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Old 01-29-2021, 10:35 AM   #1
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1988 vintage Cat 3208's

Advanced search w/ no success but.....
What are the pros and cons of these engines?
Looking at a trawler w/ 3208's

Thanks,
Bill
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Old 01-29-2021, 10:44 AM   #2
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Are these engines NA (250hp) or they Turbos 375-425hp? If engines have been maintained by Cat standards along with running at trawler speeds they are very reliable. 5,000 hours without rebuild is not uncommon.
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Old 01-29-2021, 10:56 AM   #3
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They are great engines with excellent parts availability from CAT at reasonable prices. NA versions should last 10,000+ hours. T and TA versions will have a shorter lifespan, but not short, by any means. Mine are the 375HP TA models with 2000 hours and show little wear. I expect mine will last well over 6000 hours based on inspection at 2000 hours. CAT says you should inspect for overhaul considerations after running 30,000 gallons of fuel through them.



3208s are very easy to maintain and repair, however, the big downside to them is that they don't have removable cylinder liners so they they would be very difficult to rebuild while installed in a boat. That said, you don't hear of many 3208s needing a rebuild in a recreational boat unless they are the 425-435HP versions, which had some longevity issues and are not as desirable as the sub-376HP versions.
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Old 01-29-2021, 11:37 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by ragin cajun View Post
Are these engines NA (250hp) or they Turbos 375-425hp? If engines have been maintained by Cat standards along with running at trawler speeds they are very reliable. 5,000 hours without rebuild is not uncommon.
I like that username, I'm just south of you.
Subject engines are 375hp, 2500 hours
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Old 01-29-2021, 11:38 AM   #5
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They are great engines with excellent parts availability from CAT at reasonable prices. NA versions should last 10,000+ hours. T and TA versions will have a shorter lifespan, but not short, by any means. Mine are the 375HP TA models with 2000 hours and show little wear. I expect mine will last well over 6000 hours based on inspection at 2000 hours. CAT says you should inspect for overhaul considerations after running 30,000 gallons of fuel through them.



3208s are very easy to maintain and repair, however, the big downside to them is that they don't have removable cylinder liners so they they would be very difficult to rebuild while installed in a boat. That said, you don't hear of many 3208s needing a rebuild in a recreational boat unless they are the 425-435HP versions, which had some longevity issues and are not as desirable as the sub-376HP versions.
Non sleeved engines, thats what I couldnt remember for the 3208's
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Old 01-29-2021, 12:05 PM   #6
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I like that username, I'm just south of you.
Subject engines are 375hp, 2500 hours
Had these exact engines in my last boat. The only service to these engines were cleaning the heat exchangers and routine oil and service. Ya look at the key and they start! Over heating, as in most engines, is a killer. I ran mine @ 1600rpm giving me 7-8kts.

BTW
Are you a commercial diver?
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Old 01-29-2021, 12:13 PM   #7
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Subject engines are 375hp, 2500 hours

With those hours, they are barley broke in! My 3208 T/As have close to 4000 hours, but I am anal about periodic and scheduled maintenance.
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Old 01-29-2021, 12:35 PM   #8
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Good engines. Some weak spots: Head gaskets can age out and start leaking usually at like 20-30yrs of age. Injector pump can wear and throw metal into injectors. Oil pans can rot if they get salty. Turbo turbine housings tend to erode.

Came in a bunch of ratings: NA (no turbo), 210hp. Turbo, 260, 300, 320hp. Turbo+aftercooler (TA) 355, 375, 425, 435, 450.

The 425hp-up do not have great rep if run hard. If run in trawler service (low hp), they do fine. Sportfish, not so long a life.

One of my fave engines. All engines have their warts, but on a 3208 they are manageable.

If they are still alive since 1988, that alone is sayin' sometin'.
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Old 01-29-2021, 12:46 PM   #9
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My 37 sportfish had twin 320Ts.... last I heard almost 5000 hrs and running like new.


Had component changes along the way, nothing major except turbo cartridges (previous owner to me, not sure of terminology).


Would run another if it was up to date with service... no questions asked.
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Old 01-29-2021, 01:17 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by ragin cajun View Post
Had these exact engines in my last boat. The only service to these engines were cleaning the heat exchangers and routine oil and service. Ya look at the key and they start! Over heating, as in most engines, is a killer. I ran mine @ 1600rpm giving me 7-8kts.

BTW
Are you a commercial diver?
No, actually I am offshore now G.O.M running a subsea christmas tree in 5300' of water from an installation vessel. The "Cade Candies"
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Old 01-29-2021, 01:21 PM   #11
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Hi Subwellhead,

Unfortunately, I can only offer about 18 months of ownership experience with 1978-vintage, 3500 hour 3208 NAs, but here's what I've learned in that relatively short time:

a. Obtaining written maintenance and repair manuals is difficult. And, in my opinion, even when you have them, the CAT format is horrible. Poor indexing, multiple versions to wade through to find your own particular circumstance, very time consuming learning curve to use them, etc. I believe they are very valuable to trained, professional diesel mechanics with experience in service and repair of 3208's. Not so much for the DIY guy, like myself.

b. Obtaining online versions of the manuals is less of a challenge. However, for some reason, the PDF version of the manuals I obtained (as I was frustrated with my official CAT manuals) was not searchable for keywords. i.e.-the "search" function in my version of Adobe Acrobat didn't work. WTF?? So ultimately no better than my official CAT manuals.

c. My boat, a Tolly 48, has a beam in excess of 15', with twin engines. The outboard access to these engines was HORRIBLE. Now this is admittedly as much a Tollycraft issue as a CAT issue; however, the innate design of the 3208's puts some service items virtually out of reach. And, in particular, the raw water pump, even on the inboard side of my starboard engine, had to be completely removed to simply change the impeller. DUMB design to put hard piping in way of the pump cover. And on the outboard (port) side, access meant that removal was accomplish mostly by feel.

d. And an equally lousy CAT design decision to make those water pumps belt driven. Break a belt-lose and engine in short order due to rapid overheat.

e. I found it almost impossible to install high-output (>100A, for instance) alternators on my engines, due to the stock configuration and location of the OEM alternators. My OEM alternators were long gone after 40+ years, but the horrible access necessitated by the Tolly and CAT design decisions made small-frame, 100A alternators about the only choice once a replacement was required.

f. The design of the cooling system provides for a plethora of external cooling hoses on the exterior of the engines. Again, a nightmare to service on the outboard sides of these wide, wide V8 engines.

g. Despite the aforementioned warts, I leapt at the opportunity to buy my Tolly, particularly since mine are the naturally-aspirated variants of these engines. Given my experience with previous boats with both DD and John Deere mechanically-injected engines, and a sound survey, I accepted them with trepidation, and bought the boat anyway. And my expectations of good service from the engines was fully found. Never failed to start at first roll, never burned excessive oil, never fouled the engine room with excess blowby, etc. And gave no indication they would not last well into the future (with good maintenance, for sure), probably well past 10,000 hours or so.

Obviously, you mileage may vary, but in my opinion, you will receive excellent service and performance with 3208 CATs, assuming a sound survey up front, and reasonable maintenance and use by previous owner(s). Personally, I'd favor the NAs through the 375HP variants, but not the higher-horsepower versions.

Regards,

Pete
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Old 01-29-2021, 01:49 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ski in NC View Post
Good engines. Some weak spots: Head gaskets can age out and start leaking usually at like 20-30yrs of age. Injector pump can wear and throw metal into injectors. Oil pans can rot if they get salty. Turbo turbine housings tend to erode.

I'm replacing my head gaskets prophylactically on my 1992 3208TA 375HP engines this Winter. So far, I have two out of the four heads off and already found one bad head gasket. The engine ran fine and had no symptoms, but the metal ring around the top of one of the cylinders was burned though and the problem was creeping to an adjacent cylinder. The new head gaskets from CAT are improved and are less likely to fail in the same manner.
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Old 01-29-2021, 02:00 PM   #13
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Hi Subwellhead,


c. My boat, a Tolly 48, has a beam in excess of 15', with twin engines. The outboard access to these engines was HORRIBLE. Now this is admittedly as much a Tollycraft issue as a CAT issue; however, the innate design of the 3208's puts some service items virtually out of reach. And, in particular, the raw water pump, even on the inboard side of my starboard engine, had to be completely removed to simply change the impeller. DUMB design to put hard piping in way of the pump cover. And on the outboard (port) side, access meant that removal was accomplish mostly by feel.

d. And an equally lousy CAT design decision to make those water pumps belt driven. Break a belt-lose and engine in short order due to rapid overheat.

e. I found it almost impossible to install high-output (>100A, for instance) alternators on my engines, due to the stock configuration and location of the OEM alternators. My OEM alternators were long gone after 40+ years, but the horrible access necessitated by the Tolly and CAT design decisions made small-frame, 100A alternators about the only choice once a replacement was required.

f. The design of the cooling system provides for a plethora of external cooling hoses on the exterior of the engines. Again, a nightmare to service on the outboard sides of these wide, wide V8 engines.

g. Despite the aforementioned warts, I leapt at the opportunity to buy my Tolly, particularly since mine are the naturally-aspirated variants of these engines. Given my experience with previous boats with both DD and John Deere mechanically-injected engines, and a sound survey, I accepted them with trepidation, and bought the boat anyway. And my expectations of good service from the engines was fully found. Never failed to start at first roll, never burned excessive oil, never fouled the engine room with excess blowby, etc. And gave no indication they would not last well into the future (with good maintenance, for sure), probably well past 10,000 hours or so.

Obviously, you mileage may vary, but in my opinion, you will receive excellent service and performance with 3208 CATs, assuming a sound survey up front, and reasonable maintenance and use by previous owner(s). Personally, I'd favor the NAs through the 375HP variants, but not the higher-horsepower versions.

Regards,

Pete

Interesting observation. My Tollycraft 44 has decent access to most stuff on the outboard sides of the 3208s I have. It;s not ideal, but it's not bad. I don't have any trouble removing the raw water pumps for servicing, for instance. I loosen two hose clamps, remove two hoses, loosen three bracket bolts to take tension off the belt, remove the belt, and remove 4 pump mounting bolts and the pump is sitting on a bench. Literally takes 5 minutes on the starboard engine and 10 minutes on the port engine. That said, the impellers seem to last FOREVER on these pumps. Mine came with a box of used spares that are in perfect shape. I pulled the ones that were in it when I bought it out after 400 hours of use and they look new.
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Old 01-29-2021, 03:14 PM   #14
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How hard to run 'em?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ragin cajun View Post
Had these exact engines in my last boat. The only service to these engines were cleaning the heat exchangers and routine oil and service. Ya look at the key and they start! Over heating, as in most engines, is a killer. I ran mine @ 1600rpm giving me 7-8kts.

BTW
Are you a commercial diver?
How hard to run 'em? Ski I welcome your input as well.

I've got twin 3208 NAs 1983 vintage 4000 hrs. Californian 42 LRC. I haven't had the boat very long for many hrs so still learning the engines.

I've heard I need to run 'em hard to make 'em happy. I've heard that about so many engines and it isn't necessarily true so I'm taking that with a grain of salt.

I prefer 1400 RPM. The boat is smooth, quiet and just slips through the water. 1600 is OK but noisier and starting to make too much wake. Still decent fuel efficiency. 1800 and she's getting noisy and starting to dig a hole, fuel efficiency is starting to suffer. 2200 where the PO said he ran them it's quite a racket and she's digging a pretty deep hole.

I know they are over propped. I don't know by how much.

So, last outings I've stayed in the 1600 - 1800 range and for the last 30 minutes of the day run 'em up to 2000 with a 5 - 10 min lower RPM cool down entering the marina and getting tied up. Since I've been doing that they smoke less on startup.
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Old 01-29-2021, 03:45 PM   #15
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Great info here guys on the 3208's, happy with what I'm seeing here.

Now I'm going to have to research the boat manufacturer.
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Old 01-29-2021, 04:30 PM   #16
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How hard to run 'em? Ski I welcome your input as well.

I've got twin 3208 NAs 1983 vintage 4000 hrs. Californian 42 LRC. I haven't had the boat very long for many hrs so still learning the engines.

I've heard I need to run 'em hard to make 'em happy. I've heard that about so many engines and it isn't necessarily true so I'm taking that with a grain of salt.

I prefer 1400 RPM. The boat is smooth, quiet and just slips through the water. 1600 is OK but noisier and starting to make too much wake. Still decent fuel efficiency. 1800 and she's getting noisy and starting to dig a hole, fuel efficiency is starting to suffer. 2200 where the PO said he ran them it's quite a racket and she's digging a pretty deep hole.

I know they are over propped. I don't know by how much.

So, last outings I've stayed in the 1600 - 1800 range and for the last 30 minutes of the day run 'em up to 2000 with a 5 - 10 min lower RPM cool down entering the marina and getting tied up. Since I've been doing that they smoke less on startup.
I’ve got the same NA variants as you PB, cruise is 1500 rpm to help the engine
work a bit. WOT for me is 2300 rpm, so also over propped. Somebody explained that this may be ok because the engine would be considered “loaded” at its usual lower revving cruise speeds?
Not sure if this is correct or not?
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Old 01-29-2021, 07:29 PM   #17
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Has the 2000 hr turbo service been done. v config: Maintenance wise double everything on the exhaust side (elbows etc.) to replace in time. Some boats have horrible outboard access, since the engines are lower but wider than others.
Cat rates their engines life based on number of gallons fuel burned not hours operated, so trawler reliably long lived; active sport fish may be shorter lived.
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Old 01-29-2021, 08:30 PM   #18
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I had a 34 foot Westport gillnet boat with a 3208na. The local cat dealer was a friend of my dad. The first year I had the boat I ran it at 2250. Dealer had a fit and told me to run it on the pyro. Boat was propped for 2900 and I ran it at 2550 for the next 6 seasons I had the boat. Ran into the new owners and 30 years later the 3208 is still humming right along.
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Old 01-29-2021, 09:38 PM   #19
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Thanks for the input. But I'm looking for how easy I can run 'em for about 6 hrs. Then how hard to run 'em at the end of the run.

This boat with a pair of 210 HPs is both over powered and under powered. To make 7 to 8.5 kts the cats are just loafing, barely working. At 2200 and higher they're working good and hard, burning a lot of fuel, and the boat isn't going fast enough to justify the burn.
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I had a 34 foot Westport gillnet boat with a 3208na. The local cat dealer was a friend of my dad. The first year I had the boat I ran it at 2250. Dealer had a fit and told me to run it on the pyro. Boat was propped for 2900 and I ran it at 2550 for the next 6 seasons I had the boat. Ran into the new owners and 30 years later the 3208 is still humming right along.
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Old 01-29-2021, 11:07 PM   #20
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CAT recommends a minimum rpm of 1500.
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