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Sell it or fix it? 1996 vlx, my dream gone nightmare!

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So anyway, this website is amazing I've learned an infinite amount about my boat. I bought a 1996 vlx last year 11,500$, I had it inspected by a mechanic I pay him 1200$ to drain fuel replace impeller, iac valve, new bilge and some hoses and water recirc. pump which he ends up not doing after inspecting old one.  I replace vdrive warning light with led after discover it's shorted.  I though the inspection and service was cheap insurance but motor blew after 3rd time out.   Didn't feel confident with the inspecting mechanic so on reference from storage chose another mechanic for replacing engine,, six weeks later I pick up boat in pieces and bring to another mechanic.  This guy takes 2months to get a long block and put together and install engine at a total cost of 4500$. I pick up boat and he has damaged gel coat, ripped interior, ripped cover, boats filthy And fuel pump leaks, blower hose ripped apart and detached.  I remove pump and fix leaky return line fittings, leak fixed.I repair blower and off to break in engine.   Engine sounds like a sucking air tornado, I get on Malibucrew and learn to do timing, loud sucking noise from iac is gone after correcting timing in service mode but timing jumping a degree.  I put in ten hours and start increasing rpm and smelling burning oil.   I'm looking for a leak and move oil drain hose and fitting breaks off in pan.  Oil fills bilge and I clean it up and make a mini extractor to extract other half of fitting. Replace hose fitting, seal and replace oil.   I then find leak in tranny hose cooler line, I fix it.   I notice small leak from intake below distributer, maybe source of smell.  I continue break in and am getting horrible burning oil smell.   I find another mechanic with great reviews, ask him to check timing issue, engine alignment, leak at intake manifold and burning oil smell.  He recommend new wires, new plugs cause new ones weren't gapped right, new icm, he realign as .017 off, says leak was probably distributor not tight enough.   I pick up pay 800$, then go test drive.   Im at 20 hours and try wot seem to be reaching full rpm around 5200 and put in storage till now.   I pick it up last week from storage and go test to not reach full Rpms only 4800 and smell burning oil.    I replace pcv and fuel filters and changed vdrive fluid and go out today. At first wot shot I get 5000  then stop observe engine for any leaks and resume to not reach max rpms and smell burning oil.   I open hatch and start engine, I decided to go wot in neutral and engine hesitates at above 4800 and shoots oil out leak at intake manifold.   I live in Sacramento California and have been through 4 mechanics and can't seem to find a fair and knowledgeable guy,. Should I just sell this thing or continue my pursuit to fix this thing?

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First, don't buy a 1996 if you don't have the skills or time to do everything yourself. Since you will have no option but to rely on even more new to you mechanics and most likely burn more good money after bad, I would just sell it.

  • Like 1
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I would stick it out if you like the boat and feel like you're close to getting it finished.  It sounds like you're an oil leak from having it running well. 

BTW, don't ever run an engine WOT in neutral.  

Where does the oil leak from the intake manifold?  Between the block and the manifold? 

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Sounds to me like you would benefit from a newer lower hours boat that you can just hop in and go. Sorry to hear you spent so much money on it already but sometimes it is just time to move on.


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There are a few good mechanics in the NorCal between Sacramento, Stockton, Merced, the Bay Area, and Marin. However, as indicated by others, you need to determine if you want to continue to move forward with this project... To determine if you're willing to move forward I suggest you make a "punch list" of everything that needs to be resolved so you feel you have a "complete" boat. Once you have that punch list, set a price limit on each item; from reading your narrative I see the engine isn't the only concern now: damaged interior, damaged gelcoat/fiberglass, etc. Total up how much think it will cost to get the boat to where you want it, and then determine based on that number if it's better to sell or continue the project.

If you determine that you're willing to continue the project, now you need to take your punch list with what you're willing to spend and start talking to reputable & recommended mechanics, interior/upholstery shops, fiberglass/gelcoat repair shops, and others to get written estimates. You may be towing your project boat around a bit to get good estimates. There are a number of TMC members in NorCal who can recommend shops for the repair work that is needed.

Compare the estimates with the punch list that has the numbers of what you're willing to pay for each item. Reevaluate the costs based on estimates and make a final determination on proceeding with repairs or selling.

It's the end of March now, shops are going to start getting busy the warmer the weather gets and the more people want their boats ready soon. The NorCal lakes getting full is also going to put higher demand on anything boat related. Your punch list may need to include time estimates so you can determine if the boat can be on the water before your personal deadline. Keep in mind that much of this work may need to happen sequentially and not in parallel, so a 2 week turnaround on fiberglass/gelcoat and a two week turnaround on upholstery already puts you in May before you could use the boat and we haven't even brought the engine in to the mix. At this point I would suggest not parting out sections of the boat for work so you can keep control of your project.

Let us know how you're going to proceed and Good Luck!

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I feel for you man!!

I bought my boat that was not well maintained or cared for, but at least I went in eyes wide open. Mikeo has it right on how to do it, but I differ in that I think investing your own time and doing things yourself is the only way, even if (like me) you are learning along the way. Although I've been around boats my entire life I never did any work myself. When I bought my malibu the finances dictated that if I wanted a nice boat I was going to do the work.

i suggest you either sell it or commit to DIY with a lot of help from Themalibucrew. Otherwise you will continue be frustrated by response time, quality of work, and cost.

As an aside I went from boat to old jeep, (which I know NOTHING about) and although there are lots of jeep forums none are as good as this one.

Edited by braindamage
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The leak is from between intake manifold and the block.  The rtv seal maker missed a spot, and the has gotten progressively worse. Yeah I figured it wasn't a good idea to run it  wot in neutral, i just quickly revved and then backed off immediately.  Bad idea though, I get it.

I have several friends who have bought 1996 and older boats that have less skill and little time but have way better luck!  In fact I was inspired by my friends 1994 centurion that he bought in 2008 with 500 hours, he's at 1500 hours now with no major repairs and 1000 hours of ballasted surfing.  

I ran into original mechanic at marina today and told him my story, he said he felt bad and if I wanted he would help me through the intake manifold gasket repair and a realignment .  All I have to do is pull the seat, buy the parts and bring it to his shop Sunday after next he will only charge me a couple hours labor and hold my hand.  This gave me some confidence to give it another try, or maybe I'm just to stubborn to know when to quit.


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Everything you've spent and dealt with up to now is a sunk cost.  It should not even factor into decisions you make moving forward whether to unload the boat or not.

If I am following the thread correctly, you are an engine seal and an alignment away from having what you wanted.  I'd suggest paying a mechanic to take care of both problems, and get on with enjoying the boat.

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I agree with RTS. Unless you fix this or screw over the next buyer you're going to be selling a boat that for all purposes still needs an engine or considerable engine repair. As such you'll be losing even more on the boat.

I guess my first question would be is why didn't you take the boat to a Malibu dealer for the repair? I'm guessing the answer will be cost which is something we all struggle with. While there are no guarantees that a dealer will do better work at least they're familiar with the boat, have a reputation to keep and have probably replaced an engine or two in your model or one very similar to your boat before. With this in mind have you considered turning to a Malibu dealer to finish the repair? If not then you're kind of heading towards an Einstein moment where you're going to do the same thing you did before and expect a different result. I mean honestly a basic engine swap using a new engine package from a company like MI Motorz (http://www.michiganmotorz.com/350ci-vortec-base-marine-engine-1996current-replacement-p-109.html) is something every mechanic with any tech school training should be able to perform or should get out of the business. My dealer does these in 2-3 days once the new motor and boat is in the shop.

Think about it..... The crew of clowns you've gone to so far haven't been able to complete the job, have screwed up putting on the intake, screwed up the distributor installation and can't even gap the plugs correctly. And this doesn't even take into consideration the damage they've done to your gelcoat, interior or cover. I honestly can't conceive how you would consider going back to any of these guys. If this were my boat I would either learn to do the repair myself or take it to a real expert and pay the money. If you don't have Malibu dealer in your area find a MasterCraft, Correct Craft, Supra or any other dealer that sells and works on inboards. Sorry to be so blunt but you need to change directions on this project now or get out of it at a considerable loss.

Edited by Bturner
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It sounds like you have a lot of blow by in the engine. A leak in the manifold seal I would think should be sucking in not blowing out. Way to many problems to fix on the web but I don't know if I would be going back to anyone who has done your work to this point. With the amount of time and cash you have into this I hesitate  to give you more direction. Was this a new long block? All the damage besides what they were fixing well it sounds like the people you are using are less the adequate. Good luck! 

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I had the "dream turn nightmare" feeling when I bought my boat after getting screwed by the first repair shop. Did not want to pay the big bucks to get repairs done but bite the bullet and took it into the MasterCraft dealer in my area. They were extremely helpful and even gave me part numbers to order my own parts to help save cost(didn't have to pay the shop mark up on the parts).  3 Weeks later , boat was in the water and running like a champ! It helps to take it to a shop that truly knows what they are doing .  just my .02


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Went out this evening with the family and set up a bbq on my teak deck and drank some beers, thats what I want a boat for besides surfing.  The intake leak is gone, still smells like burning oil but I'm hoping it is just oil that made its way into the fly wheel from the intake leak!   Runs strong but not able to get over 4800 rpms.  It has a 4 blade prop that is printed  oj 7 04  and behind the nut it is 14 18 1/18 but can't read everything.   I've checked fuel pressure and seems fine at 42 psi at key up and 35 at idle.  My pressure gauge was acting up then leaking but I'll check again tomorrow.  I have new fuel and filters and inlet screen on pump was clean last year but I'll check again tomorrow.  I've had it to up to 5200 a couple times randomly but only twice since new long lock which I broke in for 20 hours before trying.  I don't need the boat to go fast but just want it to run good.  Is 4800 just my top or.....?AA74D9F1-6FE5-4EBB-ADD2-4C95C9EFA46D_zps

  • Like 3
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  • 2 weeks later...

Great to hear things are looking up with the boat. The 160 degree thermostat is what Heatercraft suggests when using a cabin heater with these engines.  I agree with the others that 4800 is about where the rev limiter kicks in.

The BBQ is a fun idea. But be aware that your blower vents gas fumes out right there too. Most any boat I've ever seen that had a BBQ on it had it installed on a railing somewhere away from the blower vent. Probably for a reason.


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The fuel tank vent is right there too, I thought of that and was waiting for the comments. As long as I wasn't hurt too bad in the blast I'd put the insurance check down on a newer boat, lol. I have the rail mount but it slips, I need to make a wedge like in that pic, see if I'm happy with that.  I also have a couple 4 hole mounts but haven't committed toinstall  them.  

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I put a new prop(1235 acme) on the boat and reinforced vdrive locker doors in hopes of surfing this weekend for first time in my boat.  Saturday was too windy and the family wanted to go today so we just did some tubing.   But..... The boat ran great and wot, rpm was topping at 5200 easy. I might have lost a couple mph from prop but my speedos suck it on the list.  I did fix a loose groundconnection on alternator (black wire).  Maybe that was my problem? It would cut out (hesitate)if I buried it and got above 5000, maybe that's the rev limiter. What and where is the rev limiter?

 My biggest worry is the smell of burning oil still, no visible leak or drip.   I read on Walters pdf file that 180 is operating temp and 200 can happen. The vdrive and shaft coupler is getting a hot and there is a lil oil below around the bearing.  The packing nut is cold but as I get closer to vdrive it's hot.   I wonder if the burning oil smell is coming from that bearing? How hot do the bottoms of your drives get and coupler?   I saw a crew member in a red Malibu with the crew transom saver on at Folsom lake, granite bay launch.  Meant to say hi but they were gone before i parked.   Thanks for any feedback!

Edited by Shastasurf
Uh I forgot some stuff
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I hit the rev limiter for the first time this year after going to the 1235 prop from stock. It would not do it with the stock prop. I don't recall what the rpm's were but I would guess 5200-5400. That's  on an 03 vlx with 335 monsoon. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

So I noticed that my oil was about a 1/4 quart low and don't think it all leaked out manifold.  I looked at plugs and a couple had wet threads. I did compression test on a couple cylinders each side and the compression was only 120 and lower.  I disconnected fuel pump and pulled power to coils do opened up throttle.  I only had one plug out at a time.  Seems low but I never have done this before.  Do u have to run motor first and pull all plugs? Could this have been why it read low or am I gonna be doing another long lock in the near future.  

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