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  #1   IP: 38.118.52.41
Old 02-07-2006, 10:09 AM
Don Moyer's Avatar
Don Moyer Don Moyer is offline
 
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Location: Chestertown, MD (Langford Creek)
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Thumbs up Checklist for a troublefree spring startup

I don't know if you've noticed or not, but folks who have a passion for almost anything invariably end up having a dream on the subject. For me, each year I dream of getting from where we are now (just starting down the backside of winter) safely into the sailing season without a single case of engine cooling water backing up and trashing the combustion chambers and carburetor of a single Atomic 4.

Since overcranking a hard-starting engine is the most common cause of this annual ritual of sea water intrusion, I've tried to come up with as many causes of engines not starting as possible in the following checklist. Assuming that you have decent access to your carburetor, all of the items in the checklist will take much less time to accomplish than cleaning a gallon or two of sea water out of your engine.

If you're in the position of having to go through your spring start-up without the benefit of a helper, it would be an excellent idea to pick up a remote starter button at your local parts store. Remote starters connect to the big battery cable on the starter solenoid and the small "S" terminal directly below, and they permit you to run the starter directly from the engine compartment whenever necessary during the following procedure.

CHECKLIST FOR A TROUBLEFREE SPRING STARTUP:

1) Recheck to confirm the the raw water through-hull closed (please).

2) Compression: Remove the spark plugs, and hold your thumb over each plug hole while turning the engine over a couple times on the starter. Compression should be sufficient to blow past your thumb, no matter how hard you hold it over the plug holes.

3) Ignition: With the plugs still removed, remove the coil lead from the center of the distributor cap, and hold it about 1/4 inch from the head while turning the engine over another second or so. A healthy ignition system should produce a secondary discharge between the coil lead and the head of 1/2 inch or so. If you have a conventional ignition system, we recommend taking a small piece of cardboard (e.g., from the back of a writing tablet) and rubbing it between the contacts of your points. This will remove any thin film of corrosion that might have formed over the winter and greatly improve the strength of your spark.

4) Fuel: Remove the 1/2 inch hex-headed main passage plug from the bottom of the carburetor, and catch the fuel in a small clean glass jar. Check the fuel for being free of water and dirt. Dispose of the fuel, and while the plug is still removed, pump another pint or so of fuel into the jar, and again check for being free of water and dirt. Reinstall the main passage plug, and operate the fuel pump sufficiently to recharge the carburetor float chamber.

Depending on access around the carburetor, step number 4 may be impossible to accomplish. This would be unfortunate, because ensuring the presence of clean water-free fuel within the carburetor is one of the most essential steps in most any troubleshooting exercise. As a practical matter, if you've accomplished the first three steps in this checklist and your engine should refuse to start this spring (or at any other time for that matter), you'll have little choice but to claw your way into the carburetor at that time, poor access notwithstanding. For this reason, many people install an access panel in whatever bulkhead is in front of the carburetor. In fact, if this is your situation, there should be enough down-time remaining this winter to take on the project of installing such an access panel.

5) Start the engine, and immediately open the through-hull after the engine starts. Remember that episodes of sea water backwashing into the engine from overcranking can really only happen if the first two steps in your normal starting sequence are: (1) Open through-hull, (2) Start engine. In this scenario, you have to remember to re-close the through-hull before moving on to troubleshoot the reason for the engine not starting. If the first two steps are: (1) Start engine, (2) Open through-hull, the through-hull is already closed as you head off to deal with the fact that your engine isn't starting.

In support of starting with the through-hull open or closed, I would offer one general concept that I remember from my days of flying airplanes, which is that pilots most often screw things up while dealing with an abnormal sequence of events. Simply stated, if your day is going well, and things are falling into place normally, you're far less apt to forget important items involved in any given activity. The minute something abnormal turns up (like an engine not starting) we tend to be distracted into a problem-solving mode to deal with whatever it is that's abnormal, and we're far less likely to remember other important things (like closing the raw water through-hull before starting to troubleshoot an engine problem).

A FEW OTHER SPRING START-UP ITEMS:

Our service and overhaul manual lists numerous preventative maintenance items for each major system of the engine. Below are a few of the more important of these items to consider this spring, in case you're just getting started on a regular maintenance program. These items are selected for their high benefit versus very low time to execute:

Ignition system:

1) Inspect the negative lead from the coil to the points for general condition, looseness, and continuity.

2) Check the small mounting screw in the base of the condenser for tightness.

3) Check the coil for indications of oil leaks, excessive rust or physical damage. Since the condition of coils is very difficult to inspect for reliability (particularly in the case of internal damage caused by excessive heat), a spare coil is recommended.

4) Clean and reinstall spark plugs, or replace with Champion No. 592 (previously No. RJ12C) plugs. Set plug gap to .035 inches.

NOTE: In response to quite a few requests for an alternative to Champion RJ12C plugs, we will be adding Autolite spark plugs to our online catalog within a week or so. The new Autolite plugs have specifications very similar to the Champion, except that they will have a slightly higher heat range. For this reason, the Autolites may perform a bit better in engines that, for whatever reason, tend to foul plugs faster than normal.

5) Re-check the ignition for proper timing by carefully rotating the distributor a small amount in each direction to find the point of highest RPM, and then re-secure the hold-down bracket. This check is best done after launch with the engine fully warmed up and at your favorite cruising power setting.

6) Check the plug wires for signs of cracking or rubbed spots.

Cooling system:

1) Replace the water pump impeller if it has not been replaced in the past 200 engine-hours. Our manual calls for the impeller to be replaced every two years or 200 hours which ever comes first. If you've been operating in water that is relatively free of sediment, you can easily extend the time interval to three seasons of service (changing before the fourth season).

2) Remove the thermostat and clean by soaking it in household vinegar for a day or two.

Fuel system:

1) An inline fuel filter (1 or 2 micron) is recommended directly ahead of the carburetor. These filters serve as final polishing filters and provide excellent protection against dirt fouling the float valve, thereby greatly lessening the chance of fuel flooding the float chamber and dripping out of the intake throat and into the bilge. These filters get our vote for representing the best investment that you can make in the interest of safety.

2) Change or service the main fuel filter (following the manufacturer's recommendations) at least once each year, preferably during spring startup.

3) Clean out the sediment bowl on mechanical fuel pumps once each year, preferably during spring startup.

4) Replace the inline filter once each 5 years. (This frequency can be increased if the fuel pump sediment bowl is difficult to service).

Best wishes for a successful spring startup and wonderfully creative 2006 season from the entire MMI team.

Don and Brenda Moyer
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  #2   IP: 138.78.16.25
Old 03-10-2006, 12:03 PM
BSquared BSquared is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2005
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I'm about to start getting our Sabre 28 ready for relaunching, and of course I reread the Moyer Marine tips for getting the engine ready to run in the spring, and starting without sucking seawater up into the valves.

What about starting her up while the boat's still on the hard? Is that a good idea at all? I know you recommend starting it initially with the raw-water intake closed, but that's a bit different from running it when it's completely dry. If it's OK to start it, how long is it advisable to run it?
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  #3   IP: 38.118.52.41
Old 03-13-2006, 08:28 AM
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Don Moyer Don Moyer is offline
 
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BSquared,

Engines are frequently started while on land to ensure that they will start after being launched in the spring, saving the hassle of having to be returned to dry dock or towed to the slip rather than getting there under the boat's own power. Other than simply ensuring that the engine will start, I can't think of any other good reason to run an engine while on land. Since there is no practical way to put the engine under load, and most other testing or troubleshooting can more easily be done after getting in the water.

Running an engine while on land is essentially the same as running in the water, with a few additional considerations:

1) Cooling water supply: The safest way to provide cooling water is to draw it from a 5 gallon bucket through a hose to the suction side of the water pump, very similar to the method used to draw antifreeze into the engine during winterizing. If your only purpose in starting the engine is to be sure that it starts, the water in a 5 gallon bucket should be sufficient (approximately 10 or 15 seconds of running). If you want to run the engine longer, you'll have to provide make-up water through a garden hose to the bucket, with a valve to control the water flow.

NOTE: It is best to locate the bucket in the cabin and level with the engine. We have a few reports each year of engine flooding when the bucket was located in the cockpit (well above the engine) and water siphoned into the engine while the bucket was left unattended.

2) Spinning props while in dry dock are an obvious safety hazard, so before starting, please be sure that the reversing gear is in neutral position. This is best accomplished by grabbing the prop shaft to make sure that it spins freely before starting. In some cases, the neutral zone may be so small that it is practically impossible to insure that the prop will not spin one way or the other. I have occasionally secured a prop to the strut using a large rag, but there is obviously some danger of damaging things if you inadvertently move the shifting lever.

In all cases, it is a very good idea to have a buddy standing guard outside the boat during a short engine run to avoid injury to a passer-by (or getting splashed by cooling water).

Regards,

Don
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  #4   IP: 64.231.162.157
Old 03-13-2006, 12:00 PM
Dan_Erlich Dan_Erlich is offline
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Thumbs up Water Pump

About six years ago I fabricated and fit both low oil pressure and high water temperature alarms to our engine. These alarms make running the engine very relaxing as I don't need to monitor the gagues regularly. The high temperature alarm worked perfectly on a subequent impellor failure. What became apparent however was that there was no system in place to prevent the little broken impellor bits from entering into the engine hoses or engine.

Last summer I fit our engine with an additional water strainer basket. I fit the strainer on the bulkhead and ran the outlet hose of the water pump to the basket and another hose from the basket to the engine block. The idea being that as the impellor starts to deteriorate the bits will get caught in the strainer. I check the basket before I start the engine and will replace the impellor at the first sign of any rubber debris being there. Impellors rarely let loose all at one shot so this will help prevent the impellor failing in use yet it will alow me to run it to the point of destruction.
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  #5   IP: 156.76.147.55
Old 05-04-2006, 09:58 AM
bputney bputney is offline
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Milwaukee, WI
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Atttaching large rag to prop

Hi,

When you say you'd attach a large rag to the prop when starting neutral, what purpose does this serve? To keep it from spinning? Wouldn't the prop tear the rag off if it dropped out of neutral and into gear?

Thanks.
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  #6   IP: 38.118.52.41
Old 05-04-2006, 11:34 AM
Don Moyer's Avatar
Don Moyer Don Moyer is offline
 
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Location: Chestertown, MD (Langford Creek)
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The purpose of using a large rag (old towel, etc.) to tie the prop to a strut was to keep it from spinning and causing damage to the dry cutlass bearing or (worse) hurting a passerby. The suggestion is made in recognition of the fact that it's difficult to find a pure neutral point in some reversing gears, especially in cases where the reversing brake band might be set a bit on the tight side.

Obviously, if you do find that it's almost impossible to find a purely neutral spot in your transmission, it would be better to loosen the adjustment a bit before using the rag to tie off the prop.

Don
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  #7   IP: 71.126.7.76
Old 05-25-2007, 08:50 PM
theDude theDude is offline
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Talking Water in engine??

Hello,

Please forgive my lack of knowledge of these engines, I just added a boat to the fleet with a atomic four. Don, could you please elaborate on what causes the water to end up in the in the engine during long cranking? Thanks much.

The Dude
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  #8   IP: 38.118.52.41
Old 05-26-2007, 06:49 PM
Don Moyer's Avatar
Don Moyer Don Moyer is offline
 
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Location: Chestertown, MD (Langford Creek)
Posts: 2,709
On many boats with water lift mufflers, if you crank an engine that is not starting with the raw water through-hull open, the engine-mounted raw water pump eventually will feed enough water into the water lift exhaust system until it reaches a level high enough to flow back into the exhaust manifold and into the cylinders. There is quite a difference between boats in terms of how quickly this backflow will occur and depends mostly on the amount of storage available within the exhaust system. A Catalina 30 will be getting water into the 4th cylinder in about as much time as it takes to perform a compression check.

The answer of course is to keep the raw water through-hull valve closed whenever you find yourself cranking your engine with the engine not starting. Once an engine starts, the exhaust pressure will blow the water out the back of the boat with the exhaust.

Don
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  #9   IP: 71.126.10.222
Old 05-29-2007, 11:17 PM
theDude theDude is offline
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Talking Atomic has been sitting...

Thanks for the info Don,

Do you have any other suggestions for an atomic four that has been sitting for about 15 years, outside of your checklist? It was professionally winterized for storage by the marina, but I think all that means is antifreeze and some fogging oil. Thanks for your help.

The Dude
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  #10   IP: 38.118.52.41
Old 05-30-2007, 05:35 AM
Don Moyer's Avatar
Don Moyer Don Moyer is offline
 
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Location: Chestertown, MD (Langford Creek)
Posts: 2,709
One additional comment:

It is definitely a no-no to use Teflon tape on any sensing device that relies on a connection to ground to work.

Don
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  #11   IP: 38.118.52.41
Old 05-31-2007, 07:29 AM
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Don Moyer Don Moyer is offline
 
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I don't, but perhaps someone else in the group does.

Don
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