How to Restore a Vire 7

Or maybe not...

"Dans ce pays-ci il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres" - Voltaire, Candide, Chapter 23 (1759)

"In this country it is considered a good thing to kill an admiral from time to time, to encourage the others" - Voltaire, Candide, Chapter 23 (1759)

The English solution (for that is the country of which Voltaire wrote) seems a little extreme. Instead, if you really need encouragement, read this North American's story of the ill-treatment that he meted out to his Vire - and it still started (if you ask me, he didn't deserve it, abusing his little engine like that...)

Received 24 July 2001
Posted 30 September 2001

Whether or not it was the "proper" thing to do, my experience has found in me a great amount of respect for the little Vire 7. A friend and I bought the sailboat "Janey Mac" in C***, along with which came a broken plastic container containing a broken boat engine as well as two less-than-new manuals for it. The "light, corrosion resistant" resonator/heat exchanger had corroded through on the outside, but an involved pressure test (mouth one end, hand the other) led me to believe that the resonator was tight still.

I took the engine home, cleaned every part I could separate, then let it sit on the dining room table for a few weeks while I went out, drank with my friends and generally neglected that pile of junk littering the apartment. This is what I do when I am at a loss. I'm at a loss a lot apparently.

A call from "Janey Mac's" other parent quickly got me back on track and with renewed vigour I again went to work on the miracle engine. Miracle because it should never have lived.

Someone had tried to weld the holes in the resonator but the metal was too impure to do so without popping and sputtering. So being cheap and impatient I decided to bypass the heater exchanger altogether. I figured that maybe it would be best to go to a closed fresh water cooling system off the impellor pump with raw water cooling through an outside heat exchanger on an electric pump. No problem. I went to the local sailor's exchange and got the used parts I thought could work, then spent the next week looking for rings and seals (both of which I found out are standard issue), as well as trying to free up that bastard connecting rod pin. I'm pretty certain that I put the piston out of true but it finally came out. It didn't matter to me because the skirt of the piston had chipped away, hitting against the connecting rod in the box the engine came in. So I figured the whole thing wouldn't run anyways.

I honed (?) the cylinder and put the piston in backwards resulting in the loss of one hell of a brave piston ring. I was so embarrassed with such a bonehead move that I haven't yet told the "other" owner. Who had bought them. On his credit card. All the way from O***.

So with the center ring missing in action and the Buy and Sell opened to 'inboard engines for sale', I cut some new gaskets, installed the new seals and slapped together the whole mess. Only a few studs had to be drilled out and retapped and with the motor being such a simple design the whole reassembly went smoothly. Then my friend and I took the motor to the boat for their first reunion in three years.

The engine went in and out so many times that I could now probably do it in the dark in under 30 seconds. This was mostly a trial and error period because the engine was out at the time we got the boat and we had to arrange the shims to align the beast to the propeller shaft.

That being done I put too little oil in the crank case (Webmaster's comment - he means the gearbox) and we hooked up the carburettor and linkages. No starter/generator (I hadn't even looked at that yet) and a brand new spark plug and we were really getting close!

Oh, right, the whole cooling system idea went the way of the dodo when three trips to the hardware store resulted in the purchase of three pairs of wrong sized fittings for the heat exchanger. Also by that point we had gone to the largest supplier of marine pumps and impellers in B*** to find out that he couldn't match up our impeller properly. So we were one pump short anyhow. Fine! One of the cleaner parts of the manual read "the water goes through the heat exchanger where it is SLIGHTLY pre-warmed before it goes to the head". Slightly isn't too far off from not at all where I come from so I sported the little bugger of an engine with a direct ocean to head through a 12 volt raw water pump cooling system. Now before anyone writes in, I did think to choke off the water going out with a petcock valve. For control... Anyways it didn't really matter because it was never going to run. I was just humouring my friend. And I had already at this point picked out a suitable engine with which to replace this one.

I adjusted the points, made sure we had a spark, then sent Daddy #2 to get some gas and oil. Pump On? check. Gas primed? check. Compression? sure. And we pulled and pulled on that starter. Pulled till the cows came home then so did we.

The next day for some strange reason I went back to the boat instead of making calls for new motors and made some more adjustments. Timing, as best as I could figure from the manual, double checked for proper gap and a spark. Then pulled some more. Maybe it was the guy on the boat next door telling me stories of "Janey Mac's" previous owner going sailing taking different girls all the time, but I really needed to get this thing going all of a sudden. And when said neighbour stopped by to watch, the little Vire coughed! Two more pulls and it actually started! I shut her down and tried it again about ten minutes later and wouldn't you know it, she started again. Being emotionally drained and ten thirty at night I went home.

The next day I brought Dad #2 and we did some tests in neutral. An overheating problem was cured by clearing a plug in the water out hose and the overcooling problem that then followed was quickly cured by slightly closing the petcock valve. We then put her in gear and did some tests under load. The having-to-hammer-the-transmission-out-of-reverse problem was cured by adding more oil. The engine was given to us dipstickless, see. (Webmaster's comment - This guy is not the first person to underfill the gearbox. See other people's stories about getting stuck in gear). Otherwise everything seemed in good order and ocean going tests were on for the weekend.

Our uphill exhaust pipe is fitted with water cooling fed by a second petcock valve. And once I had drained the water that had backed up into the crankcase overnight (note to self, turn water off when engine not running) we fired her up, slapped her in gear and went sailing. Full throttle got us going about walking pace. We were right to suspect that the 150 pounds of mussels that I managed to scrape off the hull the next day were part of that problem.

Forgot to turn the water off again and paid by having to drain the engine while at sea. Other than that our first ocean going test was a success.

The next day out we managed to burn a hole through the bilge pump hose as well as I had to drain the water from the crankcase that backed up in the... oh you know. Give me a break! I didn't think the damn thing would run so I never made any room in my head for things to remember about it. The carb did start to flood though. I guess the needle isn't seating all that well any more so we had to get a tow to the public dock. I did manage to get it running and the "Janey Mac" made it home (200 yards away) on her own steam. New carb kit this week.

But all in all, on two piston rings, a chewed up piston and a very basic, very, very basic cooling system, this little Vire 7 engine we got runs like nothing else. And her little heart willing, come Fall I am going to reinstall the proper impeller pump on her ass end and a new piston in her top end. WITH all three rings!

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