Engine Failures and what we can learn as DIYers.

These engines are at the heart of rural transportation

It’s rare to find engine operators who are careful to keep records of an engine’s performance and give them good care and the required maintenance. These people are gifts to our DIYer movement and help us come to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the assembly.

As I have said many times, people are products of their environment, and deep seated in our minds is a set of rules as to how the world operates. What’s sad, is these rules often trump reality! I mean to say, we are reluctant to accept what we see with our own eyes, and refer back to this list of rules (what we’ve been taught reality is or should be.)

One of the things deep seated in the Western DIYer’s mind, is a standard of behavior, and our personal dedication to achieve a certain standard in our personal assemblies. If you are one of us, you may have laid in bed one night unable to sleep until you came to the conclusion you needed to tear something apart again and check one more thing. It’s that constitution inside your head, you can’t shake it no matter how hard you try.

Somewhere in my writings, I shared the perfect Hell for an old retired German Craftsman. Force him to work on one of the Indian assembly lines in Rajkot, give him the job of fitting Gib Keys with a sledge hammer, no doubt this would be a version of hell for him.

I swapped emails with a younger Friend just yesterday, he is one of the better problem solvers I’ve ever worked with, he can meet with a client, inventory their needs, and with a high degree of certainty create a good solid solution. What he shares with me yesterday, is that obvious solutions are often over ruled in meetings because of turf issues, and many are rejected because the solution might impact jobs or budgets elsewhere in the organization. The solution often becomes, what is best ‘for me’, not what is best to improve a process, a company, or a product.

He shares in his email, that we likely share the same affliction, neither of us can grasp and hold onto these facts that Department Heads, and others make decisions based on criteria we feel is unethical and immoral. My friend says he has to go through the grieving process each time, as he can never suppress the urge to just fix the basic problem, nor let go of the fact that his Superiors were driven to consider other factors.

Now, let’s evaluate today’s email from a key player in a third world country where there is seldom an electrical grid to depend on.  People need pump their own water and make their own electrical power . Gasoline is near out of the question due to its very high price and rarity.

Hi George,

I have been looking out for you on Skype wanting to discuss problems with Chinese Bearings failing in ChangFas.

I always believed that ChangFas had better quality bearings and that this amongst other things made them the preferred engine of this type to buy.

I recently had the bearings that are fitted to the two vibration balancing shafts fail at only around 1,500 hours. Oil used was the best quality and changes at 200 hours. 

This has shattered my faith in the ChangFa brand. Why do the Chinese so badly screw up and spoil what is otherwise a good engine ? They must have made millions of these. Why do they not learn from this sort of thing and improve their brand. The cost to do this is not high, just a few good quality bearings.

Do you know of a better brand of this type of engine. The 195 and the 1115 are popular sizes.

Regards ,N

As I read this, I reflect on a conversation with one of our favorite bearing suppliers, it’s pretty much what he does all day long, and he’s in a position to get feedback on what he sells. Some years ago, he told me “The Chinese make some really good bearings, problem is, mixed in with them are bad ones.

Around Y2K, MJ McCarroll, a man who has spent 40 or more years with his hands in the gear works took a few 195 and 1115 engines apart. He was happy with the assembly (mostly) but correctly observed that the two bearings on the countershaft were heavily loaded, and if there was less than a high quality bearing used there, one could expect a train wreck. MJ said it was important to tear the assembly down and replace those bearings, and why not the other ones too? He used Timkens because he trusted the brand.

At one time, Changfa had a website up declaring that they were in deed an International Company and would source parts where ever needed to build a reliable product. With this said, we need remember, this was a snapshot in time, and who is really making these kind of decisions today? Perhaps the Chinese Communist Party has over ruled this decision and forced everyone to use the Chinese bearings, but then again, we need ask, who all are using the Chinese for bearing assemblies and rebranding them with their name? Perhaps there are traders that slap the Changfa name on other assemblies? What all goes on in China?

We need avoid a big mistake Western minds make, and that is to assume we understand what is going on. China might be a lot like the Wild West here was back a few years, just how much law and standards of behavior did you find in parts of the mid west back then? Perhaps it was more survival at the time?

We need ask ourselves, what happens to bearings that don’t pass QC? Are they destroyed? Perhaps they are sold through the back door, and find themselves in a new box, and sold to an unsuspecting assembler at a far better price? Go ahead, rule it out as a possibility.

Now we need also ask ourselves, how long are these engines run at a time in their main markets? If it were a few minutes at a time, we might conclude that most would reach 1500 hours of use many years after purchase, but we know that these engines are used for irrigation and transportation in China, and many parts of the East.

We have heard stories that managers in factories in China have been put on trial and punished for willfully cheating the people of China, and there are factories that build products that sell to the Chinese Military.  A question for all of us, Westerners and Easterners alike.. Is the plant manager who supplies 195, and 1115s more careful in selecting bearings for the Military? Perhaps another question. Are those who dump second or third rate bearings careful to make sure they are sent out in the exported engines to assure they are not punished for crimes against the Chinese people?

Now for a curve ball.. India has it’s full share of problems, some stuff out of Rajkot is made to sell, not to use, but I have NEVER seen a bad tapered roller bearing on a one cylinder Lister type.. never, have you? Why is that?

There are many thing made in India that are absolutely first rate! Most of the piston rings are made in India, and they make some of the best ever made. Mico Injection pumps and other parts are precision assemblies, and as good as any ever made.

I think this is true of China, what isn’t made there now, those Japanese  bearings you buy, the ones that have always served you needs, are they products of Japan today?

How to source quality? How to protect your investment

MJ’s solution, pull those bearings off the balance shafts and replace them with the best you can source. When these bearings let go, it’s the same as a train wreck! You’ll be hard pressed to re-assemble the engine for less than the cost of a new one, one that oil pump driven off the end of the balance shaft fails..

Perhaps the answer is a kit engine? You get everything in a box minus the bearings, and you build the engine yourself.

There’s a long list of parts you don’t need, and here’s where the problem develops, is there anyone in all of China that can package an engine kit the way we’d like it. Here’s a list of parts a smart stationary engine builder will want to omit, as he knows there are far better solutions in his junk pile. More on this later.

  • Fuel tank
  • Hopper
  • Water pump
  • Intake manifold
  • Exhaust manifold
  • Muffler
  • Air cleaner

We here choose to use simple black iron pipe welded to an easy to make or second sourced flange.  Stock manifolds have proven to create problems,  hoppers are normally taken off, and easy to make manifolds fitted. Air cleaners exhaust manifolds can and do rattle apart, and we have even seen parts sucked into the engine, best you source your own.

What we are left with is a far more compact engine crate, lighter, and we can ship more of what we want per square meter. When missing these parts, we have engine parts and not an engine, and likely no need to worry about EPA certification until you build your own combined heat and power plant.

As per my thoughts, anyone who passes up the opportunity to use biofuels, and run in CHP mode, misses a chance to please Queen Ms Lisa…. who is on the fast track to making most of your decisions for you as head of the EPA.  She’s the reason you can’t own one of those really cool little diesel cars that gets 62MPG imperial, yes, most people outside the USA can own one, but not you.

Lee and David, here’s your opportunity.. a kit Engine that contains all we need, and minus all we normally don’t use, and it’s a kit, it should be less money, it should be cheaper to ship, it should be free of the EPA requirements, and many of these parts can be used to create other things,  steam engines, air compressors, spares, wood gas power plants, and more. And yes, always consider checking in with Queen Lisa before you assemble a thing, she might even issue you some subsidies J




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6 Responses to Engine Failures and what we can learn as DIYers.

  1. Russell Furzer says:

    What I can’t figure is how does your EPA find out that you are running a listeroid that you have assembled from whatever you need to have called it to get into the US.

    Over here our EPA isnt banning Listeroids (yet?) but if they were and I imported an “aircompressor”, an injector pump and an injector and then set it up as a CHP I wouldnt get a 6 o clock knock from the feds

    Who’s gonna check that you have “certification” for it?


  2. John Gillen says:


    I have read with interest many thoughts and opinions on Chinese quality. Heres my two cents worth. I lived and worked in China for over two years, for an automotive supplier. In fact I set up our Value Add Operations there. We served the Chinese market and did not export to the States. I had to make that last point clear. I also worked with purchasing to find reliable suppliers for our equipment and parts. To say it was a test of my patience is an understatement.

    In a nut shell I concluded, if the factory was run by a westerner then there was a very good chance the quality was good. If the factory was run by a Chinese most likely it was poor or bad. If the company was run by an older “party man” there was a good chance it was junk. Of course there were exceptions where you would find a quality company run by a Chinese, but they were rare. They don’t make any bad parts just some are better then others. LOL

    You have to remember the majority of these people are very poor and that they inherently have a very low expectation. In China for hundreds of years prior to our lifetime thinkers and leaders were killed. If you believe in evolution then you also understand that hundreds if not thousands of years of evolution died with those people. I liked the Chinese people but I often told my wife it was like working with 5 year olds with Masters Degrees. I was trying to teach young engineers that had never used a vise grip or for that matter any tools other then maybe a screw driver. China today is what I picture the USA was like in the 20’s. Also very similar to what Japan produced in the 50’s and early 60’s.

    Frankly I think it is to our best interest that they don’t produce quality products. Once they get a handle on it we will be in a heap of hurt, much worse then today. Look what Japan did to us in the 70’s and 80’sa and they have much less production capacity then China does. The United States needs to eliminate all the BS in management and get back to what we have historically been good at – making reasonably priced quality products. Unions need to back off so that wages are more realistic and Companies need to be satisfied with reasonable profits. Other then that it is a piece of cake. 🙂

    On a side note I was close to shipping one of those utility trucks that was powered by an over sized cultivator. I thought those were the coolest things. They were everywhere.

    I have your CD and Bill Roger’s book, good reading and very practical. And yes I’ve got a Listroid. Fortunately I read your warnings and cleaned out the casting sand and finished machining the parts before I started it. It’s a work in progress.

    Best Regards

    • George B. says:

      Nice to hear from a person who has been there, mechanical devices read like a book, it all in there for the person who knows the language.
      Lee and David are out best hope, they are working hard to source the best they can find.

      One way to get quality, is to reward it, but that means the worker on the line gets a bonus when the part is right. Most managers will attempt to keep that margin for themselves.
      thanks for your comments.

  3. swlee says:

    Hi George,
    in the globalised world, the marketing edge over the engineering. good marketer sold sands to the Arabs.

    Changf* is one of those better marketing equip company that export their products. and this created some challenges.

    firstly, the Changf* name sells. so overnight, you have literally hundred of copy cats. everyone is producing “Changfaroid” by printing the Changf* labels.

    this is easy when you are in Shandong; the Rajkot capital of China. anything you need to assemble a complete engine can be pick from the shelves, the label included.

    so the failed bearing could be a poor quality Chinese bearing use by Changf* or it could be Changfaroid to be more likely.

    there are many world class engine from China. Cummin, Deutz, Mercedes, Volkwagen and host of others single we DIYer wish for. Borsch makes common rail injections set by the millions a year in China too.

    the key is to select these better engine makers and offer it to the DIY world.

    this is what David and I plan to do soon.

    • George B. says:

      Best we share a link here to the Lee and David parts page.

      Lee, we in the West often think if it says Changfa, it likely is 🙂

      I am so glad you are here.. you should have permissions to create your own content, let me know if you need more help.

      And for those who don’t know Lee, he’s a DIYer, a hands on guy, who speaks the important languages in the Engine provinces, and as John found out, hands on knowledge is what makes the difference. A ME with no hands on, has a whole lot to learn..


  4. Howard says:

    Has anyone changed Changfa type engine bearings for roller, or other type bearings, or replaced that iron bushing I’ve read about? Same for the ST head. Would roller bearings be better? I’d like my contraband genset to last forever, since it will probably take that long to find another one Thanks, H.

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