Monday, March 28, 2011

The Mystery of the Non-Starting Engine. . . SOLVED!

Actually, this is a whole chapter in my book! I never really felt comfortable with the solution presented there but so it goes. The problem I'm referring to is the 1 out of 100 times when we'd push the button to start the engine and NOTHING would happen. No click no pop no whirrrrrrr. Nada.

So trying to get Enee started after 18 months on the hard I figured on having problems one of which was the same nada when I pushed the button. Well, I've always suspected the bargain solenoid I bought in Ft. Myers Beach (always go with marine grade!) so I bought a new shiny one at the Napa store. Looks just like the old one with two small posts for the low current side. . . that's the side with the push button and two larger posts for the starter current. These things are stupid simple. When a current goes through the small posts it energizes a coil (magnet) which pulls a plate down to connect the starter current. Simple. This way the 60 or 70 amps that go through the starter aren't' going through you tiny key switch!

I installed it and pushed the button. Nada. Ok, I'm probably dealing with a dead battery here but so dead it can't even turn on this little coil? NO, the battery runs the bilge pump etc so it might not be up to cranking the engine but it should make the coil click.

Well, I'm going to need new batteries anyway so I buy one and put in an order for 3 more for when we return. Trojan batteries. . .leave your joke in the comments. Now I will know that what ever is going on it is NOT the battery.

Connect the battery, push the button . . . nada. What the hell?

I talk to Frankie the yard guy and ask if solenoids are as simple as I think they are (meaning are they as simple as me!). Well, yes and no. Sometimes the case is the ground. . . remember the little dog in front of the speaker in the RCA logo. That was me. Ok something new to try!

I un-wire the solenoid and play with it with alligator wires (I'd have figured this out sooner with a LOT less swearing if I'd not left the battery in my multimeter!). Ah HA! the frame of the damn thing and the left terminal are what activate the coil. The right terminal is apparently there to torment physics teachers who think they know about electricity!

Back in she goes. I connect one wire to the left side, one wire to the case (the ground) and the output wires to the starter. Gotta work now!


I hope no one was walking past my boat just then to hear the language that was coming out of the engine room. Now I am completely stumped. . . again! I know the damn thing worked when it was in my hands but now it's not working. . . what's different? I take wires off (and just so you know, taking the wires off involves me craming myself into a corner of the engine room with that stupid light on my head) one at a time and just bring a positive lead from the battery over to that left terminal. Nothing. Then I take off the ground wire (which is attached to the engine block) and just connect the thing to the + and - of the battery. CLICK!

? (RCA dog again)

crickets . . . .

The ground wire?

So now I put a wire on the case and touch it to various places on the engine for ground and listen for the click. This is hard as the engine is painted so not a whole lot of bare metal to use. It turns out to not work where the ground wire has been connected since we had the major overhaul in Ft. Lauderdale in 05. This is a connection to a bolt that attaches the water pump to the engine block. It used to work, then it worked 99/100 times and now its not working at all. What the hell changes about a bolt in an engine? Well that's it though and I have to find a different connection which I do and I test before putting all back together.

All right now. All back together. Got a new battery. Got a bucket of water for the pump to suck from. . .I'm ready. Key on. . .BZZZZZZZZZ, hit the switch. . .

And. . . .

It was like we'd never left. The old Perkins turned over about a dozen time and fired right up! Imagine me doing the dance of joy!

The bad news is (and there's always some bad news, right?) is that the pump is not sucking water. I know the impeller is good as I inspected it yesterday so maybe some clogging (not the funny dance thing) on down the line. BUT that's for tomorrow. I am DONE!

In other projects, I raised the dingy up off the deck using the jib halyard and while ugly under there it was mostly just dust and came up with a squirt from the hose. The tougher stuff will probably come up with some scrubbing and detergent. I've decided to leaver her on deck for launch. I patched a couple of dings in the hull with epoxy.

I opened up the outboard and it looks like new in there. This has got to run so I'm not going to try to muscle this off the boat to test.

I ordered our new, smaller genny from the sailmaker so that should be ready for us when we return in June. Fun to have a new sail and I'll probably have lots to say about that once we get under way.

And finally back in the bad news column, I turned on the switch for the KISS wind generator and she just won't turn. I can turn it with a stick but in a breeze that should have had it spinning nicely . . .nothing. So, there's a question for tomorrow to see who works on these things.

1 comment:

Sailor Sue said...

Sounds like it's time to write a 2nd Edition of The Why Book of Sailing!
Or maybe a new book: The Why Book of Re-Retiring!
Thanks for doing all of this work on your spring break. We'll be very happy come June.