Here's a copy of a letter sent to Kragen Auto.
We ordered 2 x GM 350 Engines for my boat a 1968 33 foot Chris Craft. These were delivered and installed in February/March 2001. All the cooling systems, intake manifolds, exhaust manifolds and gaskets were purchased new for this install and no problems were encountered during the install.
The oil was changed on both engines after 15 hours of operation. The oil was clean and showed no signs of water contamination. The engines had been run below 2500 RPM during this break-in period and no problems had been encountered.
At 30 hours of operation the reverse rotation motor would not turn over. Pulling the dipstick revealed that the crankcase was full of water. All the spark plugs were removed in case the engine was hydro-locked. When we pulled the plugs from #6 and #8 cylinders, water flowed freely out of these cylinders. An attempt was made to rotate the engine again with no success. I visited the Napa store to get advice on the next step. Pepper assisted me in placing a claim (Claim1) with Recon.
I contacted Recon and spoke with their customer service department (the rep's name was Jerry I believe) and reported what we had found. They asked that we run compression and leak down tests on the engine. We told them that this was not possible as the engine would not rotate. They agreed to ship out a new engine which took approximately a month from the claim date.
During the time that we waited for the replacement engine to arrive, we removed the intake and exhaust manifolds and pressure tested them to ensure that the water was not entering the engine from these components.
The replacement engine was installed using the tested components. After 4 hours of running it showed water entering the crankcase. Water flowed freely from cylinder #8 on the removal of the spark plug. This lead us to believe that the manifolds must be faulty and the complete set was removed and retested with no problems found.
Recon was contacted once again and informed of the problem. A claim (Claim 2) was started and Recon requested once again that an attempt be made to find the root of the problem. Compression on cylinder #8 was 60psi vs 120-125psi for the remainder of the cylinders.
The head was removed and it was found that the water port on the head was overlapping the firing ring and was exposed to the cylinder. This was determined by a visual inspection of the head gasket. It was plain to see on the gasket where the water ports had not compressed the gasket.
On cylinder #2 the clearance between the firing ring and the water port was 1/32nd in..
On cylinder #4 there was a slight intrusion onto the firing ring by the water port.
On cylinder #6 there was only 1/32nd in. of the firing ring between the cylinder and the water port.
On cylinder #8 the water port was exposed to the cylinder.
The first suggestion was that the gasket may have been faulty and a new marine head gasket set was purchased. Recon was informed of this. When the head set was received, the head gasket was placed against the cylinder head and it was plain to see once again that the water port on the head intruded past the firing ring. The head was taken to a machine shop and tested with a regular automotive head gasket. Once again, the water port intruded past the firing ring.
The next suggestion was to replace the cylinder head with another head. To expedite this process we offered to check the left side head of the original engine supplied by Recon and determine if it was suitable for replacement. This would negate Recon incurring shipping charges and we would be able to use the boat that much sooner. This idea was proposed to both Recon and yourself and I expressed concern that this would negate our warranty. All parties agreed that this was the best course of action and assured me that the warranty would not be negated.
The head was removed from the engine and tested by the machine shop. As it had been salt water contaminated it was also stripped, cleaned and re-assembled. When the gasket was compared to this head it was seen that there was at least 1/4in clearance between the firing ring and the water ports.
The engine was re-assembled and replaced in the boat. Recon was informed of this and noted the cause of the problem as we had determined it. At this time we have over 100 hours on this engine with no further problems.
I personally delivered the engine, head and head gasket to the Napa store. Pepper, Raul and some of the clerks were interested in what we found and we inspected the head gasket. Raul pulled a new head gasket from the shelf and it was placed against the head and aligned. Once again, the water port intruding into the cylinder was plainly visible.
We wired the recon warranty tags onto the engine and cylinder head. We ensured that the correct claim tags were attached to the correct components. The head gasket was wired to the head for examination by Recon.
Pepper assisted me in filling out the claim for labor for these claims and we submitted them in early June. I did not hear anything from Kragen or Recon customer service. This did not unduly concern me as Pepper had informed me that the process would take up to 6 weeks.
This morning I called Kragen customer service to follow up on the claim. I spoke with James who informed me that they had not yet heard from Recon. He said that he would follow up and get back to me. I asked him if I could call Recon as well and follow up with them. He said that this may be beneficial.
I called Recon and spoke with Jerry. He informed me that the heads and block that we had returned had been magnafluxed and pressure tested. No problems were found with these components so the claim had been disallowed. He said that this information had been faxed to Kragen customer service.
After discussing this with Jerry, the following came to light:
Recon was probably not going to be able to find the parts that we had shipped back to them for re-evaluation.
He had documented the fact that the crankcase had filled with water at the time of the original claim.
Recon engineers mentioned in their report that the engine had been exposed to water.
He had documented the head exchange from one motor to the other.
Recon never documented that they had received the head on the second claim.
No evaluation of the head gasket had been done.
It would seem that Recon, even though they knew what the problem was, did not follow through and visually inspect the parts that we sent back. I am sure that the pressure test and magnaflux would show any cracks in the block and heads. However, we never claimed that cracks were the problem and invested much time and effort into determining what the cause of the problem was. At this time I contacted you and have taken no further action.
During all of this, I was without the use of my boat. Marine mechanics, yards and lifts are very difficult to schedule on short notice and I was lucky to be squeezed in for these efforts. It did not help that Recon could not provide a delivery schedule so that any of this work could be scheduled in advance.
My time and effort has not been accounted for in this claim the hours spent running parts around, talking to customer service after interminable waits in automated systems and delivering the boat to the yards. I had to take time off work to do all these things and, if the hours were calculated at my normal billing rate, it would probably come to a lot more than the value of this claim.
I would like to take this opportunity to say a very large THANK YOU to you, Pepper, Raul and the staff at the Napa store. I believe that they acted most professionally and courteously and that the experience would have been far more stressful without their assistance.
I want to apologize for the length of this document, but I really believe that we need all the facts documented so that we can resolve this issue.
bethel island, California