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Old 11-09-2018, 11:57 AM   #1
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Unknown Engine Hours

Looking at a 30 year old trawler with original engines. Hour meters are non functional. I rally like the boat. Should I run?
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Old 11-09-2018, 12:35 PM   #2
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Hard to tell. But we did walk from two boats we liked due to unknown hours.
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Old 11-09-2018, 01:05 PM   #3
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Flip a coin. A simple non-turbo engine should be able to last anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 hours before rebuild. Key is frequent oil changes and unless there is a maintenance log the frequency will be unknown. Overall condition of ER can be an indicator.

I would expect a 30 year boat to have 3000 hours as a rule of thumb. If it was maintained well then there should be many hours left. Note that external items such as starters and water pumps may have a much shorter life.

Running the engine to operating temp is probably the best way to determine it's health. If black or blue smoke is pouring out then I would keep looking.
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Old 11-09-2018, 01:38 PM   #4
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100 hours a year is a good rule of thumb. Also, check for other hour meters (furnace, genny, etc) as they can indicate a low minimum. For example if the genny has 3000 hours on it the engines will have many more.

Keep in mind you will be inheriting this issue when you sell the boat in the distant future.
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Old 11-09-2018, 01:42 PM   #5
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If the hour meter is working when we see a boat, how do we know the meter has been working it’s entire life? Could be the engine (s) has 10,000 hours when the meter reads 2,500. Get the maintenance records...
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Old 11-09-2018, 01:43 PM   #6
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Price may be one consideration. If the boat is great except for unknown engine hours and the price is down enough to cover some or all of the replacement/overhaul, it may still be a good boat to buy.
My current boat, besides it's age, had engines that needed overhaul. The price negotiated was much less than the cost for me to overhaul. So now I have like new engines, good for the rest of my life.
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Old 11-09-2018, 02:30 PM   #7
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You might negotiate a discount based on unknown hours, worth a try.

But a trawler engine that checks out in good shape is in good shape whether it has 5000hr or 15000hrs.

Rare for recreational trawlers to have more than 15000hr.
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Old 11-09-2018, 03:10 PM   #8
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Unknown engine hours wouldn’t bother me. I wouldn’t trust a working hour meter anyway, unless fully backed up with log books. M
An engine with 10,000 hours may be in better shape than one with 1000 hours. I’d rather know how well it was serviced or many times it has overheated.
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Old 11-09-2018, 03:42 PM   #9
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I would not be concerned with the number of hours, but rather the condition of the boat. A lot of time low hour engines just have been sitting and not taken care of.
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Old 11-09-2018, 03:56 PM   #10
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I'm in the camp of not worrying too much about hours. If you are, a good mechanic familiar with that particular engine can often pick up little tell tales and give you a thumbs up/down etc. There are oddities to many engines that can can be sorted out by the right guy. Mani coolers on Hinos are a good example. If there is any decent evidence they've been serviced, I'd take that as a good sign about the rest of the engine.

To make the point, when I purchased our Camano, the boat was 20 years old, but the engine had less than 600 hours on it. I still had a number of "issues" I had to deal with despite the engine just being a teenager.

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Old 11-12-2018, 06:52 AM   #11
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Have an oil test done and a survey by a good diesel mechanic. Don't forget a good sea trial putting the engines under high rpms for a long enough period of time to show problems there. Have the mechanic aboard for the sea trial. The combination of these will tell the overall health of the engine. House keeping in the engine room is another clue.
Agricultural diesels in horrible conditions easily go 10,000 hrs before they begin to show problems. They experience bad fuel, shock loads, constant variation in rpms and some serious lugging along with a hostile working environment of dust, heat, cold, mud and water. They still have an amazing lifespan. A diesel being 30 years old has nothing to do with it's overall health. Here on Lake Erie thirty year old boats usually show less than 1200 hrs. So if the boat doesn't have a history of extensive long distance cruising, it's hours are most likely fairly low.
Our West Indian 36 was repowered 27 years ago with unknown hours. The Perkins runs flawlessly. Oil test showed very low wear. A reliable mechanic was quite happy with the overall health of the old girl. We purchased the boat 3 years ago and have put 360 trouble free hours on the engine.
The crankcase oil should have some hours on it show the engine wear, so that is a consideration on having the test done. The military was the first to use these tests on jet engines. They were so reliable in showing overall engine condition that the test has since become commonplace in the open market. While the purchase of your dream boat is in the end and coin toss, at least these considerations will put the toss in your favor.
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Old 11-12-2018, 08:43 AM   #12
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An owner not replacing hour meters probably didn't do other maintenance either.
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Old 11-12-2018, 11:24 AM   #13
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My first two boats had no hour meters at all.

My present boat came to me with one functional hour meter. I added a second, then after 1500 more hours, I replaced both engines with newer, that had their original hour meters. Up top, I had to buy two more tachometers, each with an internal hour meter. those have numbers on that don't relate to the engines they are now connected to.
You need to use whatever other clues you can find to determine the health of the engines, as hour meters are more likely than not, to be misleading.
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Old 11-12-2018, 12:52 PM   #14
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You really aren't telling us much but there must be a logbook. A conscientious owner tracks his travels and his maintenance. Any owner whom has had a failed system or device on a boat for any length of time, for example, not having a clue how many engine hours? How has scheduled maintenance been done? How would you know? This boat has not been maintained. POS.
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Old 11-13-2018, 06:47 AM   #15
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"You need to use whatever other clues you can find to determine the health of the engines,"


Its a very rough measure but a cold start , watching the exhaust smoke , as you watch the coolant temp , underway, can easily show a shot , low compression or oil eater.
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Old 11-13-2018, 04:30 PM   #16
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When i purchased my boat the hour meter had stopped at 850hrs on a 2000 Cummins 6BT. The boat was still in shrink wrap and the oil had been changed at layup so an oil analysis was not an option. The boat cranked quickly with slight smoke at startup which immediately cleared. The owner authorized a 5 minute WOT at dock. and a sea trial that included incremental throttle up to WOT with infrared temp readings at each stage. I have put 450 hours on the engine since 2016 with no issues except a starter. I think TedTed, the guy so nice they named him twice, makes a lot of sense with his observations. Hour meters are excellent in letting you know how many hours are on the meter but an oil analysis and overall performance are better indicators IMHO. Good Luck!
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Old 11-13-2018, 05:15 PM   #17
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May I suggest, you get a certified diesel mechanic to do an engine survey.
It will set back more than a few buck but, may save you money in the long run.
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Old 11-13-2018, 05:30 PM   #18
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It would help to know what engines, if they have a reputation for longevity that would help. Getting them surveyed is your best course.
My reman Onan genset showed 1326 hours when I bought the boat 9 years ago. Good, I thought,but later I noticed the meter never changes. It`s still a good genset, 9 years on, hours nk.
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Old 11-13-2018, 05:41 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceK View Post
It would help to know what engines, if they have a reputation for longevity that would help. Getting them surveyed is your best course.
My reman Onan genset showed 1326 hours when I bought the boat 9 years ago. Good, I thought,but later I noticed the meter never changes. It`s still a good genset, 9 years on, hours nk.
Guess you could put a new hour meter on and estimate the number of hours. When you sell the boat, you can explain it to the new owner.
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Old 11-16-2018, 02:00 PM   #20
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Mechanical engine hour meters are right up there in accuracy with marine fuel gauges. Even sellers that stand by theirs will have a purchase and sales agreement that sports language along the lines of; "engine hour meter reads....." which doesn't say how many hours are on the engine, it says how many hours the meter shows.

Newer electronic displays with engine hours are a bit more believable.

Bottom line though, as others have stated - blind yourself to whatever "hours" advertised and look at the engine itself and other ancillary indicators as to the condition.
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