SailNet Community banner

1 - 20 of 47 Posts

·
first sailed january 2008
Joined
·
1,409 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I'm buying a boat soon, my first that has an inboard and I'm pretty terrified of them. Of the whole new boat thing the inboard scares me the most. I've only had outboards. I like outboard, I kind of trust outboard. If they break you can pull it and get a new one.

Inboards sound like a superior concept, but so many boats have in the listing repowered. Which is good, and makes sense. Many of them are 30 plus years old, I could see them biting the dust.

But how reliable are they? My friend said that when looking at boats, even having a mechanic come look at the engine, it's still a 50/50 chance he could tell if there is anything wrong with it.

Are they ok? One of the major reasons I fear them is that if it goes, I'm immediately out 10,000$ and would instantly regret having purchased that boat. I can get new sails if I need to, even deck hardware, rigging, buy some nice electronics to replace outdated stuff, but I really don't think I could get a whole new engine.

Plus I need an engine, I realize it's a sailboat, but I motor when I need to, I want a big fuel tank so I can motor for hours if the wind dies. I need an engine I can rely on.

How high should I prioritize a new, or rebuilt engine? The boat I want has the original Volvo md7a. It's had recent work done, water pump rebuilt, professionally flushed and a new exhaust system. What are your thoughts on this 1979 engine, a ticking time bomb? Or perhaps a well maintained engine, that could last me for years to come.

Believe this, I don't know much about diesel boat engines, but I will learn everything I can and will take the utmost care and do the proper maintenance of it once it's mine. But if it's already on its way out.....

Another boat high on my lost has a brand new beta to replace the old atomic 4. Should I be placing this higher in my criteria?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,088 Posts
North,
Mexico is notorious for light air. My planning numbers is to be able to motor for 48 hours between refueling. Gas engines usually don’t have as good of fuel economy as diesel. I’ve been running diesels for the past 20-25 years. I was initially nervous switching over from gas but now I’m a really big fan of diesel. Very simple to maintain. Volvos have a bad reputation of being very, very expensive for parts. The Kubota has been very reliable for me (Universal “marineizes” them). Yanmars are about the most common engine brand in sailboats today. That means parts (think filters) are relatively easy to come by (remember that you will be doing oil changes in Mexico).
 

·
Registered
Corsair 24
Joined
·
4,594 Posts
I keep responding to your threads because I like you ocean however some on here see that as being biased and steering you one way or another(not you george)

but the md7a had some parts issues, and yes they are expensive to source some parts nowadays...some cant be except from other volvos but that applies even to yanmars...

however they ae very well built, heavy reliable and old school...

the betas are kubota blocks like many many diesels these days, and have some nice maintenance features like the built in oil pump to do oil changes, easy access of things in the front of the engine and are for all intents and purposes very global and parts available.

the atomic 4 while not ideal for a trip like this can be made to run forever, and those of us who have had them and used them know its pros and cons and how easy they are to work on.

a pro for example would be getting a mechanic to work on it in the boonies compared to a GOOD diesel mechanic

any car mechanic around the world will know the distributor, ignition and carb works based on old car experience.

cons is for cruising they can be GAS GUZZLERS...compared to a 1/4 galon an hour yanmar or similar.

they are gas of course and can be perceived as more of a hazzard but more hearsay than anything...

parts are easy to come by in automotive stores like napa for stuff like distributor caps, belts, ignitions even...

in any case the md7a has some known issues which can be:
overheating
bad comp and if watercooled only has a basic lifetime when the water passages eventually get eaten up

now here is a very nice blog talking about the md7a
Cruising and racing in the Baltic: To keep or trash my Volvo Penta MD7A?

and a sailnet one too!
http://www.sailnet.com/forums/diesel/84425-volvo-md7a.html

remember fear and hearsay are more powerful than facts, especially on the internet

so dont let anyone tell you differently jajajaja including me

again good luck in your search
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
659 Posts
How high should I prioritize a new, or rebuilt engine? The boat I want has the original Volvo md7a.
Another boat high on my lost has a brand new beta to replace the old atomic 4. Should I be placing this higher in my criteria?
Some swear by the MD7A, some swear at them... It's a raw water cooled engine in a salt water environment so sooner or later, the gigs up. If you can purchase a "sound" boat at a reasonable with a MD7A, don't pass on it but start to save your $$ for a repower. If there's a boat out there in your price range that you desire with a new Beta in it & it survey's out good, no brainer.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,500 Posts
I have got a Volvo MD17C.
It is a sound engine but the price of spare parts is truly shocking.
In 1997, the price of an exhaust manifold was £1300, then about $2000, for one component for what was then a 20 year old motor. That is "old" to Volvo, apparently. So much for longevity.
Volvo were not interested in the idea of that being expensive.
Volvo have other tricks in store for you too. They would not sell me piston oversizes, and I had to source them from Mahle separately. No, they insist on selling you a piston and liner kit (3 of them needed, £900 right there (about $1300).
And don't even think of asking them for a seal for your gearbox (£50, $75). In my local bearing shop, £3.50, about $5, for the same seal.
My next motor will be the 40 hp Kubota-based beta Marine motor. It will have Japanese quality and Japanese spare part prices.
Never again a Volvo.
Never.
 

·
first sailed january 2008
Joined
·
1,409 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
****. So of I had a boat with a new beta, I probably wouldn't have to worry about it and could motor to my hearts content, assuming I took good care of it. With an old Volvo it could actually die on me at anytime, leaving me stranded with no wind and with a strong current sweeping me into the harbor break wall? I really came to just rely on my Yamaha outboards starting and running every time without fail.
 

·
Registered
Corsair 24
Joined
·
4,594 Posts
are you a fast learner? learning a diesel isnt that complicated especially a simple old volvo

fwiw have your price some yanmar heat exhanchers or water pumps? not that far off from volvo prices

it really just depends what you are willing to budget for and make do...

if you dont want to deal with a diesel initially as you cruise down then yeah maybe look for repowered boats

oif you are compfortable and can do an overhaul before you set off on an old volvo, or yanmar or perkins or whatever you can do just fine

a rebuilt atomic 4 is smooth and a beauty to maintain...they are beyond simple!
 

·
Islander Yacht Fan
Joined
·
60 Posts
To The OP - MD7A is not a bad thing!
When I first got my boat (an abandoned salvage job) it was filled with water, mosquitoes, mold, and dead mice. A friend and fellow restorer of other people's forgotten stuff hooked a battery to the engine to see if it would even turn over, his theory being if it turns over we can likely rebuild it.
After about 3 rpms it not only turned over, but it started - we were shocked. This boat had been sitting neglected for nearly 2 years, open to the weather and unprotected. We took the boat based on this fact alone. Visit my album to see some of the many pictures of the boat and engine - we did not overhaul the engine - we checked compression, changed the filters and belt, cleaned and painted it - then re-installed. Its given 2 years of great service so far with no signs of giving up anytime soon.
I buy parts like belts, filters and such from the NAPA or anywhere else close and cheap - I use a Raycor now to further protect the engine, and am installing new gauges that work, to monitor performance when its running. Some little things is all it takes to keep these running. Namely, fuel, Oil and water - I check all three before each use.
Don't let a VP MD7A steer you away from an otherwise great boat - DO get the opinion of a qualified surveyor if you are not confident with diesel engines. The internet is a great resource for parts and there are several places on both the left and right coasts that can ship parts over night if you need.

Make sure you have clean fuel and oil, a sealed system between the tank and the injectors (the high pressure side of the system) and let her run! PM me if you have specific questions I can answer for you.

Oh yeah - this was my first diesel engine for a boat - the rest were all gas or ethanol! You can't beat how efficient these engines are!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
138 Posts
If I had the choice I'd go with a Beta or Yanmar. Never had a volvo but I've heard the horror stories about part costs.

The real question on a diesel is hours. Seems 5000 hours is about the time people need to rebuild repower. Looking at used boats that's what I'd be thinking. You just don't know how well it's been cared for. If it's a new engine and you take good care of it you should get more like 10k hours. The most important thing on a diesel is oil changes! Don't skimp on those.

Brian
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
96 Posts
Most of this is from Nigel Calder (you should read one or two of his books) -

When you get to the boat to look it over, the engine should be cold i. e. not run that day, otherwise be suspicious.
Does it look well maintained? Fairly clean, recent filters & belts, belts properly adjusted?
Take off the oil filler cap and see what you can on the inside of the engine, maybe poke your finger in & wipe an inside surface. Clean or covered with sludge?
Replace oil filler cap, check oil for level. On diesels oil will almost always be black, no worries unless it's thick with sludge.
Big test - start the motor. Shouldn't have to crank long, but probably have to advance the throttle. Does it smoke? One puff of blue smoke on startup isn't bad on an old engine. Continuous smoke, not so good.
Anything leaking? Nearly impossible to get rid of diesel odor if fuel has been leaking for a while.
Good water flow from exhaust? Any funny noises? Alternator charging? Motor mounts fairly solid?
Take boat out & run it a while. Shaft seal/packing gland OK? Any clunks from drivetrain, cutless bearing? Overheating? Reverse OK?
Now run the boat speed up. Any smoke now? Blue = probably worn rings, Black = possible clogged exhaust elbow, fouled prop, prop overpitched, White = possible head gasket leak. Overheating?
If possible, carefully remove oil filler cap while under load(it may blow off when loosened & probably will spit some oil when removed). See if there is pressure puffing out indicating blowby & worn rings.
If the motor runs decent when you test it, it probably will for years given proper maintenance. Only caveat - I would regard a 35 year old salt water cooled motor as a ticking time bomb. YMMV.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,993 Posts
My boat has a '79 MD7a. When we originally looked at the boat the engine started easily but was a bit smokey. There is no hour meter on the boat, and no service records to speak of but I took the chance on it anyway. So many of the boats we looked at had the Atomic4, and we were not interested in a gas engine on a boat! It is way too volatile for my liking.

A couple of years after we got the boat it started to get harder and harder to start, until one day it just wouldn't. It seems we had lost compression in one cylinder. I pulled the engine and had a mechanic tear it down. It turned out that the rings were seized and cracked. We decided to do a full teardown and rebuild. I replaced all the bearings even though the mechanic thought they would still be ok because the way I see it, if your going to do it, you might as well do it right. The injector pump was a bit of a mess because the previous owner had run "bio diesel" in it....from the looks of the fuel tank he just grabbed old frier oil from McDonalds! The injector pump overhaul and calibration was a bit pricey but well worth it. All told I probably spent around $3000 on the rebuild. There were no parts that weren't readily available, and I didn't think they were too crazy expensive.

I don't regret spending the money, and the engine has served us very well for the last 8 years. A couple of years ago the water cooled exhaust elbow rusted out; the part cost about $150 and was in stock. I had to replace the thermostat which cost $35 last year. Other than that it has had no problems whatsoever! Oil changes, filter changes and water pump impellers...just standard maintenance stuff. BTW you don't have to buy filters from volvo; Fram makes a filter that fits and I am sure others do too.

Don't be afraid of the MD7a, just get it checked out before you buy.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,474 Posts
diesels are like drunk gingers- they're a little freaky at first but they go forever.
NOB almost everyone of your questions has a fear-based component and usually that fear is instilled by another sailor you have talked to. you need to find a difffernet focus group.
I have had more bad luuck wiht outboards than diesel inboards.

having said that, I would rather have an old yanmar than an old westerbeke or volvo. that's probably just a familiarity issue, but parts availability is bettter, even on obsolete models. and, in my experience, half dead yanmars will run forever.
If and when you find the right boat, an engine survey is money well spent, but a diesel will tell you a lot about it's condition on start up. if it starts quickly, doesn't smoke and responds well to the throttle, chances are it is going to give yoiu a long tiime of relatively hassle free operation. for peace of mind, have an oil analysis done, and do a quuick tne up when you purchase it, chekc valve adjustment, head bolt torque, replace the impeller, pulll the exhaust elbow and give it a clean out, change the oil, etc.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,500 Posts
are you a fast learner? learning a diesel isnt that complicated especially a simple old volvo

fwiw have your price some yanmar heat exhanchers or water pumps? not that far off from volvo prices

it really just depends what you are willing to budget for and make do...

if you dont want to deal with a diesel initially as you cruise down then yeah maybe look for repowered boats

oif you are compfortable and can do an overhaul before you set off on an old volvo, or yanmar or perkins or whatever you can do just fine

a rebuilt atomic 4 is smooth and a beauty to maintain...they are beyond simple!
Christian,

The Lister-Petter exhaust manifold, similar geometry, similar size, was one fifth of the price of the Volvo equivalent.
One fifth.
 

·
Registered
Corsair 24
Joined
·
4,594 Posts
Christian,

The Lister-Petter exhaust manifold, similar geometry, similar size, was one fifth of the price of the Volvo equivalent.
One fifth.
Nice price! how many boats do you know that have active lister petters?

my price comparison was with another popular engine:)

people think yanmars are cheap cause they are plentiful but parts wise they are every bit as expensive as a volvo(not all parts) or a westerbeke or perkins clone, etc...

have you sourced parts for vetus? another excellente engine but the same applies, some parts are really expensive

nanni is another standard over in europe and some models have great reputations
in spain sole is another engine too...parts are decent

basically you can pick your poison

I will grant you that some parts from volvo are ridiculous, so you have to find either a used source and or parts from a scrapped engine

which in the case of engines like the md2b or md7a there are many scrappers to get parts from depending where you are.

I know in san fran bay old volvos are plentiful and you can find spares both new and used in various places

ps. exhaust manifold, exhchangers on many brands and models have always been overly expensive and non existant sometimes.

yanmar 2qms are just as hard to find as a palmer p60 gas exhaust manifold...these days:)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,500 Posts
Christian,

Do you think I am making this up, or something?
I was bitten, and I am trying to warn others.
You think the cost of Volvo spare parts is reasonable, do you?

Maybe you'd like to go to Volvo starter motors?
Or Volvo liners?
Or Volvo barrels?
Or Volvo gearbox spares?
Or pistons?
Or a gearbox seal (like 14 times what the same seal cost in a Scottish bearing company 20 miles from here... the same seal... £3.50 plays £49)

I don't mean pattern parts now, but Volvo spare parts.
Shall we go there?

With the exception of consumables, all Volvo parts are expensive. If you buy a Beta Marine diesel, the motor (Kubota) is common in fork-lifts and other engines, so the majority of the motor spare parts can be sourced elsewhere and there is no way that a fork-lift owner is going to pay the typical Volvo marine diesel mark-up on them. The same is true of the Mitsubishi-based Vetus motors. Go to Mitsubishi for them.

There are people that will be driven off the water by these astronomic Volvo spare parts prices.
I don't want you to be one of them, or anyone else for that matter.
The Volvo MD17C is a sound motor, but there is no way I can have any reasonable relationship with the manufacturer on this basis.
 

·
Master Mariner
Joined
·
8,973 Posts
Every Lister-Petter I have ever owned has been air cooled, which could have a great deal to do with the expense of some parts. I certainly wouldn't want to own another, unless I lose my hearing. Not that they are bad engines, but they are NOISY!
Beach;
The major difference between diesel and gas, including outboards, is that other than for the starting and stopping, you don't need an electrical system for the engine to operate. No coil, points, condensers or plugs, etc. Many of the more modern diesels are electronically controlled, which is a definite negative, so there's a serious plus factor in purchasing a boat with an older, fresh water cooled diesel. A well maintained diesel can give over 10,000 hours of reliable service, whereas you would be lucky to get 1k from an outboard. A non-electronically controlled diesel will run (once started) even if all the batteries on the boat are completely dead.
In reality, you are moving from a complex, fragile piece of lightweight metal and plastic bits (an outboard) to the simplest, easiest to operate and maintain bit of heavy metal you can get (an older diesel), certainly nothing to be afraid of. An older, less complicated, fresh water cooled diesel will serve you very well, if you maintain it with loving care.
 

·
no longer reading SailNet
Joined
·
2,309 Posts
Since the MD7A is raw water cooled a 1979 model is probably a time bomb. It could last one more year or ten more years, but you probably won't be able to reliably tell.

Inboards themselves are great. I'm not afraid of my 1986 Yanmar dying. It runs like a top, parts are widely available, and it is fresh water cooled. They have a different tone than an outboard which makes them a lot less annoying to listen to hour after hour, the prop stays in the water even in big waves, they get much better fuel economy (my Yanmar consumes around 1.5 liters per hour at cruising speed), and I much prefer working on diesel engines to gasoline ones.

I like outboards too, they are a lot cheaper and you don't have to buy expensive folding or feathering props to get good sailing performance. They just don't work that well on boats much over 25' long in big waves. However waves usually imply wind which means you can sail, so if I found the right boat and needed an engine on a budget I'd consider putting an outboard on a 30' boat.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,993 Posts
Christian,

Do you think I am making this up, or something?
I was bitten, and I am trying to warn others.
You think the cost of Volvo spare parts is reasonable, do you?

Maybe you'd like to go to Volvo starter motors?
Or Volvo liners?
Or Volvo barrels?
Or Volvo gearbox spares?
Or pistons?
Or a gearbox seal (like 14 times what the same seal cost in a Scottish bearing company 20 miles from here... the same seal... £3.50 plays £49)

I don't mean pattern parts now, but Volvo spare parts.
Shall we go there?

With the exception of consumables, all Volvo parts are expensive. If you buy a Beta Marine diesel, the motor (Kubota) is common in fork-lifts and other engines, so the majority of the motor spare parts can be sourced elsewhere and there is no way that a fork-lift owner is going to pay the typical Volvo marine diesel mark-up on them. The same is true of the Mitsubishi-based Vetus motors. Go to Mitsubishi for them.

There are people that will be driven off the water by these astronomic Volvo spare parts prices.
I don't want you to be one of them, or anyone else for that matter.
The Volvo MD17C is a sound motor, but there is no way I can have any reasonable relationship with the manufacturer on this basis.
Well, you certainly have a hate on for Volvo! Perhaps it is your local supplier that is gouging you! I bought all the parts to rebuild my Volvo, and although they weren't all dirt cheap, I don't recall anything too outrageous. Of course supply and demand comes into play and if a part is rare the price goes up. In my experience with my md7a, I have yet to need a part that wasn't in stock locally, or a couple of days away...not bad for a 35 year old engine! Btw, if you can get a seal or bearing much cheaper through a bearing supplier then do it! At least they aren't proprietary parts that you must get OEM!
 
1 - 20 of 47 Posts
Top