Every mechanic everywhere likes to say three things about diesel engines:they are easy to work on, will run forever, and will start right up after periods of dormancy. So when we bought our boat, and knew that the engine was a big question mark, having not run in a long time, we fell back on that seemingly sage advice and didn't give it another thought. It would run, and easily, and forever.
The day we set out to "get her running" we made sure to arrive with two new deep cycle marine batteries. We cranked endlessly. Nothing. Well, to be fair, one little pop. We would revisit that little pop innumerable times in future conversations. Why did it happen? What could it mean? etc. Anyway, we called on all family, friends, mechanics known and unknown for help. One of our last ditch efforts was a mechanic in the Bronx who spent hours cramped next to our engine before finally telling us the sad news, that we needed to have the engine rebuilt. There was something more menacing going on than dirty fuel, poor compression, or insufficient battery power. But don't worry, there was a shop up the road that would do it for $9,000. I watched Max's face receive that number, and knew we would be doing it ourselves. But how?
The next weekend we extracted the engine from the cavity of our little ship like a diseased organ. A greased up and filthy contrivance. We took it out on a cold December day with the aid of a fork lift, countless ratchet straps, a come along or two, and Max's dad. It came out, but inch by irregular inch. Truthfully, it could've been much harder, and often is damn near impossible. The removable floor of the Westsail's cockpit makes it easier, if not manageable at all. We lowered the engine, a Perkins 4.108 by the way, into the back of our truck and drove it upstate for a complete overhaul.
We had no idea what we were doing. None at all. It's amazing in retrospect. We knew what the front and back were, that it needed compression/fuel/air to run, and most consequentially, that we had a remarkable community of salts and grease monkeys to rely upon. We also knew that it was going to be cheaper to do it ourselves. By no means cheap, but by all means cheaper. And we are cheap!
Once we had the engine bolted to our homemade shop table, we began the rebuild by stripping everything we could off and labeling it. The starter and alternator went to be overhauled by a local guy in Kingston, NY who interestingly enough builds starters and violins, the head went to a diesel mechanic who would do a lot of work for us, and we were lucky enough to have a friend sign up to help us through the entire process. Thanks Greg for spending countless cold and frustrating weekends helping us put the engine back together!
The deisel mechanic who helped us out treated the head to a bath in Magnivox, which removes corrosion so that one may see if the head itself is cracked. in our case it was, as you can see here.
The mechanic, Paul Matthies, found a used (but not cracked) head for us.
Another major deal was rebuiding the raw water pump, which presented a bit of a challenge. You can see it here as it was when we first took the engine out.
In the end we did a tremendous amount of work on the engine, and it took a long time! We rebuilt the raw water pump, replaced injectors, valves, rings, bearings, pistons, sleeves, oil pump, all filters, fuel lift pump, engine mounts (not installed yet), replaced the head which came with glow plug holes which is rare for a Perkins, installed glow plugs, replaced all gaskets, and had the starter and alternator rebuilt. The project cost $6000, 4000 in parts and services procured from others, and about 2000 in additional parts, materials, and tools needed for re-assembly/getting her started.
One thing that is absolutely true, about sailing, sailboats, and definitely this engine, affects all things that we can choose to fix or have fixed, and that is that the real learning, and the real value is in the struggle of the process. We knew early on that if we rebuilt the engine, if we spelunked into her corroded and pock-marked inner chambers, then one day, out on the open sea, with limited time and only our own knowledge, we might know how to fix it.
Here are a few more photos...
|The final painting.|
|After the installation.|