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Master Mariner
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Discussion Starter #1
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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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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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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Barquito
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...or you could pull that string that raises those big white floppy things... and sail. I kid. :)
 

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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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Master Mariner
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Discussion Starter #7
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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Aspiring Boat Bum
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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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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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... 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.:crying
 

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"I have a $50 lithium jump pack the size of my hand and only a bit thicker." So does everyone else obviously.
"I carry some jumper cables. Farmer simple." Well thanks jeebus you always have friends with batteries within a jumper cable length.
"I think firing up the Honda 2000 generator to either charge the batteries or jump assist them." The hell? Really? Really? THIS strikes you as a useful comment on the matter of an emergency compression release hack?
 

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Master Mariner
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Discussion Starter #12
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.:crying
Now that's funny! I needed a laugh right now, thanks.
 
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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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...."I carry some jumper cables. Farmer simple." Well thanks jeebus you always have friends with batteries within a jumper cable length.......
Most cruising boats have a separate house bank and starter battery, in my case separate main and generator starts too, which jumpers can reach between. It's a pretty cheap and less messy hack for a dead starter battery, but the OP's hack was cool.

I think the post was supposed to be funny, otherwise, I have to wonder how one becomes so "get off my lawn" crotchety to be intolerant of alternative suggestions to a thread titled "Starting your engine on "dead" batteries".
 
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An old trick for getting a start out of "dead" flooded lead acid batteries that have failed out due to low temperatures is to "bootstrap" them. This entails shorting out the battery for about 10 seconds to supposedly warm up the electrolyte in immediate contact with the plates sufficiently to allow the battery to provide the power to crank the engine. It is usually done by attaching jumper cables as normal to the failed out battery and shorting out the other end of the jumpers well away from the possible flammable out gassing of the battery. I suspect it might work with AGM batteries but have never done it or heard of anyone doing it with them, I have no idea what the results would be with gel cells and would in my ignorance expect unfortunate consequences if lithium batteries were subjected to this sort of abuse, BMSs tend to bewilder me still and I would not want to risk damaging the system that is a lithium battery.
If anyone has real world experience with tricks or hacks for kick or hand cranking boat engines to life I'd like to hear about it, and also ideas on how to do that on an engine that no longer has a starting handle crank on hand.
As to such, at best, fatuous recommendations as in the case of having dead batteries to A). DUH... have a charged battery or B). DUH... charge your battery, feel free to get off the lawn.
 

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if lithium batteries were subjected to this sort of abuse, BMSs tend to bewilder me still and I would not want to risk damaging the system that is a lithium battery.
The thing with lithium batteries is by the time they go too low to start an engine, they are completely drained of power and cannot be Mcgyvered in any way to get them to release more. They really do go to the last drop.

Mark
 

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If anyone has real world experience with tricks or hacks for kick or hand cranking boat engines to life I'd like to hear about it, and also ideas on how to do that on an engine that no longer has a starting handle crank on hand.
I have no “real world” experience with these but I have seen these spring loaded starters for sale.

A quick google search brings up this.

https://www.springstarter.com/#

https://www.ipu.co.uk/products/spring-starters/

https://www.atlanticdiesel.com/pdfs/KinetecoBrochure.pdf

It seems that if you have the spring start OR the electric start. Although it seems it is possible, from the starter point of view, to have BOTH starters installed at one time. Apparently the power to the electric starter then passes through the manual starter so that if the manual starter is engaged power is removed from the electrical starter.

I suppose you could have a spring start in you spares kit. Then if the battery fails OR the starter fails you have an alternate system.

No clue of cost.
 

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Master Mariner
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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
"If anyone has real world experience with tricks or hacks for kick or hand cranking boat engines to life I'd like to hear about it, and also ideas on how to do that on an engine that no longer has a starting handle crank on hand."
You could just go buy a crank or have one made by a machine shop!

Sorry, but if you don't release the compression on a diesel, I don't think there is any way to start one without a starter motor. Maybe on a single lunger, but nothing bigger.
Many of the commercial vessels I've run have had hydraulic or air starters. Great idea! One small cargo ship I ran was air start and it could be started off the air tanks or had a hand pump to put enough air in the tank, not quickly mind you, to start the engine. I was told a SCUBA tank would do it as well, but never confirmed this.
Someone could make a nice bit of change building air starters for the most common yacht engines. The nice thing about air and hydraulic starters is that they displace any water that might be in them when used, so they last almost indefinitely.
 

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I was told a story once that said a sister ship started their main diesel by running a halyard down the companionway, around the main pulley and pulled it with an electric winch.

When I heard it, I was a bit in disbelief, the but fella that told it to me is not prone to fairy tales. I don't think. I also can't really tell where the halyard would have been wrapped. At first blush, I think one would need to remove the belts, which you can't replace, after it's started. There is a big smooth weight, on the main pulley, so perhaps they wrapped that enough to create friction and pull the engine over. I'm still skeptical, but who knows in a pinch.
 
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