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Old 10-30-2007
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Diesel Inspection or Survey-Necessary?

Greetings, I thought I'd ask the board about this:

I am looking at a former Moorings 1999 Leopard (Robertson and Caine) 3800. The boat reportedly has 1600 hours on the engines.

Neither my broker or I believe this to be accurate when every other boat of the same vintage/history has 3000+ hours on the engines. So we are operating on the assumption that the engine hour meter either quit at some point, or was replaced.

[As a side note, my broker used to work (10 years ago) at at the Moorings Tortola base. He called someone on the ground down there and was told they "lay-up" about half the Cats in the summer, so if it was one of those boats, 1900 hours is possible.]

I have asked a reputable engine surveyor about the cost to survey both engines and received a quote of $790.

I am thinking that the survey would be money well spent based on the uncertainty surrounding the hours, but I wanted to check to see if anyone had other suggestions or comments. I did a quick search of Diesel Survey with no hits, it seems uncommon to do this on a Sailboat?

Alternatively, I could have an oil analysis done for $45 for both engines. But I know of the limitations that go along with that and think an "eyes-on" survey might be beneficial.

Thanks!
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Old 10-30-2007
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I would do it

I just bought an older boat, and in my naivete, I assumed the surveyor would be knowledgeable about diesels. Wrong! He managed to start it, and declared it fit since it obviously runs.

I wish I had spent the few $hundred to have a good diesel mechanic poke and pry and give me the good/bad news. If he recommends getting the oil analyzed, I would do that as well.

The most you have to lose is his fee, and if the motor passes with flying colors you can motor off into the horizon with no serious worries. If he
thinks it is a mess, you have saved big time.

YMMV

Micheal
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Old 10-30-2007
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It's a small amount of money compared to the price of the boat. I would have mixed feelings about doing it however. I think the charter companies generally take good care of the engines. I know a little about diesels so would tend to check them out myself anyway, if I thought there might be a problem then I would have it surveyed.
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Old 10-30-2007
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why take the chance?
if your asking here, it must be of concern to you already and something you'll kick yourself for scrimping on if there ever is a serious problem
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Old 10-30-2007
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Another point, is that engine hours alone is not always indicitive of the shape of an engine.
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Another thing that you can do is use a heat gun that shows if there is any blockage in the cooling system and also shoot the injectors they should be within five to ten degrees of each other. I had a high price surveyor in Fla. for my purchace last spring and I knew more then he did at least he had the gun. It was a waste of money but the insurance industry requires it. Also check for smoke when under a load and if there is a shine on the water indicating bad injectors or oil cooler.
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All good points. Thanks for the input. I am fairly knowledgeable about these engines, but don't know enough, or have the equipment to technically diagnose. I whole heartedly agree that the engine hours are not indicative of condition. And actually, one could argue that a well maintained high hour engine has much better prospects than a never used low hour engine. Unfortunately, the worst combination is never maintained, but high hour engine, which may or may not be obvious via a physical inspection.

Right now I am leaning towards having it done and being able to make a well informed decision. Plus there is always the chance that the survey will result in enough discrepancies to knock the price down by at least that much.
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Did You do the boat survey yet? If not, ask Your surveyor what they would recommend. In one case, the surveyor was knowledgeable, was able to point out visible deficiencies (ie; exhaust / heat exchanger) then based on a sea trial recommended an engine "survey". The surprise comes when You get to see what they check on the engine vs the boat survey. Ask before you hand over the $$$. Visible inspection, compression test and ????.........can vary by mechanic (not like hooking a car up to a computer these days). Seems less scientific than expected plus there's no guarantee. In the end after adding up all bits of info & opinion, you will still have to make the call....luckily they are diesels.

Last edited by Chuteman; 10-30-2007 at 06:47 PM. Reason: adjusted wording
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If you have good maintenance records on the engine that may help shed some light on it's condition. I asked for them as part of my purchase and got them. In the absence of them I think the engine survey is money well spent. Good luck.
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Over the years and with the experience I have gained, I will give you a small bit of knowledge I firmly believe in:

1) Always get a survey on the boat.

2) Always get a engine survey on the boat unless replacing the engine is a foregone conclusion you are willing to accept.

An engine with 10 hours on it may be worse than an engine with 3000. Check back pressure, compresion, oil anal, etc. Diesels, properly maintained, will run a VERY long time. Spend the money. Get it done. Consider it like a liferaft: the most essential money you ever wasted... hopefully.

I am very firm when I say that you should just do it. Trust me.

- CD
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