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Old 16-02-2014, 10:35   #16
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Re: Would you ever consider buying a boat with a Volvo Penta 2003 or 2003T engine?

Julie, here's our experience buying a 1986 sailboat for coastal cruising with a Volvo 2003: We used the engine often in the San Juan Islands and it performed reliably except for two things. The exhaust elbow would become plugged over time and had to be removed about every two years for boiling out. We replaced it every four years. The other issue was more serious. There can be a design flaw with a mechanical part called the spline that connects the transmission to the engine. The spline can and does strip out, which means the transmission won't work. If you do a google search you'll probably find more info on the 2003 spline. Anyway, this happened to us so we had to replace the spline and gear box on the transmission. Volvo has redesigned the spline.

After ten years with the Volvo 2003 we decided to refit the boat for offshore cruising. The engine was still performing well but we didn't want to rely on it and we wanted more power. We sold it in operating condition and installed a Beta Marine 38 and had to work on the engine mounts to do it. We were able to use our original prop. Cost about $11-12K.

One thing about a repower to think about... Take a look at how the old engine would be removed from the boat. Ours was easy, the companionway was big enough. I've read about other people having to cut an opening in the cockpit to remove an engine.
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Old 16-02-2014, 11:10   #17
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Re: Would you ever consider buying a boat with a Volvo Penta 2003 or 2003T engine?

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Yes, I will have to factor that into a potential purchase price. I'm sure the seller will feel that the engine "runs, and is serviceable", but having to set aside $10,000-12,500 for a re-power is daunting.

Said engine is a 2003t with about 2100 hours on it, and is 25 years old. Service record indicates annual oil/trans & filter change. Other than that, going back to 1999, when bought was purchased I only see:

- Hours 1533 - New Water Pump Drive Shaft Gear
- Hours 1756 - Rebuilt Alternator & New Packing for Stuffing Box
- Hours 1900 -Reworked Ignition Wiring Harness for Loose Connection
- Hours 1938 - Stuffing Box Adjustment

One last thing, this boat has been on the hard up north since 2011, and presumably the engine has not been run since then.

What do you think??
I was quoted around $12K for the rebuild of a 1988 Westerbeke W-52 with only 1,300 hours on it. Because we bought the boat in 2006, I had not been the "maintainer" and did not want to venture off soundings without a rebuild to "roll the odometer back to zero".

I was then quoted about a thousand bucks more for a brand-new Beta 60 that weighed 150 pounds less, had a better fit in the engine bay, eight more horses and superior fuel economy. And Kubota spares are essentially tractor/backhoe stuff (I see the Beta 60 in small construction equipment all the time). They are reasonable in a way the parts for the '80s Westerbeke were not.

The choice was easy for us, even though it's involved a lot of hard work and some fabrication.

My point is that if you are using the boat in a well-serviced area and you are using it lightly, and have mechanical skills, keep it. If you see the engine as "mission-critical" and you are going offshore, the equation changes.

My smaller sailboat has a 1973 Atomic 4 rebuilt by me in 2005. I learned a lot and it runs like a top. Cost: about $1,300. This boat, however, is strictly Great Lakes and I have trouble using 10 gallons of fuel per season, and I have about 125 hours on it in nine years, so the "profile" is utterly different. To have repowered with diesel would have exceeded the cost of the boat...so "fix the A4" was the conclusion.

So I would say it's not about the Volvo so much as it is about how you sail and how you can service an engine that is perhaps not the acme of great design. Some guys in my club have ancient Thorneycrofts and Grey diesels that keep on keeping on, so it's certainly possible to keep a diesel running longer than a parrot.
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Old 16-02-2014, 11:16   #18
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Re: Would you ever consider buying a boat with a Volvo Penta 2003 or 2003T engine?

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One thing about a repower to think about... Take a look at how the old engine would be removed from the boat. Ours was easy, the companionway was big enough. I've read about other people having to cut an opening in the cockpit to remove an engine.
Good advice here. I have easy access others do not. Every aspect of the job was simplified for me once I'd built my own gantry. In the photo below, I could literally sit beside the engine and lower and raise it with one hand while finding my motor mount marks. It makes a huge difference and is one of the reasons why, if you pay a mechanic, the $12K engine ends up costs $20-25K. You're paying them to conquer physics and to work in tiny spaces.

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Old 16-02-2014, 11:48   #19
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Re: Would you ever consider buying a boat with a Volvo Penta 2003 or 2003T engine?

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Originally Posted by Annie in WA View Post
Julie, here's our experience buying a 1986 sailboat for coastal cruising with a Volvo 2003: We used the engine often in the San Juan Islands and it performed reliably except for two things. The exhaust elbow would become plugged over time and had to be removed about every two years for boiling out. We replaced it every four years. The other issue was more serious. There can be a design flaw with a mechanical part called the spline that connects the transmission to the engine. The spline can and does strip out, which means the transmission won't work. If you do a google search you'll probably find more info on the 2003 spline. Anyway, this happened to us so we had to replace the spline and gear box on the transmission. Volvo has redesigned the spline.


One thing about a repower to think about... Take a look at how the old engine would be removed from the boat. Ours was easy, the companionway was big enough. I've read about other people having to cut an opening in the cockpit to remove an engine.

Spline issue is scary, sounds like there isn't much you can do to prevent it from failing. For now, we're not offshoring-unless you consider Lake Michigan's 50 mile width, offshoring.

As for the engine size, it reminds me of people who buy mattresses or furniture that won't make it up the stairs and around the corner.
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Old 16-02-2014, 11:56   #20
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Re: Would you ever consider buying a boat with a Volvo Penta 2003 or 2003T engine?

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My point is that if you are using the boat in a well-serviced area and you are using it lightly, and have mechanical skills, keep it. If you see the engine as "mission-critical" and you are going offshore, the equation changes.


So I would say it's not about the Volvo so much as it is about how you sail and how you can service an engine that is perhaps not the acme of great design. Some guys in my club have ancient Thorneycrofts and Grey diesels that keep on keeping on, so it's certainly possible to keep a diesel running longer than a parrot.
We're planning on using the boat between Chicago and Western Michigan, perhaps as far north as Mackinac. Mostly harbor hopping, and day sails.

Even if we move the boat southeast, our style and use of sailing will be similar. Probably never more than 30-50 miles offshore.

Is a loss of power out there a problem? Yes, but it's not like we're crossing the Atlantic.

As my partner says, you only usually press the "iron genie" button if you have to be somewhere at a certain time, or if the wind completely dies.

Thoughts?
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Old 16-02-2014, 12:07   #21
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Re: Would you ever consider buying a boat with a Volvo Penta 2003 or 2003T engine?

Local lake sailing and the engine checks out after a good diesel mechanic gives it a going over and everything else on the boat is just the way you want it, then I'd hold my nose and do the best deal I could knowing full well that I would have green engine nightmares. Personally I have owned 2 volvos just don't ask me why I didn't learn my lesson with the first one. Good luck!
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Old 16-02-2014, 12:26   #22
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Re: Would you ever consider buying a boat with a Volvo Penta 2003 or 2003T engine?

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Is a loss of power out there a problem? Yes, but it's not like we're crossing the Atlantic.
I think one could make a good argument that a reliable engine is far more important for coastal cruising than offshore passagemaking.

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Old 16-02-2014, 12:27   #23
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Re: Would you ever consider buying a boat with a Volvo Penta 2003 or 2003T engine?

I just remembered one other thing about our Volvo 2003. It was hard starting until we installed a glow plug to warm it prior to starting it up. It didn't come with a glow plug and it should have. I agree with Robert. Good engine survey, some negotiation and maybe question the owner more on it's history now that you know more about it. All things considered, I liked the engine. The new red Beta is terrific, however.
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Old 16-02-2014, 12:46   #24
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Re: Would you ever consider buying a boat with a Volvo Penta 2003 or 2003T engine?

There seem to be plenty of people willing to say the 2003 type is a fine engine once you solve a couple known issues...cooling? And evidently the fixes are known now. There are a lot more Yanmars out there, so it's hard to tell but there are plety of stories with Yanmar issues too.... and many of them are catastrophic! I've had 9 diesel enigines, 3 were Yanmars and those three were the only problem engines of the 9... and big problems.... coincidence?
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Old 16-02-2014, 17:45   #25
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Re: Would you ever consider buying a boat with a Volvo Penta 2003 or 2003T engine?

NEVER had hard starting or gearbox spline issues with mine. No glow pre heat. Hard starting in a diesel is often a sign of poor compression or inadequate cranking speed.

I do not think that the 2003T is a bad motor. As I said ours has 5000 hours on it since rebuild, 9500 hours since new. Still going fine.

BUT, like all motors, it must be properly maintained. Also, the Volvo rev counter was not accurate. Mine was reading 30% high! The carboning of the exhaust elbow is caused by running the engine too slow - can be related to the taco/rev counter problem! The Turbo will carbon as well if this is the case. IF you get one, part of your initial maintenance needs to be removing and cleaning all heat exchangers (OIL, Water and refrigeration, if fitted), check both water pumps (raw and fresh), remove and check turbo and exhaust elbow. In the cooling pipe between the thermostat and the exhaust elbow is a small plastic flow restrictor. Make sure there is a small hole through it - it's prone to blocking, and will cause overheating. Often neglected/forgotten by mechanics working on this motor. I'm pretty familiar with this motor, and happy to provide info/advice to anyone who has one with problems...
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Old 16-02-2014, 18:13   #26
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Re: Would you ever consider buying a boat with a Volvo Penta 2003 or 2003T engine?

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No, Volvo are still just making gasoline I/O's based on poorly marinized Ford truck motors - all of their models are exactly like that 1970's petrol engine you worked on. Best to stay completely away from them. No other engines have problems like all of the Volvos.

But thanks for making my point for me!

Mark
Sorry, I am not suggesting Volvo have not come a long way from that old clunker, but I do think design philosophies take a long time to change in big companies, and that engine was very strange.

Often when I read threads on engine problems I see what I would call a pattern of failures. In the case of Volvos I read of small seals failing, complicated little pipes and addon bits giving trouble. So I percieve this as an indication that philosophically they are still similar to that old 1970s clunker, even if mechanically they are far removed.

I have no experience of any newer Volvo engines (except that I drive a recent model Volvo, but it has nothing to do with the marine version AFAIK), so I may be reading far to much into the threads on the issue.

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Old 16-02-2014, 18:58   #27
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Re: Would you ever consider buying a boat with a Volvo Penta 2003 or 2003T engine?

Thanks, Annie, Matt and everyone. Your helpful advice reminds me why I want to be part of the sailing family.
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Old 16-02-2014, 20:00   #28
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Re: Would you ever consider buying a boat with a Volvo Penta 2003 or 2003T engine?

Well, I just stumbled across this thread and decided to add my 2 cents...
I only have one data point, I bought a 1986 boat with a Volvo 2003 motor. To get from my dock to open water is about 30 minutes or so of running, and the same back (unless the wind is just right and I can sail most of the way up the bayou). The motor runs fine, a little oil smoke when heavily loaded, but then it is more than 25 years old. I do agree about the rubber seals on the cooling water lines, I have a little drip on one that so far hasn't been worth worrying about. Raw water impellers don't seem to last more than a year, but that's when I would replace it anyway.
As far as no glow plugs & hard starting, in warm weather I have no trouble at all starting. In cold weather, my motor has a gimmick on the injector pump where before starting you advance the speed control more than about halfway, then pull the fuel shutoff and push it in again. This sets the injector pump to put in an extra shot of fuel, sort of like the choke on a gas engine. Works great. My last boat had a Yanmar, by the way, and I loved that motor, but without glow plugs it was an ordeal to start in cold weather. (I also had to replace the motor mounts, which are considered a maintenance item on Yanmars).
All I'm saying is that in my particular case the Volvo has been as reliable and good-running as you could ask for. YMMV.
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Old 16-02-2014, 21:02   #29
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Re: Would you ever consider buying a boat with a Volvo Penta 2003 or 2003T engine?

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Sorry, I am not suggesting Volvo have not come a long way from that old clunker, but I do think design philosophies take a long time to change in big companies, and that engine was very strange.
Volvo has neither designed nor built a small diesel in over 20 years. Since then, they are identical in every way but color with the corresponding models of Perkins.

That is because they are designed and made by Perkins and resold by Volvo (The name "Perkin" is even cast right into the block).

It would be strange indeed if you know of bad small seals, complicated pipes, etc on Volvos, but never heard about those on Perkins...

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Old 16-02-2014, 21:16   #30
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Re: Would you ever consider buying a boat with a Volvo Penta 2003 or 2003T engine?

Fair enough, I am probably too out of date with this to contribute much then. Certainly I get the impression that Perkins have a good rep. Maybe the stuff I am reading relates to significantly older engines, or maybe it is simply a case that if you have enough of a type of engine around you are bound to get a pool of problems.

One of my pet gripes about working with computers is that none of my clients ever phones to tell me things are working perfectly, so maybe it's the same with the Volvo. Lots of people having a great run with them, and hardly likely to post about how well their engine is running today. Not exactly a great need for advice about THAT paticular situation.

Anyway, no matter how good or bad the engine, I think it pays to be ready for the thing to go toes up tomorrow, since even the best engines can go bang without apparent warning. I kept a cash quarantine for our engine when I bought the boat. So far, so good... fingers crossed.

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