Running Atomic 4 30 hp on low oil to avoid leaking

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  • MuhammadFarsi
    Senior Member
    • May 2024
    • 15

    Running Atomic 4 30 hp on low oil to avoid leaking

    Hi folks, glad to have found this helpful community
    I am currently looking at a Pearson 30’ that has an atomic 4 30 hp, the owner says that it leaks oil into the bilge and he has not found the place where the leak is. He says the problem has been there for 8 years going back to the person he bought it from.
    the way he gets around it is to give it a small amount ( 10-15 ml) of oil every few hours when it’s running.
    my question before buying this is that is that story believable and is it safe? I am not sure on the mechanics of this motor but I think it doesn’t rely on the oil for cooling since it takes in salt water for cooling. So is a small shot of oil enough to keep the parts lubricated if done consistently before use? I would of course try to find the leak if I buy but I am not sure if the engine would have been worn or damaged by this practice over the years. The engine started without a problem but it did sound load. We are taking it for a try sail over couple of hours tomorrow, let me know if I should look out for any specific telltales. Thanks
  • Dave Neptune
    Afourian MVP, Professor Emeritus
    • Jan 2007
    • 5117

    #2
    It's not to clear exactly what he is doing. The important thing to check is the oil pressure if there is a gage. It should show about 15 PSI as a minimum and even if it does not go up much the A-4 is quite indestructible as it turns slow RPM wise and developing so little HP (usualy not over 15~20 due to limited RPM) it does not require hi oil pressure. I would check the oil level and if it is not much below the add mark and you do not hear bad noises it is probably nothing to worry about. The A-4 commonly leaks at the rear seal after so many years and I would be skeptical if the oil is run at 2 qts down. The A-4 is very simple and made from good materials. Watch the oil pressure and get back with what it does under the load of runni ng.

    Just an oil leak other than the rear seal is an easy fix. If it sounds OK I would act very skeptical and start with a low ball offer. These old boats are difficult to sell and you may be able to take advantage of it in a big way. If you have any basic mechanical skills the A-4 is a great choice.

    Dave Neptune

    Comment

    • hanleyclifford
      Afourian MVP
      • Mar 2010
      • 7032

      #3
      Dave is being overly generous. If that engine is and has been running consistently with less oil than specified it should be considered junk. Make your offer based on overhauling that engine as soon as you own it.

      Comment

      • hanleyclifford
        Afourian MVP
        • Mar 2010
        • 7032

        #4
        There is a particular source of leaking oil that is especially insidious and difficult to correct. As we know the front of the engine is not sealed and relies on a slinger and drainage hole system to get oil back into the pan. The flywheel housing is wide open to the pan and when the "system" can not handle the slinging oil it can get up to the starter and drain out the back of the starter housing. This is especially the case on very old A4s with many hours. The specific cause of this "slinging leak" is excessive end play of the crankshaft in the front main bearing. The end play should not exceed .007". Try to get the engine number and if possible take a few pictures, and ask where the leak is seen.

        Comment

        • hanleyclifford
          Afourian MVP
          • Mar 2010
          • 7032

          #5
          I just noticed the picture of the engine you posted. It is a fairly late version. The flywheel housing tells us. Run your hand under the flywheel housing with a paper towel and see if you get any oil. Do likewise under the starter at the rear of the starter housing. While you're down there check under the housing, both water pump flange and accessory drive. Dave could be right about the output shaft housing seal, but that is an easy fix and would probably have been addressed by now.

          Comment

          • MuhammadFarsi
            Senior Member
            • May 2024
            • 15

            #6
            Thanks guys, will check to see if there is pressure gauge. Dave, From my understanding he doesn’t fill the oil to anywhere close to the level recommended to avoid the leak, hence giving it what’s equivalent to 4-5 tablespoons before use.
            Cliff, On having a flywheel, did you mean it’s an older version? Later version could mean both way

            Comment

            • MuhammadFarsi
              Senior Member
              • May 2024
              • 15

              #7
              I am going on a sail on it today, will try to get video, pictures and check oil pressure while it’s running.
              does any crew here live in Victoria bc? I would pay you 35/h to come look at it
              the price is 8.5k so not sure how much an overhaul would cost, probably over that amount if done by a mechanic

              Comment

              • Dave Neptune
                Afourian MVP, Professor Emeritus
                • Jan 2007
                • 5117

                #8
                One thing about the A-4, as it is an old school type engine it is almost impossible to find a mechanic to work on one. MMI and very few will work on them. Today about all they will do is take a look and say you need a diesel. You will find many on this site have looked to no avail and are now able to do the work themselves. It is a very basic engine and not hard to learn to work on especially with this forum.

                Dave Neptune

                Comment

                • MuhammadFarsi
                  Senior Member
                  • May 2024
                  • 15

                  #9
                  So I sailed on the boat for couple of hours and checked the engine closer. Have attached some sound clips. The dip stick for oil reads bare minimum ( oil in the tip of the stick only) but the oil pressure gauge reads 30 psi. It does not sound load and no smoke that could see in the back ( although not sure if that’s where the exhaust is) . The bilge has some oil in it but it is being absorbed by an oil absorbent.
                  Attached Files

                  Comment

                  • MuhammadFarsi
                    Senior Member
                    • May 2024
                    • 15

                    #10
                    Oil pressure gauge
                    Attached Files

                    Comment

                    • Dave Neptune
                      Afourian MVP, Professor Emeritus
                      • Jan 2007
                      • 5117

                      #11
                      Having the 30 psi eliminates a lot of worries. No smoke and no knocking sounds is another positive. I resurected a seized A-4 in my E35 MkII as I bought it with a seized motor. It took me 4 days to get it to turn and it had two cylinders with very low compression and one burnt exhaust valve that I replaced. I figured I would buy a diesel with the money saved on the purchase price and never did. The engine ran fine and burned a little oil. The rear shaft seal leaked and to replace it in I would of had to remove the engine due to space and I did not like the oil leaking into the bilge. Once I got the boat to my home port I cut up a 5 gallon bucket to fashion a pan under the aft end where it dripped. After every couple of cruises I would wipe out the collected oil just a couple of ounces with a rag. I spent a lot of time the first year tuning the engine and adding an electronic ignition that I had left from building Rotary Hi-po engines and balanced the carb over the years. After 4 or 5 years the two weak cylinders sealed better and my compression came up a bit as the rings reseated and the compression was still low 70 & 75 psi. I ran that old engine that I was going to replace for 34 years and it never once let me down .

                      You may want to do a compression check just to be sure. Do a dry check first then a wet one and get back with the numbers.

                      I can't understand the owners reasoning for controlling the leak that way but if it maintained oil pressure I would not worry about it. Just change the oil bring it up to the full mark and look for the leak. The leak may be an easy fix or at least one you can control as mine was. These engines are very durable and run even when well worn and it does not take much to keep them running.

                      Dave Neptune

                      Comment

                      • hanleyclifford
                        Afourian MVP
                        • Mar 2010
                        • 7032

                        #12

                        Dave is right on all points. Now the issue becomes: how badly do you want to repair the leak(s)? I've never worked on your type of boat but from the pictures it looks like you need to pull the engine to do most repairs. In turn, if you pull the engine you will want to do more (perhaps) than you originally anticipated. It's a rabbit hole situation, and only you can decide.

                        Comment

                        • MuhammadFarsi
                          Senior Member
                          • May 2024
                          • 15

                          #13
                          Thanks Dave!

                          “ may want to do a compression check just to be sure. Do a dry check first then a wet one and get back with the numbers”

                          got any link on how to do that? I read about putting your finger on the spark plug and seeing if it Leaks air or not on the net

                          Comment

                          • Dave Neptune
                            Afourian MVP, Professor Emeritus
                            • Jan 2007
                            • 5117

                            #14
                            First you need a gage. If you have access to a compression gage that threads into the plug hole or a remote start switch it will take 1 person if not one person to hold the gage firmly in the plug hole and the another to crank the engine. When doing the test remove all 4 spark plugs and set the throttle to full IE wide open. The batteries should be fully charged to. Sometime parts houses will rent tools if not just buy a cheap gage, your not as worried about accuracy as you are about how close the numbers are together.

                            The dry test first. Hold the gage into the cylinder and have someone crank the engine for a fe turns until the gage settles at a high point, then record the number and cylinder, Do this on each cylinder and then one more time for 2 readings.

                            Second the wet test. Just spray some spray oil or even WD-40 into the cylinder and do another set of tests. And again record all values as well as the cylinder. Then repeat a second time.

                            After the tests post the numbers for evaluation. We will be looking for each cylinder to be within 10~15 pounds of each other. Then see if the numbers go up a lot during the wet test. Comparing the dry vs. wet will allow for some good ring and valve evaluation information.

                            It's not as difficult as it sounds one step at a time. The guy selling the boat should offer to assist if he really wants to sell it, if not a six-pak will get considerable help.

                            Dave Neptune

                            Comment

                            • MuhammadFarsi
                              Senior Member
                              • May 2024
                              • 15

                              #15
                              Thanks Dave, would something like this work as a gauge?

                              Professional Petrol Engine Compression Tester Kit Set for Automotives and Motorcycles


                              “ sell throttle to full IE open”
                              newb here with the lingo, do you mean go full crank open on gas?

                              Comment

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