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jimgo 09-05-2013 09:21 PM

Diesel Engine Surveys
As some of you know, I had a problem with the engine on our new-to-us Allmand 31. The damping plate on our Universal 5416 shattered after 3 days of very heavy use, causing the boat to lose propulsion, tearing the rear seal on the engine, and possibly wrecking the transmission (the jury is still out on the transmission). My wife is, understandably, not happy about the problem with the engine (truth be told, neither am I, but since it's more "my" boat, I'm more understanding). When we bought the boat, the marina said that they had a diesel mechanic look over the engine (it was a bankruptcy seizure) before the boat was moved from it's old home to the marina. That gave us a lot of comfort that the engine was in good shape, and we didn't hire a diesel mechanic to survey the engine. She thinks the marina misrepresented the engine's condition. I disagree; I think that the damping plate is one of those parts that you wouldn't normally inspect when getting ready to move the boat a few hours away. I don't think someone hired to do a diesel survey would take the bell housing off and inspect the damping plate, either. So, what say you? Do you think the marina was shady, or do you think that the damping plate problem was one of those things that would have happened even if there had been a proper engine survey?

overbored 09-05-2013 10:03 PM

Re: Diesel Engine Surveys
A good survey would know how much play would be normal by putting it in gear and rocking the prop shaft back and forth. many would just listen to the engine and if they do not hear anything out of the ordinary would call it good. usually make noise when getting bad but if the boat was new to someone they might not recognize the noise as a problem

jimgo 09-05-2013 10:29 PM

Re: Diesel Engine Surveys
Overbored, thanks for the reply. As best we could tell, it appears that one of the springs fatigued and gave way. Do you think it would have been possible to feel the failing spring? I've been working under the assumption that the spring would have kept load/pressure on the plates until it failed. Am I wrong?

BarryL 09-06-2013 01:35 AM

Re: Diesel Engine Surveys

My $.02 is that no survey would have found that problem.

Additionally, I doubt that any boat OWNER or BROKER would allow to start disassembling things like bell housings Who is going to pay to put it back in the condition you found it in.

Lastly, most surveys state something like 'non destructive' only testing is done.

You said that got 3 hard days of use from the engine. It could have lasted a few more years, or a few more hours. Something like that is basically impossible to find during a survey.


Jaramaz 09-06-2013 03:58 AM

Re: Diesel Engine Surveys

Do you think the marina was shady
Not at all. They told you they had overlooked it, which doesn't mean much. As the buyer, you have the full responsibility to inspect.

Furthermore, it is difficult to see all things with an old engine. Even a surveyor would hardly open it.

Original engine, from 1980? Well, engine life time on a typical small sailing boat ... is 20-25 years (yes, yes, I know, there are thousands older out there.).

Your real question is: repair or new. Well, the answer is quite obvious. In particular considering the mind of your wife.

Sorry for the unexpected cost.


arvicola-amphibius 09-06-2013 05:58 AM

Re: Diesel Engine Surveys
About all you would expect a mechanic to report on an old engine is compression, cooling, oil, exhaust, hoses, belts, mounts, gearbox noise and ease of shifting, shaft alignment and anything visually obvious, plus ease of starting, vibration and whether or not it makes RPM.

Surveyors always have weasel words in their reports to cover their asses against missing hidden defects in areas they can't reasonably inspect.

chucklesR 09-06-2013 08:06 AM

Re: Diesel Engine Surveys
arvicola-amphibius has it right, that's the level of a survey in my experience. Mostly what a reasonably competent owner can so themselves, and even if they miss a glaring boo-boo unless you have a picture of them pointing at it (like actually have their hand in the spewing exhaust hose leak) they will deny it was there.

Unless they ran the engine under load and it was making noises/hard shifting ect.. (which they did not) then it's unreasonable that they would catch it.
I also however still doubt it was sudden failure of a spring causing that level of explosive failure, the hired skipper should have been paying more attention.

denverd0n 09-06-2013 08:43 AM

Re: Diesel Engine Surveys

Originally Posted by jimgo (Post 1084874)
the marina said that they had a diesel mechanic look over the engine

Did you talk to the mechanic? Did he write up a report and did you read it?

"We had a mechanic look over the engine" can mean anything. Like, for instance, he looked it over and wouldn't give a plug nickel for it! He looked it over and thought it was piece of crap about to explode! He looked it over but didn't bother to actually check anything. Or, just possibly, he looked it over, inspected it thoroughly, and thought it appeared to be in very good shape. Without specifics, "he looked it over" really doesn't tell you anything at all.

Beyond that, you're right. Even a very thorough inspection probably would have missed this. The damping plate would not normally be inspected, and it is practically impossible to determine that a spring is going to fail (absent obvious damage).

But even beyond that, what is the marinas involvement here? Was the marina the seller that you bought from? Were they acting as broker? Or did the boat just happen to be there and someone offered an off-the-cuff remark about the engine? What you might get from the marina will vary, depending on the answer to these questions.

Regardless, it can't hurt to talk to the marina and see if they are willing to do anything about this. Are you keeping the boat at this marina? Perhaps you could ask for a discount on your fees. Or a free haul out when you get the engine repaired (that's something that doesn't really cost them anything out of pocket). You might not get as much as you would like, but if you don't ask you won't get anything.

Good luck.

jimgo 09-06-2013 08:53 AM

Re: Diesel Engine Surveys
Chuck, I agree with you. Unfortunately, we couldn't find any evidence to back up my belief.

jimgo 09-06-2013 09:13 AM

Re: Diesel Engine Surveys
Don, I never spoke to the mechanic. The marina was also the broker, and they were the ones who seized the boat. Their mechanic inspected the engine to ensure that it could make the 10-15 mile trip from where it was seized to the marina/brokerage. The marina's story was that the mechanic didn't see any obvious problems, and the engine ran great the whole way.

As Chuck alluded to in his comments, we hired a captain to move the boat for us (it was a 5-6 day trip away from "home" and the captain cut off 2 days and made logistics much easier). His take was that the engine ran great, and that the boat behaved well under the conditions (20-30 MPH headwinds most of the 3 days it took him to get to the slip Chuck kindly offered to let me use), right up until it failed.

To those wishing us good luck, thank you, but that part of the boat's history is (hopefully) over. We hired a good marina to do the work for us. It took a lot longer than we expected, but we splashed about 2 months ago and made the trip "home" to NJ a few weeks ago. The engine survived over 200 miles of motor-sailing over 3 days (most days being 10+ hours a day) without any apparent issues.

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