Friday, March 14, 2014

A little bit broken down ………….

…….. not too badly broken but a little bit nonetheless.

We’ve had a really long run where nothing went wrong so we were overdue.  Yesterday morning at Prevost Harbor Marilyn tried to start the genset and nothing happened.  Being the “man” I assumed she was doing something wrong so I tried it and got the same results.  We normally remote start it from the cabin so I went down below and tried starting it directly from the control panel on the generator.  From there I could hear a solenoid click in when I hit the starter but the engine wasn’t turning over even a little bit.  That meant one of two things – bad batteries/connections or bad starter/solenoid. 

So I broke out the VOM and hooked it up to watch the voltage when I hit the starter.  The genset starts from its own battery which lives in a really ignorant location underneath the generator.  By standing on my head and shining a flashlight through a tiny hole I was able to determine that there was no untoward level of corrosion on the cables or connections.  When I tried the starter with the VOM connected there was hardly any fluctuation in the voltage at the starter so that pretty well ruled out cables, connections and batteries, leaving just the starter & solenoid.  That was pretty well what I had expected but I thought I should go through the troubleshooting before I got greasy taking the starter off.  I wasn’t even a little bit worried because we carry a spare, brand new, Mitsubishi gear reduction starter sporting a genuine Onan parts decal.

Of course to do any serious work on the Onan I have to pretty well completely disassemble the sound shield.  Once I got that out of the way the starter came off relatively easily and I got out the new Mitsubishi.  It fit easily into the hole and the nose cone looked right for the ring gear but it simply wouldn’t turn the last 2 or 3 degrees to line up the mounting bolts.  In a nutshell, its not the right starter for the block we have.  I spent a few minutes figuring out that I couldn’t reclock the nosecone on the Mitsubishi and a few more minutes taking apart the solenoid on the starter I had removed.  Once I got inside the solenoid there was no doubt why it wasn’t working.  The only real surprise was that it had been able to work at all.  I briefly toyed with the idea of boogeying up something with the old solenoid to get the genset running.  Probably if I had turned the contacts 180 degrees and shined up the plate that connects them I could have made it work a while longer but that seemed like a lot of work for very little gain.  The drive gear on the starter was badly worn and I have no idea how old the starter is but it was no virgin when we bought the boat close to 4 years ago now.  It is a Presolite starter and I don’t think the Prestolite brand even exists anymore.

So we opted to untie and head across to Sidney.  We had lots of battery to make breakfast and once we had the Lehmans running we had lots of power to make dinner.  By the time we landed at the Customs dock in Van Isle the batteries were back up to 100% and the water heater was hot.  We need the generator but we are by no means incapacitated without it.  By this time of the year the sun is getting high enough to deliver some serious charge off the solar panels.  We have been having uncharacteristically sunny weather lately which means we are getting some serious benefit from the solar panels. 

When we landed at Sidney the first order of business was to call Customs.  As has been our experience, they couldn’t be bothered to come down to the dock.  The guy yesterday must have been on commission though because he nitpicked over all our purchases in the US and actually charged us tax on the groceries that we declared.  When he asked if we had bought those groceries in the US I pointed out that we left with a full freezer and returned with one but that information seemed lost on him. 

After I got done paying tax on imported Corn Flakes I immediately got on the phone to find a replacement starter.  I haven’t seen the starter yet but I think I hit a home run on the first call.  Delta Marine is located in Westport which is the next bay over from our yacht club.  The parts guy at Philbrooks told me to call Delta and Rob who answered the phone sounded like he knew what he was talking about.  He had a rebuilder who he claimed could have a starter ready for me today but he wanted to see my old one first.  Given my experience with the Mitsubishi, which was sold to me as a replacement and turned out to not fit, I was pretty enthused about matching the housings too.  So we hustled over to the yacht club reciprocal dock and got tied up.  Then I unloaded the dinghy and headed over to Delta with the dead starter.  That was the first time we have had the dinghy in the water since getting back out here so of course it was extremely reluctant to idle.  I need to run some injector cleaner through it but by the time I got back from Delta it was running better although it still died shortly after I dropped to an idle. 

Today we’re in a holding pattern at the SNSYC reciprocal dock waiting for the rebuilt starter.  There’s a work party to do some spring cleaning at the yacht club tomorrow so we’ll wait for that too and then go back to Cow Bay tomorrow afternoon. 

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