Perkins diesel engines

We publish here


general opinions on Perkins engines and


individual reports by skippers

General opinions in detail:

February 2003

Alexander, since 1980 engine- mechanic at MOORINGS St. Lucia (Marigot Bay)

"The Perkins Prima engines have many problems: Sea water corrosion, bad electrical cables, starters, basically the entire electrical equipment, all pumps, exhaust and a lot of things more.

The new Perkins Prima engines, today Perkins Sabre 65, are considerably better than the old Perkins Prima engines.

The large Perkins engines on the other hand are virtually a lot better and have no problems at all. They are surely just as well Yanmar engines."

April 2003

Vergil Joseph

repairs since 2000 engines at BAREFOOT, St. Vincent, Blue Lagoon, before that 18 years at MOORINGS St. Lucia, 4 years STEVENS Charter St. Lucia

Perkins 4108

"The Perkins 4108 is good and very popular, but is unfortunately not constructed any more. His greatest problem consists in the continually leaky rear seal of the engine (crankshaft) to the flywheel. The seal is made from 2 parts and therefore will leak for ever. From there the oil runs through and is atomized to everywhere by the centrifugal force. The engine compartment at a Perkins 4108 is continually full of oil which creeps to the starter motor and and sticks it. Often the gear was tapped from below in order to let the oil run out there. But that is not a solution in the long run, naturally."

Perkins Prima

"From that Perkins constructed the Perkins Prima instead of the Perkins 4108, but that is a bad engine although the new Perkins Prima are supposed to be better than the old ones."

Perkins 60 H

"That is a beauty of an engine: If one changes oil, it holds for a life time. This engine is super. I recommend this outstanding engine to everyone."

April 2003

Meldon Danja Woods, St. Vincent, Blue Lagoon, SVG, engine manager at Sunsail (locally 40 ships) and TMM

Info Tel. 01784.5282250 / 4575802, email

"For me, Perkins engines are the best of all, except for Perkins Prima:"

Perkins 4108

"The Perkins 4108 is an old engine, maybe 30 years. However, that is a super engine, still today. The problem with the gasket at the back of the engine to the gear is known. I dissolved that through my addition to the gasket, installing a package like the driving shaft gasket package. That helps."

Perkins 4154 series 200
Perkins M 90
Perkins 6135

"All excellent, outstanding engines. With standard service, they will last for a lifetime."

Perkins Prima

"That is the single bad engine at Perkins, although the new Prima are a little better."

individual reports, where according to year of manufacture type designations and power output numbers might be slightly different:






Dieter, "Chou-Chou"

"Perkins 4108 is a good engine, which I drive already 25 years practically without problems. Well-known disadvantages are the seal at the back of the engine to the transmission. I bored there a hole, from which the oil flows down. A further problem was that the Diesel line was never tight and sucked air in small quantities. Thus the engine stopped sometime, usually in the unsuitable moment. That was solved on recommendation of an engine specialist by the fact that the return valve became a larger drilling. Since then the engine never stopped any more because of air in the system."



Juergen and Evi, "Tabaluga", 50 HP

Absolutely no problems, not the smallest repair in 10 years. Only the usual maintenance operations, although we put a heavy strain on the engine in all the years. The engine ran always as a clockwork. After 8000 hours the piston rings seemed worn-out. The engine blew some blue smoke and a frost stuffing was rust through. So we decided in November 2002 in Trinidad, to give the engine a complete overhaul. We brought all repair parts from Germany for that. Since then the engine is like new again.

The very competent and helpful deliberation of the company Buecker & Essing GmbH from D 49084 Osnabrueck (in 0541) 58474-0 was besides positive to the engines, where we bought the repair parts for the overhaul to very favorable prices.



Constantin von Wentzel

Overall, a pretty good Diesel, apart from a few flaws:
1) The electrical components are of typical English quality, with bare
copper conductors shielded only minimally from the corrosive marine

Furthermore, the engine is connected to ground only via a relay when the
engine is running. While this saves the installation of a zinc in the
heat exchanger, it also proves that our friends at Volvo/Perkins have
never heard of proper bonding for lightning protection.

The OEM alternator is a joke, producing a nameplate 55 amps. In reality,
it is barely enough to keep the starter battery full. Retrofits with more
powerful aftermarket solutions like AmplePower or Balmar are obligatory,
as otherwise your battery banks will quickly sulphate and die.

However, alternator upgrades may cause funny behavior in the starting
circuit. As far as we could tell, the fast tachometer response of the
AmplePower alternator we used caused the starter interlock relay to
disable engine starting. Thus, that pin had to be grounded.

2) Maintenance is VERY difficult & expensive!
Everything on this engine is mounted on top of the cylinder heads. Thus,
any kind of internal work pretty much requires the removal of the engine
to a clean-room environment. All the work associated with the removal of
diesel pump/lines, etc. is not apt to be inexpensive or without risk.

Furthermore, many components are placed well away from reach, such as the
alternator (at the bottom of the engine), the oil pump (bottom left of
engine), the air filter (back left), etc. In any kind of situation where
you only have access from the top of the engine (like us) you will really
start to appreciate some of the other engine designs out there.

Perkins and Volvo have decided to punish their loyal customers by levying
huge markups on private-label parts that fit either engine series. If you
do your homework, you can save between 30-50% on parts like the pumps by
buying "generic" replacement parts that are built to the same
specification, just with a different name on the front. For example, the
water circuits are powered by relabeled Jabsco pumps.

The M60 has a number of interesting rubber gaskets that are custom-made
with the commensurate prices. However, they do work - we only had to
replace ours after 11 years of use - even after their life had been
curtailed by the liberal use of Perkins touch-up paint. We also had to
replace the HX water pump (very expensive) and elected to put a SpeedSeal
cover on the raw water pump. Our exhaust elbow was quite corroded and was
also replaced.

Some of the part prices are ridiculous, as are shipping costs. According
to our Perkins dealer, a small 3" long, 1/4" OD braided nitrile-rubber
hose assembly in the diesel-return-circuit will set you back a mere $160.
Perkins USA's shipping and handling are minimized at $30, so our grand
total would be about $200 with taxes... Such gouging is usually only
found in the drug trade, so we will attempt to re-create this part using
local resources.

Despite the high maintenance costs, etc. the engine has been very
reliable for us. Considering that it was nearly drowned one winter (the
boat manufacturer elected to drain the cockpit into the sealed engine
compartment rather than overboard), the engine has survived quite well.
You can read more about our hydraulic propulsion system at (http:// You see, we elected to use this engine simply
because our hydraulic pumps could bolt-on directly to the back plate.
Thanks to, I know that when the time comes to replace
the hydraulic system (in another 5 years I reckon), that I'll go for a
twin Yanmar saildrive set-up.

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