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Volvo Penta Lower Unit issue?

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AndyS View Drop Down
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Joined: 14 June 2016
Location: River Dunes, NC
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    Posted: 02 July 2022 at 22:47
We have a 2012 385 that has the standard Volvo Penta sail drive. I took her to the boat yard last week to have the diaphragm replaced as it was now 10 years old and I want to do the required maintenance. The engine has 1,300 hours and runs great. The mechanic assigned to the job drained the oil from the lower unit and told me he saw a lot of metal filings on the magnet attached to the drain plug. The oil in the lower unit is a year old. His impression was that there is excessive wear in the lower unit and it might need to be rebuilt or just replaced. His recommendation was to put this off to the winter when we don't use the boat as this will take a few weeks and extra parts. So we painted the bottom, filled it back up with oil, and I motored her back to our harbor about 2 hours away - and the boat did fine. He says that sail drive lower units should last a litle longer, but not forever. 
So I have read mixed things on the internet. Some people say that the magnet on the drain plug acts as a filter since there is not oil filter in the lower unit. They also say that seeing some filings is not a major cause for concern. I have seen other posts that say there should not be metal on the magnet and that it does indicate some wear. 
The big question is do we haul out over the winter and commit to major lower unit surgery? Obviously the rubber diaphragm gets replaced during all that, and a new lower unit is not as costly as a new engine, but is an expense. The boat yard is good, but they do not deal with sail drives a lot compared to more traditional prop shaft boats. 
Have any others dealt with this issue? Last summer when the oil was drained from the lower unit there was no mention of metal filings, but I do think we saw some filings a few years ago with a different mechanic and he did not seem too concerned. 
Appreciate any wisdom from others. I am surprised that I cannot find any detailed statements from Volvo about this!
Andy
Moonraker
River Dunes, NC
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kipwrite View Drop Down
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Joined: 14 October 2015
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote kipwrite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 July 2022 at 00:14
The lower unit on my 505 started making some weird and disturbing metallic noises while in gear, starting at about 1600 hours. 

A profuse amount of metal shavings emerged from the oil drain hole when the boat was hauled, and the saildrive inspected - in essence, the lower unit was partially filled with metal shavings. 

Turns out the boatyard that did the work - an authorized Volvo shop - strongly recommended a new unit instead of a rebuild. Easier for them, much less time consuming than a rebuild (which was not something this dealer was equipped to perform), and we now have a brand new saildrive. Quite an expensive repair, unfortunately out of warranty. 

We did not do any forensics on the old unit, so I don't know which part failed. No idea how common this is. Unit had been meticulously maintained. 

I'd keep an eye on it and maybe shop around for a Volvo rebuilder. Previously, the oil had always drained clean. 

Good luck. 



Edited by kipwrite - 03 July 2022 at 00:17
Kipwrite
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AndyS View Drop Down
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Joined: 14 June 2016
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AndyS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 July 2022 at 02:48
Thanks! Agree with all that!

Andy
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River Dunes, NC
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adelsam View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote adelsam Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 August 2022 at 02:30
On our 2014 385 (#275) the lower unit/sail drive failed spectacularly in July of 2019. Transmission was completely inoperable (engine would stall when shifted into forward) and we had to haul the boat. When they opened up the lower unit it was full of metal shavings. We had to replace the saildrive.

Engine hours were around 535.

I think if you are seeing metal shavings in your lower unit, you had better replace the saildrive.
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AndyS View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AndyS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 August 2022 at 12:22
Thanks. Although working well right now, that is our plan over the winter. 
Andy
Moonraker
River Dunes, NC
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AndyS View Drop Down
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Joined: 14 June 2016
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AndyS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 January 2023 at 02:23
Well I wanted to give an update on our 385's saildrive since I had posted this summer about metal fragments in the lower unit's oil. As planned, we took her in this winter and had the upper and lower units replaced, along with the gaskets, etc. I had asked them to check the cooling system since I had experienced the engine overheating a few times over the past few years. And we had at least one impeller shredding since I purchased the boat in 2016. They found three pieces of impeller but also two worrisome things that we fixed. They found that the raw water input port elbow was about 90% blocked with corrosion. When they went to replace that they also found that the manifold it connects to had severe corrosion on the manifold flange, and I was told that eventually this could lead to leakage of the coolant into the exhaust system. Seems like after cleaning the surfaces they were not confident that a good seal could be obtained. I am attaching pictures. We decided to replace that manifold and tube bundle, so that basically we have a new cooling system as well. I motored the boat about three hours yesterday from the boat yard back to our dock and she did quite well. I could tell that she was cooling much better and all seems well. 
I write about this just to make everyone aware of our experience. I am not a mechanic, but like most sailors have some fundamental knowledge of our engines and what can and does go wrong.  I would rather spend the money up front and be proactive rather than be stranded somewhere with a hot engine or busted saildrive. Our saildrive had 1,310 hours on it. I had been told that Volvo engines run a little hotter than Yanmars, but doesn't hurt to look at all these parts as corrosion can take its toll - like it did on ours. I had installed an exhaust temp sensor last summer to monitor the exhaust temp as well, so will be interesting to see what our new norms are - yesterday it was much cooler for sure. 
Hopefully this is our last major repair for a while!!! 

Andy
Moonraker
River Dunes, NC
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