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post #1 of 24 Old 04-19-2016 Thread Starter
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cold starting woes

Over the past 2 sailing seasons my Westerbeke W30 4-cylinder normally aspirated diesel has gotten harder and harder to start after sitting for more than a day or two. I have 2 new house batteries and a 700CCA start battery, so I know batteries aren't the issue. The starter is new. Once it DOES start, there's no smoke, white, gray, or otherwise. It runs great. If I start it within 24 hours it starts easily and immediately.

When I go to start it after it's been sitting, in the first 5 seconds or so of cranking it almost catches... then... nothing. Not a hint of a catch, just turns over and over and over and over and over. NO FUEL is getting to the cylinders, or it would at least blow grey/white smoke out of the exhaust. The only way to get it going is to crack the injectors, turn it over a couple of times, tighten them back up, and crank it again. This past weekend I had to do that three times, which is a first. I've replaced all of the fuel lines and filters, the fuel/water separator, to no avail.

I've also been reading a lot on various diesel forums. I think my problem is the mechanically-driven low pressure lift pump on the engine. I've sourced one, but before I pull the trigger on a $450 part I wanted to see what other people think... one of my least favorite things is replacing a part only to find out it didn't fix the problem.

I really appreciate any and all help.

Thanks.

Dave
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Vancouver, BC, CANADA
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post #2 of 24 Old 04-19-2016
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Re: cold starting woes

I've read of this problem lots of times. have you considered an electric fuel pump?

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post #3 of 24 Old 04-19-2016 Thread Starter
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Re: cold starting woes

Electric pump sure would be cheaper BUT, I'd need to figure out how to remove the existing mechanical pump, plug the hole, etc. As the diesel fuel lubricates the existing pump I can't just let it run dry. Also how do I get the electrical pump to turn on and off with the engine as there's virtually zero electronics on this motor. Ideally I'd set it up with a looped fuel supply with a 5-10 psi check valve on the return line... that way I don't blow hoses, or burn out the pump, or over-pressurize my secondary filter. Lots of work given that the tank is directly under the cabin sole with a couple inches of access and no extra fitting to use as a return.
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Re: cold starting woes

Sounds like a slowly worsening air leak on your pickup line somewhere. First thing I'd do is pull your pickup tube out of the tank. Pinholes above the fuel level can give you this continual need to 'bleed' your system.

You could try filling the fuel tank to the top and see if the issue goes away for a while, only to return when the leak is exposed again. Failing that it will be a poorly sealed fitting between the tank and the lift pump (has to be on the suction side of the system or you'd have a diesel leak)

If this is a recent phenomenon an undiscovered air leak is the likely cause.
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post #5 of 24 Old 04-19-2016 Thread Starter
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Re: cold starting woes

Hmm. I like the idea of fuel lines from a cost standpoint but as I noted the fuel tank is beyond inaccessible on this boat. If the pickup tube is rigid I think I'd be hard pressed to even remove it from the tank. The tank is rarely below half, newer than 10 years old, and often full at the dock as we tend to fill it up on our way in so as to avoid having to do so when we're ready to head out. So, I don't think it's in the tank. In fact, my fingers are crossed. I did not replace the fuel line between the tank and the fuel/water separator when I did the rest of the lines and there's also an ancient in-line fuel shutoff valve, that will be my next job. It will be simple to do. It would be great if 6' of new fuel line was all I needed. Next time I'm at the boat I will close the in-line fuel valve on the line from the tank, pull the feed line off the Racor and see if any fuel leaks out. Should be pretty obvious if it's empty.

What makes you think it's not the lift pump?

I'm having a hard time conceptualizing what would be going on if I had a leak on the low-pressure side upstream of (before) my lift pump. Fuel runs from the tank to a Racor filter/water separator mounted at about the same height as the middle of the tank. Then it's downhill to the lift pump which is mounted at the bottom of the engine, uphill again to the secondary filter, downhill to the injector pump, uphill to the injectors. If I had a leak either in the tank or on the feed line between tank and Racor, then that line would drain back into the tank. There would still be fuel in the Racor, and in all the rest of the lines. The lift pump would still have fuel in it (it's the lowest component in the fuel system) and access to all the fuel in the Racor. I'm not smelling any diesel in my bilge, so if there's a leak it's gotta be high up, at the tank outlet fitting or either side of my inline valve... anyplace else and I'd get diesel leaking out rather than air leaking in... right?

Any my last question: why is the engine unable to start with the fuel remaining in the secondary fuel filter and injector pump not to mention the Racor, lift pump and fuel lines? Based on the amount of mess that occurs replacing the secondary fuel filter there's at least a minute or two of fuel in there, at least a cup and probably a couple of cups in the Racor... that's why I suspected the pump.

Last edited by David Spear; 04-19-2016 at 02:56 PM.
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post #6 of 24 Old 04-19-2016
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Re: cold starting woes

An electric fuel pump has a built in pressure relief valve.so thats not a problem. If your injector return line doubles back into it's closed circuit it's not self bleeding for any air that sucks in due to failure some where. Look to the vent .Is it big enough and positioned right for a T. A failing diaphragm in the lift pump can be source of sucked in air as fuel tends to want to go gravityi back to tank .If you bypass it with electric it will lube Ok but always a risk if plumbing not removed.
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post #7 of 24 Old 04-19-2016 Thread Starter
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Re: cold starting woes

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Originally Posted by Capt Len View Post
An electric fuel pump has a built in pressure relief valve.so thats not a problem. If your injector return line doubles back into it's closed circuit it's not self bleeding for any air that sucks in due to failure some where. Look to the vent .Is it big enough and positioned right for a T. A failing diaphragm in the lift pump can be source of sucked in air as fuel tends to want to go gravityi back to tank .If you bypass it with electric it will lube Ok but always a risk if plumbing not removed.
Does the electric pump have to be of the variety that sits in the tank so that no return line is required when the over-pressure is vented or is there an in-line that will do what's required with out a return line?

I am thinking you mean that I can tee my return line from an electric pump back into the tank vent line, and that the vent line has to be big enough to allow the returning fuel to flow back to the tank while maintaining air in the line so the vent still works and so that no fuel can flow out the vent pipe and overboard. Yes? It would depend on how much flow there is from the electric... I would also add a check valve onto the vent to prevent fuel from flowing out the vent.

There is probably a removable access on top of the tank to allow for inspection and cleaning which could be tapped for a return line without too much trouble. Maybe.

I'll do the fuel line first and, if that doesn't fix the problem, may look at an in-line electric.
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post #8 of 24 Old 04-19-2016
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Re: cold starting woes

air leak before the lift pump. had the same problem and the bango fitting on the pump was on but not tight enough. did not leak fuel but leaked air in and the line would siphon back to the tank.
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Re: cold starting woes

I am not sure if you have glow plugs, but if you do it would be a good idea to check that they are working, or simply replace them.

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Re: cold starting woes

Trying to fire without glow plugs wouldn't be 'fixed' by bleeding the injector, and would produce quite a bit of smoke.

A failed lift pump would/should not introduce air into the system (although, depending on design a failed diaphragm might). If you're getting air out of the injector line it's getting in there before the lines are under pressure, which leaves the pickup side.

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