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post #31 of 75 Old 03-05-2012 Thread Starter
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Re: Which engines would you think twice about

This thread might be helpful to people who are looking to buy a boat but maybe even more so to folks who have an engine that falls on the don't side.

We all know that we can have an engine that was well taken care of and it can last a long long time. Not being able to find parts or part being expensive is only a problem if you need parts.

Being forward that some engines may end up costing more to keep running than they are worth may keep some of us from throughing good money after a formerly good engine.

The repair replace question can be a very important one with engines.
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post #32 of 75 Old 03-05-2012 Thread Starter
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Re: Which engines would you think twice about

Assuming a good model, starts well, no smoke good compression.

Is there anything that would put an engine on the watch-out list for you?
Age, external corrosion, hours, rebuild?
Anything, what would worry you?
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post #33 of 75 Old 03-05-2012
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Re: Which engines would you think twice about

I would never buy another boat with a Volvo in it.
Spare parts are shockingly expensive.
Like out of sight.

In 1998, a 22 year-old MD17C motor cracked its exhaust manifold. It was my fault. The cost, from Volvo, 1300 (nearly $2000).

That is typical.

Apparently a 22 year-old motor is "old".

So say Volvo, anyway.

Maybe they are not supposed to last that long?
.
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post #34 of 75 Old 03-05-2012
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Re: Which engines would you think twice about

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I never thought of that.
What exactly labor wise is required to keep them running that is not required for a diesel?
They came with fuel and ignition systems that were sort of similar to those in cars at the time (remember how cars used to need tune ups). Many owners have now converted these systems but many are original. The fuel system uses a carburetor which will need to be rebuilt every 5 years or so if it gets good fuel. Unfortunately, the way a carburetor works, they run much better when sitting level with no acceleration which means they work great when motoring in calm weather but not as well when it gets rough. With the ignition system, you will need to clean points, deal with the coil, etc from time to time. Many of the installations used raw water cooling so this must be taken into account as well. If there is good access and the owner knows what they are doing, this is all relatively simple work but it is time consuming.

Much has been debated about the safety of gasoline and while it is undoubtedly more dangerous than diesel, there have been relatively few problems when proper safety precautions are followed. I witnessed a fuel dock explosion from across a harbor when I was a little kid and it left quite an impression. The other problem in my opinion with gasoline versus diesel is that your fuel mileage will be very different meaning a lot more fuel needs to be carried for the same range. For many, this doesn't matter but for some, this is a big deal.

If you are going to look at a boat with the Atomic 4, check the gear ratio and prop size. Many were installed as direct drive with very small high rpm propellers. These do fine in calm water but thrust falls off significantly when it gets rough.

I hope this helps explain why I would put this engine on the no go list.
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post #35 of 75 Old 03-05-2012
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Re: Which engines would you think twice about

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Originally Posted by davidpm View Post
Assuming a good model, starts well, no smoke good compression.

Is there anything that would put an engine on the watch-out list for you?
Age, external corrosion, hours, rebuild?
Anything, what would worry you?
Here is how I would look at a diesel engine normally:

Listening to the engine will tell you a lot if you know what to listen for. While you are listening, you should watch the exhaust color and have them go up to full rpm both in gear and out. When it is in gear, you will also be able to tell if the gearing/prop is correct. Blue exhaust means that it is burning oil which means it isn't sealing well. If the engine is cold, this might be normal but if the engine is warm, it is a sign of worn rings. Black exhaust means that it isn't getting enough air for the amount of fuel. This could be because the engine is lugging or the air filter is plugged. Grey smoke means that the combustion in the chamber is not optimal and is a sign of fuel delivery issues normally. If diesel or oil comes out, you should look into it.

If they will let you, I recommend taking an oil sample and sending it out to a place like blackstone labs. If they will tell you how many hours are on it since the last oil change, you can get a pretty good idea of what condition the internals are in.

A visual inspection is definitely worthwhile. Look for oil leaks and coolant leaks. The hardest leaks to deal with are usually a rear main, sometimes the oil pan and the head.

How it starts will tell you a lot. Both cold and hot starting are informative. Lots of cranking on a cold start is a sign of poor compression or an air leak in the fuel system usually. On some engines with glowplugs or grid heaters, it can be a sign that these are not working.
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Re: Which engines would you think twice about

Reply to post 34:
The conversion to electronic ignition is very simple. Install it, EI kit 100$, and you are done. A couple of hours and a 100$ carb rebuild kit every 5 yrs. I can deal with that. I do not know why the updraft carb on the A-4 would cause problems in rough seas. Mine sure hasn't. Crud in the tank, plugged fuel filters yes but that is not the A-4s fault. Raw water cooled is an issue but remember the A-4 was designed and the metal used in the casting is for the marine environment. A-4, gear ratio and prop size is a interesting subject. Engine RPM relates directly to engine HP. Prop size and pitch affect load on the engine and can be checked by manifold vac #s. All this can be joined and create a very viable engine. IMO. Dan S/V Marian Claire
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post #38 of 75 Old 03-05-2012
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Re: Which engines would you think twice about

I loved my Atomic 4 simple, quiet, reliable but eventually replaced it. It's been out of production too long. when Moyer Marine goes away it will be difficult to get parts. Also you need blocks to rebuild and good ones are getting fewer and fewer. It's still pretty big bucks to bore and sleeve. Then you have an engine that's not as desirable for a resale as a diesel.

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Re: Which engines would you think twice about

I have a lot of experience with ATOMIC4 engines and I think they are fantastic.
There are some things that must be done to update them, then, they are pretty much care free.
1. Fresh water cooling
2. Electronic Ignition
3. Modern fuel filter & lines
4. Electric fuel pump
5. Proper prop selection (the Indigo 3 blade is fantastic)
6. PCV valve

Some of these engines have not had anything done to them in 30-40 years. Spending a thousand dollars in parts will get you an engine that might outlive all of us.

The thing is, the way many of us use a sailboat engine is not at all what a diesel engine is designed for. However, it's exactly what a gasoline engine was designed for. If you motor for hours on end, often, you need a diesel. If you motor for a few minutes twice a day, two times per week, your diesel might not be so happy but your Atomic4 will do just fine.

Don Moyer (moyermarine.com) is casting blocks, heads, etc. There are valuable forums there that will get you fast, knowledgeable replies. It's the Sailnet.com for Atomic4's
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Last edited by RobGallagher; 03-05-2012 at 09:28 PM.
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post #40 of 75 Old 03-05-2012
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Re: Which engines would you think twice about

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Originally Posted by Waltthesalt View Post
I loved my Atomic 4 simple, quiet, reliable but eventually replaced it. It's been out of production too long. when Moyer Marine goes away it will be difficult to get parts. Also you need blocks to rebuild and good ones are getting fewer and fewer. It's still pretty big bucks to bore and sleeve. Then you have an engine that's not as desirable for a resale as a diesel.
Don's son seems to be taking more and more phone calls. I think he will be taking over and rightly so as he seems like he knows almost as much as the old man .

Casting blocks and heads can be no small feat, so there must be some demand.

I would never repower a boat that had an A-4 with anything but another A-4. It can be done for less than half the $$ of a diesel repower. That's a lot of rum!
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