Long block failure on a Volvo D3-110 Amel 54-152

Porter McRoberts

My dear Amelians,

I ask your insight into my motor issue if you’d please lend me your minds for a few minutes. 
I condense a much longer story into the following:

We own a fantastic Amel 54-152 “IBIS”  Purchased back in April 2017, Maritinique.  Some of you might remember a video i posted of a “smoking engine”and my pre-purchase concerns back then.  Lots of great suggestions from dirty prop to others.  Our former owner, the most gracious of sailors, sought the help of Volvo Martinique: (who had given his engine a clean bill of health a month prior) to look into it.  Ultimately they found pitting in the cylinder linings and high pressure on the crank case side, oil in the breather etc.  He>$$>>I put in a new long block, injectors etc. 1100hrs at the time. Nearly a new complete engine.  16000 Euro.

I picked up the boat with the freshly painted engine and sailed back to Florida in April  (engine oddly still smoking in just the same way!) and when I say smoking: a now smaller puff of black smoke for a half second when I rapidly increase throttle.  The Guadeloupe volvo tech confiding in me that half of all the D3-110s do such a thing and not to worry (Nigel Calder disagreeing all the way).  Some time later…September the motor stopped working.  Just stopped.  motoring along… no issues and then would loose power, sputter to a stop.  Rather frustrating when sailing against Irma back to Florida!!  Much head scratching lead to a diagnosis of clogged injectors.  1400hrs. Got new injectors, problem fixed.  

On we sailed (motored in February 2018 out to the 65 and then sailed down for many months in the carribean.  All ok.  May of this year after sailing to Cartagena-motoring to Colon panama fired up the engine to find a system fault.  filters cleaned, oil good, temps fine.  Turbo spinning all great.  Went through Canal.  8 weeks of waiting and “working” with CDM Commercial Motores of Panama finally revealed oil on the most pressure sensor: (CDM took to 6 weeks to get a new one put in, despite my protest as to find out why there is so much oil on the BPS to kill it) They then sent us on our way with a new BPS, “problem fixed.”  Trusting them no more than Mr. Bean to fix my engine we did a test sail/motor to Las Perlas: not surprisingly sensor failed again.  Back to mainland, finally with CDM tearing onto the aftercooler etc found oil in there, normal turbo, breather hose full and sputtering oil at the dipstick while running.  

I finally re-called Volvo Americas.  Carlos Corgo, a very encouraging young man actually came to the boat at Vist Mar in Panama and chatted with me.  We discussed long block #3 i.e. another LB replacement vs whole new engine.  His higher ups only approved the long lock replacement under warranty. We’re now at 1800hrs.

He said D3-110s are prone to this problem when paired to a boat too big for the engine.  I know we 54s are slightly over propped.  He noted this D3 should WOT at 3200rpm: i would WOT around 2700-2800.

Now please let me confide in you I knew very little about diesels when we bought this boat, and its been a steep learning curve and thanks to Nigel Calder whose course i took, to Bill Rouse and his endless patience with me, and this forum.  

I have changed the racors about every 200hrs. They never look that bad. I’ve never had the needle budge on the pressure indicator.   I’ve changed as well as the metal volvo micro filters about the same.   I polished the tank and fuel not long after we got the boat back.  I am on the nose with oil and filter and impeller changes.  Perhaps I’ve gone 300 hrs on the air filter, which always looks good.

When changing, I usually fill the oil right up to the last notch on the dipstick.

While running the engine, i typically run in the 1300-1800 range.  At the end of a trip i goto 24-2700 for about five minutes then let engine idle for 5-10 minutes before shutting down.  The autoprop is spotless and flexible. 

What might I have done to contribute to this?
What should i do differently so it doesn’t occur somewhere in the South Pacific?

As always your great advice and insights are very appreciated.


Porter McRoberts
Amel 54-152 S/V IBIS
Vista Mar, Panama

Dean Gillies

I think your maintenance regime for the engine looks just fine.
It must be very frustrating to have this problem happening again.

I’m not clear on exactly what is the cause of the problem, but then I’m no diesel mechanic! Has that been clearly laid out by Volvo to your satisfaction?

That tell-tale puff of smoke is interesting, which I guess tells of oil ending up where it shouldn’t be and then burning off. I wonder if you can share a few more details about the exact circumstances around when it puffs... does it happen once, only under load, in neutral, idling and then gunning quickly etc. That would allow others to test and report comparisons.

I have the same D3–110i-C model and the Amel specified autoprop. My WOT is 2950-3000rpm.

I hope for a satisfactory resolution for you, it inspires no confidence in your planned travels when things like this happen.

SY Stella
Amel 54 #154

Sent from my iPhone X

Alan Leslie

Black smoke is caused by unburnt carbon....oil burning is blue smoke.
Unburnt carbon usually indicates there is a blockage somewhere
Airfilter..you checked that
Injectors..you've done that.
Another thing could be too high back pressure in the exhaust.
Has the exhaust system been taken apart and checked to be sure it is relatively clean and free flowing?
Elyse SM437
Maskelyne Islands, Vanuatu

Dana Anderson

Hi Porter,

I purchased Amel 54 #003 last September. On the delivery from Virginia to Maine the D3-110 died.  We were chugging along for 12 hours or so and then 'screech', stop. There was no coughing, sputtering, smoke or anything else. No error messages...dead. 

The next sign of trouble was when the yard suspected the timing belt slipped. They didn't really have much enthusiasm to work on it as they were totally unfamiliar with the D3. 

After a lot of research I have decided to replace the D3 with a Beta 85, which is an industrial Kubota engine that has been marinized. There is no high pressure common rail, no ECU, no sensors, no computer required for troubleshooting and no timing belt. This is the largest 'old school' engine I could get from Beta that would be legal. In other words, they have to bring the power down to be able to meet emission standards (US). Nanni has a 115 that is old school that they would be happy to sell me but for various reasons I went with the Beta. 

I am not suggesting you need to repower, I was in a unique position to make the decision in my home port and have a couple of years until I start cruising. Also, I'll mention that the previous owner had just finished a circumnavigation. It looked like the engine room had been thoroughly sprayed with salt water and never cleaned up. In addition to oil and coolant leaks, everything was covered with rust and corrosion. I ripped everything out including the engine, generator, water maker, lots of wiring, hot water heater, etc. Thus began a major refit which is still in progress.

PS: Don't forget to change your timing belt at the suggested intervals. I think its every 600 hours. Mine was way overdue.  Also interesting to note that this was the second D3 installed in this boat.

Dana Anderson
Amel 54 #003  'Pathfinder'