House batteries won't start engine - ideas? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 25 Old 03-12-2014 Thread Starter
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House batteries won't start engine - ideas?

I would love any suggestions about how to tackle this question -- my sailboat has a 3 batteries and a standard off/1/both/2 Perko switch. Battery 1 is used as the starting battery, even though it is a deep cycle (It was on the boat that way when I bought it). Battery 2 is actually 2 deep cycles (group 27, 830 mca), almost brand new, in parallel. They run the lights, etc fine, but when I turn the switch to battery 2, the starter switch will buzz, but then it will not provide enough juice (it does some, just not enough) to actually start my engine (an old 30 hp diesel). I don't do that except to test that #2 will actually start the engine in case #1 fails, which has not happened lately, so this is not an emergency situation, but I cannot figure out what may be happening. Shouldn't my deep cycles be enough to start the engine? I have considered a wiring problem, but am not an expert and can't logically figure out why, if everything else runs ok on #2, why the engine won't start on it?? Anyone have any ideas of what I should be checking? Is it possible that a loose connection or something means enough power is getting out to handle the lights etc but not the engine? Thank you very much, and I won't be offended if anyone thinks I am misunderstanding basics or missing an obvious issue!
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post #2 of 25 Old 03-12-2014
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Re: House batteries won't start engine - ideas?

Check the voltage, then start cleaning every connection from the batteries to the starter. Start at the batteries, then the starter, then everything in between. It could also be a bad solenoid on the starter.
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post #3 of 25 Old 03-12-2014
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Re: House batteries won't start engine - ideas?

First check all the terminals for corrosion. If that is good and the batts are not sealed buy a battery tester. Do you have a volt or amp meter you can interpret after the engine is running to gauge the battery condition. Search for "Maine Sail" electrical blogs on this site or "Compass Marine". Good luck.

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post #4 of 25 Old 03-12-2014
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Re: House batteries won't start engine - ideas?

what cranking amps is the starter battery or battery bank 1?

the big difference bewteen deep cycle batteries and starter batteries are cranking amps

having said that I became an expert on starting my yanmar 2gm on very VERY low batteries using the decomp levers...

once my deep cycle house bank got below a certain level, even though they were in parallel it made no difference if it was 1, 2 or 4 batteries

a good high cranking amp starter battery(I love truck batteries) is very useful to have singled out for just that

starter batteries are thought of as sprinters where deep cycle are thought of as marathon runners

but it could absolutely be a wiring issue or even a starter motor issue which sounds more plausible to me

is it in good condition? has it ever been rebuilt? contacts and brushes good?

x2 on comments above, start simple...

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Re: House batteries won't start engine - ideas?

Thanks for replying, I appreciate it. I have cleaned the connections on the battery end of things, I haven't otherwise yet. If there were a problem with the starter itself, though, wouldn't that affect starting when on battery #1 also? Or (and sorry if I should know this) are there normally separate wires out of the Perko switch to the starter for #1 and #2 (I didn't think so but maybe). In any case, thanks again
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Re: House batteries won't start engine - ideas?

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Thanks for replying, I appreciate it. I have cleaned the connections on the battery end of things, I haven't otherwise yet. If there were a problem with the starter itself, though, wouldn't that affect starting when on battery #1 also? Or (and sorry if I should know this) are there normally separate wires out of the Perko switch to the starter for #1 and #2 (I didn't think so but maybe). In any case, thanks again

yes it would hence why I asked what cranking amps your starter battery is or size?

for all you know the starter battery might have more power than the 2 combined deep cycles..

it could also be simply that you have bad NEW batteries

it can also be your switch is faulty check voltage at switch

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post #7 of 25 Old 03-12-2014
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Re: House batteries won't start engine - ideas?

If the solenoid chatters it means the battery is low. If there is nothing run a wire from the battery straight to the post that actuates the solenoid. Your starter could be engaged. This will tell you if your switch to turn over the engine is not operating. If nothing happens is your ground to the starter loose? Do not go straight from the battery to the post that connects the battery to the starter. A lot of current is drawn by the starter. Yes clean all your connections as stated in the previous post. I just replaced my starter and it did not start the engine. Took it back out and had it tested. It worked. I am in the process of replacing the starter and broke the frayed wire going to the start button. Electricity is fun!!

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Re: House batteries won't start engine - ideas?

Thank you again for the replies. I will have to check the cranking amps on battery #1, but I would be surprised if they were lower than on #2. I will do a thorough check and cleaning, and see what that fixes. i guess i am still hung up on why it starts fine on #1 and not #2 -- assuming batter(ies) #2 are good, which I will confirm. Thank you again.
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Re: House batteries won't start engine - ideas?

im implying it might be higher than bank 2...bank 2 could be low voltage and not charged properly, or a bad set even if new

if your switch is faulty on number 2 you might not be charging properly and it will be lower voltage than bank number 1...bank number 1 may be a better quality higher amp...

it sounds like there is a problem with bank number 2...thats all.

let us know!

good luck

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post #10 of 25 Old 03-12-2014
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Re: House batteries won't start engine - ideas?

There should not be a problem starting with 2 group 27 batteries if they are in good condition - regardless of their cranking amps.

Since the engine starts fine with the single starter battery the starter is fine.

Clean all connections from the house bank to the Perko battery switch and make sure they are tight. Don't forget the interconnects between the 2 batteries.

Do you have a digital multimeter? If not get one, $15 or less.

Measure the voltage at the posts of the house bank. Then measure it again while trying to crank the engine.

It's possible that there is a bad connection between the house batteries and the Perko switch. We know the wiring is good after the switch as the other battery starts the engine. It could be that the house batteries can run lights etc but do not have enough capacity to start the engine.
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