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Old 25-06-2014, 17:53   #1
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Westerbeke 18 hard starting

Hi everyone,
I have a 1987 Westerbeke 18a diesel in our sailboat, which i believe is marineized Mitsubishi K3D engine. It has around 1150 hours, it had new rings and pistons installed at around 800 hours.

We have very strange hard starting issue.

On the dock the engine starts like normal (about 30sec of glow plug and 10 sec of cranking, not sure if this is normal for this engine but it has done it since new.)

When the engine is hot or warm like after sailing for a few hours, the engine starts normally.

Now the strange part.... If you spend the night on the hook and attempt start the engine the next day it will crank and crank but not start. But, If i wait about 90 seconds the first attempt it starts immediately.

Any ideas?
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Old 26-06-2014, 04:20   #2
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Re: Westerbeke 18 hard starting

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Originally Posted by ABJ87 View Post
Hi everyone,
I have a 1987 Westerbeke 18a diesel in our sailboat, which i believe is marineized Mitsubishi K3D engine. It has around 1150 hours, it had new rings and pistons installed at around 800 hours.

We have very strange hard starting issue.

On the dock the engine starts like normal (about 30sec of glow plug and 10 sec of cranking, not sure if this is normal for this engine but it has done it since new.)

When the engine is hot or warm like after sailing for a few hours, the engine starts normally.

Now the strange part.... If you spend the night on the hook and attempt start the engine the next day it will crank and crank but not start. But, If i wait about 90 seconds the first attempt it starts immediately.

Any ideas?
Have you had the engine since "new" or do you mean since the boat was new to you?

Was any head work done when the pistons were done? If not how many years and hours or on the head.

My engine gave very similar symptoms. We tried a lot of stuff. Eventually it would no longer start at all. Near the end when it did start it operated normally with maybe some light black smoke and soot in the water under load. Eventually turned out to be low compression. Upon disassy found valve seats and valves completely shot in after cylinder. Cylinder 1 was not a lot better and was probably the only one developing power for a while.

Depending on the history of the head and valves I would do a compression test.

If you have fuel (at the right time) and compression diesels basically run.
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Old 26-06-2014, 06:22   #3
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Re: Westerbeke 18 hard starting

The engine was installed by my father in 1987, the boat has been I'm the family since then.

When the pistons and rings were replaced the valves were lapped.

Would low compression explain why it would start immediately on the second try?

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Old 26-06-2014, 07:11   #4
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Re: Westerbeke 18 hard starting

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Originally Posted by ABJ87 View Post
The engine was installed by my father in 1987, the boat has been I'm the family since then.

When the pistons and rings were replaced the valves were lapped.

Would low compression explain why it would start immediately on the second try?

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Mine did. And as to why - All guesses.

Let's say some kind of "weak combustion" was happening, parts expand, seal a tiny bit better etc. Clearances inside a high pressure engine are pretty tight, especially piston to comb chamber dome.

I hope I am wrong and it turns out to be something else.

I don't recommend doing this as you could get hurt but in my case - what convinced me it was compression (remember the engine no longer starts) was I put my hand over the air intake and felt almost zero suction.

I mean the engine must draw in air to compress and my hand could basically block the inlet. I may have hurt myself if the engine fired.

BTW - that's why I asked about any other symptoms or changes. My boat always started on like 2 revs, then 5 , then 20 revs then 10 seconds of cranking. It deteriorated over about 6 months until one day it didn't start. As it deteriorated I convinced myself it was air and I would bleed the crap out of it. eventually it would start and I would be like - wow that was a tough air bubble. I got really good at bleeding the fuel system BTW...

Actually now that I think about it the #2 injector was the one that was "tougher to bleed" -I'd get teh engine running (poorly) one one cylinder and I would crack the injector nut on #2 to "bleed it out" - useless - the valves seats on that cylinder are gone...
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Old 26-06-2014, 14:45   #5
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Re: Westerbeke 18 hard starting

Similar issue for me. I found that the diesel was draining back into the tank. Installed a check valve and starts right up


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Old 27-06-2014, 20:11   #6
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Re: Westerbeke 18 hard starting

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Originally Posted by bmm32005 View Post
Similar issue for me. I found that the diesel was draining back into the tank. Installed a check valve and starts right up


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That means an air leak in the fuel system somewhere. An electric fuel pump plumbed in before the filters would be one cure and it would be good to use as a priming pump after filter changes.
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Old 28-06-2014, 14:37   #7
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Re: Westerbeke 18 hard starting

From the symtoms described I would check all the start circuit wiring and battery. When you start at the dock is your battery charger still providing power? That little extra from the charger may spin it fast enough to start at the dock and while still warm wouldn't need it for a restart. After cooling down overnight it may not be cranking fast enough to start. I had a similar problem with my 8btd Westerbeke gen with 3 cyl mitsibishi, they are very sensitive to cranking speed, mine was the battery ground with a little corrosion.


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Old 28-06-2014, 16:59   #8
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Re: Westerbeke 18 hard starting

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Originally Posted by River Cruiser View Post
From the symtoms described I would check all the start circuit wiring and battery. When you start at the dock is your battery charger still providing power? That little extra from the charger may spin it fast enough to start at the dock and while still warm wouldn't need it for a restart. After cooling down overnight it may not be cranking fast enough to start. I had a similar problem with my 8btd Westerbeke gen with 3 cyl mitsibishi, they are very sensitive to cranking speed, mine was the battery ground with a little corrosion.


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Just to tag along a little bit with this post but if you start your engine with shorepower cable just remove there might be enough to start the engine well but after a few hours of the charger or not receiving charge from your alternator the batteries might have flattened enough so it won't turn your engine fast enough.
Batteries are suspect but I think there is something going on with your fuel system too.
Do you have an electric fuel pump in the system?
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Old 30-06-2014, 06:44   #9
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Re: Westerbeke 18 hard starting

Thanks everyone, I have somethings to check when we up to the boat this weekend.

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Old 30-06-2014, 08:06   #10
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Re: Westerbeke 18 hard starting

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Originally Posted by SkiprJohn View Post
Just to tag along a little bit with this post but if you start your engine with shorepower cable just remove there might be enough to start the engine well but after a few hours of the charger or not receiving charge from your alternator the batteries might have flattened enough so it won't turn your engine fast enough.
Batteries are suspect but I think there is something going on with your fuel system too.
Do you have an electric fuel pump in the system?
The batteries are a few years old. I have 180ah of gel cells for the house bank. The starting bank is a "marine" battery from the auto parts store. I was leaning away from the battery being bad because combining the banks doesn't change the cranking speed.

It is an electric fawset "click" type fuel pump.

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Old 30-06-2014, 17:04   #11
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Re: Westerbeke 18 hard starting

Ok. You've eliminated a battery problem for now.

If the electric fuel pump starts clicking fast for a few seconds and then slows down after a bit each time just before you're ready to start the engine then it shows that somewhere in the fuel system there is a reason for loosing that pressure. Do you leave the key in the on position long enough for that fuel pump to cycle pressure again when your starting after being away from shore power for a awhile.?

Kind of grasping at straws here but trying to help.
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Old 01-07-2014, 08:17   #12
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Re: Westerbeke 18 hard starting

Have you had your injectors serviced? Could be that on the first attempt, you are wetting the injectors and the second attempt you get ignition.

Compression loss would result in lost power under load ... So running at higher rpm would be a struggle for the engine.

What does your exhaust smoke look like when you are running?

30 seconds seems like a long time for preheat... I count to 10 and then spark it up

I have a westerbeke W13 and it runs extremely smooth and quietly


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Old 01-07-2014, 10:41   #13
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Re: Westerbeke 18 hard starting

I had the injectors tested this spring and they were OK.

There is some grayish blue smoke at high rpm.

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Old 01-07-2014, 11:00   #14
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Re: Westerbeke 18 hard starting

KISS.

Check the main engine ground. First. I'll bet it looks good but needs to be removed and cleaned and reattached.

This happens all the time with our boats and is a Critical Upgrade as far as we're concerned because Hard Starting is such a recurring issue. The engine ground connection is almost always the culprit. Even with healthy batteries.

Only then bother with the more engine-related issues.
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Old 01-07-2014, 11:26   #15
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Re: Westerbeke 18 hard starting

Two potential issues

Timing or head gasket - you might be getting water in the cylinder
Did you test compression?


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