Starting your engine on "dead" batteries - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 24 Old 03-16-2020 Thread Starter
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Starting your engine on "dead" batteries

I was going through a locker on the boat full of "stuff" today, trying to clean out some of that junk we boaters collect as we go through life, and I found four US dimes (a 10 cent piece for those unfamiliar with the term dime), neatly wrapped and shiny new.
For those of you who do not have a compression release on your diesels (propulsion or genset) here is an old engineer's trick that may one day save your bacon.
I put this here because having "dead" batteries could put your boat in danger.
When you find yourself with "dead" batteries, you should stop cranking immediately. Next, take off the valve cover and insert one thin dime (and only a dime if you do not want the possibility that the pistons will hit the valves) between the rocker arm and the exhaust valve stem. This will essentially release all compression and what power is left in your batteries should be able to turn the engine over fairly easily.
As the engine turns over, pull out one dime (in the proper firing order) using needle nose pliers and she should begin to run on that one cylinder, perhaps still requiring a bit of help from the starter. As you continue to remove dimes in the correct firing order, your engine should run on 2 or 3 cylinders well enough to get all the dimes out and be running on all cylinders.
Without a valve cover there is obviously going to be quite a bit of oil squirting out, but what's a bit of clean up compared to what could happen if you can't get your engine started?
I hope this will help at least one of you out one day.
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post #2 of 24 Old 03-16-2020
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Re: Starting your engine on "dead" batteries

That's a great shade-tree trick - I hadn't heard it before.

I have a $50 lithium jump pack the size of my hand and only a bit thicker. I've used it to jump 5 dead SUV's now and it turns them right over immediately. Haven't tried it on our boat's engine, but it is kept around just in case. Also doubles as a backup charger for phones/tablets if all power should be lost. It will do 10 phone charges.

It's also a good idea to have an emergency parallel switch to bring the house bank to the battery.

Mark

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post #3 of 24 Old 03-16-2020
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Re: Starting your engine on "dead" batteries

I carry some jumper cables. Farmer simple.

The dime solution makes some sense. I suppose you could do something similar with some aluminum foil folded over a few times.

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post #4 of 24 Old 03-16-2020
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Re: Starting your engine on "dead" batteries

...or you could pull that string that raises those big white floppy things... and sail. I kid.

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post #5 of 24 Old 03-16-2020
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Re: Starting your engine on "dead" batteries

I think firing up the Honda 2000 generator to either charge the batteries or jump assist them. Would be faster and cleaner way to get things started. A wayward dime bouncing around the rocker arms seems like it might do some damage.

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post #6 of 24 Old 03-16-2020
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Re: Starting your engine on "dead" batteries

Cool trick. Sure sounds messy, but a great hack.

I have a switch that will bring house batteries power to the main starter. Thankfully, I've never needed it. I also have a set of jumper cables aboard. I've used them twice in as many years, as my generator start battery is not on a charger. It only charges from the generator itself, which doesn't run often enough. Eventually, I plan to start the generator from the same battery as the main, it's just been low on the list. I could put a battery combiner between the two, but one start for both engines seems like a simpler idea.


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post #7 of 24 Old 03-16-2020 Thread Starter
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Re: Starting your engine on "dead" batteries

Guys, obviously this is not something you'd do if you had other options. Anyone who had other options would be nuts to do this.
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"Any idiot can make a boat go; it takes a sailor to stop one." Spike Africa aboard the schooner Wanderer in Sausalito, Ca. 1964.
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post #8 of 24 Old 03-16-2020
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Re: Starting your engine on "dead" batteries

Another trick that I used once. If you have two 12V batteries that still have a little charge but not enough to crank the engine, temporarily wire them in series to get 24V. Even almost dead batteries will spin the engine quite fast.

The brief time you do this shouldn't hurt the starter but I would turn off everything else 12V. Also might want to disable the alternator as you will have to disconnect the batteries to wire them back to 12V once the engine is cranked. This probably won't work with modern common rail engines since they need power to run and will shut down as soon as you disconnect the batteries.
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post #9 of 24 Old 03-16-2020
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Re: Starting your engine on "dead" batteries

One of the things I liked about my old Volvo MD-17C. It has compression release levers so you could do this trick without the dimes or the mess.

So how come no one puts levers on engines anymore?
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post #10 of 24 Old 03-17-2020
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Re: Starting your engine on "dead" batteries

Quote:
Originally Posted by capta View Post
... Next, take off the valve cover and insert one thin dime (and only a dime if you do not want the possibility that the pistons will hit the valves) between the rocker arm and the exhaust valve stem....
Great hack Capta, thanks for sharing.
I just wonder if it would work with a Canadian dime... but given the exchange rate nowadays prolly not.
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