Catalina Atomic 4 No Crank Problem Resolved

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  • Don Moyer
    • Oct 2004
    • 2823

    Catalina Atomic 4 No Crank Problem Resolved

    Posted on behalf of River Rat (please read today's private message to you):

    PROBLEM:
    Catalina 30 Atomic 4 engine cranks at times but at other times there is not even an engagement click or any sound coming from the start circuit. Go below and short the terminals between the "S" terminal and bat hot lead at starter and immediate crank and likely start will occur-----What is wrong??

    ATTEMPTS AT FIXING ISSUE:

    1. Replace Ignition Switch, may work for a while.
    2. Replace Starter Solenoid, may work for a while.
    3. Replace Starter, may work for a while.

    Bottom line is that you can try all of the above and they MAY work or seem to work for a while but then the problem will occur again, ---- Turn the key, no crank or turn the key over and over and maybe after 10 or more attempts the engine might crank. You can always go to the starter and short the "S" terminal and the battery lead and it will always crank over perfectly-------major question is ----what is wrong with this picture???


    ANSWER AS I HAVE FOUND IT OVER AND OVER:

    1. Original Atomic 4 engines had Prestolite Starters which carried a Piggy Back Relay to carry the heavy load of the starter solenoid. The Catalina harness was designed for this light load due to the relay being a part of the start, crank system, and therefore was in the 16 gauge wire range or at least very very small.

    2. Later Atomic Four engines had Delco Starters which had no such thing as a Relay and expected the hot lead from the starter switch to carry the full 20 to 25 amp load that the starter solenoid needed for engagement. Catalina unfortunately did nothing when the starters were changed and therefore a very small gauge wire was expected to carry full solenoid load which it can not do for long. Result is that when the points in the Ignition Switch or Starter Solenoid contacts becomes even slightly burned the resistance is so high that the tiny wire can not carry the amp load and the stater does not engage. Bottom line, no crank.

    THE FIX:
    All you have to do is disconnect the wire leading from the Ignition Switch to the starter solenoid and introduce a a 30 amp relay. You get an old style relay which uses a hole in the case as ground and bolt it to the engine. You then run a number 10 wire from the starter hot lead, main battery lead to starter, to the relay and then from the relay you connect a 12 gauge wire from it to the the starter "S" terminal. Now all that is left to do is put the old small gauge wire from the Ignition Switch to the Activation Post on the relay and you are in business. Now the starter solenoid gets full amps it needs and the Ignition Switch is only carrying the light amp load needed by the relay.
    I have done the above fix to at least four Catalina 30 boats with Atomic 4 engines and they have never had the issue of no crank again. Catalina will tell you that the wiring is fine and that you need a new Ignition Switch or Starter which is a crock. If you call Delco they will tell you that their solenoid needs at LEAST 20 and most times 30 amps to work properly. Even if you buy the new harness from Catalina it will come, or has in the past come with the same small lead used with the Prestolite Starters which will NOT work with the Delcos or at least not well or for long.

    Hope this helps a few Catalina owners who have fought the above problem and probably spent a fortune trying to cure it. I learned much as they did, the hard way, but found an old Electrical Tech who had seen the same issue in Log Bronc's, little boats used to push logs in lumber mill ponds, which used Stevedore versions of the Atomic 4 and suffered the issues of Prestolite versus Delco starters. Hope this helps.

    River Rat
  • Don Moyer
    • Oct 2004
    • 2823

    #2
    To the best of our knowledge, the Catalina 30 fleet never had early model engines (or Prestolite starters), and their wiring harnesses had much heavier gauge wire between their starter switch in the cockpit and the starter solenoid than 16 gauge wire. I can check to make sure, but I'm quite sure they (as we do in our kit which is modeled after the Catalina 30) use 12 gauge white wire in this application.

    Don

    Comment

    • RIVER RAT
      Member
      • Jul 2007
      • 2

      #3
      Catalina Atomic Four No Crank Problem Resloved

      While I would hope that Catalina resolved the issue in their latest harness they are selling for service the boats that I upgraded with the relays were in the 1978 thru 1981 vintage and were identical in respect to the lead from the switch to the starter solenoid and was way undersized per Delco's Tech department for the distance run. At the time I did the installation of the relays in the boats I contacted Catalina and they told me at the time that they would "Look Into The Situation And Get Back With Me"-----------that was around 1985-------do you think I should expect a response soon??

      Comment

      • THE BREEZE
        Member
        • Jan 2008
        • 2

        #4
        Old style 30 amp relay...?

        Don: What do you mean by an "Old Style 30 amp Relay" with a ground through the middle. Where can I get one of those...? Any brand name or part number you may know of....? I'm having the trouble you talked about in this post. Starter working then not working. Thanks for any info.

        Comment

        • jbsoukup
          Afourian MVP
          • Jan 2012
          • 148

          #5
          I've owned my 1977 catalina 30 for nine years now and it's only this season that I've begun to experience this starting problem. Key the engine and you hear the solenoid click but the engine wont crank. At first I thought it was the starter solenoid -replaced that- then I found loose connections at the instrument panel. Fixed those and the problem seemed to be resolved but it still didn't start as forcefully as I thought it should. then one day after running the engine for a long time(fishing) it just up and died. no power to the instrument panel at all. no clicking sounds when keying - nothing. Jumped the starter motor and it spun but solenoid wouldn't engage. I was at a loss for a solution. Then it occurred to me that in order for the ammeter to work, all the power must flow through it. So I tried bypassing the ammeter by removing the red wire (from the back of the ammeter) and piggybacking it to the orange one and BINGO! It starts like never before. it was the ammeter itself all along causing the high resistance.
          sigpicjohn
          '77 catalina 30 #783
          the only way to be sure is to make sure

          Comment

          • sastanley
            Afourian MVP
            • Sep 2008
            • 7034

            #6
            jbsoukup,

            A lot of us (especially with the C-30) have removed the ammeter permanently. That long run for the charging circuit leads to a lot of voltage loss I'd rather have going into the batteries, and as you've noticed, I think unnecessarily complicates things. A voltmeter in the panel is just as useful and can be piggybacked off the purple from the ignition switch. If it says 13-ish volts, the alternator is working.
            -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

            • ndutton
              Afourian MVP
              • May 2009
              • 9777

              #7
              One more thing to consider - have you removed the two (or three) trailer plugs in the engine harness? They are a known failure point. There is one at the engine, one at the panel and if your control panel is located in the aft coaming or pedestal, a third plug can be found in the general vicinity of the galley drawers/ice box. This is a picture of mine, still functioning when it was removed.
              Attached Files
              Neil
              1977 Catalina 30
              San Pedro, California
              prior boats 1987 Westsail 32, 1970 Catalina 22
              Had my hands in a few others

              Comment

              • sastanley
                Afourian MVP
                • Sep 2008
                • 7034

                #8
                yay..pictures!

                Oooo..Neil...That picture brings up the perfect opportunity to re-post my new wiring harness that eliminated that trailer plug(s)..

                -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

                • ndutton
                  Afourian MVP
                  • May 2009
                  • 9777

                  #9
                  Most excellent!!

                  Any way I can set you up, Shawn. My pleasure.
                  Neil
                  1977 Catalina 30
                  San Pedro, California
                  prior boats 1987 Westsail 32, 1970 Catalina 22
                  Had my hands in a few others

                  Comment

                  • jbsoukup
                    Afourian MVP
                    • Jan 2012
                    • 148

                    #10
                    I had installed a voltmeter near the main panel in the galley when I first got the boat - way more useful in my opinion. checked the the disconnect plug by the engine too. it looked good so I just gooped it with some dielectric grease and plugged it back together. couldn't find any other plugs- it seems everything just runs straight to the instrument panel. (I refreshed all the connections to my main fuse panel and added a small sub panel with maybe 6 fuses to handle things like autopilot, radio, 12v outlets, etc. Did that about 5 yrs ago so I didn't have to piggyback on any of the original circuits) don't know yet if I'll replace the ammeter or not, I don't really miss it. BTW my boat is 12v only, no shore power.
                    Last edited by jbsoukup; 08-08-2012, 07:15 PM. Reason: clarification
                    sigpicjohn
                    '77 catalina 30 #783
                    the only way to be sure is to make sure

                    Comment

                    • sastanley
                      Afourian MVP
                      • Sep 2008
                      • 7034

                      #11
                      jb..I do not have any 110V power aboard either...just fine with me. I carry a 30 amp cord and plug in a 6 outlet strip so my wife can blow dry her hair (& charge laptop & gadgets) when in a marina.

                      I do have a small (3.2watt!) solar charger with a regulator that I alternate between house & start each visit to the boat. It works great. If I ever find another small panel, then I wouldn't have to swap it over.

                      Where is your engine panel? I have a tiller, so mine is in the front half of the cockpit, port side, in the 'sail' locker, next to the engine controls. My original 12v 6-switch panel was in the aft galley, near the ice box. I found a 2nd plug for the engine harness under the galley counter top in that area, by pulling out the double drawer assembly (aft of the stove). The plug was just before the wires ran off thru the bulkhead into the sail locker & up to the instrument panel.

                      I think that those with the instrument panel on stbd side of the cockpit due to wheel steering may even have a 3rd plug somewhere...

                      Catalina liked to continually 'improve' the boat, so even though we have the same hull, there are subtle differences as the hull #'s go up.
                      -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

                      • CdawgII
                        Frequent Contributor
                        • Dec 2012
                        • 6

                        #12
                        Is this a confirmed resolution?

                        Hello All:

                        I have a 1981 Cat 30 A4 with this exact issue. I noticed that the thread on this went back a few years, but was recently updated...has this solution been verified? If it has, if anyone could provide more detail on how to do all of this [to a mechanically challenged mind], it would be greatly appreciated.

                        Thanks, David

                        Comment

                        • Dave Neptune
                          Afourian MVP, Professor Emeritus
                          • Jan 2007
                          • 5064

                          #13
                          Welcome & go4it!

                          Cdawg, first welcome to the Afourian Forum.
                          David,it is basically just wiring and there ar wiring kits that do make it much easier to do. I am in the process myself at this time. I am using a bundled "romex type" wire that has 2 #10, 2 #12 and 4 #14 fo rthe gages. It is a common product available in most marine and hot-rod shops, you buy it by the foot and go to work. It really isn't too difficult if you go one step at a time and take the time to route the leads neatly. Many on this site have re-done the Catalina's with this very issue. My Ericson has a similar set up and since it is now 43 years old I'm just re-doing it before I have any issues with it.

                          Dave Neptune

                          Comment

                          • jbsoukup
                            Afourian MVP
                            • Jan 2012
                            • 148

                            #14
                            catalina 30 no start

                            I just happened to stop by and saw the thread was updated. My boat is on the hard since October 30 and I had no starting issues ever since I removed (bypassed)the ammeter. There are a bunch of other wires connected to it (already cleaned and re attached) and I was just too lazy to check what they were, so I left them in place as the engine runs fine but I think I'll do some work on it in the spring, maybe. I do have to admit it did hesitate a couple of times (literally like two or three times and when I keyed it again it fired right up) but nothing like the completely dead condition I was experiencing before. I wonder though, how long before I'll need to replace the harness; nothing lasts forever. If it wasn't for sails I'd be replacing it right away.
                            sigpicjohn
                            '77 catalina 30 #783
                            the only way to be sure is to make sure

                            Comment

                            • jbsoukup
                              Afourian MVP
                              • Jan 2012
                              • 148

                              #15
                              sastanley, I have the exact same setup. I did pull the drawers but couldn't find another plug. probably didn't look hard enough. I'll add that to the spring list.
                              sigpicjohn
                              '77 catalina 30 #783
                              the only way to be sure is to make sure

                              Comment

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