Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Narragansett Bay
Thanked 577 Times in 553 Posts
Rep Power: 11
Re: Lifespan of a Diesel Engine
Here's the way I see it.
If you start with a brand new diesel, maintain it very well and run it properly, you will get substantial life out of it.
However, buying one run by another is a crap shoot. Whether with 500 hrs or 5000 hrs. First, they need to be broken in by running them very hard. That's counter intuitive, so some owner may baby their new motors, which can improperly seat the rings to the piston walls. You can't know. You can't tell how often oil was changed (the smartest thing you can do is change it frequently, even if you don't do the filter).
The good news is, diesels are pretty simply mechanical devices. A good mechanic (although very hard to find) can generally diagnose the current condition of a motor. Compressions, noises, smoking, oil analysis for metal wear (must be done after running at sea for a while), etc. Wear items can be replaced: belts, hoses, exhaust elbows, fuel filters, etc. Cooling passages can be descaled, tanks can be cleaned, etc. What they can't do, is tell you how well it was routinely maintained, therefore, how long it will likely last.
The further problem with diesel surveys is many aren't worth a cent. They visually inspect, fire it up at the slip, run it for 15 mins, take a compression and send you a bill. If you are getting one at all, they need to take a few things off to see inside, such as the elbow for starters.
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In the harsh marine environment, something is always in need of repair. Margaritas fix everything.