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Old 05-02-2013, 00:28   #1
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Need Some Help from the Diesel Gurus

Looking for some help from the diesel gurus. I've recently started working on my third project boat... Sigh... Opening up the engine well shows a goldish two cylinder diesel with no block casting or ID plate anywhere to be found. That's the easy problem, trying to figure out what model this is so I can get a book and order parts.

Second and more importantly, it won't start at all. Owing partially to the several hundred other posts that have already been asked on this forum I can tell you both fuel filters are clean, fuel bled all the way up to the block with no air bubbles, raw water intake impeller in good shape, oil looks really clean and at the right level, coolant looks fine too.

So here's the symptoms. When I hold the glow plug switch every light in the boat dims, I have zero access to the plug even when I crawl upside down and sideways into the stern so for now I'm taking that as a sign that its getting its 12 volts. When I turn the key to on my fuel, oil, temp, and volt gauges light up, also what looks like the fuel pump, set in between the two fuel filters clicks repeatedly, faster when the glow plug switch is held down. When I turn the key a little more all the lights really dim and the engine (sort of) turns over. I say sort of because it seems really slow to me. At this point I first checked the battery voltage (good), then tried spinning the crank by hand. It spins easily both ways and gradually gets harder (I'm figuring this is compression in the cylinder, hopefully good)

Next I thought that maybe the glow plug isn't working and/or the engine is just too cold (I'm in Massachusetts, its pretty cold here at the moment) without removing the cockpit I just can't get to the plug so I ran a space heater under the block and left it there all day while I tried other stuff.

Following my hunch with the electrical (just a hunch really, I've got no experience whatsoever with diesels, it just seems to me like its turning over way to slow and shouldn't be dimming the lights quite this much) I first swapped the battery out with a newer, larger battery with about 300 more cold cranking amps. No difference. Then I connected both batteries, no difference. Then I hooked up a buzz box to the first battery, no difference. And finally I ran jumper cables from my car to bank no. 1. Despite all of this, the lights still dim when I crank the engine and it cranks very slowly. I traced the wires from the battery, checked the negative connection at the block (good) and followed the positive to a barely visible solenoid and finally to the starter (connections all good). The starter felt unusually warm but at this point I've been cranking on it all day. While I was doing a yoga pose anyway to reach the starter I tried the old mechanics trick of tapping the starter gently with a hammer (no help at all this time).

That's everything I tried with the electrical. I also tried shoving a hair drier down the intake in case it was an air restriction, and finally shooting a bit of WD40 into the intake in a final glow plug be damned attempt to get her to start. After spending most of the brain power I've got rationed for the year on this one day, the motor didn't so much as sputter even once. At this point I'm not expecting good news from anybody, but any ideas at all?
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Old 05-02-2013, 00:40   #2
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Re: Need some help from the diesel gurus

Some older (very older) diesels have a decompression lever. You need to open this and crank it over until it gains enough rpm to start, then drop the lever and get compression.

this might be part of you problem, but since you have key start (from cockpit?) you probably aren't standing next to the engine when you crank it.

If the engine turns freely when hand cranked - have you checked your starter motor?

good luck
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Old 05-02-2013, 00:58   #3
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Re: Need some help from the diesel gurus

I read about decompression levers but haven't a clue where I'd find em, I didn't see anything that I thought looked like one though (I checked, no buttons, leavers, switches, whirlygigs, lollipops, flukonaries, etc for me to play with or I would have played with them, believe me I can't help myself)

If I spend a good hour warming myself up I've found that I can manage to turn the key in the cockpit while sort of projecting myself miraculously both in front of and behind the motor. Sort of a school of frustrated yoga kind of thing.

In case I overlooked it, would the decompression levers be hiding somewhere near the starter, closer to the intake, or...?

I've tried three times now to post a picture of the motor but my blackberry and this server can't seem to play nice enough to share.
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Old 05-02-2013, 02:57   #4
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Re: Need some help from the diesel gurus

On top near the valves is a good place to look for a decompression lever. There may not be one. It is generally only used for hand cranking but is useful for starting with a weak batt too.

You might try isolating the problem by bypassing all the switches and stuff. Disconnect everything from the battery terminals. Take a pair of heavy duty jumper cables and go directly to the solenoid and touch it briefly but firmly and see if it turns over more vigorously. No joy? Remove the starter and take it to an automotive electrical shop and let them test it. Take your alternator too while you are at it. Checks good? Good batts good wiring and good starter puts the blame on the engine. Check the ring gear for foreign matter. Make sure the valves are not sticking. Pull the injectors and you should be able to spin it over rapidly by hand. Oh you did check the batteries right? Oh yeah you tried a different one.

It would be nice if you could identify your engine. Might be a timing belt issue or something.

Is the raw water intake open? You may have water on the pistons. Pull the injectors to clear it. And don't open the valve until the engine starts.
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Old 05-02-2013, 03:51   #5
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Re: Need some help from the diesel gurus

Color sounds like universal. When my diesel wouldn't crank wd40 was no help. Thanks to another cf members advise I tried silicone spray and it popped over 1st crank. Cranking speed is important. Starters are easy to work on but finding the correct parts for the particular starter can be difficult. Usually universal engines have the engine model on the exhaust manifold. There's also a kubota number cast into the block next to the injection pump. Google universal 5416 which is a universal 2cyl 18 hp. The compression release should be built into the valve cover. There wil be just a lever visible. Mine had no cable running to it and was froze up.
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Old 05-02-2013, 04:31   #6
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Re: Need some help from the diesel gurus

Quote:
the engine (sort of) turns over. I say sort of because it seems really slow to me. At this point I first checked the battery voltage (good), then tried spinning the crank by hand. It spins easily both ways
These two statements are counter intuitive.

First, if you can turn the motor by hand easily, it seems you do not have enough compression. Either the decompression lever(s) are open or there is some internal problem. When cranking by hand, it may be easy enough for half a turn, but then as one cylinder reaches the compression stroke, it should be giving strong resistance to turning. If there is insufficient compression it will not start. In fact I doubt you could spin a healthy engine by hand without decompressing. Cranking a 2 cylinder diesel by hand should give you quite a workout even using the decompression lever.

Second, if you can turn the motor easily, the starter should spin it faster. If it doesn't, and you say you have checked all the power issues going to the starter, then the starter itself seems to be faulty.

So, the first step I would do is try and find the decompression lever. This would normally be one per cylinder, but they may be joined to operate together. As the last 2 posts said, the most likely place would be right on top of the engine. It's possible it does not have such a lever, but if it is designed to be cranked by hand, it probably does have one.

A technique to help start a sluggish motor is to use the momentum of its heavy flywheel. Decompress with the lever, operate the starter (it should spin fast). With the starter still engaged, close the decompression lever. If trying by hand cranking, use the same principle.

Beware hand cranking a diesel as thumbs are easily broken if it fires and kicks back. Align your thumbs on top of the crank handle, not wrapped around it for better grip.
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Old 05-02-2013, 04:46   #7
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Re: Need some help from the diesel gurus

I have seen similar symptoms where the problem turned out to be a starter motor that was dragging. Just a suggestion.

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Old 05-02-2013, 06:35   #8
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Re: Need some help from the diesel gurus

If the lights dim when you turn on the gkow plugs and they dim more when the engine cranks slowly, you have either a weak battery or bad electrical connections or both. To start a diesel in these temps, the starter needs to spin the engine briskly.

Use a voltmeter to track down the problem.

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Old 05-02-2013, 06:38   #9
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Re: Need some help from the diesel gurus

Just a note. I had a similar problem and it turned out to be the heavy cable from (in my case) battery switch. Really frustrating. That was the last thing I replaced after starter and new batteries. I mean the cable looked good.... Just could not pass the amps.
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Old 05-02-2013, 06:47   #10
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Re: Need some help from the diesel gurus

I am also leaning towards electrical. Due to the dimming maybe batteries. First closely inspect all the battery cables for corrosion and tight connections.

You say you checked battery voltage. Was this at rest and at a least a few hours since disconnecting any charging source? You need to do that to get a true reading. Did you check voltage when the glow plugs are on and when the starter is on. How low does it go?

If voltage at battery terminals is good then check voltage at the starter terminals also at rest and during start (careful with fingers, shirt sleeves in the belts and such). The voltage should be about the same as at the battery.
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Old 05-02-2013, 06:54   #11
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Re: Need some help from the diesel gurus

A remote starter switch might help, so you can work/diagnose better from within the engine room...

I think the dimming lights -- if that happens after turning the key to ON but before the starter motor should engage -- would lead me to examine electrical causes first.

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Old 05-02-2013, 06:58   #12
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Re: Need some help from the diesel gurus

If the motor is turning over but not firing you'd better shut the raw water intake. If you do not you can fill the cylinders with water and if it fires it will ruin the engine. Bend piston rods, shear crankshaft bolts and more. This is a condition called hydrolock.
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Old 05-02-2013, 07:20   #13
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Re: Need some help from the diesel gurus

Look for a bad contact between your batteries and the rest of your electrical system. The dimming of the lights is an indication for just that. At lower amps all is fine; when you try to start or glow more amps are required and voltage drops because of some bad contact. Don't forget the return side of your system; likely something is corroded causing all your problems.
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Old 05-02-2013, 08:20   #14
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Ok, crank the engine for 10 seconds then put your hand on every batt connection, + and - . If you feel any heat your problem could be there. If the starter connections get hot, get the starter tested.
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Old 05-02-2013, 09:43   #15
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Re: Need some help from the diesel gurus

I would look at the electrical aspect of your operation. The dimming lights could mean a short somewhere. When checking connections don't forget to check the terminal ends on the wires, one might be loose but doesn't show it. I would check the solenoid/starter, sounds like you have a heavy power draw somewhere in the mix. Might want to check the continuity in all the wires, in the start circuit.
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