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Help with diagnosing engine failing to start

Aug 10, 2013
52
Catalina 36 MKII 1721 New London Crockers Boat Yard
After a lovely October sail on Fisher Island Sound we made our back to the marina. We started the engine to head through Shaw’s Cove railroad bridge and to the poop dock (fuel dock) for our finally pump out of the season.
After the pump out was complete, the admiral attempted to start the engine to head to our slip. turned the key and pressed the glow plug button, nothing. We checked the fuel shut off lever and re-attempted, nothing again. The engine was shut off as normal, by engaging the fuel shut off and turning off the key. The instrument panel did not light up. We checked the battery and had plenty of battery.
After getting back to the slip with dock crew towing us over, we plugged in to shore power and tried again. Nothing again. Still no lights or gauges working on the instrument panel. I’m thinking it is the ignition switch. Then the in a few hours the engine started.

The saga continues. Since the initial non start in Oct and resting over the winter. This spring Amoore, has started up just fine until this weekend. We sailed to Lake Montauk and anchored. The next morning turned the ignition switch and no power. I had plenty of battery. I had purchased a new ignition switch but never changed it as things seemed to be ok. I changed the ignition switch to the new one and replaced the 10amp fuse. Still no start up or power to the instrument panel. Believing in the old adage if it aint broke don't fix it. I put all the old part back on as the new parts did not help. Then I checked the engine compartment for loose or discounted wires. No sign of anything frayed or burnt wires. Although I did move and jiggle a few wires while checking the harnesses. I did I also reached back to my old car mechanic days before computers and space to work under the hood. I lightly tapped the starter and solenoid. Closed up the engine compartment and gave it one more try before calling Boat USA for a tow us out of the lake and sailing back home. Much to the Admirals delight the ignition switch fired up the engine. When we got back after our 4 hour motor sail. The Admiral directed me not to shut off the engine. We docked, turned off the engine, cleaned up, had lunch. Tried to start to start engine and it started. Speaking with the mechanic other than buying a new wire harness and rewiring. He suggested I wait and install a starter switch and if it happens again while away from our home port we can start the engine and he could investigate the issue. What are your thoughts on the issue? Any input would be greatly appreciated.
 
Jan 4, 2010
976
Farr 30 San Francisco
There is a faulty component. The good news I suspect the expensive stuff is OK the bad news somewhere a connection is bad, once you get your next no start start jiggling wires. What engine? Yanmar and it will likely be the white wire. On my Volvo it was a connection block on top of the motor.
 
Feb 26, 2004
21,906
Catalina 34 224 Maple Bay, BC, Canada
What are your thoughts on the issue?
Typical issues.

Wiring harness. Ther trailer plugs (gummy bears) are notorious for intermittent connections or lack thereof.
Fuse to starter from ignition switch usually an inline one.

How long have you owned this boat?

These items may help:

Critical Upgrades http://c34.org/bbs/index.php/topic,5078.0.html

Please read all four pages.

Are you aware of the great C36 website and FB page?

Things don't go away because you avoid them.
 
  • Helpful
Likes: FastOlson

RoyS

.
Jun 3, 2012
1,167
Hunter 33 Steamboat Wharf, Hull, MA
Intermittent electrical problems are a nuisance. The only way to fix is to wait until it fails, then take your multimeter and work your way toward the instrument panel from the battery searching for the loss of power. While troubleshooting with this method, do not disturb anything which might cause your intermittent failure to disappear for a time.
 
Jan 1, 2006
5,996
Slickcraft 26 Greenport, NY
Intermittent starting issues comes up on this forum regularly. Search the threads with the keywords "intermittent starting" or "starting problems" or "Yanmar start" and you will find many posts re. A lot of the posts place the blame on inadequate wiring and/or connections on the starter wiring. There are several remedies. Replacing the harnesses, putting a solenoid in the circuit so that the starting wiring only has to close the solenoid, or running heavier starting wiring outside the harness. The latter could be useful in diagnosis before spending money on harnesses - I understand they can be expensive.
 
Nov 13, 2013
631
Catalina 34 Tacoma
After a lovely October sail on Fisher Island Sound we made our back to the marina. We started the engine to head through Shaw’s Cove railroad bridge and to the poop dock (fuel dock) for our finally pump out of the season.
After the pump out was complete, the admiral attempted to start the engine to head to our slip. turned the key and pressed the glow plug button, nothing. We checked the fuel shut off lever and re-attempted, nothing again. The engine was shut off as normal, by engaging the fuel shut off and turning off the key. The instrument panel did not light up. We checked the battery and had plenty of battery.
After getting back to the slip with dock crew towing us over, we plugged in to shore power and tried again. Nothing again. Still no lights or gauges working on the instrument panel. I’m thinking it is the ignition switch. Then the in a few hours the engine started.

The saga continues. Since the initial non start in Oct and resting over the winter. This spring Amoore, has started up just fine until this weekend. We sailed to Lake Montauk and anchored. The next morning turned the ignition switch and no power. I had plenty of battery. I had purchased a new ignition switch but never changed it as things seemed to be ok. I changed the ignition switch to the new one and replaced the 10amp fuse. Still no start up or power to the instrument panel. Believing in the old adage if it aint broke don't fix it. I put all the old part back on as the new parts did not help. Then I checked the engine compartment for loose or discounted wires. No sign of anything frayed or burnt wires. Although I did move and jiggle a few wires while checking the harnesses. I did I also reached back to my old car mechanic days before computers and space to work under the hood. I lightly tapped the starter and solenoid. Closed up the engine compartment and gave it one more try before calling Boat USA for a tow us out of the lake and sailing back home. Much to the Admirals delight the ignition switch fired up the engine. When we got back after our 4 hour motor sail. The Admiral directed me not to shut off the engine. We docked, turned off the engine, cleaned up, had lunch. Tried to start to start engine and it started. Speaking with the mechanic other than buying a new wire harness and rewiring. He suggested I wait and install a starter switch and if it happens again while away from our home port we can start the engine and he could investigate the issue. What are your thoughts on the issue? Any input would be greatly appreciated.
Something very similar happened to me once. It was a hairline crack in the house bank fuse. Check it for continuity.
 
Jun 11, 2004
1,204
Oday 31 Redondo Beach
Typical issues.

Wiring harness. Ther trailer plugs (gummy bears) are notorious for intermittent connections or lack thereof.
Fuse to starter from ignition switch usually an inline one.

How long have you owned this boat?

These items may help:

Critical Upgrades CRITICAL UPGRADES - DO THESE OR ELSE!!!

Please read all four pages.

Are you aware of the great C36 website and FB page?

Things don't go away because you avoid them.
Stu's links contain a wealth of good information. To make it easier for you to find I think this is the one he is suggesting you check out first for your immediate issue.

 

arf145

.
Nov 4, 2010
431
Beneteau 331 Deale, MD
Here's a Yanmar example of a similar situation. After a easy, robust start in the morning, our 2GM20F Yanmar wouldn't crank at all in the afternoon. It turned out it had a fuse buried in the harness that could blow right when you hit the start button. Apparently resulted from something like the teeth on the starter momentarily jamming on the flywheel and pulling too much current.
 
Apr 8, 2010
1,607
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 28400 Portland OR
Despite all the well meaning help from owners of other brands of diesel....
Replace those old "trailer connectors" that Universal stupidly put into their three piece wiring harness sections.
Those Kubota-based engines have a strong heart, but this part of the "marinization' work was terrible.
The article at Marine How To is a great guide.
And Stu's advice is golden, too!
:)
 
Dec 25, 2000
5,007
Hunter Passage 42 Shelter Bay, WA
Does not sound like a fuse. When fuses go, nothing happens until you replace them. A bad wiring connection or a failing starter solenoid. My first thought is a solenoid going bad. That is what happened on our first boat. The next time it fails to turn over, use a tool to bypass the solenoid and see what happens. If it turns over, then a bad solenoid.
 
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Likes: Scott T-Bird
Oct 26, 2008
4,995
Catalina 320 Barnegat, NJ
You seem to indicate that tapping the starter preceded a successful start. I would consider that a pretty good clue. I agree with Terry, when the fuse is blown, nothing works until it is replaced. Intermittent failures indicate a bad connection or the starter solenoid is failing. You would have intermittent issues due to failures caused by heat or moisture. When you fail to start, do you hear just one click or no clicks at all? Solenoid plunger is failing to engage.
 
Feb 26, 2004
21,906
Catalina 34 224 Maple Bay, BC, Canada
Does not sound like a fuse. When fuses go, nothing happens until you replace them.
I agree with Terry, when the fuse is blown, nothing works until it is replaced.
WADR guys, I have personally experienced an old fuse holder that was deteriorating and had not yet completely fallen apart. It became intermittent. The contacts inside the tube came and went. That's why both Maine Sail in his writeup showed a picture of one (just like mine!) and why we included it prominently in our Critical Upgrades topic on our C34 forum. I also saw identical ones on a Nordic 44 that I helped inspect before a friend sailed on it to Hawaii. It is not a blown fuse, it is the holder and the end contacts inside. Sorry, but in this case you are incorrect.
 
Nov 13, 2013
631
Catalina 34 Tacoma
WADR guys, I have personally experienced an old fuse holder that was deteriorating and had not yet completely fallen apart. It became intermittent. The contacts inside the tube came and went. That's why both Maine Sail in his writeup showed a picture of one (just like mine!) and why we included it prominently in our Critical Upgrades topic on our C34 forum. I also saw identical ones on a Nordic 44 that I helped inspect before a friend sailed on it to Hawaii. It is not a blown fuse, it is the holder and the end contacts inside. Sorry, but in this case you are incorrect.
:plus: I have experienced a 100amp ANL type fuse at the house bank that intermittantly failed. Agree they usually blow completly but not always.
 
Jun 11, 2004
1,204
Oday 31 Redondo Beach
The instrument panel did not light up. We checked the battery and had plenty of battery.
... we plugged in to shore power ...Still no lights or gauges working on the instrument panel. I’m thinking it is the ignition switch. Then the in a few hours the engine started.

...The next morning turned the ignition switch and no power. I had plenty of battery. I changed the ignition switch to the new one and replaced the 10amp fuse. Still no start up or power to the instrument panel.

I lightly tapped the starter and solenoid. ...the ignition switch fired up the engine. When we got back after our 4 hour motor sail... We docked, turned off the engine, cleaned up, had lunch. Tried to start to start engine and it started.

Speaking with the mechanic other than buying a new wire harness and rewiring. He suggested I wait and install a starter switch and if it happens again while away from our home port we can start the engine and he could investigate the issue.
I'll start this with saying I don't know much about electrical systems but I sometimes like to figure out what is going on so feel free to throw this response out the window if you want, or tell me where I am wrong and I'll learn something.

Sorry for the chopped up quote above but since he had no power at the panel I don't think the problem is related to the starter solenoid itself. I think he is either not getting power to the solenoid from the battery, not getting power to the key switch (which looks like it comes through the battery wire connection at the solenoid) or the switch is faulty. Since he changed out the switch that is likely not the problem but the switch should be easy to test.

My guess is the connection of the battery wire and the key switch wire at the solenoid was / is bad, maybe coroded and when he tapped on the solenoid it helped make that connection. I would first look at cleaning that up. Well, actually first I would clean up the battery ground connection.

Also, it appears there is a 20A circut breaker in the wire to the key switch. This may have been a fuse in the older models. I don't know if I have the right wiring diagram. I agree with Stu that it is quite possible this fuse / fuse holder is coroded or otherwise faulty and could cause an intermittant problem. That should be an easy thing to check.

Of course, if the wiring upgrade discussed in Main Sail's how to hasn't been done that should be addressed. Short of a full redo, if the "trailer" plug looks damaged it is easy enough to cut the key switch wire on either side of the plug and connect them directly to see if that helps.

Just my 2 cents.
 

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Oct 26, 2008
4,995
Catalina 320 Barnegat, NJ
It is not a blown fuse, it is the holder and the end contacts inside. Sorry, but in this case you are incorrect.
So you are agreeing with Terry and me that it is not a blown fuse, but it could be a bad connection ... just as we both said? ;)
 
Feb 26, 2004
21,906
Catalina 34 224 Maple Bay, BC, Canada
Yes, but not about the starter solenoid, which it could be but rarely is on these particular engines. Between our C34s and C36s there areover 3,600 of them and as active as I am with both groups, it simply hasn't happened, and not certainly as a first step in diagnostics. Sure, otherwise we all agree. The fuse holder, cleverly hidden behind the alternator on all of these engines, is usually the prime suspect and has been proven to be so. Of course, as Richard discussed there are a number of other possibilities, of course. This is almost always "it." :)
 

leo310

.
Dec 15, 2006
436
Catalina Catlina 310 Campbell River BC
Had something like this and found that the ground wire was busted at the lug. made a new ground wire and all is good.
 
Dec 25, 2000
5,007
Hunter Passage 42 Shelter Bay, WA
Sorry, but in this case you are incorrect.
Uh, hold up. I made a distinction with the fuse, not the fuse holder. Yes, it could be the holder, but when the fuse blows, nothing worky. So it seems not to be the fuse, as it was intermittent.
 
Apr 8, 2010
1,607
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 28400 Portland OR
Perhaps we can agree that whoever at Universal/Westerbeke thought it was a good idea to bury fuses 'somewhere' in a wiring harness was an idiot......
Maybe the same guy that got them a killer deal on a whole shipping container of cheap under-sized(amps) trailer connectors.
(sigh)
:(
 
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Likes: Ward H