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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Our Universal 35B, running at approximately 2400 rpm, started to sputter (hesitate, lose power, rpm drop) yesterday. It sounded as though the engine was about to die, but it revived when the throttle was feathered and ran flawlessly for the next 3 hours. The engine has been rock solid for the two and a half years we've owned the boat.

Just prior to this event, all the gauges (rpm, temp, volt, fuel) stopped working. When we got to a place where we could sail, I shut down then restarted the engine, and all the gauges came back on and worked fine. This seemed to be unrelated, but I mention it in case I'm wrong about that.

I'll replace the fuel filters. The bowl on the primary looked fine. Any suggestions regarding either issue? Air in the fuel line?
 

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OK, wild idea but possible. Is your engine stop electric? If so, does it work by energizing the solenoid when the engine is running? If so, all this could be a loose DC connection causing the panel to die and the stop solenoid to try to stop the engine at the same time by cutting off fuel. If was quick, then just maybe not enough to stop the engine but come close?


Otherwise, feels like fuel feed from filters/bleeding/fuel pump...etc.
 

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If you're not regularly using a bacteriostat in your fuel, the first thing that comes to mind is a small 'wad' of string-like bacteria (a pseudomonas) colony had become a temporarily blockage in your fuel tubing or the entrance to your tank's dip tube.
If this is the case then you can probably expect this to happen periodically and at irregular intervals.
BioBor !!! Biobor Jf Fuel Additives - Products
 

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I'd also vote for fuel. If it was an air leak, the leak should still be there creating problems. If the problem "went away" then it is more likely a fuel blockage that got "eaten". That's the part of diesels that I will never love: The fuel. Odds are that if something broke free and clogged the fuel system for a couple of minutes, there's more of it waiting for a less convenient time to create the problem again.

Changing the filters is nice, but it could be worthwhile to try looking inside the tank, and possibly doing the horrid chore of cleaning and purging the whole system if needed. Before it does this again.
 

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I try to do all my filters every year, haven't done this year yet but I try. 21/2 years sounds like a long time to me but not to most I suspect.
 

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I would not be ignoring capecodda on this ! If you had an issue with the gauges, and then the motor trying to shut down, I don't understand the thought process of algae in the fuel ! The electrics showed an issue before the motor issue ! It is only a long time if there is some significant algae growth in the tanks. So either you have a bacteria colony, are buying dirty fuel, or you have a collapsed fuel line or electrical. I would say electrical from what you described !
If you can get at your cover plate for the tank, why not take a look inside the tank, if level is down and see what it looks like! Our boat is 38 years young, and I did an inspection, removing the plate, fuel level low ! Drained what was in there through filters into a drum! There was a thin film of discoloration (red) used a rag with solvent, wiped it down! The tank had not been cleaned since new (1979)! I know because the lid had never been removed, and previous owners.
 

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I agree with mike. The gauge issue and the engine hesitation seem to be linked. As mentioned, you need to see if the engine stop is mechanical (i.e. pull cable) or electrical (solenoid in fuel system). If the later, then that would be further evidence they are linked. If the former, then things get more difficult to diagnose.
 

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I'd also vote for fuel. If it was an air leak, the leak should still be there creating problems. If the problem "went away" then it is more likely a fuel blockage that got "eaten". That's the part of diesels that I will never love: The fuel. Odds are that if something broke free and clogged the fuel system for a couple of minutes, there's more of it waiting for a less convenient time to create the problem again.

Changing the filters is nice, but it could be worthwhile to try looking inside the tank, and possibly doing the horrid chore of cleaning and purging the whole system if needed. Before it does this again.
Actually, could be a problem of both fuel starvation (partial) AND air leakage, especially if the fuel delivery system has 'compression fittings' installed. The partial blockage causes a (momentary?) increased vacuum which overwhelms the ability of the common compression fitting (somewhere between the lift pump and the partial blockage) to 'seal'.

The best way to assay such problems is to have a vacuum gage installed somewhere between the lift pump and the final (not engine mounted) 'working' filter in your 'filter train' .... usually on the outlet nozzle of that last 'working filter' - the 10µM 'Racor'.


Edit/Add.
Vacuum Gage indicators (of problem):
1. Rapidly increasing vacuum followed by vac. returning to 'normal' — partial blockage, usually caused by the 'passing' of a bacterial (colony of deformable 'strings') 'plug'.
2. Steady *high* vacuum — 'workhorse' filters are becoming plugged OR plugged inlet to dip tube.
2a. Steady *high* vacuum followed by 'normal' vac. (w/ engine stumbles) — workhorse filters have unloaded/extruded 'gels'
3. Lower than normal vac (w/ engine stumbles and constant lowered rpm or engine shutdown)— air leak ... or pin hole in lift pump diaphragm (usually accompanied by 'vibrating' or 'unsteady' gage needle).
3a. Lower than normal vac. (no change in engine rpm) — broken filter pleat
 

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I would look at the electrical the 35b has an electric fuel lift pump and some have a fuel shut off solenoid which are part of the engine wire harness
 

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Our Universal 35B, running at approximately 2400 rpm, started to sputter (hesitate, lose power, rpm drop) yesterday. It sounded as though the engine was about to die, but it revived when the throttle was feathered and ran flawlessly for the next 3 hours. The engine has been rock solid for the two and a half years we've owned the boat.

Just prior to this event, all the gauges (rpm, temp, volt, fuel) stopped working. When we got to a place where we could sail, I shut down then restarted the engine, and all the gauges came back on and worked fine. This seemed to be unrelated, but I mention it in case I'm wrong about that.

I'll replace the fuel filters. The bowl on the primary looked fine. Any suggestions regarding either issue? Air in the fuel line?
By coincidence I am now trouble shooting some low voltage issues with our '88 M25XP. Your engine likely also has a re-branded Facet lift pump. Ours has suddenly gotten intermittent, and so far I have traced it to a one volt drop from the panel the pump. Wire to pump has been replaced once (by passed the old Universal wire bundle with its two in-line "trailer plugs"... looks like we need to replace that multi-wire cable soon.
I am just getting into this problem, and it is threatening to derail our coastal trip we had planned.
Sometimes... you just have to accept reality.

For your engine I would certainly look at the electrics first, and then at that age of installation would inspect the fuel delivery. Do you know if your Catalina is in the vintage with the dreaded screen over the fuel pickup in the tank? And, if your tank has a dip tube rather than an outlet at the bottom, is there a tiny crack developing in the weld area where that tube meets the top?

Just guessing here.... several friends have Catalinas and Newports with the same drive train.

Good luck to you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thank you for help/suggestions. I've lined up a diesel mechanic to take a look at the electrical system/engine and will post his findings.

We sailed on Sunday with family. Engine and gauges worked flawlessly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Mechanic didn't call so I changed the filters, and we went for a four day cruise down the Potomac, then down the Chesapeake Bay to Antipoison Creek. We motored for just over 20 hours in total, and the engine and gauges were fine.

Thank you all for the suggestions/help. It may well be an intermittent electrical issue, but my fear is that if I fool with it, I'll make it worse.

I must have implied that I hadn't changed fuel filters since we bought the boat. My fault. It had been about 120 hours since I last changed them. Longer than I meant.

mrmac

If the fuel in the Racor bulb looks clean and waterless, do you just swap a new filter for the old one, top up with fuel, and close it up?
 
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