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Old 01-05-2015, 19:46   #1
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Oil analysis Atomic 4, high copper and lead?

Hello... So I have been trying to buy my first boat for some time now and recently have been moving ahead on a 1977 Islander 28. Had a survey done and everything looked good to go but then got engine oil analysis results back and seems to be some issues. The engine is an Atomic 4. In the wear metals the copper is 99 ppm and lead is 14 ppm. The copper is given a severe rating by the report and the lead a highly abnormal rating. Also there is another severe rating on the report for a 10% fuel dilution. So I've been talking to various people and researching as much as I can but it seems I keep on getting different answers from different folks. Some say the high copper and lead mean worn bearings and might need a rebuild soon. Gas in the fuel may need carburetor rebuilt, could be fuel injectors, or could just be idling too much. Others say that the oil analysis isn't really a good measure of the state of the engine on an Atomic 4 because the oil also lubricates the transmission, or whatever it is called in this engine. Also the oil analysis is only a good long term technique to see trends in the engine, suggesting a compression test and if it checks out things should be fine. Supposedly there haven't been any known issues with the engine. I really don't want to buy this boat only to have to turn around and do major engine work. Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.
-Ryan
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Old 01-05-2015, 21:02   #2
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Re: Oil analysis Atomic 4, high copper and lead?

If you haven't already done so you should contact Moyer marine

Moyer Marine Atomic 4 Engine Rebuilding and Parts

He's the A4 guru.
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Old 01-05-2015, 21:40   #3
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Re: Oil analysis Atomic 4, high copper and lead?

Copper is either main, thrust, or rod bearings. Not good, but what do you expect in an engine that old?
Budget a rebuild or engine swap in your negotiations.
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Old 02-05-2015, 00:36   #4
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Re: Oil analysis Atomic 4, high copper and lead?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ryhandro View Post
Hello... So I have been trying to buy my first boat for some time now and recently have been moving ahead on a 1977 Islander 28. Had a survey done and everything looked good to go but then got engine oil analysis results back and seems to be some issues. The engine is an Atomic 4. In the wear metals the copper is 99 ppm and lead is 14 ppm. The copper is given a severe rating by the report and the lead a highly abnormal rating. Also there is another severe rating on the report for a 10% fuel dilution. So I've been talking to various people and researching as much as I can but it seems I keep on getting different answers from different folks. Some say the high copper and lead mean worn bearings and might need a rebuild soon. Gas in the fuel may need carburetor rebuilt, could be fuel injectors, or could just be idling too much. Others say that the oil analysis isn't really a good measure of the state of the engine on an Atomic 4 because the oil also lubricates the transmission, or whatever it is called in this engine. Also the oil analysis is only a good long term technique to see trends in the engine, suggesting a compression test and if it checks out things should be fine. Supposedly there haven't been any known issues with the engine. I really don't want to buy this boat only to have to turn around and do major engine work. Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.

-Ryan

Sorry Ryan, no fuel injectors in a Atomic 4, just a big
ass carburetor.
If it's running good, compression is within 25 psi of each other per cylinder, oil psi at throttle is 35 to 45psi, and idles smooth.
It's probably just fine.
Do a good 2 hr sea trail with the engine at 1/2 to 3/4 throttle and watch for heat build up, (abnormal at 150 degrees).
It's raw water cooled probably, do you want it to stay cool,as in 130 to 140 max.


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Old 02-05-2015, 05:34   #5
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Re: Oil analysis Atomic 4, high copper and lead?

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Originally Posted by Boatyarddog View Post
...no fuel injectors in a Atomic 4...
This. And what is a nearly 40-year-old Atomic 4 worth?
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Old 02-05-2015, 06:19   #6
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Re: Oil analysis Atomic 4, high copper and lead?

I think what I'll do is a long sea trial monitoring the motor and a compression test and then go from there. Thanks, really appreciate it.
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Old 02-05-2015, 08:42   #7
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Re: Oil analysis Atomic 4, high copper and lead?

one sample does prove much, you need to change oil and filter and test again say in 20 hrs. indeed copper is the bearings, lead is the flashing ie the coating over the bearings


old engine you should step up to the universal diesel if you do the change out. it fits on the existing motor mounts
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Old 02-05-2015, 09:43   #8
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Re: Oil analysis Atomic 4, high copper and lead?

Do you have any real idea how many hours are on that oil?
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Old 02-05-2015, 10:05   #9
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Re: Oil analysis Atomic 4, high copper and lead?

Found out years ago, the hard way, you don't want to run an Atomic 4 with low oil pressure. There's no center main, so it takes (maybe) 30 psi to force the oil "uphill" to #2 & #3 rod bearings.
Since it's made like a Model T with the trans and engine sharing the same oil pan, it could be the clutch lining contaminating the oil.
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Old 02-05-2015, 10:19   #10
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Re: Oil analysis Atomic 4, high copper and lead?

Oil dilution in the Atomic IV is most commonly caused by the fuel pump diaphragm which cracks and allows gas to seep into the oil. The simple solution is to block off the mechanical pump hole with a plate and install an electric pump. If this has been happening over a long period, the oil could have been diluted enough to cause abnormal bearing wear,
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Old 02-05-2015, 11:11   #11
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Re: Oil analysis Atomic 4, high copper and lead?

Far in the future, WHEN APES RULE THE EARTH, THEIR BOATS WILL HAVE ATOMIC 4 ENGINES. These things last! BTW, I have owned 2, so I'm familiar with their demons.

First, change the oil.

Next, check for leaks, and good exhaust water output.
If the fuel line is rubber, replace it.
Get a spare set of plugs and wires. A spare alternator, starter and distributor cap wouldn't hurt either, you'll need them soon enough.

Do a good long sea trial.

If the thing runs, then it runs. Keep the rpm down, change the oil often, give it good gas, and it will last longer than you.

If the previous owner likes running at full throttle all the time, that would explain all your oil test results.

Having said all those nice things about the atomic 4...they are worthless. They are big heavy monsters that could fail at any time. They will burn tank after tank of gasoline, until your wallet runs dry...they are so very thirsty. I say this not to be mean, but a boat equipped with an atomic 4 should cost half as much as the same boat equipped with a diesel. I hope you are getting a bargain.
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Old 02-05-2015, 11:26   #12
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Re: Oil analysis Atomic 4, high copper and lead?

Hi Ryan,

I had a gasoline Atomic 4 many years ago in my first boat. It ran like a champ.

There is also a diesel Atomic 4. You mentioned both carburetor [gas] and injectors [diesel]: those are mutually exclusive on that engine. I'm going to assume you have a gas version and will predicate the rest of my reply on that.

I remember I had to mix an additive with unleaded gasoline to make it leaded gasoline... That may be a contributing factor to the lead on your analysis report... Without the additive the engine won't last long as unleaded gasoline doesn't have the lubricity needed for these older engines...

RE: Oil analyses: Trending is the reason for performing routine analysis of your oil. One single report may not be that useful without baseline data. For instance, how may hours are on the oil you had tested?

I would put more weight on my decision by asking for maintenance logs and questioning the prior owner(s) about oil change intervals, and whether they knew to add the lead additive to unleaded gasoline. [e.g., ask if they ever added anything to the fuel without tipping your hand...]

IIRC, the manufacturer recommended oil change interval for the gas Atomic 4's was every 40 hrs or 6 months... verify this as I haven't had an Atomic 4 in over 40 years...

Here is a good Atomic 4 article from Good Old Boat.

Worse case, if you had to put in a new engine, consider a new Betamarine diesel replacement. You might be able to negotiate the cost into your purchase if you decide the Atomic 4 is toast?...

Good luck in your quest, and remember there are other boats out there if you decide this one has more issues than you care to deal with...
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Old 02-05-2015, 12:28   #13
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Re: Oil analysis Atomic 4, high copper and lead?

A 40 yr old gas engine in a 40 year old boat should give you all the info you need to determine if major work will be needed. The only uncertainty is which fails first, even in a well maintained boat.
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Old 02-05-2015, 12:47   #14
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Re: Oil analysis Atomic 4, high copper and lead?

the atomic for is almost indestructible. Take a compression test, if all cylinders are closed, then take it for a sea trial. If it performs like one writer had written, half to three-quarters throttle for 2 hours, it's a great engine. I've overheated mine, running out of oil, run it with water in the oil, and it just keeps on ticking.
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Old 02-05-2015, 14:50   #15
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Re: Oil analysis Atomic 4, high copper and lead?

Trace amounts of copper in the oil could come from using Never Seize when putting parts back on.

Oil analysis are best used in a series of annual tests to compare changes.
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