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  #1  
Old 08-31-2008
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Diesel dies after approx. an hour

Hey Folks,

I looked around and didn't find a thread along the lines of the problem I'm having so here's hoping I'm not a repeat. Looking to get a view point or two beyond the conclusions I'm drawing to see about getting this problem fixed.

Anyway, here is the story and my ideas. Couple weeks ago we were out, and the diesel just died when I went to throttle up a bit. Tried to start the boat, would run for a couple seconds and die. Checked the racor, full of fuel, no water, no grim. Got a tow, had the marina mechanic take a look and fix a couple of small things I needed attended too.

Mechanic looks at the boat after charging the battery back up after I killed it trying to get the boat going again, and it starts up right away for them. So we get the boat back, I top up the diesel with good fresh fuel, add some biobor, and some tank cleaner to be safe, and not really sure what else to try. We go out today and the engine dies again.

I'm wondering if the secondary filter could be clogged but fills up from gravity or something while the boat is at rest and if just eats what I can then starves and dies. Everything is supposed to be self bleeding, even the shop manual for the engine (westerbeke 10) stated the same, but I'm going to take another look at that when I get back to the marina.

I'm going to pull both filters and check them to see the state to be safe, especially the secondary as I don't know when that was last changed before I took ownership of the boat, the Racor is new. The fuel "looks" clean and there appears to be no presence of water in the bowl.

So any ideas what I should also look into? An hour of run time in an area with good currents and lots of freighter traffic before I can even get my sails up isn't too cool

Thanks folks!
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Old 08-31-2008
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check the lift pump,

Sounds like the same symptom I had on our perkins, we went though and check or replace just about everything fuel related, and it turned out to be a weak lift pump


One other thing to check would be the fuel tank vent, make sure it's not restricted, plugged or kinked
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Old 08-31-2008
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I'm gonna second Pappy's comment about the tan vent. This line must be clear to avoid a suction vacuum from being formed. Sometimes insects get in to block it and sometime a low point in the line can collect overflow diesel and block the line. To check...remove the line at the tank and blow it out.
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Old 08-31-2008
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I'll go along with Pappy...It's probably the lift pump aka the low pressure, engine mounted pump, or the engine-mounted fuel filter is partially clogged. The reason it runs for a while, then fails, then runs again after cool down is the crap in the filter settles to the bottom when the engine isn't being run and there's no suction on the filter element. Fire the engine up, a little vibration stirs the crap in the bottom up and it glops itself all over the filter element again.

As to a weak lift/primary pump, they have rubber diaphragms that get stretched out, and that stretching is worse when they're physically warm.

My suggestion: get rid of the mechanical pump on the engine and switch to an electric pump. Less hassle to prime the engine if you run the tank dry, easier to troubleshoot and finally, you pick up a horse or three because the mechanical pumps run off a lobe on the camshaft (usually) and steal horsepower.
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Old 08-31-2008
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A friend of mine had a similar problem, so I checked everything, including the filters (more for air leaks than dirt, as he had already changed the elements) and bled the system.

Fired right up and ran. For about five minutes. Pptttth. Dies.

Again and again. Finally, we found a tiny pinhole corroded into the top of the lift pump. It wasn't leaking much fuel, but it was sucking air.

Changed it out, all things good.
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Old 08-31-2008
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Cool thanks guys I'll check all that when I get down there today or tomorrow and report back! Checking the lines to the tank is going to be a real treat!
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Old 08-31-2008
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They say there are generally three things that can go wrong with a diesel:

1: Fuel

2: Fuel

3: Fuel

I second all of what's been suggested, especially the vent and crud in the pickup tube in the tank. One way that you can "possibly" learn more about if you have crud getting bounced around is to stay at your slip on a calm day and run the engine for an hour or so (in gear well tied down) and see if it dies the same without all the crud jostling around. Does it stop like clockwork at 1 hr or does it run okay until you take the boat out?

Another fun trick is take a CLEAN jerry can, put a gallon or two of diesel without biocide and disconnect the pickup from the tank and run straight from the jerrycan. If you can run indefinitely from the jerry can you have a tank contamination issue. You can also try running from the can before the Racor, then before the secondary. You can move the can above the engine for gravity assist and then with a long hose put it real low to see how good your lift pump is doing. Of course the easiest way to see if you have a tank problem is to open an inspection port and peer in. But boats never have those do they....?

Also, since it dies on a schedule, do you have a temp guage? Is it working? Any chance the engine is overheating and then switching itself off? I ask because I find the "cool down" time suspicious.

Good luck, a little sleuthing and you'll find it. Just let us know what it was.

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Old 08-31-2008
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I'll do the filters first, check the lines and follow up with the above mentioned. Least that way I'll know everything is ship shape if all works from that point forward. Good question about inspection port. All I can see through the removable stair well is the back of the tank, but there is an access port down the quarter berth, and a wood shelf on top of the tank maybe that will easily pop off and I will be pleasantly surprised with a port

As for the temperature guage, it has one and appears to work, the alarm for over heat never goes off but that could just mean that it doesn't work either! I should grab the multi-meter and see if all is well there while I'm at it.

It took us a good hour and a half to get towed back yesterday plus the 45 minutes I spent bobbing at anchor watching the freighters go by, and the engine still wouldn't fire up in the slip, it would just run for a second, and just die. Not sputter, or anything just off it went. So I think we're safe on the heat side.
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And out of curiosity, not really to prove much, first thing I'll do is fire up the engine when I get down to the boat and see if she starts and warms up like the past couple of times.
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Old 09-01-2008
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There was a thread on this topic running on another blog. Here is a copy of one of the posts there that seems on target here:

RichH
Worton Creek, MD
08/30 at 11:26AM
General_interest
Reply #3 Not necessarily .....
Loosening of the crud is no guarantee that it will be captured in the filters. Much of this 'deposition' on the tank walls (bio-resins, dead cells, etc.) is by soft/deformable particles/gels which will/can quickly 'extrude' through common nominally rated 5-10ĶM 'filters', especially if there is a high differential pressure or 'high flow' across the filters.

What eventually happened to this 'problem' was that the extrodinarily high amount of small (soft/deformable/'sticky' particles agglomerated (small particles coming together to form or 'coalesce' into larger particles) and 'bridged' together in the dip tube - pretty common of liquids with a 'high solids %' concentration.

The scrubbing is the most effective for crud removal, then a tank rinse ....THEN you recirculation polish the fuel. Most commercial fuel polishers know or should know better.
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