Danish SV Capibara - Transmission shaft wear and how to fix it
Our transmission that failed half an hour before we were hit by a powerboat, has been on Henrik’s mind since we came ashore. After hours of searching the Internet, it turned out that we of course have one of the serial numbers of which the shaft is made of weak metal. That means that the splines on the shaft that connects the engine and the transmission are worn down, so they no longer grip. Volvo knows of this problem and has described it in boating magazines and on cruising websites, and a lot of boat owners have had the opinion that Volvo should replace their transmissions.
However, Volvo hasn't found it fair to replace 20-year-old transmissions, and instead they have recommended a British company who has specialized in exactly these repairs. This process takes about 3 weeks and the price is approximately 500 Pounds plus shipping, which is of course a lot cheaper than a new one - and especially if you’re in England.
But there’s a long way from Florida to England, which made Henrik wonder, if he could fix it himself in some way. He tried to explain his plans to me, but I must admit that I quickly lost track.
After continuous search on the Internet, Henrik found a Danish mechanic, who had explained this exact problem on his website and how to fix it. The Danish mechanic turned out to be far better at bouncing off ideas than me, and with his help Henrik decided to fix it himself just with the help from a welder. (Click this link, It’s in Danish, but use Google Translate : ).
Now he is only waiting for some spare parts from Volvo, and then he can get started.
Henrik has talked the idea through with a local mechanic, who is ordering the spare parts from Volvo, but he’s not that keen on Henrik’s project. Every time he talks to him, he tells Henrik about another used transmission he’s found somewhere in America that he thinks we should buy instead. Henrik contacted one of the cheaper ones to ask about the splines, since those transmissions most likely will have the same problem as ours. The answer was that they were worn down, but would last at least a year. That wasn't quite what we were looking for!
Besides, Henrik likes the sorts of solutions that he calls cowboy solutions – solutions where all you need are a piece of gum and a hammer (or something like that). I will rather buy the right thing from the beginning, but I have however only used that philosophy on clothing, shoes, and bags – never on transmissions!
And in this case it’s not that easy anyway since a new transmission doesn't have the same dimensions as ours, so we need to have our engine moved etc. Besides, the other solution is a lot more fun!
Oles Auto service in Denmark has a description of the problem and a how to fix it guide on his website. You can also find the serial number and see if the same problem applies to your transmission.
Signe Storr - Freelance journalist & friend of Boatshed