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Old 01-11-2008, 17:37   #16
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Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Boston, Providence, Padanaram
Boat: Krogen Cutter 38' -- Angel Rose
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Pathfinder Engines

I know this is a bit late in the thread, but I just came on.
About the Pathfinder engine, I wrote a little bit here on this in Cruising World a couple of years ago. If you're still deciding on old vs new, I thought it might be of interest.

Avoid the VW?
I was a little dismayed that in his otherwise wonderful review of the Nicholson 35 (Classic Plastic, Jan 05), reviewer John Kretschmer advised potential owners to avoid vessels with a marinized VW diesel of “dubious reputation.”

These engines, called Pathfinders, are the marine version of the strong, reliable, and very efficient 40hp industrial VW diesel built in Germany from 1978 to 1992. VW Rabbit pickup trucks routinely put hundreds of thousands of miles on the land version -- at close to 50 mpg. The marine version has not only been a workhorse on Canadian fishing boats for over a quarter century, but they’ve been cranking along quite nicely in thousands of well-maintained sailboats for years – including our ’82 Krogen 38.

Discussion on the Internet tells me that any reputation issues stem strictly from the Pathfinders early use of the (now common) rubber timing belt. Evidently no one knew back then that with lack of use these belts could get brittle, break, and ruin an engine.

But older VW mechanics have also told me (and still tell me) that these engines are still one of their favorites – easy to work on, including the belt, with parts still available from any Volkswagen dealer. (A company in Canada still provides customized manuals, parts, and advice -- as well as new and rebuilt engines.)

I would certainly not avoid these little diesels. Properly maintained, they should run virtually trouble free for many thousands of hours – with the added benefits of being easy to start, quiet, very smooth, and quite stingy with the fuel.

Anyway, if you haven't bought your boat yet, I would not rule out something with the Pathfinders -- Pathfinder Marine has a very good service group up in Canada that has helped me out considerably. I have a VW mechanic that helps me out on the big stuff, but I've been able to do it all on my own so far, and I'm not a mechanic.

Last, not all VW marinized engines are Pathfinders. John from Pathfinder wrote to me after he saw the Cruising World article to say the Nicholsons actually had a South American VW conversion that was not a Pathfinder. Pathfinders are orange from 1978-82, and silver grey after that. New replacements are available should you need one, but mine is still running strong after 27 years -- and yes, I change the timing belt every few years.


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Old 01-11-2008, 22:35   #17
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our 6 cylinder Perkins is doing 6000 hours, is 17 years old and runs well. Would not even think of rebuilding her yet, way to dangerous since she runs like new.
Maintanance is everything and we keep track of her daily, weekly, monthly and so on...
25000 is the first overhaul date planned!

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Old 24-06-2012, 16:03   #18
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Boat: Nightwind 35'
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VW Pathfinder - Diesel not starting

I realize it's been many moons since you posted this article and I hope you can still reply to it. I too have a VW pathfinder (1981) and you made reference to a place in Canada where you can still get parts. Do you have any contact details for these folks in Canada?
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Old 24-06-2012, 16:42   #19
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Re: Marine Diesel: Age or Hours?

I hope to start mine soon with 5800 hours....(I dont think it has been maintained very well)......I would like to see 10,000 without breaking the engine apart............may the force be with me
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Old 24-06-2012, 16:58   #20
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Boat: Valiant 40 (1975)
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Re: Marine Diesel: Age or Hours?

We are all in agreement about the Pathfinder, but the replacement? I am really happy with the Beta, and it was about the same price.

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