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Discussion Starter #1
Has anyone started their diesel engines with a torch as a preheater from the air intake? I have a Westerbeke 4107 - going on one year new to me. It is cold natured during the winter. A mechanic in a very reputable yard, the boat is no longer there, helped me start it in March last year with a heat gun. I have a glow plug in the top of the intake, which may need replaced, but haven't done that yet...I know it works, just not how well. I would like to know if a torch will serve the same purpose, safely, as the heat gun, for future use. Power for the heat gun isn't always available.
thanks
 

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Master Mariner
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Diesel is generally considered to be a safe fuel, but I do think a propane torch would be pushing things a bit. Start the engine as it was designed to with the glow plug unless you have your boat very well insured.
 

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Hey,

What happens if you try to start the engine 'as is'? Do you use the glow plugs at all? Does the engine eventually start? What temps are you trying to start the engine at?

My last boat had a Universal Diesel with about 4000 hours on it. It ran great but did not like to start when the temps were below 50. It had glow plugs, and I rewired them, and that helped, but the engine was hard to start below 50. I would have to crank it for over 10 seconds (when it was 70 out it would start in 2-3 seconds). If the batteries were low it would not want to start at all.

For me, the solution was starting fluid (ether). I know most people would not recommend it, but for me it worked great. Spray a 1 second shot into the intake, wait a minute, then the engine would start in 2-3 second when the exterior temp was 30. Since I'm mostly a fair weather sailor, I only used ether 3-4 times a year. I did that for 5-6 years without any problems.

Good luck,
Barry
 

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Tartan 37
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I resorted to ether a few times on my old Westerbeake 50 when it was cold...it just made awful sounds. As I understand it, its pretty common for large diesel trucks to have ether injection on them for cold starts but I just think thats a last resort knowing it could do serious damage to the engine?

A reputable mechanic suggested I pull the fuel and crank the engine for 5-10 seconds and not dump cold fuel into the cylinder. ..then push the fuel stop in and crank it like normal. This worked very well for me, no awful noise and actually put less wear on the starter and batteries.

I'm not mechanic but plan B made better sense to me.

I have also heard using WD 40 or propane (unlite) but never a lit torch?

These days, even in the cold my new Beta starts like a gas engine and havent used the glow plugs yet, how sweet it is ;)
 

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Bombay Explorer 44
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What you call a heater may well be a CAV Thermostart. This drips diesel onto a heating element. When you crank the diesel ignites and the flames are drawn into the cylinders. This is an excellent cold start device and is still available.

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Thermostart-Flame-Heater-Glow-Plug-Perkins-Case-Massey-CAV-1854050-0-131-54-/121218138141

Boring story. I was on a recovery in the middle of nowhere trying to pull a tracked vehicle out of a tidal channel. It had been submerged for 3 hours. We changed the oil and supplied fresh diesel plus a new battery but it would not start. [ It was brass monkey weather ] An Irish laborer showed us how to crumple up newspaper stuff it into the inlet manifold, pour on a little diesel and ignite the paper. We cranked and she fired up straight away. Exhaust was interesting for a few seconds.

But in answer to the OPs question, yes any heat source fed into the inlet manifold will help. I have used hair dryer, heat gun, butane torch etc over the years. If using a butane torch remove the air filter element. [ This is important! ]
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you for all the responses. I'll try to clarify a few issues. The glow plug is on the air intake and supposed to create a small flame that is then sucked into the air intake. I don't think it is a CAV heater, from memory it looked more like a glow plug in size, but I'll check soon. And I'm not sure if it actually ignites, this is on my long list of to do's and probably replace. I've only used the heat gun a few times and it works well with the air intake bell removed, but I don't think I can run it with my current setup off the batteries/converter. I was interested in other heating approaches only for situations when away from a dock as a last resort. Also this Westerbeke 4107 doesn't have block glow plugs. When the temp is below 50, approximately, it does become more difficult to start without heat. Thanks again for the help.
 

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Has anyone started their diesel engines with a torch as a preheater from the air intake? I have a Westerbeke 4107 - going on one year new to me. It is cold natured during the winter. A mechanic in a very reputable yard, the boat is no longer there, helped me start it in March last year with a heat gun. I have a glow plug in the top of the intake, which may need replaced, but haven't done that yet...I know it works, just not how well. I would like to know if a torch will serve the same purpose, safely, as the heat gun, for future use. Power for the heat gun isn't always available.
thanks
The use of a high temperature open flame device in an engine space would be the height of folly in my view. (I can just imagine how you'd try to explain that to an insurance adjuster inspecting the ashes of your yacht.)

FWIW, the built in pre-heater or "flame start" system for 4-107/108 engines works quite well when necessary in very cold weather. Given your listed locale, however, it would seem to rarely be needed, however. That aside, use of the pre-heater requires that one hold the starting key in the "heat position" for 30-45 seconds or more until a trickle of fuel is ignited in the enclosed throat of the air intake. (When the fuel ignites, one can sometimes hear a "womp" sound.) With that, the engine will start up quite easily, typically within only a few revolutions.
 

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Bombay Explorer 44
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The link I gave includes a pic. There should be a small tank expresso cup size that gravity feeds the unit.

Energize the heater unit for 10 to 15 seconds before cranking.

The diesel does not 'catch' till you start cranking.
 

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Mebbe we're more squeemish/less adventurous nowadays?;)

I seem to recall reading somewher about back in the day there was a diesel that had a sheet metal tray that one would build a(n actual!) fire upon to pre-heat!
Not that I'd do that :eek: ; but I *have* been tempted on occasion :D

My Beta starts with some irregularity most times;particularly when less than 60 or so degrees. I tend to watch these types of threads carefully.

Carry On
 

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The reason WD40 (mainly kerosene) and unlit propane work, is because they tend to explode when compressed more easily than diesel does. Which in turn is why spray cans of "starting ether" are sold for that purpose, the ether explodes very readily.

Testing or replacing a glow plug shouldn't be a hard job though.
 

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I have read that engines with pre-combustion chambers can be severely damaged by ether. I used a very small shot of it once in my VW diesel in -15 degree Fahrenheit weather after just about flattening my battery, as the last resort, fired immediately, no damage, luckily.

Used ether every cold start on my Detroit 3-71 two stroke, direct injected diesel, worked fine, saving a lot of cranking. Just a quick shot did it.

Paul T
 

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Hey,

What happens if you try to start the engine 'as is'? Do you use the glow plugs at all? Does the engine eventually start? What temps are you trying to start the engine at?

My last boat had a Universal Diesel with about 4000 hours on it. It ran great but did not like to start when the temps were below 50. It had glow plugs, and I rewired them, and that helped, but the engine was hard to start below 50. I would have to crank it for over 10 seconds (when it was 70 out it would start in 2-3 seconds). If the batteries were low it would not want to start at all.

For me, the solution was starting fluid (ether). I know most people would not recommend it, but for me it worked great. Spray a 1 second shot into the intake, wait a minute, then the engine would start in 2-3 second when the exterior temp was 30. Since I'm mostly a fair weather sailor, I only used ether 3-4 times a year. I did that for 5-6 years without any problems.

Good luck,
Barry
I have a Universal 5424. Even in 40 degrees, I just touch the starter button and it fires right up, as long as you give the glow plugs 40s. What you needed to do on the engine was fix whatever was wrong, not use starter fluid.

Starter fluid is always a mask for whatever is truly wrong.
 

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Starter fluid is what you use to get out of trouble, like in an emergency. If you have to use it all the time, you need to check out your compression or if it is cold, the cold start system, glow plug or what ever. Nearly every modern diesel bigger than a biscuit has a cold start system either fitted or as an option.

Having said that, if you use starting fluid of what ever sort, use as little as possible. No long PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSST! Just a short one of a second or a bit less. A PSSST should get you going.

What you put into the intake goes into the cylinder on the first revolution or two. If it does not fire within the first few revolutions, you have a problem that needs fixing.

The injection pump starts putting diesel fuel in just a bit before top dead center so the air is already compressed. This greatly reduces the tendency of the engine to kick back on the starter and it does not put way too much fuel in on the first stroke.

The starting fluid goes into the cylinder with the air so as soon as the compressed air is hot enough to ignite the fuel, it will fire. This could be considerably before top dead center of the piston stroke. This can cause the engine to kick back and damage the starter and other engine parts. I have seen hand cranked diesels kick back and start in reverse when this was done. Running backwards is a very bad thing for an engine that is not designed for it as the oil pump is trying to suck oil from the bearings instead of pushing it to them, so your oil stays in the sump while the engine is running backwards. Lubrication failure will may just get you before cooling is a problem. :(

So, if you ever hand start your diesel and find it runs making a funny sound with smoke blowing out of the air intake, shut 'err down and try again!

If the engine starts backwards, the hand crank may not disengage and can smite you mightily resulting in serious injuries as it spins past rapidly whacking you. It can also cause significant vibration adding to the strangeness of inverse rotation.

If you flood the intake with liquid or gaseous fuel, the engine may over rev on start until the excess fuel is burned. It us usually easy to tell when this happens as the quick reving and rapid drop in speed is easy to hear. The engine is still cold and the oil has not circulated yet when this happens. This is the worst possible time to be over reving the engine, dry and cold with no load!

Learn to love, understand and treat your diesel right and she will clank, tap, clatter and push you along for a long, long time for just a little fuel and with very little trouble.

Have FUN!
O'
 
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