** This post is one of those that could get varying opinions. We’re eager to hear them all, and we’re giving away a $100 REI gift card to one lucky person who comments… you must leave a comment to have a chance to win, so be sure to read through to the end and comment for a chance to win!
So here’s a quick scenario that I’d like some input on. Our CAL is a 1984 model. She’s in fabulous shape and we work to keep her that way. We’ve updated the rigging, wiring, refrigeration, lighting, and many more systems to make sure, as best we can, she seaworthy, reliable and comfortable. We are almost ready to go cruising. The one thing we haven’t done is rebuild the engine.
Our Universal diesel 5432 is a work horse. She’s a four-cylinder, 32 hp chunk of heaven. She purrs like a kitten and we’ve never had a lick of trouble with the engine itself. So why the concern, you may ask? Well, because she’s thirty two years old and spending that much time in a harsh environment like the ocean takes its toll on any piece of gear. It’s only a matter of time before the elements win out.
I know new crate motors from Yanmar and Beta Marine would be upwards of ten thousand dollars once you take into consideration the installation, wiring and modifications to the engine bay. I just wonder how much that cost would actually balloon to once you factor in removing the old engine, painting and reconditioning the engine bay. Then, there the “while we’re at it, we might as well do X, Y, and Z” costs.
We have friends who just bought a brand new tug, and I must say, when I saw their shiny, green Volvo Penta outdrive, I turned a little green with envy. All new hose clamps, spiffy wiring harnesses and no previous owner’s “creativity” to undo. I can seriously see myself getting gaga over something like that.
A friend had is 5432 rebuilt for around $5k. Now, I would love to have a sparkling new 30 hp Beta, but a rebuild seems the more reasonable option for us. And truthfully, we may not even need that (yet).
Our old girl takes 11 1/2 quarts of oil. We’ve had the lift pump rebuilt, new fresh water and raw water pumps installed, new injector lines, new 100 amp alternator, new heat exchanger, and a few other new parts since we’ve owned her. She’s shiny gold and gets praise from any mechanic that sees her, but I’m wondering if we’re living on borrowed time. Should we have Eunice pulled and reconditioned before there’s an issue, or should we just wait ’til she gives up the ghost? Like I said, she’s not given us any issues.
So, readers, friends, and fellow boat nuts, what say you? Would you rebuild your engine (knowing it would delay your cruising plans), or would you go cruising, and keep taking care of your existing engine (that’s given you little to no problems)?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and on November 30th, we’ll draw a name at random to win a $100 REI Gift Card to spend as you please (and let you know what we decide)! You have to leave a comment for a chance to win, so no matter what your thoughts are, we want to hear them!
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!
If it aint broke , dont fix it. Seriously you have done all the maintenance issues that will cause problems. Diesels if looked after will go on and on and on. Perhaps extra spares and a gasket kit – just in case. Why open Pandora’s box ?
We do indeed agree with this philosophy. We have a bunch of spares and I prefer Pandora’s box stay closed.
Steve Sullivan says
Hey Guys, New is nice as I know having just put in a Beta 50 but new doesn’t always mean trouble free as I know as well. You have a smooth running little kitten that has had a healthy amount of TLC. I’m not sure now is the time to replace and they do call it a sailboat for a reason…. Look forward to hearing what you decide..
Baba 40, 144
HI Steve~ Nice to see you on the move. Thanks for dropping by. We are not going to mess with the engine. We really wanted to establish a dialogue and get some folks to give us real time input, as we have many readers who ask questions and may be in this position. I always believe getting several view points from the folks who’ve done it or are in the process of doing it, is the way to go. Thanks again. Fair winds.
David Hatt says
Do a compression and leak-down test and have an oil analysis performed. Then you will be able to make a more informed decision. Good luck!!
Thanks David. I actually ordered my oil testing kit today. I have never had it done and while I had a compression test done, I think an oil test would be great for some additional peace of mind. Thanks.
Jesse K on s/v Smitty says
I saw the list of parts you have replaced on your current engine but there was no discussion of your current maintenance program. How often you change filters and fluids, impellers, HX zinc’s, belts, etc. If you have been doing a good and thorough program and don’t see any obvious signs (gaining or loosing of fluids, leaks, poor performance), then I would look to step up some maintenance/analysis.
First, what are the known original parts? Injectors, exhaust elbow, any hoses, etc. Look at those and if they aren’t outrageous then order new parts. Or at the least disassemble those parts and bring them to a local guy for testing. For instance, I was able to pay a local diesel shop a few bucks to test my injectors. It only took them a few minutes on the bench because I did all the work to take them off and put them back. I also paid a trusted mechanic to come down to the boat and give the engine a once over.
Next I would start doing analysis of your engine oil and transmission fluid. I used Black Stone Labs (http://m.blackstone-labs.com). Do this several times. If you haven’t done you fluid changes recently started with that and then change all your fluids and filters. Run for 50 hours or so and do another analysis. Run for 150 hours and do another. If you are only seasonal that getting the 150 hours might be tough. In that case, just do it every time you change fluids. The analysis will really help you diagnosis the health state of your engine.
If all looks good, keep the engine. Order some paint, break the engine partially down and repaint it. Make sure all the hoses and hose clamps are new. Get a K&M reusable air filter to replace the stock filter. Think about adding a oil filter relocation kit and possibly an oil change pump (see the Beta engines).
Make sure you have a good fuel filter set up. Preferably two Racor 500 setup with valves and a 12 volt fuel lift pump so that you can run on either filter or run through both with the fuel lift pump to polish fuel. The valves should also be set up so that if filter one gets clogged, you can just turn valves to run on filter two. This of course is very space dependent. I couldn’t find a way to set it up on my small boat. So I just carry the parts for the fuel polisher seperated and stored in a bilge.
If the engine doesn’t look good after going through everything, replace don’t rebuild. Far too many rebuilds don’t get half the life of a new engine. Especially cruising. The worst thing for a diesel is to sit unused. Cruising you use your engine constantly. So a new engine to go cruising will be very healthy after years of cruising if you treat it right.
Those are my thoughts. Good luck and fair winds.
Hey Jesse~ I sent Blackstone an email yesterday. Appreciate the input. We are not set to run off two fuel filters. I wish we were. Possibly down the line. Right now, I’m pulling all those quarts of oil through the dip stick fill. A major p.i.t.a. But… and oil change pump would be nice. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Joe Hagan says
This one’s easy! You must not live in fear. Do not rebuild or replace. Go sailing!
s/v La Peregrina
A. Men. Thanks for the input Joe. I know you guys are back in Rio Dulce and I look forward to your blog posts. Fair winds. Hopefully we’ll see you out there this year.
Jennifer - s/v Luna Sea says
Well, I thought I was going to be the first to say it – but alas. Still true though, so – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Lord knows there’s enough going on with a boat, you don’t need to invent problems. I applaud your proactive-ness, but just go cruising. You take great care of the boat. Now let it take care of you.
Karen Gardell says
We have considered repowering our 1978 Tayana 37 as well. But the Perkins is still running well despite the less than adequate care (in our opinion) it received prior to our ownership. Like you, we performed the oil analysis, and so far have been quite pleased with the results and with the elderly engine’s performance. We will always keep a portion of our funds earmarked for a new engine if need be, and, if needed, we will likely repower vs rebuild based on trusted mechanic and friend input for reasons mentioned in previous comments. Also debating between Yanmar and Beta should (when) that time come. The more we have used our engine now that we are “out there”, it seems to be happier, and we are more convinced of it’s invincibility (with good monitoring and care). From what I heard, they should last 50 years or more. Of course, I knock on teak! And wish you the best with whichever route you take in regards to your engine. Either way, I hope that route takes you cruising!
Generally I’d say that if its isn’t broke don’t replace it! You might get a good number of additional years from it with general maintenance or some smaller fixes. If you’re worried, start saving the money now and just keep it set aside if you ever need it! That way you know you’ll be ok if she suddenly croaks.
Robert Boyer says
We have a 1983 C&C Landfall 38 and our 33-year old engine seized up last month coming down the ICW. We are awaiting re-powering near Charleston SC which is not a bad place to wait. We decided to stick with Yanmar (over Beta) because of their superior worldwide parts distribution system. The new engine is costing us $10k plus another $8-10k for changeout. About a year ago, I considered re-powering as a preventative measure and decided against it. As it turns out I was on borrowed time. If you think about re-powering, you probably should follow your gut and re-power or put money back for it when it absolutely must be done. However, it is much easier re-powering here in the U.S. Not sure I’ve been much help…
Jon Hafstrom says
I enjoy following your posts and since I’d really like to visit Cuba before American tacky gains a foothold, I look forward to reading about your upcoming travels to Cuba. As to your engine dilemma, you have already received some really good advice. I especially like Jesse’s comments on stepping up the maintenance with testing and then replacing suspect items. An engine and transmission oil test can tell you a lot about how the insides of your equipment is faring. Also pay particular attention to the injectors, the exhaust elbow, and the fuel system. Who knows, you might be good for another 5000 hours. Then there’s Robert Boyer’s notion that despite the best of intentions and maintenance, an old engine could go at any time, so save up a good sized kitty for a rebuild, and then hope if it is needed you will be somewhere where it can be properly done. PS: I would have kept your boat too!