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Old 05-21-2007
islandzephyr's Avatar
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Perkins Head Gasket & Hello to All

Wanted to say a hi to all on the forums, my wife and I just joined recently but haven't posted yet. We really enjoy the site, and hope we can contribute in some way.

My wife and I just bought our first "largish" sailboat, a 1979 Morgan Out Island 33 (see photo in our gallery). Our previous sailboat was a Chrysler 26 which just about everything that could go wrong, did, and although it was a good learning experience, we were now looking for a solid boat we could both, learn how to sail, fix up if needed, and do coastal cruising from the gulf down to the Bahama's and beyond.

We bought the OI in Florida, and it didn't take long for us to realize it would be better for us to move it (have it moved) closer to our locale (and out of Florida) to the Alabama gulf.

When we purchased her, she came with a 2004 survey which looked very good (and a reasonable price), and the Perkins 4-108 sounded very good when we looked at it, but the boat had not left the slip since its 2004 survey, nor had anything really been touched at all.

I figured there were some typical issues that would need to be taken care of with any boat that sits that long. Before we bought it, it was cleaned (including the hull in the water) and the basics to sell a boat. The Perkins had new filters, fuel tank cleaned and good diesel put in and brought to a starting / working order.

Once the sale was complete, we were able to really dig into every crevice and really clean it out. We let the Perkins run, to which I discovered after about 30 minutes, it would start to overheat, at idle in the slip. We were told it had been rebuilt about 100 hours ago (don't have a year) and had a total of 950 hours on it, so I didn't expect a perfect motor, just a good Perkins.

We hired a local delivery captain to move her to Alabama and along with being a 100-ton capt. he was also a diesel mechanic for about 20 years and had a reasonable hourly rate. He told us the heat exchanger needed to be replaced (no acid bath or anything would help it). I managed to get the previous owner to pay for half of the job, and it was replaced (along with a salt encrusted thermostat), and off they went on the delivery to us.

Not soon after they left he determined the real cause of the overheating was a bad head gasket (on the exhaust side). They sailed most of the way and when motoring just ran it at at low rpm with the cap off and monitored the water closely. The delivery went fine, and she is now sitting happy in a new marina closer to her owners.

Being a new boat owner of this size, there were things looking back we could have done better on our end before we bought the boat, like have a new survey done, have a good mechanic go over the Perkins, and believe a little less of what the seller told us, but those are under the bridge (so-to-speak) now, and we have what we feel is a good start to a solid island cruiser, with some work to do. The price was reasonable, and was almost every penny we had to spend on a sailboat, and we expected to learn, fix, and move forward (obviously she is in good enough condition to go across the gulf anyway).

My questions is (I know, you never thought there was actually a question here, sorry), with two people that have very little mechanical experience, but with common sense and the ability to learn and read and follow precise directions, is replacing a blown head gasket something we could, or should take on as opposed to paying the $1500-$2000 it would take a good mechanic to fix?

The delivery captain explained to me the basic procedures a mechanic would do, and it didn't sound like too much brain surgery (other than maybe the injectors), and if so, does anyone have a very detailed book they can recommend (I have a few but they aren't detailed enough).

Our view has always been when something breaks, it is an opportunity to learn something new. Our previous project was building a greyhound bus into a motorhome and we learned quite a bit (but paid for the diesel mechanical work to be done). I of course would not want to do something to further damage a good Perkins and turn a $1500 problem into a $4000 problem?

Thanks for any comments. We love the potential in our new OI, and we are looking forward to sharing our progress and hopefully contributing something as well. Scott & Deborah
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Old 05-21-2007
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I worked my way through college 'turning wrenches'
I have worked from many boxes customers brought in to the shop after thinking 'If its broke already what else can I tear up?' try it just save all the pieces in a box. After all its normally not going to cost more to have someone fix it after you take it apart.

Now specifically, I don’t know anything about the engine in question so I am being general.

If its an valve in block engine, Do it no question. Simple and easy. These are generally older and smaller engines.

If its a overhead cam, it is a bit more complicated and I doubt you will ever get the timing correct which will lead to slight to extreme overheating and or hard starts. Worse case a valve will break and fall in to the combustion chamber requiring a full rebuild and possibly a new motor.

My .02; Pay somebody with a good reputation and silently watch them work if you want to learn asking questions after the job is finished. Some mechanics will let you watch and won’t be bothered by intelligent researched questions, especially if you pay by the hour or make arrangements in advance. Standing over someone’s shoulder and asking ‘what does that bolt do’ every time something touched gets old real quick.
Lots of luck, Jody
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Old 05-21-2007
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I would do it yourself if you feel confident about it, you can get anything you want including a rebuild manual from Foleys engines for your Perkins. They are on the net. Other resources would be both of Nigel Calders books, "Marine Diesel Engines" and "Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual" I have both of these and they are excellent
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Old 05-21-2007
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Thanks for the replies... h16Sailor, glad to hear from another sailor down here in L.A.

The Perkins 4-108 is not an overhead cam (I am 99% sure anyway), and I think it is an original 1979 block from the original purchase of this boat. I am going by the serial number for the engine.

winterbuoy, thanks for the book info, we do have the "Marine Diesel Engines" book and I would recommend it to anyone as well. Didn't know Foleys or Nigel or the other two books so thanks very much, I will check them out.
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