Sunday, December 3, 2023

Rattle Can Rebuild Part 1

Now that it's too cold to actually work on the boat effectively, I've turned my attention to the dreaded engine project.  I've had a love/hate relationship with inboard marine engines over the years, beginning in the 1980's when my dad had a boat with a Westerbeke W13. My dad had zero ability when it came to solving engine issues and left me in charge of making sure they worked.  The W13 was brand new and really didn't need anything but periodic maintenance, but we moved on to another boat with a Yanmar 3GM30 that was a bit long in the tooth and I was forced to spend a lot of quality time in uncomfortable positions trying to diagnose and fix issues along the way.  None of this put me off though because I always managed to find a solution and these small diesels were pretty reliable despite the hostile environment they lived in.  

It wasn't until we purchased a wreck of a boat (Pearson Ariel) with an Atomic 4 that almost never ran.  The good news was that it forced me to become a better sailor, the bad news was that it was always threatening to blow up (gasoline, not diesel) when the carburetor float would stick, overflow the bowl and start pouring into the bilge.  Even though it was the simplest inboard engine I've had, I never got comfortable with it and the boat didn't last very long.  

Since then, I've had a Westerbeke W21 that was super reliable, but prone to overheating because the old heat exchange had too much corrosion in it.  I pulled that apart several times fruitlessly attempting to clean out the heat exchanger and it wasn't until I was re-coring the decks on the Alberg 35 that I solved the issue by soaking it in some sort of acid solution for 2 weeks.  

As a result of my engine experiences over the years I have become somewhat distrustful of these beasts and the latest version (Westerbeke W27) is no exception,  However, I'm determined to get over this by tearing the engine down as much as I can so that I can understand exactly how it ticks.  I'm not going to open up the head because the compression tests prior and survey done prior to me buying the boat indicated no issues and it only has 974 hours on it (which is just a baby by diesel standards that routinely run for 5000 hours without a major rebuild).

The fun part of this project is that I have just about all new OEM parts and I will be replacing all the old parts with new ones (whether they are needed or not).  The big exception is the exhaust manifold which is no longer manufactured so I will be rebuilding that.  In addition to that, I'll be stripping down the engine as much as possible so I can repaint the block and get ahead of rust.

So, the existing engine cradle is pretty nice, but it's low to the ground and I can't access the oil pan and other low parts on the engine.  As a result, before I began any real work on the engine, I decided to get it mounted on an engine stand so I could get to the bottom parts of the engine.  

I ordered a chain hoist and engine stand from Amazon and shored up the shop ceiling joists with a 4x6 beam to carry the engine weight on the hoist and then lifted it up onto the stand.  Pretty easy to do, but a bit scary knowing that 430lbs could drop on my foot at any moment.  I was a little worried about cantelevering all the weight on the bell housing so even though it's mounted on the stand, I still keep the chain hoist hooked up so I don't put too much pressure on the bell housing.  

Now that i'ts mounted and everything accessible, the project can really begin. Stay tuned...

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