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Old 09-10-2011, 04:52   #1
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Engines that Fail to Start

Nobody wants their engine to fail but they do.
Has yours every failed to start when you needed it to, what was the reason and what did you do?
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Old 09-10-2011, 05:48   #2
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Re: Engines that fail to start

I've had the engine suddenly stop 3 times. Twice it was due to clogged fuel filters. The third time the screen at the end of the pick-up tube in the fuel tank clogged.

I now have a vacuum gauge on the filter so I can see when its beginning to be clogged. I changed the tank and removed the screen from the pickup tube.

Another common problem is air leak in the fuel line (hasn't happened to me yet, knock on wood.)

I suspect 95% of problems with diesels are fuel supply related.

I suppose a dead starter or some other fault in the electrical system may account for the majority of failures to start.
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Old 09-10-2011, 06:06   #3
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Re: Engines that fail to start

Our Perkins 4-108 has failed to start only once in two years. It was due to a wire chafing through in the starter circuit. We used a remote starter (can be purchased at an auto parts supply shop for around $25.00USD) to start the engine. Once we knew what the problem was it was a simple fix. Other times we've had trouble with the alternator not charging and it was always a chafe associated problem. However, don't assume that if the engine fails the right thing to do is to immediately restart the engine. After changing the crankcase gasket on our 4-108 the water pump developed a leak. The mechanic said he would replace it the next week...5 minutes later we all heard a loud pop and the engine stopped. The shaft on the water pump had shattered and jammed somehow in the engine which fortunately was not damaged because we did not attempt to restart the engine. The mechanic replaced the pump the next morning and it works fine.
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Old 09-10-2011, 06:54   #4
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Re: Engines that fail to start

Yes, they will fail, and usually when you need them the most - maneuvering into an anchorage or marina. On the open sea, you just sail in a sailboat.

Launch and lash the dinghy (fore and aft) to rear quarter of your boat and steer the big boat with its steering while powering the dingy forward.

When you are secured at anchor or in the marina, fix the engine.

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Old 09-10-2011, 07:15   #5
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Re: Engines that fail to start

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nostrodamus View Post
Nobody wants their engine to fail but they do.
Has yours every failed to start when you needed it to, what was the reason and what did you do?
I've had my engine fail to start a number of times. Sometimes it was for a stupid reason. Like I forgot to push the engine stop cable back in. Just pushed it back and restarted the engine. I have also had a fuel filter clog and stop the engine of course it was while I was coming in a channel and coming into a new harbor. Lucikly I was able to raise sail and get to a place where I was able to pick up a mooring. The last time was because the head gasket broke and leaked fluid onto a cylinder head and cracked it. I have since converted to electric propulsion which I have found
to be much more reliable and have had much less maintenace (read none)issues since I have done that.
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Old 09-10-2011, 07:45   #6
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Re: Engines that Fail to Start

I built a Universal Remote Starter Box.

It works on Diesels with or without glowplugs

Engines with Electric Fuel Pumps.

Boats W/O Keys.

Starting a rebuilt engine on a pallet

Really Handy when working in an engine room and need to observe the engine cranking over.
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Old 09-10-2011, 08:05   #7
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Re: Engines that Fail to Start

We've sailed to anchorage with an engine failure and used the suggestion above by securing the dinghy at the quarter for propulsion. During our many years of cruising we've had occasions of fuel blockage, air in fuel line, transmission failure, battery power drained, water locked cylinders and impeller failure. Sailing was always sufficient to buy us time under our conditions if we were not already anchored or docked, but I can imagine the scenario, such as breaking an inlet at the rock jetties where an engine loss could be catastrophic.
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Old 09-10-2011, 08:15   #8
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Re: Engines that Fail to Start

Failed to start twice. Once with a bad starter switch (we now carry a spare) which we resolved by jumping the starter motor, and once because I was a dummy and didn't realize the transmission was engaged --- the transmission override prevented starting. Of course, on both occasions power was needed for getting into a marina but in case 2 we just had to sail in (and found the transmission engaged as soon as we'd tied off).
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Old 09-10-2011, 10:07   #9
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Re: Engines that Fail to Start

On a boat belonging to an association, the 2-stroke outboard engine failed to start because there was diesel instead of gas in the tank. It took some time to the mechanic to solve this one.

On another boat, the engine stopped as soon as I applied throttle because the stop cable was too tight, so vibrations pulled the stop lever on the injection pump. I was very proud of myself for solving this one.

On another boat, the oil pressure alarm went off while motoring. We stopped the engine, checked the oil level with the dipstick, added some, restarted the engine. The alarm went off again immediately, so we stopped the engine and got a tow to the port. A mechanic solved it for us: all cooling water had escaped though a punctured hose AND the alarms were misconnected.

On my boat, on the second day of sailing after I bought her, the engine stopped abruptly when entering port. I just hoisted the jib and docked. It took some help to find the cause, which was bacteria in the tank.

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Old 09-10-2011, 10:12   #10
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Re: Engines that Fail to Start

changed the fuel filter and it worked well. except off cedros when starter died and would not respond to cpr--then we spent 4 days trying to fix it and ended up buying a new one.....
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Old 09-10-2011, 10:30   #11
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Re: Engines that Fail to Start

Both my Yanmar 3GM30's failed due to piston issues.
My Perkins 4-108 failed once due to the Snap-together electric connector on the back of the engine was not contacting well.
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Old 09-10-2011, 10:55   #12
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Re: Engines that Fail to Start

This is an intresting thread and one that I and others will find useful should the engine fail or more importantly for things to check prior to leaving.

It also shows that the fuel system appears to be the bigget cause of engine failures.
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Old 09-10-2011, 11:08   #13
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Re: Engines that Fail to Start

the failures on mine off cedros wasnt due to failure to inspect before leaving. it was due to having the improper starter for the engine and continuous sloshing of fuel in a situation wherein was some gunk in the system. this is not necessarily a plan-able offense. stuff happens and failures occur. the success or failure of the cruising sailboat and cruising sailor lies in the ability or lack thereof to figure out how to deal with this while under way -- fule is not always clean nor is the system, despite polishing and cleaning. just one lil lint bit will befoul your way-- learning to deal with that is what cruising is really about....not turning back under tow to redo at a dock.
drifting on currents is not necessarily a bad thing.
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Old 09-10-2011, 11:29   #14
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Re: Engines that Fail to Start

It's probably fair to say there are only four main causes for an engine failing to start: (1) not getting fuel, (2) low compression, (3) electical fault, and (4) operator error.

If the engine cranks but doesn't fire it's probably not getting fuel but it may have low compression. If it won't crank at all there's probably an electrical problem, anything from dead battery to starter switch to starter motor to wiring. Under (4), you can't fix stupid and one of my cases of failure-to-start must be catagorized under stupid, I admit it.
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Old 09-10-2011, 11:38   #15
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Re: Engines that Fail to Start

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bloodhound View Post
It's probably fair to say there are only four main causes for an engine failing to start: (1) not getting fuel, (2) low compression, (3) electical fault, and (4) operator error.

If the engine cranks but doesn't fire it's probably not getting fuel but it may have low compression. If it won't crank at all there's probably an electrical problem, anything from dead battery to starter switch to starter motor to wiring. Under (4), you can't fix stupid and one of my cases of failure-to-start must be catagorized under stupid, I admit it.
when at sea and under way and engine ceases to function, is dirty fuel more times than not. when starter suddenly quits, is starter burn out. sailing in seas larger than 5 ft can be a challenge to any fuel tank. even a clean one. smooth sailing.
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