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Jason, Marine Mechanic
Category: Boat
Satisfied Customers: 15890
Experience:  Degree in Marine Technology. Gas and diesel marine mechanic.
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James, I had an issue yesterday with a Sea Ray Sundancer

Customer Question

Hi James, I had an issue yesterday with a Sea Ray Sundancer 280 with smoke in the bilge from the STB 4.3EFI V6 and smelled like tran/brake fluid. I shut down engine and after smoke cleared I did not see any oil/fuel in bilge but the SBD throttle would not move in gear, any thoughts to further diagnose?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Boat
Expert:  Jason replied 2 years ago.
Hello my name is ***** ***** I will be helping you today. Do you have alpha or bravo sterndrives in the boat? is the engine overheating or running hot? Are there any rubber bits under the engine?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Alpha Gen2, didn't seem to be other than smoke and didn't see any rubber bits, what are you thinking?
Expert:  Jason replied 2 years ago.
Right now I am thinking you have a bad engine coupler. When the coupler lets go there will be all sorts of smoke in the engine compartment, and then after that there will not be any engagement between the sterndrive and engine. The stendrive has an input shaft that slides through the transom assembly and into the coupler that is bolted to the engines flywheel. When the couplers let go the coupler simply stops spinning the input shaft. So no actual power is applied to the sterndrive.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
How big of a job is that roughly (money, time, parts) and what can I do to further diagnose and/or fix?
Expert:  Jason replied 2 years ago.
It's a bit of a job. The sterndrive has to come off and the engine has to come out in order to get at it On average it runs in the 1500 ballpark all said and done with the coupler itself being about 350 of that. To further diagnose. Get in the engine compartment and look behind the engine and locate the input shaft. Have helper start the engine up and see if that shaft is spinning equally with engine rpm or not. Sometimes it will still, but not at the same speed the engine does. If it is bad, after about a minutes running time the temp should start creeping up, and it will usually start smoking again. Does that make sense?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I suppose it does make sense but clearly not what I want to hear, if this diagnosis doesn't confirm, what else do you think it would be and can you point me to any sort of video to understand more specifically what I'm looking to see?
Expert:  Jason replied 2 years ago.
Let mas ask you this. Can you move the shifter handle back and forth, or is it tights/seized?
Expert:  Jason replied 2 years ago.
I have to run out for an appointed. I will be back in in 2 hours or so. I will await your reply, and respond back after I get back in.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
tight when not running, didn't check it running as didn't want to start it after the smoke cleared. btw, if this the issue am I able to call you to discuss a bit further and/or EM you directly?
Expert:  Jason replied 2 years ago.
My appointment canceled so i'm back.
The website does offer phone calls as an additional service for an additional fee. I will email you the details on that.
Is the shifter any tighter than the port engine, or are they the same?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Shifter is only tight on the starboard
Expert:  Jason replied 2 years ago.
Was it tight before this incident?
Also, when this happened was the engine overheating?
If you are not positive on both questions just let me know your not positive.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Was not tight before and not positive on heat but didnt notice before smoke and then immediately shut down
Expert:  Jason replied 2 years ago.
The other possibility here is this. The shift cable is wrapped around the exhaust pipe inside the boat. Normally this isn't a problem as the pipe is always cool. However, if the engine did overheat what will happen is the exhaust boots that connect the exhaust pipe to the exhaust risers will start to melt, explaining the smoke. And the shift cable will melt to the exhaust pipe, explaining the shifting. All you would do here is simply see if it is melted or not.
I do want to make sure you are happy with the service I am providing to you. Did you have any other questions on the engine or do you think that covers it?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I don't believe the boot melted, but will double check and follow the cable to see what happened. I've had the boot melt issue before and replaced the inner risers as a result but did not have the outer risers replaced, so that is a possibility. I fear that your original diagnosis may be correct, would that explain the smell of transmission fluid and also, what would have caused this? I stored the boat at a new winter marina and mechanic that I don't have full faith in due to other service issues.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi Jason, can you please respond to that last note?With those answers I believe that would cover it. thanks!
Expert:  Jason replied 2 years ago.
(Edit - Sorry I had to run out, another appointment)
I fear that your original diagnosis may be correct, would that explain the smell of transmission fluid and also, what would have caused this?
Smells are a funny thing. What might smell like tranny fluid to you could smell like something else to somebody else. Burning rubber can smell like all sorts of different things. Especially if it has 10 years of grease on it.
Here is the thing with engine couplers. Boats use a wood cored fiberglass skin construction method. Over time, heavy components like the engine will sag and settle in the hull. Because of that, Mercruiser specifies that they want the sterndrive pulled once a year in order to check engine alighment, and align if necessary. What that alignment is, is centering the engine in such a way that the coupler is perfectly aligned with the input shaft of the sterndrive. When that is not done, the shaft pushes against the coupler, causing it to want to twist. There are millions of boats out there from the 60's still running around on their original couplers because the engines do get aligned once a year. At the same time, there is another million boats out there all just 5, 6, 7 years old just waiting for the couplers to burn out because in that time engine alignment has never been done once. You will want to go through your service records, and see what you have done for work. But if you can not find any history of the engine being aligned every so often that would further point towards a coupler issue.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
My prior mechanic was pretty good and a certified Mercruiser mechanic and although I don't know if he removed and aligned I do know that he'd have greased the coupler and would routinely check and grease the gimble housing. If that routine maintenance wasn't done this year, do you believe that could have caused it or significantly contributed to the issue?
Expert:  Jason replied 2 years ago.
It definitely can. There isn't any kind of hard fast rule on how fast boats hulls sag. And really your not talking much at all. If the engine wants to settle say just a 1 16th of 1 inch that's all it takes.

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