05 Jan Engine Update: Rebuild the Westerbeke
December 2014: Heading to the Florida Keys from where our boat was stored, we woke up one morning to find that our engine wouldn’t start. After checking the simple things — which yielded nothing — we sailed off the anchor and continued to Marathon and Boot Key Harbor. It was slow, as there wasn’t much wind, but we got here with the help of our dinghy outboard. If you missed it, you can read more about our trip down here and about using the dinghy motor here.
We arrived at Boot Key Harbor on December 18 — a week before Christmas. Since then, we’ve done more troubleshooting ourselves while waiting for mechanics to be free, and we’ve had three mechanics work on it and test various things. Several others have been consulted by phone, and numerous TBG readers have offered suggestions (many thanks to all!).
A quick summary is that battery power is good, fuel flow is good, air is good, the exhaust manifold is not blocked (and the engine wouldn’t start even with it removed), glow plugs are good and there was no water in the engine from trying to start it. There’s no timing belt (it’s gear-driven). No broken crankshaft, etc. It wasn’t overheating or making any strange noises.
We discovered that two of three injectors were bad (and they have been rebuilt), and the engine has low compression in one cylinder, even lower in the second, and almost none in the third (there are only three . . . ).
The verdict is in: she needs a ring job, which is basically a rebuild of the engine. And yes, it’s possible that once the engine is out and opened up, we’ll decide to do a full rebuild.
This is not a small job, hence the reason for getting multiple opinions. As Dave said, if it were a medical procedure, we’d get a second opinion. Ditto for the engine.
That’s the $64 million question.
We bought the boat last April and had a survey done. The surveyor found no problems with the engine, and as it was only 4 years old with 350 hours on it, we didn’t have a separate engine survey done (yeah, 20/20 hindsight). One real selling point was that a previous owner repowered the boat in 2010.
We stored the boat over the summer, then did some work on her this fall and put her in the water. She started right up and ran well for 40 hours, then just refused to start the next morning — about 12 hours after she’d been running.
Numerous people have commented that you don’t just lose compression overnight. Rings just don’t stick overnight.
Except that’s what seemed to happen.
The mechanics are leaning towards the theory that it’s been running for a while with the bad injectors spraying fuel down the cylinder walls, which in turn carboned up the rings. And for some reason, they all stuck at the same time.
Hence the need for a ring job . . . and once they get the engine torn apart, it may turn into a total rebuild.
The good news is that one of the mechanics is a cruiser who was a Weterbeke mechanic in his pre-cruising days. He and Dave are going to do the rebuild right in the cockpit — one advantage of a large cockpit. And as one FB reader noted, at least the engine isn’t in the middle of the companionway.
Today is Day 3 of the rebuild, and Dave is finishing up the prep work to pull the engine (getting everything disconnected, parts removed so the “core” will fit through the opening, and all fluids drained). I’m posting photos each day on The Boat Galley’s Facebook page, so if you want to see what’s happening, please check there (and “Like” the page to get updates in your FB).
Yes, this was a total surprise to us. No, we’re not happy about it but we’re in a good, safe place with plenty of services and people to help us out. The weather is nice. It’s not a medical crisis. It’s cruising: fixing your boat in exotic places.