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msbam207 08-20-2007 07:43 PM

water in engine oil?!?!?
Need some advice! I just completed half of the survey for a 1994 Catalina 400 (850 engine hours) that I have on contract... why half, you ask? early in the survey, my surveyor checked the engine oil dipstick and found milky colored oil - glaring evidence of water in the oil!

I called my broker and he found out that the seller had trouble starting the engine a week or so ago - apparently the westerbeke deisel needs some kind of preheating that wasnt happening. I'm told that, at that time, the techitian also found a cracked/bad engine exhaust heat exchanger (where coolant is cooled by pumped in water). This part was changed last night (night before the survey) and the oil was also changed.

My broker says that the seller may have cranked the starter too much, which pumps water into the heat exchanger - and that this is known as "hydro lock" (anyone ever heard of this?). The bad oil was drained today while we were doing the survey and the engine was run up to temp.

I'm confused as to how, even if the heat exchanger was bad, water would get into the engine oil? Is this the death nail for an engine? If the water was ingested only because of overcranking without the engine starting with this bad heat exchanger - and the engine was not run much with the water in it - is there any way to salvage the engine?

The current plan is for the seller to have the oil changed a few times and running the engine for a few hours in between each change - checking for any water in the oil obviously - to flush out any water. They will likely have the westerbeke service people pull off the valve covers to check for any damage, water, etc... My plan is to get more info on this engine issue and think about a major discount to the agreed apon price.

One other major problem found - water in the deck was detected around the mast area with at least 1 soft spot indicating a deteriorated core (i think it's balsa in this boat). Any idea on the seriousness of this? ways/cost to fix?

Thanks in advance for any advice....

sailingdog 08-20-2007 08:00 PM

Hydrolocking marine diesels isn't all that uncommon a mistake.

What happens is that the water-lift muffler will bring water in as you crank the engine. If you crank the engine for more than about 20 seconds, depending on the exact design, the amount of water that comes in the exhaust can fill the muffler and enter the engine via the exhaust valves.

The reason this happens, is if the engine isn't running, the exhaust gas pressure that keeps the water level down in the water lift muffle doesn't exist. Once water enters the engine, it will cause the engine to "hydro lock" since water isn't compressible. This can cause a lot of engine damage, but doesn't always do so. The water could then leak from the hydrolocked cylinder into the crankcase, past the piston seals. :(

The soft spot around the deck you should ask CruisingDad about. Send him a PM or maybe, he'll check in this thread.

BTW, you really shouldn't start multiple threads on the same subject.

Personally, I'd walk away from this boat.... there are enough others that finding one without these issues isn't a big problem.

k1vsk 08-20-2007 08:02 PM

Hydrolock is a show-stopper as the water which would enter the cylinders from prolonged cranking and which obviously doesn't compress as the piston stoke requires results in severe internal damage. Having said that, water in the oil is likely an entirely seperate problem which could be a result of circumstances they described to you but it could be a more insidious and more extensive problem as well which they may or may not realize. In either case, the discount would have to be extraordinary to stop me from walking away had this been a purchase I was considering.

Zogumwesterly 08-20-2007 08:13 PM

I don't know about the catalina 400, but my boat the exhaust discharge is just above the water line on the transom. when the boat is sailing at a good clip(especially on reaches) there is an induction at the transom from the suction created from the transom squatting and my muffler despite a large elbow would fill with water. I put a ball valve and a flap at the discharge and my new engine has not had any problems. the atomic 4 that I replaced was always having problems due to water intrusion.

camaraderie 08-20-2007 08:21 PM

MSBam...I know you don't want to hear this but my advice would be to walk away. There are too many potentially large, expensive and time consuming problems here on a popular and widely available boat to get involved.

Pamlicotraveler 08-20-2007 08:38 PM

There are double threads on this-

I don't know about the specifics, but I would be very cautious about anything the seller or the broker say about how it happened or what the lasting impact would be if they get it running again. You (they) need a qualified engine survey and opinion before going any further.

I personally would want to see 100 hours put on that engine before you I would take ownership. Watch out for a quick fix...remember what happened to Barney on the Andy Griffith show when he bought an old car and it had sawdust in the transmission - it thickened the fluid kept it from slipping during the trial, but only for a few days.

good luck...
remember, there are lots of boats out there.

camaraderie 08-20-2007 08:47 PM

I have merged these duplicate threads so we may answer in one place.

I33 08-20-2007 09:24 PM

Walk away
I recommend against purchasing the vessel. I had a similar experience on an Endeavour I was considering. The broker said that water had been found in the crankcase because the mixing elbow needed to be replaced. I asked what had been done to correct the problem and was told it did not affect the performance of the engine, so they were going to let the purchaser deal with it! They had been running the engine to motor the boat around the marina and on a test sail. Unbelievable! I cannot believe a truly professional broker would have taken that attitude.

rewell6 08-20-2007 10:01 PM

Another vote for walkaway, unless you can get it for a very (and I mean very) good deal. And the rest of it is in good to excellent shape.

Consider the engine trashed, no matter what they tell you. A complete replacement. Don't just figure on a long block. Figure on replacing everything in the engine compartment including alternator, starter, injector pump, injectors, heat exchanger,exhaust manifold, etc., you get the drift. Plus a lot of labor charge. If you get it you might as well have it done right and won't have to worry about the engine or accessories for a long time.

I know nothing about the rot and that might just be the show stopper no matter how good the deal.

tdw 08-20-2007 10:38 PM

I'd say you'd either walk, ah sod it , run away or at least remove the value of the engine from the price.

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