Tuesday, February 4, 2014

So, Whatever Happened with the Engines?

Remember when I told you about having work done on the engines? I wouldn't blame you if you didn't as it has been a long time.  So, to recap, the mechanic was cleaning the heat exchangers on all three engines (two Westerbekes and the Northern Lights generator), sending a fuel injector pump on one of the Westerbekes off to be rebuilt, replacing a rusted exhaust mixing elbow on the generator and removing a rusted and broken stud on the manifold that attaches to the elbow.

A Westerbeke 42B4 waiting for it's heat exchanger.

Well, after initial disassembly and removal of the heat exchangers, pump, mixing elbow and manifold, the mechanic said he would have the exchangers cleaned up in a couple of days and the pump would probably take a week or so to have rebuilt and returned (it was sent to a shop in Orlando that is supposed to be good at such things).  They would come back and complete the job once the pump came back.  The mechanic also wanted some money for the parts so he wrote up a bill for the work that had been completed thus far.  My normal rule is to pay for parts once they arrive and pay for labor once the job is complete, but since this was a recommendation by a friend, I went ahead and paid the tab to date.  This was probably my first mistake.

The Northern Lights Generator waiting on it's exhaust system.

So, I waited.  And waited.  I didn't hear back from the mechanic.  After a week and a half I gave him a call.  I was told the pump would be in on that following Monday and they would call me and let me know when they would be back to complete the work.  So I waited some more.  Monday passed with no call, so did Tuesday.  On Wednesday I gave him a call and he now told me that the pump would be in tomorrow (Thursday).  On Friday I gave the mechanic a call and he said all the parts were in but it was too cold to work since the temperatures were in the 40's and 50's.  I can understand that working in the cold can be miserable...but being from Colorado I really didn't consider this all that cold...especially if you were out of the wind in the engine room.  He would call me and set up a time early next week.

I ran into him in the marina parking lot in the middle of that week and he said he would be over to finish up the work on...I think it was Thursday or Friday.  So on the agreed upon day I waited and he again failed to show up and failed to give me a call.  I got a hold of him and he again said he had everything but it would be Monday before they could come finish up.  Sigh.

On Monday they finally showed up with the pump and coolers.  Things were looking up.  After several hours in the engine room they told me they were missing some parts, but they had them at their shop in St. Augustine.  They didn't want to go get the parts so they would be back Tuesday at 2pm to finish up.  Well at least that was some progress, but it amazes me that after all this time and claiming they had everything that they were once again missing something.

You know what happened next.  Yep, I waited around for an hour and a half on Tuesday before I gave up.  No show, no call...this was getting to be a little too predictable.  I caught up with him again in the marina parking lot on Wednesday and asked what was up.  This time the explanation was that the delivery guy failed to drop the parts off, but they would have them and be over to finish up on Friday.  To my surprise I got a phone call on Friday from the mechanic.  No, he wasn't going to be able to make it...but at least this time he called.  He was apologetic and said he would be over Saturday morning to finish up.  That would be this past Saturday.

To my complete shock, they did show up on Saturday.  They weren't even very late.  Also to my shock, he announced that both he and his assistant were quite hung over.  Really?!?!  How professional.  I asked if it would be better if they come back when they were feeling better, but he insisted that they would be fine.  They worked for several hours getting things back together (I thought this was just a bolt and some clamps...guess I could be wrong...or the hangover slowed them down...a nice thing when you are getting billed by the hour).  The starboard engine, the one with the new pump, was difficult to get started.  I think at one point they realized that they had forgotten to turn on one of the fuel valves...sigh.  We eventually got everything bled and got the engine started.  The generator and the other engine were much easier, once they got the coolant filled and everything back together, both of those engines started without too much fuss.

Now the things we were originally trying to address were making the generator reliable if it wasn't too expensive (it's not a high priority here since I want to go solar anyway), fixing the fuel leak, and solving the issue with one of the engines running warm.  The generator is now working and not leaking...but I'm not sure what percentage of the bill was the generator so I kinda doubt it was cheap.  The fuel leak appears to be fixed, so that is one in the plus column.  After running the engines a bit, the starboard engine is again reading higher than normal temps if you rev it up.  Sigh.  And it was smoking a bit more than I recall it had in the past (I don't recall any smoke in the past).

I ask the mechanic about the temperatures since the cleaning was supposed to help and he said that the heat exchangers didn't look very bad even before he cleaned them.  What?!?!  I guess cleaning them was just another way to get some more money out of the job then?  He offered to go check the engines with a laser thermometer and I told him that was probably a good idea.  He checks and we find out that both engines are running at just about exactly the same temperature...172F at the coolant entry into the heat exchanger.  So Mr. Expert Diesel Mechanic...why didn't we do this before we took the coolers off to have them cleaned? I think that could have saved us a fair amount of time and money to find out that 190 on the gauge is actually 172.  I guess it is my fault as I should have thought about actually verifying the problem before attempting any fix...and I know better than this but I think the boat is somehow hypnotizing me or maybe I'm just a bit overwhelmed by the size of the "the list" and the shrinking time frame to get things done.  This is lesson number 2...don't EVER believe a mechanic that doesn't actually run tests first.  "Oh, marine diesels are simple systems and it has to be xxxxxxx"...yeah, right.

Anyway, the engines are back together now and seem to work.  One important problem solved (fuel leak), one less important problem fixed at a higher cost than I really wanted to spend (the generator), and one problem that isn't really a problem and I just need to remember to do the math on the reading until I can trace down the issue (the false higher temp reading).  At this point I certainly don't want this mechanic looking into that.

And the one time the mechanic was prompt and communicative...when he brought me the final bill this morning.  He even had a little bit of a discount added with a note of "Good will"....heh...maybe that is the slow moving hangover discount.  I could have brought him a bill for my hourly rate for all the time I waited on him and he never showed...that would have cut the bill in half at least (my hourly rate in my current occupation exceeds the combination of his and his helper). But I just wanted him gone so I paid the bill and sent him on his way.  That was my experience with Marine Land Diesel...don't think I'll be using them again.

Oh, and now my electric hot water heater doesn't seem to be working.  It's conveniently located in the starboard engine room...hopefully they just accidentally switched off a breaker or bumped into a fuse down there...but that is a task for another day since there is warm water for showers in the club house.

At least the engines all now run...yay!  The final lesson I should take way from this...I should trust myself to be able to do these jobs even if I haven't done them before.  I'm sure with a little help from the internet, I could have figured out how to do this stuff myself, probably done faster, and certainly a lot cheaper.


  1. Ohhhhh Ouch. This is like reading our blog...

    S/V Kintala

    1. Hope it isn't causing you flashbacks or PTSD. ;-)

      Just imagine...I have TWO Westerbeasts to keep running.

  2. I know where he lives....just sayin ;-)
    Now that you've had your own experience, our next dinner conversation about him will be a bit more colorful! I don't like to bash people before another has had a chance to form their own opinion...

    1. Hmm...kinda wish we had met before I hired him. Oh well, live and learn. As for dinner, give me a call when you guys are free.

  3. Just in case you haven't thought of it. Swap the leads on the temp gauges in the cockpit and see if the problem is still on that gauge. If it is then it's a gauge issue. If it moves with the leads then there should be a "heat sensor" in the coolant path (hot side) that could be going bad.

    1. Hey Dave,

      Well, normally I would think of such things...but the way I've been lately, thanks for the reminder. Good to have two separate systems to cross-reference.

      At this point, dealing with that gauge is fairly far down on the list, so it will probably be a bit before I get around to it.