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Old 06-02-2018, 07:13 PM
GEM555 GEM555 is offline
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We live in Freeport Maine...

...does anyone have a line on someone who knows how to fix an Atomic 4 in the Freeport ME area? We’ve dumped a ton of money into ours only to find a dead engine each and every time we get on the boat. The thing simply will not start. The last guy had the valves lapped over the winter and said he found a stuck intac alve on the last cylinder. Had all that fixed only to arrive to the same dead A4 we left in the fall. What is it with these things? They just will not run!
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Old 06-02-2018, 07:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GEM555 View Post
...does anyone have a line on someone who knows how to fix an Atomic 4 in the Freeport ME area? We’ve dumped a ton of money into ours only to find a dead engine each and every time we get on the boat. The thing simply will not start. The last guy had the valves lapped over the winter and said he found a stuck intac alve on the last cylinder. Had all that fixed only to arrive to the same dead A4 we left in the fall. What is it with these things? They just will not run!
We can teach you to be a better A4 mechanic than 95% of the "marine" mechanics out there.
That said, you need to hunt in the antique boat and antique car/tractor engine repair shops for a mech. The A4 is very similar to any number of 1930s era car and tractor engines and utterly unfamiliar to someone who connects a computer to a fuel injected V8 or common rail electronic diesel.
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  #3   IP: 174.192.13.96
Old 06-02-2018, 08:01 PM
GEM555 GEM555 is offline
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Not smart enough to fix it myself. Just make it worse. Well, if anyone has any leads on someone, I’d appreciate hearing from them. We are off the water for now.
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Old 06-02-2018, 08:31 PM
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Sorry to hear of your troubles and even more sorry you feel incapable of learning the engine yourself. The mantra around here is if we can do it, anyone can. I have nothing to offer regarding a Freeport area referral due to living on the opposite coast but I would like to redirect one of your comments:
Quote:
We’ve dumped a ton of money into ours [A4] only to find a dead engine each and every time we get on the boat
Actually you've dumped a ton of money on mechanics lacking in skill and experience with an old technology gas engine (see Joe's comment). I hope you find a good one because then you will learn what a wonderful engine the Atomic 4 really is.

One other thought:
If you prefer to not learn the basics of this engine (absolutely your choice) what are you going to do when you're out on the water some distance from home and something goes wrong? Y'know, things go wrong on all engines sooner or later, sooner if they aren't maintained properly and not just the Atomic 4. Same goes for diesels (that's why there are so many diesel mechanics around the port) and outboards (just check any launch ramp on a big holiday). Who are you going to call at sea?
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Old 06-02-2018, 08:54 PM
GEM555 GEM555 is offline
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Glad to hear you say the A4 is such a wonderful engine, but honestly our experience teaches us just the opposite. Completely unreliable, and the skill set needed to keep the engine operating correctly apparently no longer exists in the market place.

I am simply not smart enough to fix the engine, we usually address that limitation by having a motor in tip-top shape at all times. This event teaches that simply isn’t possible with an A4. Like an old Italian sports car, you can’t take a drive without an Italian mechanic on board!
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Old 06-02-2018, 09:49 PM
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I guess what I’m trying to say is that if it’s so hard to keep an A4 running that two individuals who go to work each and every day fixing gas/diesel engines and have over 60 years experience between them have both struck out, how can a guy like me, who barely knows what a “spark” is and wouldn’t have a clue how to “check for one” do better?
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Old 06-02-2018, 10:21 PM
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If you can tell the difference between a wrench and screwdriver, then you can learn basic maintenance of an A4. I completely disassembled and rebuilt an A4 just by following the instructions in the Moyer manual. I recommend getting the manual before you throw in the towel. It's very easy reading, explains all of the systems of the a4, and is filled with easy to follow trouble shooting guides.
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Last edited by Tim; 06-02-2018 at 10:33 PM.
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Old 06-02-2018, 10:29 PM
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GEM555,
Two questions - 1) do you have the Moyer Manual? 2) have you read it?
I've owned one boat with 3 diesels - two Perkins 6-354 for propulsion and an Onan genset. I can work on most of a diesel, but can't do the injectors or the injection pumps. Breakdown at sea and I'm dead.
I can't think of anything on an Atomic 4 that's beyond a repair at sea.
A lot of stuff that's blamed on the Atomic 4 is actually add-on stuff - usually a bad exhaust system allowing water back into the engine.
It sounds like your engine has a basic fault, likely related to the exhaust system. Next time you have a no start, give it a spray of starting ether and try it - this will identify either spark or fuel issues. If a valve is hung up, a compression check may be needed.
Give us a chance here. If we can't come and play doctor, you'll have to play nurse and give us the symptoms - we can then try and diagnose.
But please, don't tell us what a lousy engine the A4 is! You'll get nothing but argument here. Personally, I've been doing A4s for 30 years and have done 2 overhauls. I know they're good engines.
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Old 06-02-2018, 10:57 PM
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All I’m telling you is that I have an A4. It doesn’t start. We have spent a fair amount of money on two professional mechanics and gave them each a simple goal. “Get that engine running reliably”. Both have failed completely. In the first case the engine ran for 5 hours then failed. The second, the engine doesn’t run at all. I don’t know where to go next with this.
The head got rebuilt over the winter - mechanic B pulled the heads and said he found a stuck valve. We had that fixed and the valves lapped. Hope that helps. What is starting ether

Last edited by GEM555; 06-02-2018 at 11:08 PM.
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Old 06-02-2018, 11:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GEM555 View Post
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if it’s so hard to keep an A4 running that two individuals who go to work each and every day fixing gas/diesel engines and have over 60 years experience between them have both struck out, how can a guy like me, who barely knows what a “spark” is and wouldn’t have a clue how to “check for one” do better?
What I'm trying to say (I've said it before in similar circumstances) is your mechanics obviously couldn't cut the mustard. The fact they couldn't deliver results is proof enough. I realize you're frustrated with poor performance and big expense but the reality is this is an exceedingly simple engine. Doubting your own abilities is understandable, we often preach pick yer battles but because two so called experienced professional ($$) mechanics couldn't get what is basically a lawn mower engine to run reliably is not the fault of the engine or its design.

From your comments thus far it is clear to me you've made your mind up the engine cannot be made to run reliably. You'll have a hard time convincing the members of this forum of that but I'll accept it's where you're at. It suggests this type of engine and you are not a good match and will continue to be a source of aggravation. Nobody wants that and it will surely make your boating stressful.

This is the first time in nearly 8000 posts I've made on this forum that I've suggested the following: maybe you're a candidate for an electric drive or if you think you have a good diesel mechanic available, perhaps a diesel repower is the way to go. However, if the diesel mechanics in your area are as unskilled as the two mechanics you've already run across you'll be in the exact same spot with a diesel as you are right now with the A4.

The goal is for you to enjoy your boat whatever it takes. Best of luck.
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Old 06-03-2018, 01:53 AM
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You can do it

Get a compression tester, a set of 3/8 drive and 1/4 sae sockets, a multimeter and small vice grips.
I was where you were 5 years ago, now there is nothing I don’t think I could fix. These guys on this forum are brilliant, I would start with fire.
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Old 06-03-2018, 01:57 AM
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On the other hand

Go to your local tractor dealer, tell them you have an old 4 cylinder universal tractor engine, they can help.
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Old 06-03-2018, 03:37 AM
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Do you have any of the repair estimates, proposals, invoices or any other paper work associated with the two failed repairs?
If you do please post them. I sure would like to see them all.
Were the mechanics familiar with marine engines and marine engines and marine engine systems?
NEWS FLASH:There may be nothing wrong with the engine at all!!!!The problem may be with one of the boat's systems. Dirty fuel or a blocked exhaust system come to mind.
I would like to know how the diagnosis was arrived at and what the "fix" was.
There is something not right here. The fix did not match the problem. That's for sure. Even if you choose not to hold a tool in your hand the forum can and will help you understand the engine better which will help you relate to the "mechanics" better. (And not get ripped off next time)

TRUE GRIT
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Old 06-03-2018, 08:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GEM555 View Post
All I’m telling you is that I have an A4. It doesn’t start. We have spent a fair amount of money on two professional mechanics and gave them each a simple goal. “Get that engine running reliably”. Both have failed completely. In the first case the engine ran for 5 hours then failed. The second, the engine doesn’t run at all. I don’t know where to go next with this.
The head got rebuilt over the winter - mechanic B pulled the heads and said he found a stuck valve. We had that fixed and the valves lapped. Hope that helps. What is starting ether
Basic question - how much money do you have? If you get a competent shop to correctly install and maintain a new diesel for you, you will have a nice reliable engine. You will be out around $10,000 to $20,000 for this.
It is possible for any engine - A4 included - to be past the point of no return. Moyer will sell you a rebuild for 4 to 6 thousand, depending on if you want as new or used block.
I am really not trying to sound nasty - I know the internet can be full of trolls - but any kind of boat much bigger than a skiff or a Laser requires a lot of work to keep running. Some people spend their time and some spend their money. If you don't have the $$$ and don't have the desire to fix the boat yourself, it may be this kind of boating and you are not a good fit.
Lord knows I have had this conversation more than once:
Me: Going down to fix the boat hon.
Wife: I thought you fixed it last week?
Me: (Puzzled expression) That was last week. You never run out of things to fix!

There is a reason some people buy boats like J-80s with no systems and 2 hp outboards you can carry to the shop with one hand

Last edited by joe_db; 06-03-2018 at 08:17 AM.
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Old 06-03-2018, 10:52 AM
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Felix at Handy Boat in Falmouth, ME
The review I found is many years old, may not be there anymore but worth a try.

edit: to get a feeling of what this forum is about, please read this recent thread started by someone asking the same question as you:
http://www.moyermarineforum.com/foru...d.php?p=109020
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Old 06-03-2018, 10:56 AM
Dave Neptune Dave Neptune is offline
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Gem555, we all have great little motors that run and get us out and back when we need to do so. The A-4 is still a good marine engine. The reason it is hard to find a mechanic is because mechanics are no longer taught diagnosis as diagnosis is now plug in and read ~ the A-4 is "set and go".

This forum is not to find mechanics but to get the members able to keep the A-4 tuned and running reliably. Mine was a frozen motor when I bought it. The PO stated that it was done and a replacement was "NECESSARY". One week later the A-4 was spinning on her own and ran for me for another 35 years trouble free until I bought a bigger boat.

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Old 06-04-2018, 10:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GEM555 View Post
All I’m telling you is that I have an A4. It doesn’t start. ...
OK, then lets try to figure out what's going on. We will need a little more information. Since you indicated that you had the engine running for 5 hours, I'm going to assume that the starter motor works. That is, when you try to start, the engine turns over but doesn't run on it's own. (please correct me if I'm wrong).

So, already, we've eliminated one whole area as the problem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GEM555 View Post
... In the first case the engine ran for 5 hours then failed. ...
So, how did it fail? Did it die abruptly, like someone flipped a switch? Or did it sputter and miss and run rougher and rougher until it stopped? The first case is usually a symptom of an electrical problem in the ignition system, while the second one is indicative of a fuel problem.


Quote:
Originally Posted by GEM555 View Post
The second, the engine doesn’t run at all. I don’t know where to go next with this.
The head got rebuilt over the winter - mechanic B pulled the heads and said he found a stuck valve. We had that fixed and the valves lapped. Hope that helps. ...
A stuck valve is a common problem with these engines, usually caused corrosion from by allowing water to back up into the cylinders via the exhaust system. To avoid this, you should always try to start your engine with the cooling water valve CLOSED until the engine starts. Prolonged cranking with the valve open will cause water to back up.
But the A4 is a robust little engine. It will start and run on only 3 or even 2 cylinders (although poorly). So a single stuck valve is unlikely to be your "no start" problem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GEM555 View Post
...What is starting ether
Starting Ether (AKA starting fluid) is a spray can containing a highly volatile fuel (Ether or Hexane). It is used as a diagnostic tool. You spray a little directly into the air intake on the carb and try to start. If the problem is fuel, the engine will briefly roar to life as the Ether is consumed, and then quit. If the problem is something other than fuel, it will make no difference.


If the boat has set for a long time without use, a strong possibility is that the fuel is bad or dirty. One way to eliminate this is to run from a separate outboard tank temporarily to eliminate the main tank as the source of the problem.

There are lots of simple possibilities, but we need a little more info to help weed them out.

So, even if you don't feel you have the ability to work on this engine, we can provide you with information to help whoever works on it. One of your best bets would be to locate another A4 owner nearby.

Don't give up!
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Old 06-04-2018, 10:17 AM
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Go to your local tractor dealer, tell them you have an old 4 cylinder universal tractor engine, they can help.
While plenty of old tractors have flathead inline 4 engines and people that can fix them would feel at home with an A4, the Atomic 4 engine itself NEVER was used in any kind of land vehicle including tractors. Just FYI
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Old 06-04-2018, 10:19 AM
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I get the OPs frustration. Someone at work without a boat asked me if there was such a thing as "Honda" boats that just run for years with no maintenance involved other an oil change. I had to disappoint him, there really is no such thing and not at the airport either. I knew a guy that got tired of fixing 40 year old airplanes, bought a new one, and said he NEVER had so many problems with the old ones as now
Also, if you are used to cars, a new boat has an engine warranty from the engine builder, the electronics was warrantied from their manufacturer, and so on. What - you thought it was a car and the dealer would just fix it
* this is actually a common progression with new powerboat owners. They see a runabout with low payments and no money down. It is fun for awhile, but soon enough it has issues and it ends up in the yard collecting leaves and then goes on Craigslist with a tree growing in it.

Last edited by joe_db; 06-04-2018 at 10:23 AM.
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Old 06-04-2018, 11:22 AM
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Every single thing on a boat is a compromise. Everything. The closest thing to a turnkey cruising sailboat is a Caribbean charter; everything else requires some willingness to roll up your sleeves or perhaps you’re in the wrong part of this recreational water sport. Outboards, inboards, diesels, A4s, sailboats, powerboats...the engine experiences are not that different from each other. Everybody with a boat complains about either how incompetent their mechanics are or how busy they are because they’re competent. Letting engines sit unmaintained in their caves with a see-no-evil mindset will eventually cause them to fail. Either way, your familiarity with your own propulsion system can be 90% of the difference between using it or waiting for somebody to fix it for you.

As others have mentioned, the odds are very high that your non starting problem is one of a handful of common problems that rank amateurs can resolve with a minimum of tools, cost, or expertise. My vote would be a fuel problem that you can fix yourself in less time than you spend chasing down and communicating with a mechanic who actually shows up. A little information on the situation can go a long way.

I have to wonder how two mechanics managed to get themselves paid without the problem getting fixed? Clearly they’re good at something!

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Old 06-04-2018, 11:35 AM
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basic check list

Not to minimize your issue - it would appear prudent to at least run through a basic checklist of what to do with a no-start.

The attached deals with unexpected shut-down (not exactly your case) but running through this list sure narrows source of issue.

http://www.moyerphoto.com/moyermarineNL/2-1-14.html

A few other basics is to make sure choke fully engages (can be examined by removing flame arestor).
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Old 06-04-2018, 12:38 PM
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Quote:
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We have spent a fair amount of money on two professional mechanics...
Both have failed completely.
There is your biggest issue.
Not the A4.

Quote:
I am simply not smart enough to fix the engine, we usually address that limitation by having a motor in tip-top shape at all times.
I can speak from experience...
When I first got my boat the A4 was in basically fair shape but had a bunch of issues. ALL of them because of poor (or no) maintenance.
After a water pump failure, I hired a Marine Mechanic to come fix it.
After 2 hours at $90 per hour, he couldn't even get the pump off the engine.

I knew absolutely nothing about engines and then found this forum.
I asked questions (most of them dumb ones) and received nothing but helpful and easy to understand advice.
NO flameouts or smarmy answers. Just truly caring and helpful info.
You've already seen that in this very thread. Guys trying to help you.

After heeding the advice and direction, I have a smooth running and completely trustworthy engine.
Starts every time. Runs like a sewing machine.

If you want a motor "in tip-top shape" that you can depend on, you've found it.

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Old 06-04-2018, 02:25 PM
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$180 to not be able to find 2 bolts
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Old 06-04-2018, 02:27 PM
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Gem555,

Hopefully the fine folks here haven't made you leave in despair. I know you were just looking for recommendations of someone who could make your A4 all better, and instead you got lots of DIY advice.

I fully agree with what everyone is telling you, if you want to enjoy your older A4 powered sailboat, and ~$15K for a diesel repower isn't in the cards, then you really should learn a bit about that engine and get your hands dirty.

But ... a third option is to just find another good A4 out there and do an engine swap. Fortunately, the Catalina 30 is about the easiest boat to do such a swap in. Find a good running, or freshly rebuilt A4 and have your boat yard swap it in.

Oh, lookee there, a rebuilt A4 in your neck of the woods for $2500: https://maine.craigslist.org/bpo/d/r...576861602.html
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Old 06-04-2018, 03:06 PM
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$180 to not be able to find 2 bolts
He couldn't figure out the lower bolt.
Took me an hour or so on this forum and then another hour or so of knuckle busting and I had it off.
That's one reason I'm such a big fan of that MMI EXTENDED lower bolt!
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