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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 06-17-2009
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Universal M25 with hours

I had thought about posting this question in the buying boat section but it seems better placed here.
I am looking at a 1978 Catalina 30 with a Universal M25. The engine has 1500 hours on it. I am pretty certain this is a very high number of hours and I do not believe the engine has been rebuilt.
Supposing normal maintenance has been performed, how many hours could a person expect to get out of this engine? Additionally, what service should be done to it to extend it's life span.
I am a pretty handy bicycle mechanic but not much of a motorhead... what maintenance or services could I reasonably be able to perform?
Finally, approx what is involved and what is a very ballpark figure for a complete engine rebuild.
As always... your sage advice is welcomed
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  #2  
Old 06-18-2009
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1500 hrs is not excessive. That's actually light, less than 100 hours a year. Our current boat has 2600 hours on it and runs great. I've heard estimates of 5,000 hrs can be attained with maintenance.
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Old 06-18-2009
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I sail at Catalina 30 about same age and engine.
Engine rebuild is thousands if it can be done. Sometimes the block is damaged in such a way as to make rebuilding not possible.
The engine should start immediately from a cold start. Get to the boat an hour before your appointment and enjoy the dock. Clever sellers will warm an engine up a few minutes before you arrive to make sure it starts better for you than it does.
On a cold start there should be no blue, black smoke. If there is a little white smoke is should stop after a minute.
Oil pressure should match the book.
If you run it hard for an extended period of time 15 min to half hour you should not be able to rise the temperature above what the manual says is safe.
There should be no smell at all of diesel or exhaust in the cabin. Bring someone sensitive to these smells.
The engine should look clean.
A good sign is a clean drip cloth below the engine.
This engine has a pencil zinc. Find out where it is. If they will pull it it should be at least an inch long.

Besides your normal survey an engine survey which includes a compression test is a great idea. Engine work can easily cost thousands.

The water lift muffler, a white box starboard side of the engine should be mounted well. They have a tendency to pop loose in this model. After the engine is running a while the exhaust outlet elbow should be warm not hot.
Hoses and belts should look good.

Accelerate engine while watching it with the covers off. The motor mounts should not allow the engine to jump around.

There is a semi-separate sump/bilge for the engine. It should be clean and dry.

The chances of an engine in a older Catalina 30 looking as pristine as I have outlined are slim. That means you really need that compression and temperature test. If the engine is near it's end it one of these two tests may give you a clue.

If you:
Open the door at the bottom of the companion way stairs.
Remove the drawer above this door
Open the door on the starboard side
Open the door on the forward side
Remove the panel with the fiberglass bump in it under the berth.
Remove the panel that slides under the kitchen sink forward and out (Yes it comes out)

You can see the engine from three sides and the top.
It takes about 1 minute to open all these doors etc.
It is worth it to get a good view.

The number of hours are not that important as they are not a good indecator of the condition of the engine unless they are very high. Diesels often get from 5,000 to 8,000 before a rebuild.

What is not obvious is light use at low rpm for short periods of time. Like charging the battery and putting into a harbor is very hard on a diesel engine. It likes to be run at 90% max speed for longest life.

Last edited by davidpm; 06-18-2009 at 12:40 AM.
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Old 06-18-2009
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Hello,

When I bought my boat in 2006, the M25 engine had 3600 hours on it. It ran great (but was difficult to start when cold). The surveyor and I looked the engine over carefully and determined that the engine was in good condition.

Two years and 200 hours later, the engine is still running great. The cold start problem was corrected one week after I bought the boat by cleaning the glow plug connections. The engine doesn't burn or leak any oil, it runs at 180 degrees regardless of outside (or water) temp, and makes plenty of power.

As mentioned, I think that a well maintained diesel should go at leave 5000 hours before a rebuild is required.

Barry
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Old 06-18-2009
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Diesel Compression test

Hello,

The suggestion to get a compression test is a good one. However, unlike on a gas engine, performing a compression test on a diesel engine is not so easy. There are no spark plugs to be removed. Instead, a glow plug or fuel injector must be removed, and you need to thread the test adapter into that space.

If I were the boat owner, I would not allow YOU to perform the test on MY engine. I would allow a certified mechanic, and I would make it clear that YOU were responsible for any damage that resulted from the test. I bet that on many engines, the injectors and / or glow plugs have never been removed. It MAY be difficult to remove them and it's possible that one may be damaged during removal.

I'm not trying to discourage you from the test, but, IMHO, of the engine runs well, doesn't smoke, makes good power, doesn't shake, etc., I would skip the compression test.

Barry
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Old 06-18-2009
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Diesels are less complicated in many ways to gas engines. If you keep the fuel and air clean, and manage not to do any self-induced whoopses, they really don't need a ton of care. If you have mechanical aptitude and a manual you will be able to diagnose and fix many common ailments and outsource those beyond back-yard skills. IMO.

Good luck.
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Old 06-19-2009
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I have the M25XP in my Catalina 30. Everything I've read on this engine is that it's solid and reliable. Also Westerbeke/Universal still makes this engine and has sold a ton of them so parts will be available for a long time to come.
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