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Old 03-06-2008, 08:32   #1
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Marine Diesel: Age or Hours?

I'm currently looking at purchasing one of two different boats: The first one has relatively low engine hours (1400) but is almost 30 years old. The second is newer (10 years) but has higher hours (4200). Both seem to have been maintained fairly well.

How long can you expect a diesel to last in salt water and air? If an engine IS 30 years old, can it be expected to last several more years if it's been adequately maintained?

As usual, any help is appreciated.
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Old 03-06-2008, 10:41   #2
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Well cared for you might expect 6000 hours before a rebuild is required. My engine is almost 20 years old with 4,000 and it's in fine shape. It might be the engine hour meter has been replaced too<g>. You should be able to get the engine checked out. Non use may be the worse problem than number of hours. I think I would consider the two about equal. The less hours may have other problems due to not having been run much. These engines like to work for long periods regularly.

Your basic sea trial can usually spot problems either by examination or by running. You'll do both and then check the temperature. After that the things attached to the engine can also be a problem. Water pump, alternator, transmission all are not really related to the engine but have their issues to deal with too. A tank full of old fuel might be a big problem too. You'll want all those parts examined since those combined add a lot of expense if they were all replaced. Replacement of the engine does not include the rest of the parts.

Based only on the information provided I would say they both could be fine and i would not rule either one dead without a sea trial.
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Old 03-06-2008, 10:56   #3
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My Volvo penta is going on 23 and had the top end (valves) springs and so forth re built and starts and runs fine. She puts out some nasty dark smoke when cold starting but it clears when she gets up to operating temp. She's old by very reliable and has only has the odd pump and impeller maintenance along with regular oil and filter changes.
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Old 03-06-2008, 11:08   #4
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Age should not be a factor except that newer designs are lighter and more efficient. Diesels are built to last and the older ones even more so.

A group of friends and I once had the challenge to get a diesel (Military generator) going after it had been in outside storage in a salt air environment for about 25 years. It was totally seized. We hit it with a lot of penetrating oil and put the biggest pipe wrench on the 4" shaft with about a 6' pipe on the wrench and put about 5 guys on the pipe. We broke it free and got it started shortly after that, and it ran good.
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Old 03-06-2008, 11:15   #5
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Quote:
Age should not be a factor except that newer designs are lighter and more efficient. Diesels are built to last and the older ones even more so.
New engines almost crank over like a gasoline engine. They have done a lot with making them easy to start. sailboat engines get a bad reputation for having the exhaust manifolds build up with carbon form too light usage.

Old generators tended to run sometimes for days on end in not so friendly environments. The extensive running is almost an advantage.
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Old 04-06-2008, 02:17   #6
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The two big questions firstly are, What are the engines and what are the boats.
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Old 04-06-2008, 04:39   #7
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Both age and hours matter but an engine's health can be determined fairly well by an experienced engine guy.

Worth having done. Diesel engine overhauls can be pricey.
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Old 04-06-2008, 06:06   #8
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The older engine is a VW Pathfinder, the newer is a BMW.
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Old 04-06-2008, 13:55   #9
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Never heard of a VW Patherfinder. Didn't even know VW made a diesel. The BMW was an OK engine. But a small engine and not noted for very high engine hrs like a large lumbering diesel. Big slow reving diesels will clock up more hrs than faster eving small engines.
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Old 05-06-2008, 05:26   #10
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The older engine is a VW Pathfinder
These were derived from the Golf/Rabbit auto diesels... generally reasonably reliable if run regularly, but like many light-weight marinized auto conversions, don't tollerate prolonged non-use very well... `course, I guess that applies to most engines... As I recall, their big claim to fame was it was one of the first generally available little kickers that didn't need to be bled if you ran the tank dry... the pump would self-scavange...
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Old 07-06-2008, 14:44   #11
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These were derived from the Golf/Rabbit auto diesels... generally reasonably reliable if run regularly, but like many light-weight marinized auto conversions, don't tolerate prolonged non-use very well... `course, I guess that applies to most engines...
The VW Pathfiner engine was one of the first with the rubber timing belts. This was the cause for much of the bad reputation these engines have received in marine use.
They require one bit critical maintenance. They cannot be left to quietly rust in the bilge.
If the timing belt is not changed out every 2,500 to 3,000 hours, they can break, and when they do, they eat the valves, and the engines often a total loss.
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Old 07-06-2008, 17:50   #12
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A very good diesel mechanic that services both commercial diesel engines and yacht engines told me that commercial engines tend to wear out first and that yacht engines tend to corrode out before they wear out.

To get a really accurate analysis of your engine, you will need to have a good diesel mechanic have a look at it and get an oil analysis of the engine.
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Old 07-06-2008, 17:53   #13
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Originally Posted by svquest2 View Post
Age should not be a factor except that newer designs are lighter and more efficient. Diesels are built to last and the older ones even more so.

A group of friends and I once had the challenge to get a diesel (Military generator) going after it had been in outside storage in a salt air environment for about 25 years. It was totally seized. We hit it with a lot of penetrating oil and put the biggest pipe wrench on the 4" shaft with about a 6' pipe on the wrench and put about 5 guys on the pipe. We broke it free and got it started shortly after that, and it ran good.
Let me guess. It was an old Detroit 2-71, 20kW? Those gensets are bullet proof.
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Old 07-06-2008, 19:26   #14
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I had a VW Golf diesel in my yacht, now changed for a Yanmar. IMHO the Golf engines do not belong in a boat. Reasons
Rubber Band drive for OHC,
Aluminium cylinder head (corrosion, even with FWC) and many problems with cracked heads in cars,
FW pump & thermostat located down low (designed to be worked on from a hoist)up against engine bearers
With Bowman heat exchanger had to remove one of the coolant hoses to take starter motor off,
Complex FW cooling circuit
Add on salt water pump
Light weight alternator mounts

Recommend avoiding these, they were the first diesel VW built and had their share of problems
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Old 07-06-2008, 19:56   #15
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I remember those diesels in the VW Rabbit back in the late 70's....they were crap.

So they put an aluminum head, which are prone to warping, on the engine in order to save weight where boats don't necessarily need to shave weight?

Timing belts on marine Diesels? Seems ridiculous considering that when they break them there is the potential of bending valves and destroying the head.

The water pump">raw water pump is on the lower side of the engine....we all know what a drag it is to hang upside down across an engine trying to access the lower part.

I agree...time to get a Yanmar.
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