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Fuel Leak Sparks Engine Recall

A safety defect that has its origins in Detroit has found its way to the waterfront, prompting the recall of at least 15,000 8.1L GM automotive engines marinized by eight different manufacturers. The defect involves a fuel leak and could result in a fire or explosion.

Volvo Penta was the first to announce its recall of 1,749 engines in early October. By mid-November engines recalled by Mercruiser totaled 11,183, Indmar Products 998, PleasureCraft Marine/Crusader 1005 and Kodiak, a small West Coast manufacturer, 57. Marine Power, Flagship Marine and Panther Airboat also initiated recalls, but the numbers of units were not available at press time.

GM product safety recall bulletin #06080 released in August 2006 explains that the fuel rail pulse dampener retainer clips on its fuel-injected 8.1L engines may fracture, allowing gas to leak. The retainer clips were not heat-treated properly during manufacture and environmental conditions like vibration and corrosion can cause them to break.

The fuel rail is a conduit that connects all of the injectors in a multipoint fuel injection system. It allows a constant fuel supply to each of the injectors.

Fuel traveling through the rail is under pressure so a leak could result in a volatile spray of gasoline into the engine compartment. The enclosed engine compartments on boats create a dangerous setting where collected gas fumes or liquid can ignite if a spark occurs.

Automobile engine compartments are open, so fires are less likely. Even so, GM received one report of a vehicle fire as a result of a retainer failure. BoatU.S. is not aware of any boat accidents related to this defect.

The recall repair involves replacing the faulty retainer clip and should take about half an hour to accomplish. By law, the cost of recall repairs must be borne by the manufacturer. In this situation, GM will reimburse marine engine makers for the cost of the recall effort.

Marine engine makers buy basic GM assemblies called long blocks, which contain the engine block, cylinder heads, crankshaft and pistons. The assemblies are fitted out with ignition-protected electrical components, as well as raw-water cooling and water-cooled and wetted exhaust systems. The blocks are also reinforced to better withstand the prolonged, heavy use common to marine engines.

The retainer clip recall is not the first time that a GM automotive component or

design feature has resulted in problems for boat owners. GM “big block” 7.2L and

8.1L engines marinized by Crusader, Marine Power, Mercruiser and Volvo Penta and installed on boats in the late 1990s into the early 2000s suffered failures due to water ingestion.

The valve overlap designed into the engines by GM to improve fuel combustion in car engines created a condition that allowed marine engines to aspirate condensation in the exhaust. Although these engines generally did not suffer the sudden, catastrophic failures seen when large quantities of water cause hydro-lock, the condensation left salt deposits and rust on valves and valve stems, leading to significant deterioration over time. Unfortunately for boat owners, the water ingestion failures were not covered by any defect recall — ostensibly because the failures did not create a dangerous condition — so, with a few exceptions, most boat owners bore the full cost of repairing or replacing engines. In the case of the fuel rail retainer clip failure, information from GM shows that the defective engines were built for model years 2005 and 2006. According to Volvo General Counsel Marcia Kull, Volvo shipped their engines to boatbuilders between August 10, 2004, and May 30, 2006, meaning that it’s possible the engines could be installed on 2004, 2005, 2006 and possibly newer boats.

“Some boatbuilders inventory engines longer than others,” Kull told BoatU.S. “Also, dealer inventory levels and practices vary as well. So those shipment dates may not tie closely with when a consumer actually ended up with an engine covered by the recall.”

By law, marine manufacturers must recall products that don’t comply with federal regulations or which contain defects that “create a substantial risk of personal injury. Owners must be notified in writing when a recall is initiated, but owner records are often incomplete. Individuals who believe they may own a recalled engine but who have not received written notice should contact the manufacturer or the U.S. Coast Guard (see below).

Boat owners who may have experienced a fuel leak as a result of the retainer clip failure are asked to contact the BoatU.S. Consumer Protection Bureau (703-461- 2856 or and the engine manufacturer.

To improve chances of being notified when a recall occurs, owners should enter their boat and engine information in free online BoatU.S. Recall Alert Registry,


Flagship Marine Engine Co: 941-639-3738

Indmar Products: 901-353-9930

Kodiak, KEM Equipment: (503) 692-5012

Marine Power: 985-386-2081

Mercruiser: 405-743-6566

Panther Airboat: 321-632-1722

Pleasurecraft Marine/Crusader: 803-345-1337

Volvo Penta: 757-436-2800

U.S. Coast Guard: 800-368-5647

(c) Copyright BoatU.S. Magazine, Jan 2007

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