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Old 18-02-2010, 18:27   #1
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Diesel Won't Start After Sitting for a Year

Surprising I know. It's a 25HP Universal diesel engine in a 30' O'day sailboat. I turn the key to start the glow plugs and the glow plugs stay on for a long long time, greater than 20 seconds. Are glow plugs normally on a timer or temperature sensor? So when I finally turn it over it tries for a little bit but does not start.

I did notice that when I look at the fuel filter, there is fuel in it but it's not full. Is this normal and if not is there a way to prime the fuel? Any other suggestions would be appreciated.
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Old 18-02-2010, 18:31   #2
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I don't believe the glow plugs are on any timer.

They have to be energized AS YOU CRANK the engine.

Advance the throttle to 2/3-3/4 before you try to start.

Make sure you have good batteries...slow cranking speed and weak glowplugs other wise.
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Old 18-02-2010, 18:35   #3
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Batteries have been charging with a solar panel for two days now but are not fully charged. I'll wait till they charge all day tomorrow and use more throttle.

Any chance there could be a problem with the fuel after sitting for a year?
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Old 18-02-2010, 18:52   #4
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Any chance there could be a problem with the fuel after sitting for a year?
Maybe. One thing you could do- get a friend to help, have them crank the engine while you spray a quick shot of ether in the intake. If the engine starts running on the ether but stalls as soon as it runs out, you've likely got some kind of fuel problem: air, water, sediment, gelled fuel if it's really cold.
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Old 18-02-2010, 19:00   #5
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Originally Posted by joburnet View Post
Surprising I know. It's a 25HP Universal diesel engine in a 30' O'day sailboat. I turn the key to start the glow plugs and the glow plugs stay on for a long long time, greater than 20 seconds. Are glow plugs normally on a timer or temperature sensor? So when I finally turn it over it tries for a little bit but does not start.

I did notice that when I look at the fuel filter, there is fuel in it but it's not full. Is this normal and if not is there a way to prime the fuel? Any other suggestions would be appreciated.
You have air in your system and you need to bleed it..we can help you with that if your not sure how.

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Batteries have been charging with a solar panel for two days now but are not fully charged. I'll wait till they charge all day tomorrow and use more throttle.

Any chance there could be a problem with the fuel after sitting for a year?
There is always a chance there is some water in the system..but other then that diesel fuel will last many many years...when was the last time you changed your secondary filter...The one you cant see into?
If water is a question mark in your mind spin off the secondary and dump the contents out holding the thing upside down in a glass jar...If its clean and zero water/gunk comes out ..there is nothing wrong with your fuel.

check this out.... Diesel School 101- Episode 1

I have a follow up video to post with it but haven't got around to it yet.
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Old 18-02-2010, 19:08   #6
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I am not familiar with your particular engine, however, most glowplugs are meant to come on and cycle before cranking. If the temps are cold that they stay on for a longer period is normal. If your fuel filter isn't full, I would suspect it isn't the glow plugs. Look up your bleeding procedure and bleed the lines up to the injector pump. Often, depending on the type of injector pump, it can also be advantageous to crack the injector lines at the injectors to save cranking and get the fuel up to the injectors without the backpresure that is there when they are connected. When you have fuel at the injectors tighten the lines and if it doesn't start then, you will know it isn't that it doesn't have fuel. Then keep an eye out for the leak that caused the fuel to drain away from the engine/ filter in the first place. Because it has been a while it might not be a concern, however, it might also allow air to be sucked instead of fuel and cause problems.
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Old 18-02-2010, 19:30   #7
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Air in the fuel lines sounds pretty likely. Instructions on how to bleed the system would be appreciated. Thanks.
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Old 18-02-2010, 19:31   #8
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If a diesel's been sitting for a year or so it's not unusual for it to refuse to start even with a good clean, air-free fuel system. The oil completely drains away from the cylinders and there's too much bypass for the compression to reach a level where the fuel/air mixture can reach ignition temperature. A very small shot of ether will kick the engine over fast enough to overcome the bypassing. The amount of ether needed is really quite small --- too much can drive the system so hard you break piston rods so use only a very short squirt.

However, if you do not have your fuel system free of air, the injection pump will be gassed off and it simply will not pump fuel unless it's primed. You may have both problems, but both are easily overcome.
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Old 18-02-2010, 19:44   #9
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Surprising I know. It's a 25HP Universal diesel engine in a 30' O'day sailboat. I turn the key to start the glow plugs and the glow plugs stay on for a long long time, greater than 20 seconds. Are glow plugs normally on a timer or temperature sensor? So when I finally turn it over it tries for a little bit but does not start.

I did notice that when I look at the fuel filter, there is fuel in it but it's not full. Is this normal and if not is there a way to prime the fuel? Any other suggestions would be appreciated.

Diesel Won't Start After Sitting for a Year
fuel filter, there is fuel in it but it's not full

Therein probably lies the reason for the problem !!
1) Check that the fuel in the filter is not gelled or gone "gungy"
if it has, then get rid of it. You may have to filter the whole contents of your diesel fuel tank, if it is contaminated by water, by bacteria etc..

2) the fuel in the filter is not full - therefore prime the low pressure fuel pump manually until it is full.
3) the system probably has air - therefore bleed off the air by loosening the bleed screw/s and pumping.
4) make sure the engine starter battery is fully charged.
5) Do not use ether to start a diesel engine
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Old 18-02-2010, 20:04   #10
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If your main filter (the one on the engine) is not brimming with fuel, then you have a fuel supply problem. After a year, probably no surprising. Prime it with the finger lever on the lift pump. Note that if the finger lever doesn't have a springy feel, you may have to turn the engine a bit so that the cam that drives the pump is in the right spot to let the lever work. Once fuel comes out of the bleed screw/nut/whatever give it another go. Chances are you now have air in the rest of the system so you'll need to bleed the injectors. But before you move on to that, rebleed the filter. If you get more air/bubbles then check to the fuel flow from the lift pump by loosening the input to the filter. If fuel doesn't come out of this at a reasonable rate when pumping the finger lever. If none of this works you have air somewhere between the tank and the lift pump. You can nancy about trying to reprime this, or do the manly thing, and suck on on the end of the lift pump input to get the fuel moving. Once you have a mouthful of diesel and are sure that you have fuel at the input side of the lift pump, and you are sure there is fuel from the tank (and primary filter) and the main filter is bled, then its injector time. If you don't have fuel flow to the lift pump after sucking/whatever then your primary is clogged. Replace the primary (Racor) and rebleed. Once you are happy there is fuel in the main filter (fuel gushes out of the bleed screw) then you are left with only three options. Injectors, Air, Heat. Crank and loosen the first injector until fuel spurts. If it still doesn't fire - check the block is getting warm from the glow plugs. If not chase down the glow plug circuit and see whats going on there. Test the terminals on the glow plug with a multimeter to make sure they are getting 12v. If you have fuel (spurting from injectors) and heat (glow plugs getting power) then you are missing air. Check air cleaner etc. If still no go, you are in trouble!
good luck.
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Old 18-02-2010, 20:16   #11
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No Ether in a glow plug engine....ever....
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Old 18-02-2010, 20:20   #12
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No Ether in a glow plug engine....ever....
I do it all the time... just not on my engine
Never broke anything, but these engines have been pre-abused.
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Old 18-02-2010, 20:35   #13
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The glow of the plug can ignite the ether at the wrong time and really mess things up. No ether in a glow plug engine! (read the can).
I would think now would be a good time to change the fuel filter if it has been sitting for a while seing as you are going to be bleeding the system anyway. There could be things growing on the wrong side of the filter element. You may need to do it again shortly as the diesel in the tank is cleaned. At least have another (or two) with you if you head out and depend on the engine...
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Old 18-02-2010, 20:41   #14
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Air in the fuel lines sounds pretty likely. Instructions on how to bleed the system would be appreciated. Thanks.

Alright well first off try and locate the manual primer on your engine..many of them are right on the fuel pump usually on the bottom a few on the side.....its just a short lever with about an 1" throw...some of them are independently mounted or... on top of the secondary filter housing...usually with a 1" round button type plunger knob....Just find it for now...but if its on the fuel pump give it a couple pumps to see if the cam is in the right position to be able to pump...you can tell as it well have resistance during the whole throw of the leaver...If it feels to easy and like its not resisting you at all the cam has the pump actuated and you need to give the starter a very quick hit with the key switch to move the cam lobe a bit..It might take one or two bumps to get it right.

Next if you can spin off the secondary filter and fill it manually with some diesel it will save you some pumping...and you will know its full.

Make sure you have enough fuel in the tank and it is turned on if you have an in line shut off at the tank or at the racor.

Next Follow your injector lines leaving the injector pump to the top of your engine...the first nut you come to is the top of your injectors feed fuel supply..not necessarily the topmost nut on the injector as that is usually your fuel return lines banjo bolts..leave those alone ...Crack all the nuts of the lines you followed at least 1/2 turn no more then 3/4 turn is ever needed...the Nuts generally are 5/8 to 11/16" in size or the metric equivalents..every manufacturer has their own specs.


It helps to have a second set of hands or a remote starter next but not a deal breaker if you don't.

Now start pumping...as soon as you feel it pressure up have some one try and start the engine...keep pumping if its a remotely mounted primer pump or on the fuel filter housing..if on the actual fuel pump stop pumping during the starter cranking...make sure its out of gear but with the throttle advanced just a tad bit..you want the injection pump off the kill position and able to get fuel.. wide open is not necessary and hard on the engine anyway at start up ..just a bit more then a fast Idle is good...now watching where the lines go through the nuts you just loosened crank the starter for no more then 15 seconds at a time but don't stop pumping...after 2 or 3 starter spins you should/will start to see air bubbles and fuel seeping or squirting from around the lines through the nuts...as soon as the bubbles stop and clear fuel comes form any one of them tighten that one only and keep going...by the time you get the 3rd one running clear and tightened she will probably fire ( if it a 4 cylinder)..if it does just reach over with it running and tighten the last one up ..she will quit stumbling and start running like a Swiss watch.

If your by your self its tougher to see whats going on with out a remote starter...which you can buy for 15.00 ant any auto parts store.

Piece of cake eh?
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Old 18-02-2010, 21:00   #15
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Very good walkthrough, stillraining. Your system may vary in some respects. If you can, for the first time, with or without your specific manual, it might be a good idea to have someone who has done it before give you a hand. If they have done it on another brand it will probably be alright but you don't want to go turning nuts and bolts that you aren't suposed to. Leave any that are wired or covered in paint alone! Even others that aren't can cause major headaches...And take notes. It really isn't rocket science but causing problems would be nice to avoid.
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