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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance > Engines > Diesel
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Diesel This is a new forum dedicated to diesel engines and their applicable accessories.


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Old 12-29-2009
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Universal M3-20 Cold Starting

I recently bought my first boat a Catalina 30 with the original Universal M3-20. I only get to use the boat once per week sometimes 3 times per month. The engine starts fine most of the time. However in cold temperature or when I have not started the boat for awhile it is hard to start the boat it takes multiple attempts. I spray that starter spray but sometimes it does not work.

What is the proper way to start a cold diesel engine or am I facing an expensive repair?
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Old 12-29-2009
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Be warned that starting fluid causes problems with your rings and will lead to expensive repair if you use it a lot. Keeping a can of it aboard for emergencies is a good idea but long term use is not.

A diesel engine will start in reasonably cold temperatures as long as it has good fuel flow and it cranks fast enough to build heat. Cranking quickly is a function of having good electrical connections, good batteries and no excessive loads on the engine(starting in gear, heavier weight oil than needed, seized alternator etc). In trucks, lots of people use synthetic oil because it allows the engine to roll over easier. If you have any doubt about cranking speed, a good place to start is cleaning all of your connections.

Another common culprit is a small air leak in the fuel system. Rubber lines dry out and crack and even though the cracks are often not visible, they will still let in air. Sometimes parts like rigid lines develop leaks as well. These leaks can be very difficult to find but they lead to a very hard starting condition if they are not found.

The other possibility is simply that the engine is tired and isn't hitting high enough cylinder pressures to generate enough heat. This can generally be seen by a lot of blue smoke on startup. You can also do a compression test to check.
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Old 12-29-2009
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Hello.

Diesels do not like to start cold.

Your engine should have glow plugs. Make sure that they work. Make sure you use them for 30 seconds to 1 minute when it's cold. Make sure your battery is in good condition. Make sure that your electrical connections (battery to starter, battery to key, battery to glow plugs, key to starter, etc.) are in good condition.

If you check all that, your engine should start OK when cold. When it's real cold, like in the 30's, it will be even harder. If you have shore power you can either provide some heat in the engine compartment (a light bulb or something) or maybe a cabin heater with the engine lid open, or maybe a hair drier on the engine block and air intake. All that will help.

As a last resort the starter fluid can be used, but use it sparingly. Spray a little on the air filter, wait a minute (while the glow plugs are heating up) and then try to start the engine.

My engine, a 1986 Universal M25, has over 3500 hours on it. It runs great but does not like to start when the temperature is below 40. I don't do much sailing then, so it doesn't bother me much. The engine starts fine when the temp is 65 or above. I probably have low compression, but I don't plan on doing anything about that.

Barry
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Last edited by BarryL; 12-30-2009 at 08:14 PM.
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Old 12-30-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BarryL View Post
Hello.


Your engine should have glow plugs.

Barry
That, strangely enough for me, it does have...

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Old 12-31-2009
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If your engine has glow plugs you are never supposed to use starting fluid.
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Old 12-31-2009
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Torrenson Marine has excellent instructions for cold starting. Go to their site and download the info. very helpful.
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Old 01-03-2010
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Barry,

your engine is based on a Kubota D-850 engine and new glow plugs should be obtainable from a Kubota tractor dealer or from one of the many online dealers without paying Westerbeke/Universals grossly marked up parts prices.

I noted your thoughts on your the engine hours and possible low compression. If you do want to continue running the engine for a time before rebuilding, please DO NOT use starting fluid, the initial combustion is far too violent for use in diesel engines. Instead use WD-40, it is safer to use and gentler on the engine.
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Old 01-08-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by perlasowner View Post
I recently bought my first boat a Catalina 30 with the original Universal M3-20. I only get to use the boat once per week sometimes 3 times per month. The engine starts fine most of the time. However in cold temperature or when I have not started the boat for awhile it is hard to start the boat it takes multiple attempts. I spray that starter spray but sometimes it does not work.

What is the proper way to start a cold diesel engine or am I facing an expensive repair?
First of all DO NOT use starting fluid on this motor. You are likely to cause permanent damage. It might well be that the glow plugs, one or more might be faulty. Secondly, you might be getting air into the fuel system. My M3-20 is self bleeding, but it sometimes takes a while to get the fuel into the system and the air out. Are you holding the "preheat" button in for a full 30 seconds? This turns on the fuel pump as well as heating the glow plugs. Compression testing can be done by removing the injector(s) or maybe a glow plug.

Barry
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Last edited by Bazzer; 01-08-2010 at 08:15 PM.
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