Common solenoid/starter problem solution

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  • Kelly
    Afourian MVP
    • Oct 2004
    • 683

    Common solenoid/starter problem solution

    Many threads here detail problems involving either the solenoid or the starter- or both. I recently worked through one of my own (with my father-in-law, the best one could hope for) and wanted to share the troubleshooting and solution with everyone.

    Symptoms: very often in starting the engine (almost every time), pushing on the starter button would result in a loud click but no running of the starter motor. After one, two or three (or more) pushes on the starter button, and with a loud click every time, the starter motor would eventually turn and the engine would start. These symptoms did not depend on engine temperature and could manifest themselves at any time of the day. I never had a "no start" situation but when ever I would get the click and no starter motor, my heart would skip three beats.

    After checking the carbon brushes in the starter motor and cleaning all accessible connections (the starter motor ran like a champ on the bench and the solenoid never hesitated in sliding its piston back and pushing the starter gear forward) the condition remained the same once re-installed on the engine.

    Engine check: we rigged a 12V lamp between the two large terminals on the back of the solenoid and tried starting the engine. Bingo! When we heard the loud click and didn't get the starter motor running, the lamp was not shining: no 12V current was arriving at the starter despite all indications that the solenoid was functioning correctly.

    Solution: we took apart the back of the solenoid (see photos) to find that the heads of the large copper bolts were worn and that the large washer that is pushed-up against the two bolts in order to close the circuit was corroded. We rotated the bolts in their housings to expose fresh metal and cleaned-up the washer. Everything looked good but after further testing, the problem remained!!

    Final solution: it turns out that the washer was only making occasional contact with the bolt heads despite our efforts. A second intervention involved placing fiber washers under the heads of the two large bolts (one washer each) to move them closer to the connecting washer. In this way, the contact is assured despite tiring springs and worn bolt heads.

    In the first photo you can clearly see one of the larger copper bolts. The washer was placed where you can see the thin copper washer sitting over the square portion of the bolt. The same was done for the second large bolt, visible in the solenoid casing in the second photo.

    You can also clearly see the large, corroded washer mounted between two springs on the central axis. This is what is pushed up towards the copper bolts when you press the starter button (or turn the key) in order to allow the full 12V coming from the batteries to reach the starter motor.

    The piece I am holding between my fingers doesn't seem to be used in most of our A4 configurations while the hard-wired bolt directly opposite is the "S" post on the back of the solenoid.

    Hopefully this explanation will be of some use to others with similar disquieting symptoms.

    Kelly
    Attached Files
    Kelly

    1964 Cheoy Lee Bermuda Ketch, Wind and Atomic powered

    sigpic
  • SimonP
    Senior Member
    • Jun 2006
    • 56

    #2
    kelly is the man!

    I was having starter motor woes when I read Kelly's post. It took a while to realise that my solenoid had worn in exactly the same way his had - obvious in retrospect. My symptom was - total-nonaction when starter pressed, but amps went -15.
    I removed and serviced the starter motor and solenoid, and yes, it ran on the bench, but not reinstalled. So I spaced the major contacts with some spacer (cut from a plastic lid of a coffee can actually) and bingo - no more problems. I couldn't believe how primitive that mechanism is, but hey, it works.
    So thanks to Kelly. Now, onto the next job...

    Comment

    • Kelly
      Afourian MVP
      • Oct 2004
      • 683

      #3
      I'm coming back to this post as this last weekend the original "non-start" condition occurred again: three or four times I turned the ignition key and only got a loud click- the solenoid was throwing the Bendix forward but the starter did not engage.

      I'll have to remove the solenoid again and see if my repair has failed or if corrosion has attacked the connections. Before that though, I'll be checking my connections at the control panel to make sure the few months of sitting on the buoy haven't done their nasty work on any connections there...

      More later.

      Kelly
      Kelly

      1964 Cheoy Lee Bermuda Ketch, Wind and Atomic powered

      sigpic

      Comment

      • adab1402
        Senior Member
        • Mar 2007
        • 94

        #4
        hello kelly

        take it from a 30 year knuckle dragger ,buy a new solenoid ,common as dirt at any parts house cost 15.00 us . fair winds albatross .

        Comment

        • Kelly
          Afourian MVP
          • Oct 2004
          • 683

          #5
          The new solenoid idea sounds good. I'm dealing with French parts houses so finding matching parts is always a challenge. Any tips on a part number or manufacturer? Should I just say "Delco starter" and everyone will get the picture?

          Kelly
          Kelly

          1964 Cheoy Lee Bermuda Ketch, Wind and Atomic powered

          sigpic

          Comment

          • Silver Fox
            Senior Member
            • Sep 2009
            • 13

            #6
            Starting Motor Rebuilt - Before & After Pictures

            Hello all,

            Used this thread to try and resolve my no crank issues, and had the original starter motor rebuilt and a new solenoid put in. It cost $107, and was a great investment, even if it doesn't solve the no crank issue 100%.

            The boat is a 1974 C&C 27, with an Atomic 4, and apparently the starting motor had not been serviced before.

            Here is the before & after shots...



            Just thought I would share my findings...

            PS: We have a facebook profile where we document the work we do on the boat. Silver Fox on Facebook.
            ~ Silver Fox ~

            1974 C&C 27 Mk II
            Hull Number: 417
            Atomic 4 ID: 19-2026
            Silver Fox Blog: http://silverfoxsailing.blogspot.com/

            Home Port: Norfolk, VA.

            Comment

            • sastanley
              Afourian MVP
              • Sep 2008
              • 7035

              #7
              Wow, I'd agree with it being a good start!
              -Shawn
              "Holiday" - '89 Alura 35 #109
              "Twice Around" - '77 C-30, #511 with original A-4 & MMI manifold - SOLD! (no longer a two boat owner!!)
              sigpic

              Comment

              • Kelly
                Afourian MVP
                • Oct 2004
                • 683

                #8
                No pun intended, I'm sure...

                Here is a picture of my starter when I opened it up. I'm amazed at the difference between Silver Fox's picture and this one. As far as I know, this starter was not maintained regularly.

                Kelly
                Attached Files
                Last edited by Kelly; 09-03-2009, 05:01 AM.
                Kelly

                1964 Cheoy Lee Bermuda Ketch, Wind and Atomic powered

                sigpic

                Comment

                • Silver Fox
                  Senior Member
                  • Sep 2009
                  • 13

                  #9
                  No crank issue

                  Hi Kelly,

                  Wondering if you fully resolved the 'click sound instead of crank' issue, and if so what was the problem?

                  We still have the problem - intermittently, but enough that I cannot be confident of a start whenever needed.

                  We push the ignition button, and hear the dull click noise from the starter motor area, and nothing else. We push again and sometimes will get a crank, but more often than not another click noise. If the starter does engage it works just fine.

                  Usually after a 3 minute or so break, trying the ignition again will increase the probability of the starter motor doing what it is supposed to. We would get one or two functioning starts and then a third try and beyond will just get the single click noise. Until we let it be for a few minutes. Then we roll the dice again...

                  The battery is almost new and fully charged. All the wiring all seems good. The solenoid is new and the 35 yr old starter motor has just been refurbished.

                  My feeling is that it is the starter motor that is not working reliably. I think the new solenoid is working and pushing the starter motor gears into the flywheel and that is the click sound, but the starter motor is not running.

                  What do you guys think???

                  Thanks.
                  ~ Silver Fox ~

                  1974 C&C 27 Mk II
                  Hull Number: 417
                  Atomic 4 ID: 19-2026
                  Silver Fox Blog: http://silverfoxsailing.blogspot.com/

                  Home Port: Norfolk, VA.

                  Comment

                  • sandspur
                    Frequent Contributor
                    • Jun 2009
                    • 8

                    #10
                    Check & clean ground to block, Check voltage draw at starter when trying to crank, cables may have corrosion in cables or in lugs if crimped that will cause low voltage when cranking, A bad ground or low voltage will cause arch spots on the solenoid washer
                    Sandspur
                    S/V Sunseeker, P33

                    Comment

                    • Kelly
                      Afourian MVP
                      • Oct 2004
                      • 683

                      #11
                      Silver Fox,

                      Your problem sounds difficult given you have a new solenoid on the starter, thus rendering my minor repair ideas unnecessary (unless the solenoid is faulty or used).

                      I'm sure the dull click (fairly loud, too?) you hear when you press the starter button is indeed the solenoid engaging the starter in the flywheel. I think your best test at this time would be to do as I did and wire a small light, or even better, a volt meter across the solenoid terminals as in "Engine check" from my original post. In this way you can actually see what happens when you get the click and determine with confidence if your problem is downstream, i.e. the starter/solenoid, or upstream and either in the wiring, switches (starter switch?) or batteries.

                      In other words, I think Sandspur is on the right track...

                      Best of luck,
                      Kelly
                      Kelly

                      1964 Cheoy Lee Bermuda Ketch, Wind and Atomic powered

                      sigpic

                      Comment

                      • rigspelt
                        Afourian MVP
                        • May 2008
                        • 1252

                        #12
                        Sandspur has a point: Nigel Calder points out in his book that relying for DC ground return through a big black cable attached to the engine can be problematic, since among other things that design requires a very good connection between a good cable and the engine block. Checking and shining up that connection should be routine job every spring. I've seen a lot of rusty ones. He suggests a more complicated way of getting a better ground, but I doubt many of our small boats use that type of ground return system.

                        If that connection and the ground cable itself are good, then I agree with Kelly: I'd think I'd be checking all the wiring, switches and connections in the starting circuit to ensure sufficient electricity supply during cranking.
                        1974 C&C 27

                        Comment

                        • Silver Fox
                          Senior Member
                          • Sep 2009
                          • 13

                          #13
                          Electrical Investigation Pending...

                          Thanks for the quick & helpful responses.

                          Sounds like a unanimous decision that I will have to get down on my knees and contort myself around the undersides of the aft end of the boat trying to check the circuitry...

                          Good times!!!

                          SF.
                          ~ Silver Fox ~

                          1974 C&C 27 Mk II
                          Hull Number: 417
                          Atomic 4 ID: 19-2026
                          Silver Fox Blog: http://silverfoxsailing.blogspot.com/

                          Home Port: Norfolk, VA.

                          Comment

                          • pallen58
                            Senior Member
                            • Oct 2009
                            • 50

                            #14
                            It takes a hammer?

                            After taking the boat out for a great 1st sail the engine would not start. All we got was a "clicking" sound. Using trouble shooting found here we decided it was either the battery, only one in the boat, or the solenoid. This past Saturday 2 knowledgeable motor heads came to the boat with me. Battery tested great but still just the clicking when I pressed the starter button. The real engineer asked for a hammer. He told me to press the starter and he gently gave the solenoid a few taps. The engine roared to life. The question is do I just clean up the solenoid as descibed here or do I get a new one? Should I get an entire starter system?
                            Secondly I don't seem to have a raw water filter on the water intake. Can some one please recommend one that would fit.
                            Still new to an inboard but she sure sails nice.
                            Pat

                            Comment

                            • Mark S
                              Senior Member
                              • Sep 2008
                              • 421

                              #15
                              Originally posted by pallen58 View Post
                              The real engineer asked for a hammer. He told me to press the starter and he gently gave the solenoid a few taps. The engine roared to life.
                              I have this same problem. See http://www.moyermarine.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3602 . Today was the first day we had to use the hammer and our results were just like yours.

                              We took the boat up the river today and she'll be on the hard by the end of the week. One of the winter projects is to deal with the starter/solenoid problem. I think I'm going to get a new starter and solenoid and rebuild the old starter and solenoid as necessary, keeping it around for a spare. I'll lose the $100 core charge but I'll have the peace of mind that comes with being prepared.

                              Mark

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