Diesel quits in rough water or tight turn - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 04-27-2009
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Diesel quits in rough water or tight turn

Hi All:
I just bought a '74 Columbia 34 with a 1989 Westerbeke 30b.
The diesel has only 150 hours -- less than 10 hours per year!
The PO swears he started the engine at least once per month.
I ran the engine for over an hour during the sea trial with no problems.
The fuel gauge showed about 7/8 full and the needle wiggles around.
A week later I take possession.
I turn on the key and the fuel gauge is dead. Kaput. No reading.
I tap on the side of the fuel tank to make sure it is still nearly full.
So I start the engine and run it in and out of gear for 20 minutes at the dock.
No problems.
We shove off and 15 minutes later we come to a draw bridge.
I do a "figure 8" while waiting for the bridge to open.
The diesel suddenly stops but I am able to restart it immediately.
A tight turn or a big powerboat wake kills the engine every time.
There's about a five second delay before the engine stops.
So when a decent wake hits I can count to five and bingo no engine or it almost quits and I keep it going by working the throttle.
A pretty neat trick but my wife is not impressed.
The Racor bowl appears clean.
There's no sediment in it at all.
Will the pink dye in the diesel also dye any water pink?
AFAIK the racor may be full of pink water.
I am told that if I drain the Racor I will have to bleed the fuel system.
I am also told that my diesel is "self bleeding" and go ahead and drain.
I don't know what to believe.
Thanks for any help...
Jeff
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Old 04-27-2009
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First off are you sure you have enough fuel in the tank? If you are then I'd see if there is an inspection port you can peek into and take a sample of the fuel from the bottom of the tank. It sounds like you may something in the bottom of the tank that blocks your intake when you rock and roll. It may well be sludge from old fuel. Have you looked at the Racor filter? The fuel may look nice and clean in the bowl but that doesn't mean the filter isn't dirty. If the PO only ran it 10 hrs a year then chances are the fuel is old and quite possibly contaminated. That's where I would start.
Good luck
Mike
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Old 04-27-2009
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Sounds like your tank may have a small bit of debri in it that is able to temporarily plug the pick-up. If it's not leaking, coupled with the fuel gauge 'suddenly' not working, that's what I would check.
Second posability is that the pick-up tube has a crack in it that is exposed when the fuel sloshes to one side. This will ONLY happen if the fuel line enters at the top of the tank with an internal drop. If the fuel line enters at the bottom of the tank, it's most likely debri.

I've dealt with the issue on a few vehicles, in one case it was a marble that somehow got dropped into the tank. ( I'm thinking one got dropped into a fuel jug, then into the tank)

Ken.
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Old 04-27-2009
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Not a lot of things can kill a diesel - except fuel starvation. That is what it sounds like. Could be any number of things. I agree with checking/replacing the filter and draining it. I had a similar problem on a diesel boat once. She would run in idle but would not run if a load was put on her. It was the filter as not enough fuel was getting through. If that boat never left the dock, that could be it??? Also, if that fuel is really old, I would suck that tank dry, clean it out, and replace the fuel. I would replace the filters and make sure there were no secondary filters afterwards (many diesels have a secondary fine filter after the primary). I am guessing it could not be a booster/fuel pump issue or it likely would not start at all.

That is where I would start... but many others know better about this than me. I am no diesel mechanic.

- CD
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Old 04-27-2009
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We had a similar problem with our Westerbeke. Turned out to be a bad connection on the fuel pump, so pump was not working consistently. Engine ran on fuel in the lines, then quit unless the connection jiggled and the pump got power to run and fill the lines.

We suspected bad fuel, even though the boat was new, and fuel was from a reputable marina. Went through new set of filters, new fuel pump, new solenoids, and a couple of tows in from the bay until we found the bad wire.

Just saying....slowly work through the fuel system, eliminating causes from MOST likely down the list, but check EVERYTHING.
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Just to add to CD's comments. I had Westerbeke 30B in our last boat and had fuel pick up problems with it when new. I replaced the fuel pump only to learn later that there is a tiny filter in the intake of the pump. Most likely that filter had some debris in it. The engine would start fine but falter in rough water, not unlike your's is doing. It would run fine up to 1500 rpms but anything over that was suspect. While I mentioned the fuel pump filter I doubt it's your problem, but if all else fails I'd check it. It's supossed to be located behind the intake barb. I'd be more inclined to think it's a dirty tank/fuel situation. It definately sounds like a fuel starvation issue. If so you'll need to clean the tank the best you can and then be prepared to change your Racor filters on a frequent basis until it's cleared up. FYI there are service companies that will clean your tank for you. So if you think it's really gunked up you may want to invest in their services.
Mike
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MJBrown View Post
Just to add to CD's comments. I had Westerbeke 30B in our last boat and had fuel pick up problems with it when new. I replaced the fuel pump only to learn later that there is a tiny filter in the intake of the pump. Most likely that filter had some debris in it. The engine would start fine but falter in rough water, not unlike your's is doing. It would run fine up to 1500 rpms but anything over that was suspect. While I mentioned the fuel pump filter I doubt it's your problem, but if all else fails I'd check it. It's supossed to be located behind the intake barb. I'd be more inclined to think it's a dirty tank/fuel situation. It definately sounds like a fuel starvation issue. If so you'll need to clean the tank the best you can and then be prepared to change your Racor filters on a frequent basis until it's cleared up. FYI there are service companies that will clean your tank for you. So if you think it's really gunked up you may want to invest in their services.
Mike

True Mike.

My only concern would be polishing the fuel versus just replacing given the low gallonage. Polishing can be expensive and is often reserved for larger tankaged vessels (like trawlers where you certainly don't want to trash 1200 gallons of fuel don't ask me how I know!!!) Still, if you can get someone to do it inexpensively, that would rule some of that out. You will still have the problem of what is in the lines. Possible dissconect the "out" hose from before it enters the block and let her sit there and drain viza the pump running? I did that with my generator once to make sure I was getting a solid stream of fuel (after all the filters). I just let the pump run into a coffee can for a bit.

Secondary filters vary. However, on the generator we have a tube-type inline filter well aft of the primary.

Could it also be a partially clogged injector?? Seems the least likely, I guess.

The fuel pump connection was a good suggestion. I bet that was an absolute nightmare to track down!!

- CD
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I suspect it might be something electrical because of the fuel guage going dead.
I'm going to check the connections at the fuel pump tomorrow.
It runs fine under full load at the dock...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cruisingdad View Post
The fuel pump connection was a good suggestion. I bet that was an absolute nightmare to track down!!
Took us the good part of a season to get it figured out. Good news is we learned alot along the way, and acquired a lot of useful spare parts (fuel filters, fuel pumps, switches, etc).

Lessons included:

1) when you are getting blown onto a lee shore during a thunderstorm and your engine won't start, the anchor may or may not hold .
2) the dinghy, rafted to the stern, will push the boat JUST enough to keep her off the lee shore
3) have your wife put on a life vest BEFORE she climbs into the dinghy
4) the anchor rode can double as a tow line

. . . .and on and on and on...it was a frustrating, high learning curve season.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MMR View Post
Took us the good part of a season to get it figured out. Good news is we learned alot along the way, and acquired a lot of useful spare parts (fuel filters, fuel pumps, switches, etc).

Lessons included:

1) when you are getting blown onto a lee shore during a thunderstorm and your engine won't start, the anchor may or may not hold .
2) the dinghy, rafted to the stern, will push the boat JUST enough to keep her off the lee shore
3) have your wife put on a life vest BEFORE she climbs into the dinghy
4) the anchor rode can double as a tow line

. . . .and on and on and on...it was a frustrating, high learning curve season.


My dinghy is on davits behind a full dodger.
My wife doesn't need a life vest because she won't get on the boat anymore.
My anchor rode is all chain -- not too good for towing.
Are your useful spare parts for a Westerbeke 30b?
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