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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #11  
Old 09-18-2006
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I liked Faster's answer so well that I added to his rep. power, very objective, I have a diesel now and love it but sometimes miss the quiet, smooth operation of the gas engines.
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Old 09-18-2006
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To date I have had 5 inboard gas and 2 inboard diesel engines. Gas is good for power. Diesel is good for economy, reliability, serviceability and range. Gas engines break down. They are NOT as reliable as a car engine. Infrequent use, stale fuel, poor ventilation, condensation are just a few of the problems gas engines don't like. Just once you need to have the Anemic 4 quit while you are out in rolling seas. You are working leaning over in the bilge over a carburetor (got gas?) checking points and (Got spark?) Why won't this ###%%%&&&****** thing start? Wait while I puke. Try it again. HOLY SH***** iiiiitttttssss gggoooootttt sssppppppaaaaaarrrrrrrkkkkkkk!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH!

Anyway, no more gas inboards for me. Diesels are so simple. Not that they won't break down but all you need to really understand is the fuel system.
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Clean, air free fuel and a battery to crank it over and you are in business with a diesel. You MUST learn to bleed your diesel as that is one of the ways you will be stopped in your tracks.
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Old 09-18-2006
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Capttb: thanks for your comments.

All the pro-diesel comments point out the reasons for diesel's popularity. My boat has a diesel engine as well, whose positive attributes I appreciate every day. I was not pushing gasoline as a better fuel by any means.

But I did want to make the point that many people can do quite well with gas engines, which do have some advantages over diesel, and when the wallet is thin one should look at all the options.
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Old 09-18-2006
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Tim, the diesel will usually be a more expensive engine (because they are built to withstand higher compression, typically 3x more than gasoline engines) and that usually means the diesel boat can be a fast $5-10,000 higher in price. Gasoline may be enough for your needs, the engines traditionally are smaller, lighter, and quieter.

Yes, gasoline can explode. Well, duh, that's how a combustion engine operates, by exploding the fuel. You can make a nice bomb out of aerosolized diesel fuel, spraying out of the high pressure fuel injection system, too. Or, it can literally jet through your skin, not a good thing.

Gasoline engines may be vulnerable to their ignition systems but ignition system maintenance ain't rocket science. Gasoline engines typically had carburetors, which need adjustment every couple of years. Again, not rocket science. And in the US gasoline is easily obtained.

Yes, gasoline goes stale, "pump gas" is designed to be used within 60-90 days and it is a witches brew of about 60 ingredients, some very volatile and unstable, some that break down into varnish, some that evaporate. If you want to keep it longer, you add some fuel stabilizer--just like you do in a diesel system!

But in the diesel system, you also have problems with things growing in the fuel tank, so you need stabilizers AND biocides. And, around 40F the diesel turns to gel in the fuel lines unless you bought "winter fuel" or added more boosters to it. Ooopise. And, in most old diesels the fuel systems don't bleed themselves, so you need to learn the messy operation of bleeding air from any air leaks, and replacing crush washers when you do, and...

A DIFFERENT set of problems, but still potential problems.

The only real difference between a well-maintained diesel angine and a well-maintained gasoline engine, is that if you're planning to motor a thousand miles, the diesel tank will weigh and fill less than half the space the gasoline tank would have needed. That can be a big difference!

An owner who has no idea how to maintain either system, will eventually get stuck. Someone who knows how to operate both...can live happily with either.

Vapors, leaks, explosions? No, that's simply unacceptable, for any engine, for any fuel.
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As a general matter, diesel engines are cheaper to run, are more reliable, are safer and last much longer than their gas counterparts. A diesel engine will also make your boat much more marketable in the inevitable event that you decide you "need" something bigger.
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Old 09-19-2006
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There is no question that a Diesel is a better engine in a marine environment, but is it a better choice? 20hp diesels are around $6,000, plus installation. 6K buys a lot of gasoline. Rebuild diesels every 10,000-15,000 hours, gasoline engines last what.... 3,000-5,000 hours? My point is that it depends on the application. If you are going cruising, you need a diesel. If you are a weekend or day sailor, do the math and gasoline engines are probably a more economical choice.

My boat has twin Yanmar diesels. Trust me when I say that when I investigated repowering with larger diesels, I nearly fainted when I got the price tag.

Rick in Florida
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I cant believe in this day and age people are still using points--get a pointless ign system and carry a spair and solve the point problem and the main cause of a spark on a gas engine. Cars have not used points for 30 years!!
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ummm, most gas engines on sailboats are about 30 years old, give or take 5 yrs.
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On a per horsepower basis, a gas engine generally can be made lighter, since its compression ratio is lower than a diesel.
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