San Diego Boat Diesel Engine Repair

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When breaking down the cost of a repair on your boat’s diesel engine, numerous factors come into play: the engine manufacturer, availability of parts, the scale of the repair, and the cost of labor. Annual maintenance and non-critical part repairs should cost anywhere from $200 to $500 in San Diego. If you have major repair work on your hands, it could be much more expensive and cost up to $3,000. The older the engine, the more costly the repair, because parts tend to be less available and it’s harder to find a diesel mechanic who’s familiar with it. Naturally, some manufacturers are more expensive than others and thus their parts are more expensive. If you can find the parts yourself, then this can be a great way to save since repair shops tend to mark up the price of parts. If you are planning to rebuild your boat’s diesel engine, then it’s usually good to follow the 40% rule of thumb - if the cost of the rebuild is 40% of what it would cost to buy a new engine, then it might be worth doing a full repower.


San Diego proper has a high concentration of boat repair shops, so you should not have to look very far. The easiest way to begin your search is online - the Boat Diesel Engine Repair page on Mariner Exchange will show you all of the rated and reviewed marine diesel mechanics in your area. You definitely will want to consult the local marinas as well. Marina managers tend to refer a lot of work to marine service providers, so they have a finger on the pulse of which diesel boat motor mechanics are good and which ones are not. A marina manager’s primary concern is that you keep your boat there, so they are incentivized to recommend high quality mechanics. If you are in a new marina or traveling to another port, then online research will be more critical than word of mouth. Also, the options that a marina manager may recommend could be expensive and you may be able to find external diesel boat motor mechanics that are more affordable. Marine diesel mechanics are slammed with work while in season, so it’s important to both call and email the repair shop to ensure you get a response.

After you have your shortlist of diesel motor mechanics, it is a good idea to make sure they have the proper certifications. The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) certified mechanic program is widely acknowledged as the standard, so an ABYC certification is a good sign. A certification from the manufacturer of your engine is also a strong signal of quality. Don’t forget to ask friends with similar diesel engines on their boats who they use for service and repairs. Often, this is how you can find the diamond in the rough that perhaps doesn’t own a repair facility, but instead does high quality mobile work for a select group of clients. The U.S. Navy also has a large presence in San Diego, so there are a lot of commercial marine diesel mechanics in the area as well.


Most major repairs on your boat’s diesel engine can be easily avoided with regular service and maintenance done by a certified mechanic. However, if you are a DIY enthusiast, here are some of the most common problems you’ll have to remedy to keep your engine running smoothly:

  • Your fuel is not clean - if dirt or water gets into your fuel, you’ll need to clean your fuel before damage is caused to the internal combustion process.

  • Sea strainer is clogged - this is a common problem but it’s worth making sure the entire cooling system is working properly.

  • The impeller needs to be replaced

  • Time for an oil change - if your oil looks like sludge or is discolored, time to change it. Don’t let it get to this point and change your oil regularly.

  • Loose belts need to be replaced

  • Clogged fuel filters - can cause irreparable damage to your diesel engine’s fueling system.

  • Fuses - a common problem and you will likely have to replace many blown fuses while you have the boat.

  • Electrical corrosion - electricity and water do not mix, so be on the lookout for any signs of corrosion. {: p-tips}