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Old 04-03-2020, 12:57 PM
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Troubleshooting After An Unexpected Shutdown

A reprise from a 2014 newsletter:

SUDDEN AND UNEXPECTED SHUTDOWNS
Throughout the almost thirty years that MMI has been in existence, there have been frequent requests for “cookbook” style troubleshooting checklists. I’ve personally resisted this approach, believing that it’s far better to understand the technical underpinning of why certain things happen – or don’t happen – than to mindlessly follow a sequence of steps that seldom exactly fit the situation with which you’re confronted.

I’m now back-peddling on that historic position in one specific scenario; troubleshooting unexpected and sudden engine shutdowns on open water (see pages 2 and 3). This change of heart is in recognition of the fact that if your engine stops while you’re clawing your way around the proverbial rocky lea shore in 30 knots of wind, you’re probably not going to be in the best position to reflect calmly on whether the engine stopped as though someone accidentally turned the ignition switch off (hard shutdown), or as if you ran out of fuel (usually a softer shutdown). Nor are you likely to be in the best state of mind to reflect on all maintenance that was performed since the engine last ran OK (still a very good starting point in calmer circumstances), or on the myriad troubleshooting suggestions located in our Community Forum.

Before getting to the guide itself, here are a few preliminary general steps you can take to save critical time in emergency conditions:

Prepare a quick response kit to use in case of an unexpected shutdown, using the thirteen (13) items indicated throughout the guide with asterisks as a starting point.

Install an emergency backup electric fuel pump in series with the primary fuel pump, controlled with a manual switch mounted in some convenient location. In function, this pump falls somewhere between a primary fuel pump which requires an Oil Pressure Safety Switch (OPSS), and a tank to tank transfer pump which does not. If connected directly to the switched ignition circuit, this pump (with the mere flip of a switch) can be used to deal with at least 4 common fuel system issues which are otherwise extremely difficult to remediate while underway; (1) primary fuel pump failure, (2) blown fuse, (3) an OPSS failure, and (4) if your primary pump is still working and your problem is a partially blocked fuel line, the backup pump will double the head capacity of your primary pump and hopefully provide enough muscle to keep the engine running until you can get to a safe harbor. CAUTION: When using a backup fuel pump, check the lines, filters, and valves of the fuel supply system frequently for leaks, especially if the primary fuel pump is a mechanical pump. If at any time a fuel leak is discovered, it’s best to set an anchor and shut the engine off until the source of the leak can be remediated.

Immediately before casting off, brief your crew on who should take the helm if you have to go below, and (because you may not be able to fix everything) review procedures on how to set an anchor and call for a tow if necessary.

The 13 steps in the guide are a combination of diagnostic and corrective actions which begin with a quick check for spark, and then move through either the ignition or fuel system as appropriate. As a general principle, we try to lead you to the most likely causes and/or the easiest to perform items early in the guide, ending up with the more difficult possibilities and those with decreasing likelihood of success. You should never have to accomplish more than half of the 13 steps before your engine springs to life; or you know that there is no reasonable “on the water” fix. In those cases, suggestions are provided at key points within the guide directing you to sail to a safe harbor, or set an anchor and call for a tow.

All checks and remedial items in the guide have had a relatively high likelihood of success in dealing with a sudden and unexpected shutdown based on historical precedence. Therefore, you won’t find things like a total loss of compression, loss of oil pressure, overheating, catastrophic mechanical breakdown, etc included in the guide.

We hope you will avail yourself of the pedagogical benefit of the guide by reviewing each of the steps in the following guide while in your slip with a cup of coffee in your hand, rather than waiting until some dark and stormy night to search for the various items on your engine, or for tools and spare parts referenced in the guide.

TROUBLESHOOTING AFTER AN UNEXPECTED SHUTDOWN:
A “cookbook” approach to restarting an engine after an unexpected shutdown

STEP 1 - Close the raw water through-hull valve, and reopen it only after the engine starts.

STEP 2- Remove the coil lead from the distributor cap and hold it approximately ¼” from the cylinder head as the helmsman tries to restart the engine. A *remote starter button can be used to run the starter if single-handing. Note: Step #2 must be done immediately upon shutdown. The longer the test is delayed, the greater the chance a damaged coil will cool sufficiently to restore operation and give a false result. Minutes matter. If you do NOT see a normal secondary discharge from the coil lead, continue to STEP 3. If you DO see a normal secondary arc (at least 1/2”), go directly to STEP 7 (the beginning of fuel system checks).

STEP 3 - Install a *jumper wire between the positive terminal on the coil and the big battery cable on the starter solenoid. The jumper wire should be12 or 14 gauge, 3 feet in length, with a large alligator clip on one end and a small clip on the other.

STEP 4 – Try to start the engine. If the engine starts, keep the jumper wire installed and treat it as you would an auxiliary ignition switch; connecting it only to run the engine, and disconnecting it to shut off the engine. If the engine will not start with the jumper wire installed, remove the jumper wire and continue to STEP 5.

STEP 5 - Install a *12 volt test light between the primary terminals on the coil. If the test light turns on and off as attempts are made to start the engine (indicating a normal condition), go to STEP 6. If the test light does not illuminate or remains on continuously, clean the contacts of the points with a piece of cardboard (conventional ignition), or replace the EI module (electronic ignition systems). If the test light now turns on and off, ignition should be restored. If the engine still won’t start, go to STEP 6.

STEP 6 - Replace the *coil. If you do not have a spare coil, remove the old coil from its mounting bracket and suspend it away from the engine block using a nonconductive cord. If the coil was short-circuiting to the block, moving it a few inches away from the block will sometimes enable it to work long enough to get to a safe harbor. If there is still no secondary arc from the coil, sail to a safe harbor, or set an anchor and arrange for a tow.

STEP 7 - Remove the fuel fill cap from fuel tank. If engine starts, let the fill cap off and proceed to a safe harbor. If the engine will still not start, continue to STEP 8.

STEP 8 – Tap the side of the carburetor with a small hand tool while trying to start the engine. If the engine starts, proceed to a safe harbor and then burnish the seat of the float valve with a bluntly pointed *3/16” wooden dowel. If engine still does not start, proceed to STEP 9.

STEP 9 - Activate the emergency backup *electric fuel pump. If the engine starts, proceed to a safe harbor. CAUTION: When using a backup fuel pump, check the lines, filters, and valves of the fuel supply system frequently for leaks, especially if the primary fuel pump is a mechanical pump. If at any time a fuel leak is discovered, it’s best to set an anchor and shut the engine off until the source of the leak can be remediated. If there is no backup fuel pump installed, continue to STEP 10.

STEP 10 – Check the fuse in the electric fuel pump circuit. If the fuse is blown, replace it with a *10 amp fuse and proceed to a safe harbor. If the fuse is not blown, continue to STEP 11.

STEP 11 – Install a jumper wire between the fuel pump side of the oil pressure safety switch and the positive terminal of the coil (essentially by-passing the OPSS). If the pump is still not heard to be clicking, or engine will still not start, remove the jumper wire and continue to STEP 12.

STEP 12 – Remove the ½” hex-headed main passageway plug from the bottom of the float chamber and allow the fuel to drain into a clean glass jar. Check for water or other contaminants and operate the fuel pump catching the fuel in the glass jar until the fuel is clean. Replace the main passage plug and try to start the engine. If the engine will still not start, continue to STEP 13.

STEP 13 – (Last desperate attempt) Separate the fuel line at several locations between the pump and the fuel tank and blowback toward the tank to clear any restriction. Use a *three-foot length of fuel line and appropriate fittings to bring the end of the hose to a place where you can blow back into the tank to clear the line. If the fuel supply lines cannot be opened, or the engine will still not start, sail to a safe harbor, or set an anchor and arrange for a tow.

Last edited by Administrator; 04-03-2020 at 02:54 PM.
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  #2   IP: 107.131.11.88
Old 04-03-2020, 01:45 PM
AFisch AFisch is offline
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This is Amazing...and well timed (maybe you were reading my Palmer Thread on Fuel System.

Thank you! As a side note...All of this advice has been given to me recently, but it is nice to have it all in one place!
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Old 04-03-2020, 01:52 PM
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I would add that Step #2 must be done immediately upon shutdown. The longer the test is delayed the greater the chance a damaged coil will cool sufficiently to restore operation and give a false result. Minutes matter.
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prior boats 1987 Westsail 32, 1970 Catalina 22
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Old 04-03-2020, 02:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AFisch View Post
This is Amazing...and well timed (maybe you were reading my Palmer Thread on Fuel System.

Thank you! As a side note...All of this advice has been given to me recently, but it is nice to have it all in one place!
Hi, AF:

I read every single post.

Bill
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  #5   IP: 138.207.175.104
Old 04-03-2020, 02:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ndutton View Post
I would add that Step #2 must be done immediately upon shutdown. The longer the test is delayed the greater the chance a damaged coil will cool sufficiently to restore operation and give a false result. Minutes matter.
Addition made. Thanks, Neil.

Bill
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