crankshaft journals for my 1938 flathead welded and ground back to stock for less than 300 bucks, why can't they repair the sealing surface on the output flange instead of selling me a new one for $900?
Mystery of the deep?
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Old 20-01-2016, 11:26   #15
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Re: Walk away from Volvo MD6A?

You can't make generalizations about an engine that old. Of any brand. Everything depends on history, use, maintenance and present condition. I have one, also in a Dufour Arpege. It has run flawlessly for the last ten years, ever since I put it in. I paid $1200 for it then.
It is a bullet proof and very simple design made of excellent metal and lots of it. If it's in good condition now, it will likely remain so if you run it regularly and maintain it properly. As someone else said, it must be run at the proper temperature.
My suggestion: try to find a diesel mechanic who knows them and pay him to check it thoroughly. That guy may be hard to find. He'll have gray hair. Or no hair. It might cost you a couple hundred, but it could be the best money you ever spent! Then test run it hard for an hour. Under weigh, at speed, not tied to the dock. They can smoke a bit. And they are noisier and vibrate more than newer, light weight types like the Yanmars that run like sewing machines. If it shows any faults at all, walk.
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