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Twoventures 03-03-2013 03:17 AM

About the time it takes to fix engines
I need help to understand how to deal with the following situation. This relates to my experience as a client of a boatyard in the SF bay area.

I have a Chris Craft 36' built in 1962. I bought her 4 years ago and i have had problems with the two engines. From time to time they would not start or they would die unexpectedly.

So I asked a boatyard to fix it. The work order was signed in April 2012. We are in March 2013 and the boat is still not fixed, and obviously I cannot motor her.

Retrospectively it appears that the engines are good with no major problem. The exhaust manifold of one of them had to be cleaned and the exhaust tube replaced, and a few more minor repairs were done.

The problem, as I see it, is that every repair, minor or not, was separated by a two month delay. As an example the first work - replacing the 16 spark plugs - happened two months after the work order (it did not show anything, as I thought, because the previous spark plugs were new).

Another example: early December 2012, as one of the engine was still not starting, the diagnostic was that a part of the carburetor had to be replaced. Mid-December the boatyard received the part. Mid-February - 2 months later - it was still not installed (BTW: the various parts that needed to be replaced were pretty standard and did not require any complicated search).

I live less than two miles from this boatyard, so I have gone there more than 40 times during the 10 months to try to accelerate the repair. The answer is always the same: it is going to be done tomorrow. And obviously nothing happens.

The work order was pretty generic: "fix the engines". I agreed verbally to the different repairs done. Though it has been 10 months, I have not received yet any invoice (I suppose that since the carburetor part has not been installed, she is still considered under repair).

Since it is my first boat, I wonder whether it is normal practice for a boatyard and what I should do.

Thanks for helping.

SchockT 03-03-2013 03:31 AM

Re: About the time it takes to fix engines
You have a few solutions I can see:

Be more proactive. If the boatyard is busy and they can put you off as long as they need to they will. That way they can take care of their more demanding customers. So DEMAND better service.

If the above doesn't work, find another mechanic.

Learn to do the work yourself. Replacing spark plugs? My 11 year old can do that!

Of course if you bought a SAILBOAT you wouldn't need 16 spark plugs! :D

Silvio 03-03-2013 07:10 AM

Re: About the time it takes to fix engines
And start preparing yourself now for the bill.

Dude, seriously? An open ended contract to "fix engines."

I'm surprised they haven't been overhauled yet.

I would recommend you be more specific with the yard, e.g diagnose starting/idle problem and estimate repair.

good luck

Minnewaska 03-03-2013 07:15 AM

Re: About the time it takes to fix engines
Yard tards. We get it.

I've never in my entire 38 years on the water, ever found a yard that didn't manage to cause some sort of serious aggravation. Unreliable is the softest of them, try a few inches of diesel in your bilge or a gouge out of your brand new topside paint. You do have to stay on them.

A dirty little secret is there are probably boats in your marina that have paid Captains or boat managers. Those individuals are often responsible for several boats in the same marina and are there nearly full time. I've even seen them live aboard larger client's boats. They develop a relationship with the yard in addition to being under their nose every day, so their work often gets done first.

Me and Boo 03-03-2013 08:24 AM

Re: About the time it takes to fix engines
Check in to having her towed to another yard.

sailvayu 03-03-2013 08:40 AM

Re: About the time it takes to fix engines
I would say this is not expectable. If you have seatow or towboat have the boat moved to another yard. Would you leave your car in the shop this long with nothing being done? I am a marine professional and have worked for and with many yards over the years and I can tell you this is not normal. Ask around and find a good yard or even an independent mechanic to help you out. I hope they are not planning on charging you storage as well. I would ask to see the work order amount right away. Good luck and I hope you get it worked out soon

Capt. Wayne Canning, AMS

jimrafford 03-03-2013 08:51 AM

Re: About the time it takes to fix engines
There is so much wrong here I don't know where to start. I'll start w/ your engine problems.
1. Exhaust manifolds don't get cleaned. They get replaced every 7 years. Risers every 3. If one exhaust hose was bad, they all are bad. Replace them before the boat sinks.
2. Your fuel is now a year old. I hope it was stabilized.
3. Your engine problems are most likely fuel related. Bad gas, water in gas, fouled carbs.
4. An intermittent short at the distributor could also cause the problems.
If a yard has been working on your boat for a year and hasn't sent you a bill I'd be asking myself how do they pay their mechanic. Next I'd be looking for a new mechanic. This is rocket science.They should be able to diagnose and fix the problem inside a week.

Sea Dawg 03-03-2013 09:16 AM

Re: About the time it takes to fix engines
I've only had this happen twice. Staying the course will never resolve it. You need to ask for your work order and inform them you are bringing in another mechanic and then do that. The first response you'll get is "I'm sorry it's come to this, let us complete the task." You'll have served notice they're going to get a bum reputation. You'll have to be forceful in that moment and draw a line in the sand. If it's not completed on a certain date with the stated cost you have to fire them. Like stated above, you also need to task them with more than "fix it". Perhaps, "engine will not run/fire or stay running, please diagnose and present a recommendation". Even then, I believe you'd be serviced better by another mechanic.

mad_machine 03-03-2013 09:21 AM

Re: About the time it takes to fix engines
that last bit.. "bringing in a new mechanic" should scare them. Not only does it mean a loss of revenue for them.. but once the new mechanic hears the story, you KNOW he is going to spread it all over the area.

nobody wants bad publicity..

Minnewaska 03-03-2013 09:37 AM

Re: About the time it takes to fix engines
The threat of posting your experience and the name of the yard on the internet really gets businesses attention. They will also have the right to defend themselves and tell their side of the story. If there isn't more to it, they may jump to making it right. At the least, this technique could help keep a one year yard bill from being outrageous for incomplete work.

I settled a dispute this way, when a yard charged me fully 3X what a very standard job should have cost and held me hostage in the slings and wouldn't launch me without being paid. I needed to make a delivery and they knew it. The next day, I contacted the President and told him I would share my story on the internet and post a copy of the bill, which made it very clear what work was done and how many hours they billed. Not to mention, it was double the high end of the estimate I received, also in writing, also to be posted. He wrote me a check for the difference on the condition that I not post it. I've honored that commitment, but I don't hesitate to tell people to avoid the place, rather than post the actual experience.

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