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
The retainer clip recall is not the first time that a GM
automotive component or
feature has resulted in problems for boat owners. GM “big block” 7.2L
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.
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
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 ConsumerProtection@BoatUS.com)
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, BoatUS.com/recall.
ENGINE MANUFACTURER CONTACTS
Marine Engine Co: 941-639-3738
Products: 901-353-9930 www.indmar.com
KEM Equipment: (503)
Power: 985-386-2081 www.marinepowerusa.com
Airboat: 321-632-1722 www.airboats.com
Guard: 800-368-5647 www.uscgboating.org
Copyright BoatU.S. Magazine, Jan 2007