Perkins 4.236 Engine Repair: Water in Oil


A few weeks ago before Hurricane Florence hit New Bern, we had a problem starting our Perkins 4.236 Engine.  The starter would barely turn over and then stop.  I’m learning, but I am not a good engine guy yet, but I am slowly learning how to do some basic Perkins 4.236 Engine Repair myself.  We had a friend look at it and they noticed that we had more oil on the dipstick than usual.  A LOT more.

A couple of people looked at it and the proposal was given that we had diesel in our oil.  The proposal was based on there being more oil than usual and the possible hydro-lock we experienced when turning over the starter.  I kept noticing that I didn’t smell diesel when I would check the dipstick, but figured maybe the scent had dissipated in the diluted oil.  The likely suspects for diesel in the oil are:

  1. Leaking fuel injectors (relatively cheap to fix at $109 per injector)
  2. Lift pump gasket (relatively cheap to fix at $200 for a new pump and gaskets)
  3. Problem in the fuel injector pump (relatively expensive at $2000+ to replace)
Calling in an Expert

Today we had Chuck Courtney from Power and Sail Boat Mobile Repair come look at the engine.  I was immediately impressed with his attention to detail.  He also seemed to really want to educate his customers in what to look for when diagnosing engine problems.  As aspiring cruisers, we love when experts help us learn because it gives us experience and encouragement in doing more Perkins 4.236 Engine Repair projects ourselves.

Yesterday, we ran Banjo for an hour or so in order to prepare for Hurricane Michael.  It took a couple of tries to get her started.  Once started, she didn’t overheat or seem to struggle.  Today, we tried to start the motor and she would not start.  At one point we saw a small amount of smoke coming from the starter motor.  Chuck pulled a sample from the crankcase and immediately stated that it looked like we had water in our oil, not diesel.  What a complete surprise!!

Perkins 4.236 Engine Repair: Water in oil Perkins 4.236 Engine Repair: Water in Oil
Getting Together a Plan to Move Forward

In order to perform the Perkins 4.236 Engine repair, we needed to address a couple different problems.  First, our starter motor needs to be disassembled and rebuilt.  Chuck recommended unbolting the motor from the engine and taking it to Squires Automotive Auto Generator and Starter Service in Kinston, NC.  They would be able to, according to Chuck, rebuild the starter motor in a few hours and were reasonably priced.  Second, he stated that the most likely cause for water in oil was a blown head gasket.  Third, he recommended that we not run the engine again until we have changed the oil.  His suspicion was that the engine would not start due to the oil being too diluted to allow proper lubrication.

This problem is much more involved.  The replacement of the head gasket is not terribly difficult once it is exposed.  The problem comes in getting to it.  In order to gain access, there are several other systems that have to be disassembled.  Chuck recommended us getting a second opinion before undertaking the work and expense of replacing the head gasket.

So, not such great news today.  He did state that overall our engine appears to be in great shape.  So it looks like we are in for some serious work on this Perkins 4.236 Engine repair.  On the upside, Chuck taught me how to bleed the fuel system of air, discovered that we have an oil drain hose, and showed me how to change the engine fuel filter.  Knowing is half the battle.

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