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Old 11-24-2020, 05:52 PM   #1
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Oil Sampling (Buying Californian 34 with Cat 3208's) - What else to test?

Hello all,

After my LONG search, I have found the boat I want to buy. It has twin Cat 3208's (I believe the 3208NA - 210 hp stock on the CA 34 1984 model)

Owner says the 1984 boat has original hours of only 1500.

I realize, a motor well taken care of that has 5k hours can easily be in better shape than a motor that has been poorly maintained with only 1500 hours.

So, my first task is to make sure the motors are what I think they are, Low hour Cat 3208's that should last me at least ten more years if I take care of them.. QUESTION: Am I correct?

I am asking for who and where should I start to find the right mechanic to check the motors out for me.

Besides getting oil analysis done, what else can or should I do?


My plan is to pay to have the motors checked out then I will pay for a full marine survey, hull for blisters, fuel tanks and anything else you think I should be careful of.

The boat is close to Austin Texas on a lake (I think about 12 years) and I will be transporting it to Santa Barbara.

Any advice you can leave would be much appreciated.
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Old 11-24-2020, 06:06 PM   #2
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Congrats on your new (potential) new boat. 3208s that arenít turboed should last 10K hours if maintained. I would call a Cat dealer to check out the engines. They are probably pretty tight in there so look for accessibility. Good luck.
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Old 11-24-2020, 06:09 PM   #3
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First are you aware that you probably will have to remove the fly bridge to ship it and the total cost will be near $10K, a fairly large fraction of its value. Secondly twin V8s are hard to maintain inside a 34' hull.

I can't help you with an engine surveyor, Austin is a bit out of my territory but you will probably have to bring one up from the Port Aransas/Galveston Bay area. But for the oil analysis a one shot analysis won't tell you much- it is trends that count. But it will tell you if water, ant-freeze or salt water (not so much in Austin I suspect) got in the engine, which surely would be deal killers.

A quick and easy test of the engine is will it start quickly from cold. That tells an engine surveyor about 80% of what he needs to know. The oil analysis another 10% and the rest is poking and prodding by the surveyor to find the rest.

And yes, if maintained and used well, those engines will easily last another ten years if they are in good condition now.

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Old 11-24-2020, 06:24 PM   #4
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NA Cat 3208s should last for thousands of hours, but there are plenty of things that could go wrong so you are wise to have them checked out. They should fire up instantly and will smoke a little until they warm up. Assuming they operate at the same RPM limits as my 3208TAs make sure they can get to 2800 RPM under load at WOT, and 3000 RPM with no load at WOT. Make sure you can run at WOT for several minutes without overheating. Look carefully for raw water leaks. Look for diesel fuel pooled up in the valley between the cylinders and check for diesel dripping from the 3 injection pump overflow tubes, fuel found in these places indicate that the injection pump needs to be repaired which can cost $1200 to $2500 at a reputable shop, though there are deals for $550 ebay you could try. These engines do create quite a bit of blow-by because they only have two piston rings, so don't be alarmed by that. Walker AirSeps are a nice upgrade to deal with said blow-by.


I am not by any means a CAT 3208 expert, but I am learning a lot about them in two+ years of ownership and a DIY mentality. I have the heads removed on one of mine right now as I am prepping it for all new gaskets, seals, paint, hoses, belts, a rebuilt injection pump and tested (or new if necessary) injectors . Once I am done with it, I'll be doing the same to the other engine. It's a fairly easy engine to work on. I have a factory service manual (they are no longer in print) for your engines if you are interested in purchasing it. They are tough to find.


Good luck!
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Old 11-24-2020, 07:14 PM   #5
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Let me get this right..You searched for a 34 foot boat with twin V-8s ? Or did you search out the boat and happened to get stuck with the twins?

No matter, you fell in love and we don't need to discuss singles vs twins anymore.

Also we don't need to discuss the inherent problems of cross country shipping of 35 year old boat.

You are on the right track. Definitely get the engines surveyed and get the oil analyzed. Not just the Cats but the genny and both transmissions.Also a complete hull survey!

Unless there is something SPECTACULAR about the boat, around here it would sell for around $40,000 or less. Are you sure you can't find anything closer to home?

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Old 11-24-2020, 07:48 PM   #6
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A point that , dave , lower case, who frequents Boat Diesel says is you need to find a 50+ yr old Caterpillar mechanic so he knows these engines.

The younger guys know it's a diesel but not a heck of a lot of detail about these older engines. Some will have dug into them but most not.

I found the same thing about my 1976 Cummins V555M. I knew more about my engine than the mechanic I was conversing with and he was not a young guy. I think he was competent but did not KNOW my engine so I did the work myself.

Lots of questions on B.D. [ BOATDIESEL }about the 3208 engines so go and look there also as a guest.
Guest will limit you to current threads. If you are interested further a $25 membership for a year will give you access to a LOT of info with a bit of searching.

When you get the oil tests post them here in PDF form so we can have a look easily. As mentioned without a history of tests one shots usually will highlight only serious recently developing problems but are still worthwhile.

I have to say have a good look assessing for access. If there is poor access to the engines then mtce. will be a pain for you and expensive for a hired mechanic.

Ask your engine surveyor what he thinks.

I have a 32 x 11'4" beam with the V555 which is a bit smaller than the 3208. With a single engine access is OK but could be better. With twins I don't think I would be able to get to the outsides of the engines.

I note that the 34 Californian is a 12'4" beam so is a foot wider than my boat so that may make a big difference in access.

I remember years ago looking at a 37' Tollycraft. Lovely vessel but crawling around the E.R. with twin 3208 Cats I realized that the boat was not for me.

I am not really trying to discourage you but trying to make you aware that access or rather lack of it can be a factor in how well you can look after the engines and eventually the costs. Just go in with your eyes wide open.

I hope though that the engines and the boat show well for you.
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Old 11-25-2020, 08:06 PM   #7
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First, Let me say a sincere THANK YOU for all your input, it is much appreciated and I hope to help others once I setting into my new boat. It has been a lot of work to get here and a lot more to come.. but once I get her in my slip I know it will all be worth it.. I'm STOKED.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Comodave View Post
Congrats on your new (potential) new boat. *3208s that arenít turboed should last 10K hours if maintained.
Thanks Dave


Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidM View Post
First are you aware that you probably will have to remove the fly bridge to ship it and the total cost will be near $10K
Dave, This would be a deal killer, We are having to adjust route a bit, but I am told it is doable. We are under 14ft all in and he needs less than a ft for padding rigging. Props will be off.. I will keep you posted



Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidM View Post
Austin is a bit out of my territory but you will probably have to bring one up from the Port Aransas/Galveston Bay area. But for the oil analysis a one shot analysis won't tell you much- it is trends that count. But it will tell you if water, ant-freeze or salt water (not so much in Austin I suspect) got in the engine, which surely would be deal killers.
Thanks again Dave, Good to know. I didn't realize oil sampling didn't reveal a whole bunch of info.


Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidM View Post
A quick and easy test of the engine is will it start quickly from cold. That tells an engine surveyor about 80% of what he needs to know. The oil analysis another 10% and the rest is poking and prodding by the surveyor to find the rest.
And yes, if maintained and used well, those engines will easily last another ten years if they are in good condition now.
Thanks Again Dave


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mischief Managed View Post
NA Cat 3208s should last for thousands of hours......
... I have a factory service manual..interested in purchasing it.
Good luck!
Thanks, Lots of good info and I will definitely run this all by the mechanic, and Yes..once I own the boat I may contact you for the manuals... always a great thing to have.Thanks Dave !


Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Meisinger View Post
Let me get this right..You searched for a 34 foot boat with twin V-8s ? Or did you search out the boat and happened to get stuck with the twins?
Pete,I searched out both, Wanting twins (Stock in a Californian - Solid boat) and with 1500 engine hours I can get over the fact that the 1984 boat was not re-powered as long as they check out like I am being told they will.. Purring along


Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Meisinger View Post
Also we don't need to discuss the inherent problems of cross country shipping of 35 year old boat.
I haven't searched for nightmare stories but haven't really heard it will mess up my boat if shipped/trucked correctly.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Meisinger View Post
You are on the right track. Definitely get the engines surveyed and get the oil analyzed. Not just the Cats but the genny and both transmissions. Also a complete hull survey!

Unless there is something SPECTACULAR about the boat, around here it would sell for around $40,000 or less. Are you sure you can't find anything closer to home?
pete
Yes Pete I am sure. I have been on the hunt for a long time and yes this boat has many extras and is in mint condition. I have been a Captain since the 80's. Ran Fishing Boats, Dive Boats, Crew boats, Light boats for commercial fishing Squid and I ran RIBs for major motion pictures where I was responsible for moving the Actors etc... So I am pretty aware of what I am seeking in a boat... The Californian checks many boxes..including being able to afford a slip in Santa Barbara and you don't want to know how much that set me back... but it is more than double what the boat costs. I do appreciate your caution and input. So I do thank you that Pete.


Quote:
Originally Posted by C lectric View Post
A point that, dave , lower case, who frequents Boat Diesel says is you need to find a 50+ yr old Caterpillar mechanic so he knows these engines.
Great Tip !


Quote:
Originally Posted by C lectric View Post
When you get the oil tests post them here in PDF form so we can have a look easily.
Will Do !
Quote:
Originally Posted by C lectric View Post
Just go in with your eyes wide open.
I hope though that the engines and the boat show well for you.
For Sure ! Thanks C lectric
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Old 12-02-2020, 04:26 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Comodave View Post
Congrats on your new (potential) new boat. 3208s that arenít turboed should last 10K hours if maintained. I would call a Cat dealer to check out the engines. They are probably pretty tight in there so look for accessibility. Good luck.
This is my exact plan Dave, Thanks !

Will keep you all posted
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Old 12-02-2020, 07:35 PM   #9
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While certainly not as big as a DeFever standup walk-around engine room, I find there is plenty of room to move around my 3208na twins in my 34 Californian. I'm not a small guy either (6'2" and 225 pounds).

The access on the outboard sides involves kneeling on top of the battery banks but it is still perfectly doable. The front of the engines is easily accessible while the rear where the oil filters are (above the transmission and below the exhaust crossover) is a bit tight but still accessible.

The oil dipsticks are on the starboard side of each engine which makes accessing the port engine really simple and the starboard engine a bit more involved but still not all that bad. There appears to be the ability to mount the dipstick on either the port or starboard sides of each engine but I haven't looked too deeply into it as it isn't that big of a deal.

Accessing the port side transmission dipstick is probably the biggest issue.
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Old 12-02-2020, 08:57 PM   #10
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I am surprised that they didnít put both dipsticks on the inboard side since it is usually simple to do on diesels.
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Old 12-02-2020, 09:15 PM   #11
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Article from Steve D on oil analysis (scroll down a few paragraphs to get to the meaty article)

https://stevedmarineconsulting.com/oil-analysis/

I gotta say, I'm surprised 3208s will fit in a 34 footer. I drove a Cheoy Lee 57-ish trawler for a while that had a pair of 3208s and they filled up the ER just fine.

Peter
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Old 12-03-2020, 09:35 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mvweebles View Post
Article from Steve D on oil analysis (scroll down a few paragraphs to get to the meaty article)

https://stevedmarineconsulting.com/oil-analysis/

I gotta say, I'm surprised 3208s will fit in a 34 footer. I drove a Cheoy Lee 57-ish trawler for a while that had a pair of 3208s and they filled up the ER just fine.

Peter
Another Oil Analysis article with legible report samples and photos
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Old 12-03-2020, 09:46 AM   #13
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Read Steve D's article closely with respect to Total Base Number, the measure of lube oil's ability to neutralize acids. Steve states that if all other measures are normal the TBN level is indicative of whether the oil is still good to use. In other words, if the report shows the TBN to still be high enough, changing the oil is a total waste of time and money. Correlatively, there is no acid in the oil because it has been NEUTRALIZED and will continue to be so. Why is that important? Because you DO NOT need to change your oil for winter layup to prevent all that acid in the oil from eating up your engine innards. This is just another of those "common knowledge" fantasies perpetuated by those "long-experienced" diesel mechanics who know nothing of the science. Does it hurt to change lube oil prematurely? Nope, just your wallet and valuable boat time and a messy job.
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Originally Posted by mvweebles View Post
Article from Steve D on oil analysis (scroll down a few paragraphs to get to the meaty article)

https://stevedmarineconsulting.com/oil-analysis/

I gotta say, I'm surprised 3208s will fit in a 34 footer. I drove a Cheoy Lee 57-ish trawler for a while that had a pair of 3208s and they filled up the ER just fine.

Peter
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Old 12-03-2020, 07:34 PM   #14
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The low sulphur and now the ultra low sulphur fuels mandated some years ago have changed the quantity of sulphur put into the oil so yes the change intervals based on TBN have changed. THe TAN and TBN don't change nearly as quickly as they used to.

I still test every year and change every year even though I know I don't really have to.

Especially the testing as that has twice shown I had a brewing problem that if not known about would have been very expensive to repair. One was the gearbox, the other was the engine.

Maybe next year I will modify that to change based on the test. I used to do that but I also used to run 200 or 400 hrs yearly. So sometimes those changes were needed at very inconvenient times. That has changed so yes, every second year but based on the test results. Now I will need to keep an eye on some of the other factors such as soot buildup.
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Old 12-04-2020, 05:09 AM   #15
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C lectric, just a small correction if I may. Sulphur is not and was not added to oil. The mandate is to remove the sulphur that is already present. Some folks mistakenly believe that the lubricity of diesel fuel is less in ULSD fuel because there is less sulphur, that sulphur provides lubricity. It does not. Lubricity is lessened by the process used to reduce the sulphur that is naturally occurring in crude oil.
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The low sulphur and now the ultra low sulphur fuels mandated some years ago have changed the quantity of sulphur put into the oil so yes the change intervals based on TBN have changed. THe TAN and TBN don't change nearly as quickly as they used to.

I still test every year and change every year even though I know I don't really have to.

Especially the testing as that has twice shown I had a brewing problem that if not known about would have been very expensive to repair. One was the gearbox, the other was the engine.

Maybe next year I will modify that to change based on the test. I used to do that but I also used to run 200 or 400 hrs yearly. So sometimes those changes were needed at very inconvenient times. That has changed so yes, every second year but based on the test results. Now I will need to keep an eye on some of the other factors such as soot buildup.
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Old 12-04-2020, 09:31 AM   #16
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It was not my intention to suggest that sulphur was PUT into engine oil by mfgrs..
I guess I was not clear.
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Old 12-04-2020, 12:39 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mvweebles View Post

I gotta say, I'm surprised 3208s will fit in a 34 footer. I drove a Cheoy Lee 57-ish trawler for a while that had a pair of 3208s and they filled up the ER just fine.

Peter
One of the Californian 34 LRC's assets is its 12' x 20' ER...from the fwd bulkhead at the steps to the transom. It's tight with V8s and a genset but it fits. The ER height leaves a bit to be desired but appropriately placed small floor hatches make those hard to reach items like coolant caps easier to access.

Mine has twin inline 4's (Perkins 4.236) and no genset so there's lots of room for access. I'm 5'10/~185#, 63 yrs old and I'm still able to crawl 360* around each engine.

When I spoke to builder Jule and Gil Marshall years ago, Gil stated that his favorite 34 version was the Cat 3208-equipped model. It gave good performance on plane and was still worthy of fishing/trolling/slow cruising. I don't recall if he mentioned NA (210 HP) or turbo (250 HP). Fellow TFer CHC/Chris has twin 4-stroke Detroit 260s in his 34. I was aboard for 23 kts and it was like riding in an entirely different boat than mine!!

I joke that my boat has 2 speeds...slow and stopped. It's nice to have more choices!
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Old 12-04-2020, 01:34 PM   #18
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Al,

Did they make the 34 Californian with turbos? I don't think I've ever seen one (stock) and all the paperwork I recall reading only referenced the NA versions.

I'm pretty sure Jule was talking about the NA. There's not a lot of room between the top of my 3208NA and the bottom of the sole. All the turbo engines I've seen have a bunch of stuff on top of the engine that would be really hard to fit in my engine room.

Regarding Chris's boat - 23 knots? That's crazy fast for a Californian! Did you try waterskiing?
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Old 12-05-2020, 06:09 PM   #19
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I'm pretty sure the long drag on skis to 20 kts would drown me!

I suspect he was talking about NAs. I've never seen turbos on any engines mounted in Californians...unless CHC's Detroit 260 had a turbo. It was packed in there so tight I never thought to look.
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Old 12-05-2020, 07:41 PM   #20
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I suspect he was talking about NAs. I've never seen turbos on any engines mounted in Californians...
I delivered a 1989, 48' Californian with a pair of 3208, 375hp turbos.
I was impressed by how it handled some pretty snotty northerlies coming
out of Chicago then 12' to 15' from easterlies coming into Lake Ontario at
the Welland.
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