VW Petter (Paranha) Four
- How I spent my Spring...
This is a story for those on the list that have VW Petter engines.
It all started quite innocently, I couldn't get the engine started
during January. Our boat, a 40ac, has a VW Petter engine, pretty much
the same diesel engine was that on the old VW Rabbits. Which engine,
surprisingly, VW made up until 1993 as the VW Industrial Engine. The
starter was turning over strongly, and the electric fuel pump was
working and there was a full tank. The best I could determine the
problem was the glow plugs. They were cold and not working. These
plugs preheat the fuel in each cylinder to assist starting, and in cold
weather the engine will not start without them. It usually will start
without them during the summer.
As I examined the box attached to the engine, through which the wire to
the plugs passed, it fell apart
in my hand. A pretty frightening development. I was not sure whether I
had broken it or that it was
already broken. In a bit of a panic, I stopped by the local VW dealer
and asked if they had a
replacement. They sold me a factory replacement -- a VW glow plug relay
-- the VW part that
controls the current to the glow plugs. When I brought it to the boat,
the VW relay obviously was not
a replacement for the part that was on my engine. Which after an hour
with help of much liquid
wrench I removed and examined in detail. The thing was a Lucas part --
not one of the UK's most
reliable manufacturers When I took the VW part back and told them that
it would not fit on my engine and that it could even be attached to the
engine. I was told the replay was not intended to be attached to the
engine. I was told: "It is sure not waterproof. This thing fits under
the dash and would short out if it was exposed to the weather."
After a good bit of leg work, I was able to identify the Lucas part as
glow plug solenoid. Of course, I
also soon learned it is no longer manufactured and is not available here
or in the U.K. Several U.K. parts places are still looking for it.
On a recommendation from Dennis Gibbons I called Pathfinder in Canada.
If you do not know about
Pathfinder.... Pathfinder in the U.S. built a marine engine based on
the same VW Industrial Engine as was the Petter, but marinized in a
somewhat different way. Apparently they had problems with the U.S
engine and ultimately what survived was the Canadian operation. I do
not know whether they bought the US folks out or were part of Pathfinder
from the beginning. Apparently, these engines were very popular with
Canadian fishing boats and there is a substantial installed base
there. Pathfinder is very much in business and has all the parts for
their engine and sells rebuilds etc. They also have a service manual
with much detail on the engine, which they provide as part of joining
their "Pathfinder Service Club as part of the $90+ cost of membership.
Anyway, the Pathfinder guy was able to send me by overnight mail a U.S.
made solenoid that replaced
the Lucas one. As I started to install it, it became obvious that the
engine wires were in as bad shape as the Lucas solenoid. In an effort
to replace these, I tried to take them back to wire in good shape.
As I looked for good wire, it became very apparent that just about all
the wire on the engine was shot.
The casings were cracked, patched. The wire from the panel to the
starter solenoid had two patches
in it and the casing was broken in four different places just from the
wall of the engine compartment to
where the wire disappeared near the starter -- a distance of about two
feet. The other wires was all
taped over, but when I removed the tape, they had been cut and patched
many three or four times, and
for what reason I could not understand. .
Well it was January, and I decided I could replace the wires as a Winter
project. The wiring took many, many more hours than I at first thought
-- days, weeks more. But the project also
continued to grow. The glow plugs very badly corroded. I took out one
and took it down to the VW
dealer. He said these were "slow" glow plugs and had been replaced by
much better "fast" ones and they cannot be mixed. Also, the slow ones
are no longer available. The fast ones have a brass top knurl while the
slow ones have an aluminium knurl. I bought four, but could only
replace two. The back two were caged off by the pipes from the injector
pump the cylinders. But to get to the second one, it was necessary to
remove two hoses that blocked it, in removing these I found that these
also were rotten. One I literally could put my finger through. So my
project grew from replacing the engine wires to replacing the wires and
the engine hoses. I found it possible to access and remove and replace
all the engine hoses except a small hose that connects the thermostat to
the bottom of the engine. The thermostat housing is attached by this
hose to a pipe with several complex turns that connect by another hose
to the bottom of the heat exchanger. I tried for more than an hour to
work the pipe out from under the engine, but was unable to. I was able
to replace the hose connected to the heat exchanger but could not reach
the hose connecting the pipe to the thermostat. I did replace the
thermostat, and learned that the boat and true industrial engines have
80 degree thermostats while the Rabbit engines had -- to help the car
heaters -- 87 degree thermostats. After the VW parts guy said there was
no such thing available, I contacted the VW web site in Wolfs burg.
They identified the part number and said that it was available in the
US. With the part number my VW guy had it in a day.
Since I was now replacing the hoses, I thought it would be a good time
to take Dennis Gibbons' advice
and move the oil cooler and the refrigeration cooler to the pressure
side of the sea water pump to stop a continuing overheating problem.
When I took the hose off the freshwater pump, small brown impeller parts
fell out of the hose end. To get to the impeller I had to remove the
pump, from its base. It was held in place by two nut fastened bolts.
However, the bottom bolts could not be accessed, and
it took the best part of an afternoon just to get these two bolts off.
The pump was in pretty bad shape and the impeller was gone. I decided
to replace it and had our local machine shop make two "nuts" about an
inch square that would catch on the pump casing so that it would not be
necessary to access the bottom of the pump to access these nuts when the
pump was removed again.
Last year in an effort to get someone to look at the engine -- the
engine guys in Annapolis frequently mumbled something about problems
they had with the Pathfinder engines and pretty much waived off with
sales pitch for replacing the engine. I then talked to several VW
mechanics. They all said they could not understand the problems the
marine guys had with the engines and said the engine were simple,
reliable and "with good glow plugs" will start every time, as one said,
"the VW diesel engine is bullet proof" -- just so long as you "replace
the timing belt every 60,000 miles." So I included a replacement of
the timing belt by an real VW mechanic as part of my now Winter-Spring
project. I was lucky enough to find a guy at the dealer in Annapolis
who had worked on the diesel VWs for 20 years. He was great and said in
20 years had only seen 5 of these engines that had failed. He is a real
believer -- he has one himself and has kept his uncle's running for
400,000 + miles. In the same vein, the Pathfinder guy said some of the
fishing boats have 20,000 hours on them -- an unbelievable amount of
hours. Since mine has only 500 hours, I was very encouraged.
The VW guy also replaced all the oil seals on the drive pulleys and
replaced the last two glow plugs.
To do this, he removed the pipes. He had a special wrench that is made
for VW and it went very quickly. However, the glow plugs had never been
replaced and took a good bit of liquid wrench to get out. Since the
injectors were now easy to remove and replace, I asked him if he thought
it would be a good thing to do. He said that the injectors rarely fail
and advised against fixing things that aren't -- and in all likelihood
won't be -- broke.
The pipes, however, were a different story. They were deeply and badly
corroded -- underneath were you could not see the corrosion. These we
replaced. By the way, the glow plugs had original Petter blue paint on
them, which indicated they were original to the engine. The mechanic
said they rarely last more than five years. Our boat was built in 82,
so in all likelihood the glow plugs had not worked for may years.
The Annapolis boat engine guys really do not want to work on these
engines, but I am not sure they really understand these engines. The VW
experience and installed base on the VW Diesel engine is excellent, and
the surprising fact that there are so many still happily around speaks
well for their ultimate durability. And just as CNN thought when they
went for the VW's, parts are available everywhere there is a VW
dealer. The 40ac is set up with a vee-drive transmission, which I
believe is the same configuration as the 35. Petter designed the engine
to fit in a backwards orientation, which neither Yanmar or Westerbeake
have. So the dip stick is not in the back and the engine adjustments
are easy to access, -- and with the new glow plugs, unlike my old
Yanmar, it starts easily -- every time.
Bottom line, you may want to think twice before repowering.
s/v Discovery C&N 40ac