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Old 07-01-2016, 02:21 PM   #1
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Starter issues

Hopefully I can tap into the wonderful knowledge here and the experts in the group can help me diagnose a problem with my engine. I hate when people spoon-feed facts in these threads, so I’ve tried to outline the full amount of information in one very large dump of text.

Last year, my boat had a problem with the starter. I ended up getting towed home for the first time in 15 years of boat ownership, and had the starter professionally rebuilt and re-installed: https://mvcesc.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/first-ever-tow/ We’ve probably run the boat for 20 hours or so, on half a dozen day trips since.

The past few times we’ve gone down to the boat there has been a loud squealing noise when starting. Sounded exactly like fan belt noise, so I went down to the boat last night to replace the belt.

After changing the belt, I turned the engine right over and observed things. Everything seemed great at idle. As I increased RPMs a slight whine started, but quickly went away (10 seconds?) and figured it was just the new belt. Everything seemed fine, and we continued doing some work on the boat in preparation for a cruise this weekend.

After a few minutes (15? 20?) my wife noticed smoke coming from the starter area. I investigated for just a few seconds, and then shut down the engine. There was an electric motor noise coming from the starter area with the engine off. I toggled the ignition switch to see if it was stuck, to no effect.

I then disconnected the negative battery cable to the starter. I was very hot — too hot to use bare hands to unscrew the battery terminal and had to use a wrench. The motor did not shut down immediately, and took approximately 20 seconds for it to slow down and finally stop. Smoke remained for another few seconds.

Before leaving for the night we tried to start the engine again, since the problem seemed isolated to the starter. The starter made noise (turning), but didn’t appear to have enough torque to turn the engine over.

Those are the facts of the case.

My assumption is that the starter solenoid stuck, and shorted the starting battery, draining it to the point it didn’t have enough amps to turn the engine back over. If I’m correct, if I got back down to the boat tonight and try to turn it over, it should work fine if the solenoid hasn’t completely failed. Replacing the solenoid (a $30-$50 part) seems prudent. Does this make sense? Anything else I should do or check?

Edit: I should point out that the "smoke" in the starter area was just small whisps of white or grey smoke. Not heavy exhaust smoke. No noticable smell at all.
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Old 07-01-2016, 04:17 PM   #2
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A new solenoid should fix it, but I would probably pull the starter and either inspect or rebuild. If the starter was engaged for 15 minutes, the bearings could be shot. Also starters are not made to run more than a few seconds so you could have stressed internal wiring. If you have a single main, I wouldn't trust it. Starters are cheap on Ebay.
Solenoids fail in 2 ways. Either they make poor contact and the starter doesn't turn or they weld the contacts on locking the starter in a continuous run. Your is dangerous. You could have a fire from insulation burning and contacting paint or other things that burn.
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Old 07-01-2016, 05:39 PM   #3
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I agree. The solenoid is probably the problem. But, the starter is now probably damaged and possibly the starter drive too. If the starter drive is damaged it could damage the ring gear on the flywheel.Starters are designed to operate for only a few seconds at a time. Also, take a close look at the battery cables.
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Old 07-01-2016, 05:57 PM   #4
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If the starter was engaged to the engine flywheel, wouldn't it make a ton of noise?
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Old 07-01-2016, 06:03 PM   #5
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Yes, unless engine noise covered it up. Usually if the stater is rotating, centrifugal force is at work engaging the drive. A quick look at the teeth will tell. (might not be so quick if the starter is hard to get out)
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Old 07-01-2016, 06:14 PM   #6
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Can be as simple as a faulty start button or whatever start switch, commanding the starter to remain engaged.
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Old 07-01-2016, 06:21 PM   #7
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Update: My wife just got off the phone with the shop that did the rebuild last year. Technically the warranty for materials and workmanship is 6 for months, and the work was done 10 months ago. They did replace the solenoid during the rebuild.

However, he stated that because many of those months were winter months and because the starter has seen very little use, they offered to honor the full warranty -- without us asking in fact. They will send their mobile mechanic out next week.

There are some good people in this industry.
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Old 07-01-2016, 08:45 PM   #8
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The shop extending their warranty time deserve a compliment on the thread.
Replacement smoke is available from Lucas.
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Old 07-01-2016, 08:50 PM   #9
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Lucas Replacement Smoke Kit
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Old 07-01-2016, 09:05 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ski in NC View Post
Can be as simple as a faulty start button or whatever start switch, commanding the starter to remain engaged.
Ski makes an important point here. The starter may not have been the cause. Faulty wiring or start switch could keep the solenoid energized which would have exactly the same effect. Everything involved should be checked.

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Old 07-02-2016, 11:16 AM   #11
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You should be very wary and check ALL the DC items that might have been on .

A "no starter cut out" will have the starter spinning at very high speed ,driven by the flywheel, since a DC motor is a DC generator if spun .

With perhaps 100+V some DC items may fry.

A voltmeter on the starter , usually to observe battery voltage during start will catch this (rare) problem , if monitored, after start.

On autos the ACC are not powered during start to hopefully catch this hassle.

My guess, the Bendex did not release .
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Old 07-02-2016, 12:21 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FF View Post
You should be very wary and check ALL the DC items that might have been on .

A "no starter cut out" will have the starter spinning at very high speed ,driven by the flywheel, since a DC motor is a DC generator if spun .

With perhaps 100+V some DC items may fry.

A voltmeter on the starter , usually to observe battery voltage during start will catch this (rare) problem , if monitored, after start.

On autos the ACC are not powered during start to hopefully catch this hassle.

My guess, the Bendex did not release .
All starters I know of have over-running clutches that prevent the starter from being driven by engine and becoming a generator.

Good hint to watch volt meter during and after a start. If volts stay low, starter may still be running.
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Old 07-02-2016, 12:49 PM   #13
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You are on "borrowed time" now. Your mechanic has agreed to a "comeback" you need to explore all reasons why your starter isn't disengaging from welded points, broken return spring, internal binding, wrong starter drive, misalignment in the bell housing, over-engagement, China parts.
The list could be longer depending on engine & starter type.

Your starter motor cable is the only cable/wire on your boat exempted from overcurrent protection rules by CG and ABYC standards so it can, and almost did, take out your boat.
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Old 07-02-2016, 01:02 PM   #14
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Did you notice an excessive charge or discharge on your ammeter after engine start? If so, it's probably the starter engaged and functioning as a generator as mentioned above.

It's important to monitor your electrical system after every engine start. In my boat, that means verifying an amp charge and voltage increase as the alternator comes online before and after the second engine start.
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Old 07-02-2016, 03:25 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlyWright View Post
Did you notice an excessive charge or discharge on your ammeter after engine start? If so, it's probably the starter engaged and functioning as a generator as mentioned above.

It's important to monitor your electrical system after every engine start. In my boat, that means verifying an amp charge and voltage increase as the alternator comes online before and after the second engine start.
I did verify the ammeter agree start and it appeared normal (between 14 and 15 volts). The battery indicator turned off after a few seconds once the engine turned over (the first time)

I do this as normal SOP, but I had just changed the belt so I watched it carefully for a few extra minutes.
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Old 07-02-2016, 03:26 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brooksie View Post
You are on "borrowed time" now. Your mechanic has agreed to a "comeback" you need to explore all reasons why your starter isn't disengaging from welded points, broken return spring, internal binding, wrong starter drive, misalignment in the bell housing, over-engagement, China parts.
The list could be longer depending on engine & starter type.

Your starter motor cable is the only cable/wire on your boat exempted from overcurrent protection rules by CG and ABYC standards so it can, and almost did, take out your boat.
Thank you, good point. We are going to meet at the boat on Tuesday after the holiday.

I'll make sure we go through the entire starting electrical circuit carefully.
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Old 07-11-2016, 06:11 PM   #17
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Followup:

Two different mechanics have gone down to my boat in the past week.

Both of them turned the boat over multiple times, and measured/investigated the engine and wiring. Neither of them found anything wrong with any part of the starting system. At this time it’s thought it was a one-time event.

Doesn’t exactly give me the warm-and-fuzzies.
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Old 07-11-2016, 07:30 PM   #18
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Starters can have issues off and on for hundreds of starts. Once they begin, you have no idea how many successful starts you have left.

Once you have had a couple hard starts....time to rebuild.
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Old 07-11-2016, 08:43 PM   #19
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Sorry, but that wouldn't do it for me for reasons mentioned in my previous post.

I would remove it and completely disassemble and inspect every part of the motor and solenoid, I would discard anything that didn't look 100%. If you don't know what you are looking at, find a good parts jobber in your area to help you.
The auto electric rebuilder I use would do this for you for maybe $80. plus any parts needed.
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Old 09-07-2016, 12:57 PM   #20
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SOLVED: Xantrex battery charger

Updating this thread in case anyone ever searches for similar issues

After multiple trips to the boat by me and my mechanic we finally were able to diagnose the problem!

The Xantrex battery charger was faulty. It had a flaw in the internal circuitry that would combine the output to the battery banks, resulting in 24 volts (unmeasured amps) of charge output.

When we disconnected the charger from the battery system, everything worked great. My mechanic also took out the starter and ran a full diagnostic check on it, and it turned out fine.

But it is expected that this was the root cause of the the electrical issues that I've been struggling with for the past year+, resulting in a new alternator, rebuilt starter, and new house battery bank.

My mechanic didn't even charge for the diagnostic work since I bought the new charger through him. This was not a simple problem; I have nothing but great recommendations for Modutech Marine in Tacoma.
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