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Water in Oil/Hydrolocked


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I have a 1998 Malibu Sportster Lx (this is my first boat). I’ve had it for 3 years now. I have always had it winterized by the same person and never had a problem. The start of this season I had someone who used to work in the service dept. of a local, farely large marine shop. Right up front, I know at best very little about boats/mechanics, other than my field of work which is refrigeration repair. When it comes to engines/boats I struggle to grasp. I do know, however, water and oil don’t mix. After the oil was changed, the guy who changed it hooked the water hose directly to the flush port, cranked the boat while trailered and revved the motor multiple times, even engaged the transmission to “check”. He abruptly shut the engine off while water hose was still on. I don’t believe that is the right way of doing this, however, what do I know vs an actual boat tech? Fast forward to the weekend. I took the boat out twice. Both times it started and ran perfect never had white smoke and never skipped a beat. The following weekend ran it once with same result. Then on Memorial Day I backed down the ramp, hopped in tried to start and engine wouldn’t turn over AT ALL. Pulled out, checked oil, looked like someone frothed milk… the oil that came out had no water as far as up stick showed when he checked before vacuuming. I keep hearing head is possibly cracked.. Pretty much dreading that actual diagnosis. I know I just unloaded a lot. But could this issue stem from What transpired after oil change with running on the hose and stopping abruptly? 

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The sequence of events you described were a bit hard for me to follow, so I'll do my best to explain my opinion.  Connecting a hose to a properly plumbed flush port, turning on the water to the hose prior to starting the engine, starting and running the engine at idle speed, stopping the engine, and then turning off the water seems would be a fairly normal procedure.  You do not want to turn the water off until after the engine is stopped.  I'm not a huge fan of revving the engine or shifting the transmission while using a flush attachment unless it is necessary and brief.  What would you say was abrupt about the way the engine was stopped while running on the flush?

That being said, if the boat was launched and driven three times after this event, then it is extremely unlikely that it could have directly caused the engine to be hydolocked.  Damaged or corroded exhaust manifolds, engine block, cylinder head, head gaskets, or submersion are things that can cause a hydrolock or water in the oil.  Those types of problems most often occur as a result of freeze damage, overheating, or mechanical failure.  

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Forgot to add in this tid bit of information. When he shifted into gear, prop hit the trailer, (which he remedied no problem.) that’s when he killed the engine went to check prop, hose was still on. I’m totally hoping a new engine isn’t needed. I’m taking the boat for diagnosis this weekend. Hoping for the best. Just trying to get an idea of what the possible outcome Could be. Thanks for the reply. I appreciate all insight.

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Well, as far as possible outcomes?  The best case scenario I could imagine would be the cost of diagnosis, spark plugs, and 2 or 3 engine oil changes to get the water out (maybe $500-$700).  Worst case might possibly be replacing the engine long block and exhaust manifolds (maybe around $10k), or somewhere between those two rough guesses depending on what is found.

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Also a trailer adjustment sounds like it is needed. The prop should not hit the guard, in or out of the water.

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For sure. I looked all over the motor today before tomorrow just so I could see if anything outside was wrong. Only thing I found was a small crack on the exhaust manifold. Praying it didn’t cause too much damage. Thanks again for the replies. 

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Good luck with the diagnosis.  Putting the trans in gear on the trailer and out of the water should never be done, the shaft bearings need water for lubrication.  Hopefully prop / shaft / trans are all okay.  I would suggest a compression and leak down test as diagnostic tests.  Compressed air can be a tool to determine if there is a breach between the oil and water sides of the block / engine (you listen for gurgling water).  Last thing @csleaver offers excellent advice / suggestions.

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13 hours ago, Woodski said:

Putting the trans in gear on the trailer and out of the water should never be done, the shaft bearings need water for lubrication.

In gear dry, I agree.  I have in the past used a second garden hose to keep the strut wet while I was diagnosing a shift problem.  It really doesn't take much water to cool and lube the bushing.

As for @JOwen, it should be very easy to pull the exhaust manifolds to inspect them.  They don't get hot like car manifolds do, so the bolts should all come out without much problem.  Indmar specifies Permatex black or copper with no gasket when installing them.

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Getting a crash course in boat ownership. I’ve been researching like crazy. I went from A jet ski to this starter boat and love it. So you can only imagine the gut wrenching feeling when this happened. Before I bought it, the paperwork shows the current motor in it was a reman with 200 hundred hours. Doesn’t look like the exhaust manifolds have 200 hours though as they are pretty well rusty. 

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2 hours ago, JOwen said:

Getting a crash course in boat ownership. I’ve been researching like crazy. I went from A jet ski to this starter boat and love it. So you can only imagine the gut wrenching feeling when this happened. Before I bought it, the paperwork shows the current motor in it was a reman with 200 hundred hours. Doesn’t look like the exhaust manifolds have 200 hours though as they are pretty well rusty. 

You can replace the stock iron manifolds with one-piece stainless steel and probably never have that problem again.  If you are interested, send an email with a photo of your manifolds and your shipping address to [email protected].

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You’re the man. I am gonna snap some pics and send over once I get back to the boat. Thank you a ton 

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The Reman engine install most likely due to improper winterization.  The serviceable ancilliaries would simply be swapped over and thus original.

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That’s what I was figuring. I’d rather pay more than suffer later 

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So couldn’t get the spot for the diagnosis.. So rather than wait around I dove further in and honestly should’ve done this first as far as troubleshooting. So today is a clear day and Ihave done some research and thanks to @csleaver gathered what typically causes this. Impeller looked just fine when the guy changed oil and checked the impeller. Water pump Impeller is toast. Exhaust manifolds are most likely still an issue and now probably needing head gaskets. So now I’m close to positive the events that transpired when oil was changed and it was run through the flush port. No muffs were used or the fake a lake set up. He went straight to the flush port connection and revved the hell out of it. So either this is coincidence my 2 year old water pump impeller melted or this happened because of negligence. 

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Performing a cylinder compression test and inspecting the exhaust manifolds would probably be a good initial step to help narrow down or rule out the cause and extent of the damage.  If the engine oil still has water in it, then change the oil and filter.  FYI, raw water impellers may last 2 years, but it is a good preventative maintenance to change them annually.

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If you didn't have an audible alarm, and you suspect the engine overheated, then you may want to verify the alarm system is functional before operating the boat again after these repairs are completed. 

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