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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest Forums > Gear & Maintenance > Engines > Diesel
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Diesel This is a new forum dedicated to diesel engines and their applicable accessories.


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Old 12-06-2009
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what to look at in a survey (diesel engine)

In used boat shopping, what should I look out for when I go boat shopping? What should a mechanic do when he/she checks out a diesel? How much should I be paying a mechanic. With no believable history to rely on do the engine hours mean much. If it starts fast, no smoking, no banging and pushes her past hull speed, are we good to go? What about a long test run say 2-3+ hours at high speed, does that tell you all you need to know?
Ok lets say the motor needs replacing and were talking about 75hp with good access, does anyone have some dollar values to get her going again?
No specific boat yet I'm just budget crunching numbers. Thanks in advance, is it summer yet?
TJ
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Old 12-06-2009
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Look for maintenance records that indicate regular oil changes. Check fluid levels and conditions to see if they are clean. You might be able to pull the kill cable and crank the motor and listen for even or uneven cranking that may give you an indication of even compression. Before you go down and start it up, put your hand on the motor to see if it's warm. I personally want to watch a cold diesel start up. A worn out motor will start a little harder than one with good compression. Watch the amount of smoke that comes out and how quickly it clears up. Some white/gray/bluish smoke isn't that big a deal when it first starts up cold, but it should clear up pretty quickly. Frankly, I would be more worried about a diesel with hardly any hours on it over one with a couple of thousand hours.

On your test run, push it a little over hull speed for 15 minutes to see if it overheats. Overall, I would agree with you that if it starts fast, doesn't smoke or make excessive noise it's probably good to go.

One more thing. You might google the model of the motor that's in the boat. There were some funny motors adapted for boats that are awfully hard to get parts for. We looked at a Norseman 447 that had a Peugot Diesel in it that was tired and parts were no longer easily available. That was kind of a deal breaker.
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Old 12-07-2009
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It's a lot easier and cheaper to replace an hour meter than an engine - hence engine hours mean absolutely squat. It's a complete waste of time unless supported by a comprehensive maintenance log and those are as rare as . . . .

On all the boats I have owned, I have never bothered to check the hour meter when inspecting the boat. I know of people who disconnect the hour meter when they're doing a voyage and only let it run when they're day-sailing. So base a buying decision on the engine hours at your peril.
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As said above, maintenance records can be very helpful. Also, visually checking the fluids can give you an idea of the maintenance. A good eye an ear can learn a lot on a cold startup. If you have a buddy who is a real diesel head (can be into trucks not boats, they are the same), having them watch and listen to a cold start can be helpful.

If you want more info, with a willing seller you could do a compression test and take an oil sample but this is really only common on larger engines. A compression test will give you an idea of the condition of the cylinders which is very important. If you take an oil sample and the oil hasn't been changed recently, it can also give you a good idea about the condition of the internals if you send it to a lab like Blackstone. I have a friend who looked at a boat and when he went to take an oil sample, he could tell there was water in there(oil turns milky) and on further inspection he realized the engine room flooded at one point.

Also, just watch how the owner treats the engine. If you go for a sea trial, if they start it up and immediately go full throttle, they have probably been hard on their engine. Of equal concern is if they start it and let it idle under no load for a long time before being willing to put a load on it. I looked at a boat this fall that the owner drained the oil out of before I came but didn't refill which was very fishy.
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You want a wet and dry compression test, as well as send in an oil sample for an analysis. To start with, grab a good digital camera, and take pictures of every angle of your engine, especially where you cannot get your head for a look. Zoom in on any gasket areas, as well as the front seal, you may discover little gems like an incorrectly installed seal, leaks that exist, but have been wiped away etc. Get good pictures of the head, and exhaust system, wiring, and everything else. You will probably find a lot more problems than just looking at it. Then you can show the seller to help adjust your price. When you get your compression test back, post the #'s, and I or someone else will tell you what they mean. Also make sure to get a picture of the serial # off of the engine. It will make life much easier to get the data you will require later.
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