At what point does saving money become a project?

We all want to save money. Sure, it is human nature to spend the least, but get the most. However, there is the old idiom about being “Penny wise, but Pound foolish”, often incorrectly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, that often applies when comparing options.

We once had a suspiciously large parts order from a new, unknown customer. When the parts department received the order, they were perplexed: When did we sell an engine to these guys?

They combed through our accounts history and found nothing. What was going on?

It turns out that the customer had been given a GM engine block on the aftermarket (an old GM truck engine) and was trying to marinize it himself to use it on his boat. There are a number of different reasons why this is not a good idea for the average home mechanic, no matter how experienced or no matter how good his mechanical aptitude:

  • Most workshops lack the facilities for proper marinization.
  • You generally cannot use automotive parts in a marine engine, due to corrosion issues.
  • Marinization is a highly technical process. Without experience, the process can quickly become complicated and expensive.
  • Engines perform differently on the water than on land. The power and torque curves are completely different, and on an electronic engine, significant software knowledge is required.
  • Modern emissions requirements are tricky. In some locations, operating a vessel without certified emissions is illegal. It is very difficult to meet emissions requirements without the proper testing facilities.

<<AND>>

Most of all….

Marinediesel, as a manufacturer, has certain economies of scale when purchasing components. Quite simply, when you buy thousands of injectors, you pay much less than when you are buying two. Additionally, though it really isn’t a secret, most manufacturers make most of their profit from spare parts and service, rather than from the sale of the engine. That is why there is usually a big difference in markup on spares, but very little difference in price between similar engines (ie. Volvo Penta D6 vs Marinediesel VGT 400).

In the end, he was a little shocked that refurbishing his old engine would end up costing almost as much as a new engine. We finally convinced him that he would spend so much time and money that he really would save very little in the end, and most likely end up spending more. A project, indeed…