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Old 25-06-2012, 09:46   #1
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Universal Diesel

We just bought a boat with a Universal Deisel 40, circa 1990, 32hp at 2800 rpm. We don't know how many hours are on the engine but assume less than 5000. It runs fine and has been well maintained by previous owner (heat exchanger and starter replaced). I have no experience with these engines (I've had Volvos, Perkins, Yanmars, Westebekes). My concern is that, after several oil changes, the oil is still very black. Anyone have experience with these? What can we expect? How many hours can you get from these engines? We are planning to take the boat across the Pacific and need to know what failures might occur, what spares we'll need, how long we can expect this engine to run? Thanks for any information.
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Old 26-06-2012, 14:16   #2
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Re: Universal Diesel

I just finished rebuilding a Universal m-50 of about the same vintage for my 44 foot trimaran. The engines are built around the Kubota engine block- mine is the V-1902 which has been standard for skid steer loaders for the past 30 years or so, yours is based on the kubota V-1502- a very similar engine with slightly smaller pistons and a slightly shorter stroke on the crank. Kubota is known for making very hunky, reliable small diesel engines for a wide variety of applications.
That being said, I would recommend, at the very least, a compression check of the cylinders and an oil analysis. Diesel crankcase oil is usually pretty black from the high pressure in the pistons and the blowby combustion products- namely soot. Excessive soot or carbon in the oil may indicate worn rings, or incomplete combustion from poorly functioning injectors, but an oil analysis should be able to tell you this. Diesel engines can run for years, but they suffer mostly in a marine environment from corrosion and lack of use, as well as dirty fuel. The diesel grows bugs or gets water contamination which clogs the injectors leading to poor combustion and carbon buildup. My engine had rather a lot of pitting on the #2 and #3 piston, which I attributed to a small water leak, and some detonation probably from water in the fuel. Consequently, I completely rebuilt the engine with new pistons, sleeves, ground and lapped the valves and did a complete rebuild. How well I did- well,we'll see. Personally, I would be rather uneasy on relying on an untested engine for such an ambitious crossing.
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Old 26-06-2012, 14:48   #3
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Re: Universal Diesel

You might also post your question at catalinaowners.com forum. Catalina used these engines in a lot of boats. I can say that my small Universal diesel has always tuned the oil black immediately for the 14 years I've owned it. It still has great compression and does not use any oil between 50 hour oil changes. Kubota is a good source for parts like injectors, etc.
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Old 26-06-2012, 14:55   #4
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Re: Universal Diesel

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve W View Post
It still has great compression and does not use any oil between 50 hour oil changes.

50 hours!!!!! I'd die if I changed oil this often!!!!! We're going by the 200 hour interval in the book!!!
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Old 01-07-2012, 18:36   #5
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Re: Universal Diesel

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve W View Post
You might also post your question at catalinaowners.com forum. Catalina used these engines in a lot of boats. I can say that my small Universal diesel has always tuned the oil black immediately for the 14 years I've owned it. It still has great compression and does not use any oil between 50 hour oil changes. Kubota is a good source for parts like injectors, etc.
Exactly!

Most engines are tilted back, and the center outlet of the drain pan allows some old oil to stick around. It's always black. Get over it.
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Old 02-07-2012, 05:32   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PhantomBoatwork
I just finished rebuilding a Universal m-50 of about the same vintage for my 44 foot trimaran. The engines are built around the Kubota engine block- mine is the V-1902 which has been standard for skid steer loaders for the past 30 years or so, yours is based on the kubota V-1502- a very similar engine with slightly smaller pistons and a slightly shorter stroke on the crank. Kubota is known for making very hunky, reliable small diesel engines for a wide variety of applications.
That being said, I would recommend, at the very least, a compression check of the cylinders and an oil analysis. Diesel crankcase oil is usually pretty black from the high pressure in the pistons and the blowby combustion products- namely soot. Excessive soot or carbon in the oil may indicate worn rings, or incomplete combustion from poorly functioning injectors, but an oil analysis should be able to tell you this. Diesel engines can run for years, but they suffer mostly in a marine environment from corrosion and lack of use, as well as dirty fuel. The diesel grows bugs or gets water contamination which clogs the injectors leading to poor combustion and carbon buildup. My engine had rather a lot of pitting on the #2 and #3 piston, which I attributed to a small water leak, and some detonation probably from water in the fuel. Consequently, I completely rebuilt the engine with new pistons, sleeves, ground and lapped the valves and did a complete rebuild. How well I did- well,we'll see. Personally, I would be rather uneasy on relying on an untested engine for such an ambitious crossing.
Hey phantom ive got the 44 hp also its running nicely but ive just revamped a cal 39 would like to have a kubota contact for a new set of injecrors and a heat exchanger best p
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Old 02-07-2012, 07:08   #7
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Re: Universal Diesel

Universal Diesel engines are hardy simple machines. I have an M20, and she runs like a champ. I'm not a mechanic by any stretch, but if the engine is running smooth, the exhaust is clean, and there are no temperature or rpm spikes, you should be okay.

It's possible the inside of the engine needs a little cleaning. You could try one of the many oil additives. There is a thread on this forum discussing the various brands.

As far as spares go, bring plenty of filters for both fuel and oil. Carry extra oil and transmission fluid (enough for a change or two), a couple belts, an extra raw water impeller and extra coolant.

Happy Sailing!

p.s. Oil changes =
Could they have made the placement of the dipstick and drain plug any MORE back breaking and hand shredding
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Old 02-07-2012, 08:59   #8
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Re: Universal Diesel

Thank you for your responses. In another forum someone mentioned that the Universals run cool with the existing thermostat, which is the case with our engine which runs at approx. 160 degrees. Has anyone changed the thermostat to bring up the running temp to create a more efficient cylander burn which might eliminate carbon build-up and potential dirty oil?
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Old 02-07-2012, 10:22   #9
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Re: Universal Diesel

I realize 50 hours may be too often, but due to my business travel and weather (no wind, too much wind, etc) and family obligations, occasionally the boat may sit for 3-4 weeks at a time without being used.. I worry about moisture building up in the bottom of the oil pan and rusting it out. It's cheap insurance for 30 minutes work.
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Old 09-07-2016, 17:37   #10
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Re: Universal Diesel M50

I am in the market for a new to me boat, a couple I have looked at have the Universal M50. I know this is a Kubota block marinized by Universal (looking at at a 1993 vintage with ~ 2000 hours on the clock, not sure if Westerbeke had bought Universal at that time) which has an excellent reputation overall, what about in the marine market, for those that have the M50 has it been a good engine, any issues to look out for, what kind of hours are you getting out of the M50 before rebuild or re-power? Are they close in reliability to the Perkins or a Yanmar?

Thanks
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Old 17-07-2016, 18:45   #11
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Re: Universal Diesel

Steevemac,

Here's a picture showing the gears on the front of the M50
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Old 17-07-2016, 19:06   #12
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Re: Universal Diesel

Thanks for the pic. Do you know how many hours that engine had on it before tearing it down? I am wondering how many hours owners are getting out of their M50's and any major issues along the way. Being a marinized Kubota I would expect these would have a long service live before requiring rebuild or replacement. I have heard from some of the Perkins owners it is not uncommon to see 10,000 hours from Perkins if maintained properly. I hope the M50 is up there with the Perkins

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Old 17-07-2016, 19:30   #13
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Re: Universal Diesel

Most diesels turn the oil black soon after changes. Most recreational diesels have a filter that could be bigger. Many spin on filters also have a big brother that is longer if you care to look it up. The bigger the filter, the smaller the particle caught by the filter because the oil is passing thru much slower. One reason you see heavy duty diesels with 2 or 3 large filters.
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Old 17-07-2016, 20:16   #14
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Re: Universal Diesel

My engine had 1890 hours.

Keep in mind, I did not tear it down because I thought there were problems. I tore it down for the hell of it. The engine was running fine. I had time and motivation, so out it came. I also had no idea of its maintenance history. I bought the boat 4 years ago with 1860 hrs on engine, it's a 1982 boat with original engine.

Machine shop saw no issues with internal parts. I saw no issues with peripheral parts except:
1. one fuel pump cylinder was nearly shot (PO likely ran with bad fuel)
2. some pitting inside the water passages of the aluminum parts (gear case, thermostat housing), likely cause by mixing coolant types without correct flushing.

Engine always started within a few seconds, after rebuild, it starts within 1 second and runs more smoothly.

Good Luck in your hunt.
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