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View Full Version : Weak engine turns on fire-up & Then she dies.....


pwillcutts
05-31-2006, 09:53 PM
ok....just solved the bad kill switch issue thanks to great help on a separate thread...but now I'm back to my original problem:

My Engine turns over well the first time, although the initial turn of the engine seems a bit off, then on the second start the engine hesitates longer on the first turn but then fires up, 3rd time it starts real weak but manages to turn over.....then the 4th or 5th time it just gives a half turn and dies.....maybe not even a half turn of the engine, just a heal-hearted groan.....ugh !!!! :rant:

This could happen over the course of a day, or I can happen in rapid order. Either way, every time it starts it seems weaker than the time before, until she's dead. Voltage reads between 11 & 12. I tested the alternator and it reads ok, starter checks out ok, battery is brand new. ANY IDEAS on what this could be???
THANKS!

88 PS190
05-31-2006, 10:02 PM
Is this dependant on run time? ie. if you run it hard shut it off, and try again does it do anything differently than if you just let it idle then tried the same?

WilliM1940
05-31-2006, 10:06 PM
If your battery is reading that low it is toast. You should be reading well over 12V up around 12.5-13. It is possible to buy a new dead battery, some have even been recycled by unscrupulous vendors. Try trickle charging it overnight, if you don't see a voltage improvement, take it back to where it was purchased from.

TMCNo1
05-31-2006, 10:34 PM
Have you checked the timing?

Laurel_Lake_Skier
05-31-2006, 11:03 PM
Have you checked the timing?
That was going to be my suggestion.....sounds like the timing could be advanced a little too far.

pwillcutts
06-01-2006, 12:09 AM
Is this dependant on run time? ie. if you run it hard shut it off, and try again does it do anything differently than if you just let it idle then tried the same?

Not really dependant on run time. It just gets weaker every time...to the point where I don't want to shut it down in between skiers, etc. Running it hard, or idle doesn't seem to change the issue either.

pwillcutts
06-01-2006, 12:14 AM
If your battery is reading that low it is toast. You should be reading well over 12V up around 12.5-13. It is possible to buy a new dead battery, some have even been recycled by unscrupulous vendors. Try trickle charging it overnight, if you don't see a voltage improvement, take it back to where it was purchased from.

This problem started the end of last season and I brought my one year old Die hard battery back to Sears, but they tested it and claimed it was holding a charge fine, so wouldn't replace it.

So this season I just paid up for a new battery anyway, and this same problem cropped up again by the end of my first day on the water. ugh..........

pwillcutts
06-01-2006, 12:17 AM
Have you checked the timing?

I'ver never checked the timing. How do I do that? :confused: Or is this a job for the marina?

jimmer2880
06-01-2006, 06:50 AM
I'ver never checked the timing. How do I do that? :confused: Or is this a job for the marina?

You will need a timing light. You basically, hook it up to the battery, then put a clip around your #1 cylinder spark plug wire. Start your motor, shine the light onto the timing mark indicator (looks like a needle sticking out above your harmonic balancer).

pwillcutts
06-01-2006, 09:33 AM
You will need a timing light. You basically, hook it up to the battery, then put a clip around your #1 cylinder spark plug wire. Start your motor, shine the light onto the timing mark indicator (looks like a needle sticking out above your harmonic balancer).

Thanks...but at the risk of sounding totally clueless, what's a harmonic balancer? and is a timing light easily available at a NAPA ?

wesgardner
06-01-2006, 10:28 AM
Harmonic balancer is the "big pulley" (actually it's what the "big pulley" is bolted to) that's on the crankshaft at the lower front of the motor...you may be able to google "engine timing: and get a "how to"....

theDano
06-01-2006, 10:51 AM
The harmonic balancer is the big circular pulley that the belt goes around located at the center of the engine if you are looking directly at the engine when you open the cover. If you bump the starter to rotate it you will see "tick" marks on it with numbers indicating degrees. It is super simple to time an engine. You can buy a timing light at Sears for around 40 bucks. Not sure what it costs at NAPA but you don't need some ultra expensive one.

How to time an engine:

1. With a 1/2" box end wrench, loosen the distributor bolt being careful not to rotate the distributor.

2. Just start up your engine let it totally warm up to normal running temp.

3. Hook up the induction clip around the number 1 plug wire (looking at engine - if 351 - it is front left plug)

4. Hook up the positive and negative clips from the timing light to the respective battery terminals ( I had to use jumper cables to allow me to get to my battery just make sure the cables are clear from any moving parts of the engine and the terminals will not touch or you will cause a spark) at this point if you pull the timing light trigger you should see the strobe light flashing.

5. Point the timing light at the timing light indicator and the harmonic balancer. At this point you should be able to see the tick marks and numbers on the harmonic balancer.

6. Barely rotate the distributer (I forget which way...have to be doing it to know) and you will see and hear the engine's idle decrease or increase. Adjust the timing to the appropriate degree. For a 351 it is 10 degrees.

7. Turn off engine and tighten down 1/2" bolt to secure the distributor.

That's it and you save alot of cash in the process instead of having a dealer do it.

Dano

pkskier
06-01-2006, 11:04 AM
Problem could be a weak starter solenoid. Have a similar problem in the past and ended up replacing the solenoid that is mounted on the bell housing on the back of the engine cleared up the problem.

pwillcutts
06-01-2006, 11:21 AM
Wow....Thanks Dano for the detailed how-to. I will get that timing light and give it a go tonight.

pwillcutts
06-01-2006, 11:23 AM
Problem could be a weak starter solenoid. Have a similar problem in the past and ended up replacing the solenoid that is mounted on the bell housing on the back of the engine cleared up the problem.

I replaced that solenoid last year hoping it would do the trick, but problem persists. But thanks just the same.

theDano
06-01-2006, 12:44 PM
my pleasure....it really isnt as hard as one might think. Is your engine a 351? If so then it is 10 degrees for sure. I just did mine last week as I just bought mine used and wanted to give it a fresh tune-up with new plugs, distributor cap, filters, and adjusted air/fuel mixture and idle on carb. She runs like a top now! :D

pwillcutts
06-01-2006, 01:39 PM
my pleasure....it really isnt as hard as one might think. Is your engine a 351? If so then it is 10 degrees for sure. I just did mine last week as I just bought mine used and wanted to give it a fresh tune-up with new plugs, distributor cap, filters, and adjusted air/fuel mixture and idle on carb. She runs like a top now! :D

Yep, it's a 351, so you've given all the specs I need. I'll let you know how it goes. THANKS!

pwillcutts
06-01-2006, 02:15 PM
one more question......How do I know if I need to replace the harmonic balancer ? Make the adjustment to it and if my problem crops up again in a few weeks than replace it? Thanks

theDano
06-01-2006, 03:08 PM
uhhh I doubt you need to replace that. I think you might be confused....I think. :confused: You are not checking the harmonic balancer but rather just making sure the engine's timing is set properly by checking and adjusting the timing via the steps I outlined. This will make sure the engine is firing properly to give you the best performance per the specs on the engine.

TMCNo1 & Laurel_Lake_Skier were just stating that you might need to check the timing as the timing might be too advanced or retarded causing those symptoms. And per your symptoms it sounds like it is too far advanced as it is hard to start.

I think I might have confused you by stating "the harmonic balancer is the big circular pulley that the belt goes around located at the center of the engine" What I was trying to do is just give you a point of reference as to where you need to look for the harmonic balancer....it isnt the pulley it is behind that pulley.

You don't need to replace or check the harmonic balancer as it's primary function is to absord engine vibration and your symptoms are not related to that.

martini
06-01-2006, 03:44 PM
You should check out your battery cables as well. If they are bad, it would cause problems similar to this.

Hoff1
06-01-2006, 04:24 PM
I have a Maristar & Tristar manual from 1990 that says the timing is 10 degrees for the black distributor cap and 6 degrees for the tan distributor cap for the 351W engines. Might want to verify that while you're setting the timing, I have the tan distributor on mine. My guess is that it would be obvious if you're off 4 degrees with either one, but I could be wrong.

pwillcutts
06-01-2006, 05:48 PM
uhhh I doubt you need to replace that. I think you might be confused....I think. :confused: You are not checking the harmonic balancer but rather just making sure the engine's timing is set properly by checking and adjusting the timing via the steps I outlined. .

Acually I guess I read that need for a replacement was a probable cause from some website trying to sell me a new harmonic balancer! :o

Hope to get this job done tonight if it ever stops raining here !!

Thanks again!

pwillcutts
06-01-2006, 05:50 PM
I have a Maristar & Tristar manual from 1990 that says the timing is 10 degrees for the black distributor cap and 6 degrees for the tan distributor cap for the 351W engines. Might want to verify that while you're setting the timing, I have the tan distributor on mine. My guess is that it would be obvious if you're off 4 degrees with either one, but I could be wrong.

Mine is black, but thanks for the tip. Is that "W" engine a souped up version of the 351?

theDano
06-01-2006, 10:59 PM
So that black vs tan distributor cap is wierd. I have a 93 351 and all it says is 10 degrees in the manual. When I first got it there was a black cap on it. After ordering the cap from skidim, I was expecting another black cap but i got an ugly tan one :) Well when I re-timed the engine it was only offfby 1 degree at 9 so I set to 10 and called it a day after I adjusted the carb.

Maybe back in 90 there was a difference with the color which meant it was a totally different cap altogether but doesn't seem to be an issue with the 93.....or so I think :eek: I will call skidim tomorrow :o

PWillCutts what year is your MC?

Hoff1
06-02-2006, 08:42 AM
Is that "W" engine a souped up version of the 351?

The "W" signifies that the engine is a 351 Windsor (city of manufacture). Earlier versions of the 351 were made in Cleveland. I donít think thereís been a Cleveland in a boat for a fairly long time, so yours would be a Windsor as well.


Maybe back in 90 there was a difference with the color which meant it was a totally different cap altogether but doesn't seem to be an issue with the 93.....or so I think I will call skidim tomorrow

Your guess is as good as mine. The Prostar manual from 1991-1993 only mention 10 degrees. I would be interested in the info if Skidim has the answer.

Another discrepancy is that the horsepower stated in both of these manuals is 250 hp for the 351. However, the manual for the PS 190 from 1989-1990 states 240 hp. Could the tan versus black distributor also signify a difference here?

pwillcutts
06-02-2006, 12:53 PM
mine is 1990 Tristar w/351 & powerslot (no "W"). So I've got the Cleveland engine I guess
....I always wondered about that.....my neighbor just asked me last week and I had no idea?!

martini
06-02-2006, 12:57 PM
mine is 1990 Tristar w/351 & powerslot (no "W"). So I've got the Cleveland engine I guess
....I always wondered about that.....my neighbor just asked me last week and I had no idea?!

I can assure you, you have a 351W. The Cleveland was last produced many years before 1990. I had an 84 MC, it had a 351W.

TMCNo1
06-02-2006, 01:26 PM
I thought the "W" stood for "Willaminna, cause that is what I named my boat!
Now I got to change it to "Windsorminna"! Now my boat will be known a transexual!
Yea, I know, I ain't right!

pwillcutts
06-02-2006, 04:14 PM
I can assure you, you have a 351W. The Cleveland was last produced many years before 1990. I had an 84 MC, it had a 351W.

Is the Windsor or Cleaveland identified on the engine block anywhere? The timing is different for these two engines, from what I've been told.....

I want to make sure I don't screw up my timing job tonight......

thx

Hoff1
06-02-2006, 04:25 PM
If your engine is original to your boat, it's a Windsor. I believe the last Cleveland's were made in the 1974 according to this website http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_351_Cleveland.

No way a Maristar would have a Cleveland unless there's been an engine swap.

martini
06-02-2006, 04:52 PM
Is the Windsor or Cleaveland identified on the engine block anywhere? The timing is different for these two engines, from what I've been told.....

I want to make sure I don't screw up my timing job tonight......

thx

You have a Windsor, don't even worry about the Cleveland. If you are hell bent on making sure though, you can find the casting numbers and cross reference that to known production numbers. They are generally located under a flange on rear of the engine, by the starter.

It's a Windsor.

pwillcutts
06-02-2006, 05:06 PM
You have a Windsor, don't even worry about the Cleveland. If you are hell bent on making sure though, you can find the casting numbers and cross reference that to known production numbers. They are generally located under a flange on rear of the engine, by the starter.

It's a Windsor.

to quote Harry Belafonte:
"OK, I BELIEVE YOU"... :toast:

theDano
06-02-2006, 09:31 PM
Hey Guys

Got a reply back from SkiDim regarding the cap colors.

"The cap colors have changed over the years. You can't go by that! A 1993 351 has a screw down Prestolite and the timing is 10 degrees before top dead center. You did good!"

So that confirms that maybe back during when that manual was written colors did matter and the caps were different but they might have been put on the same way. Now (93) they are put on either by 2 screws or 2 clips depending on the type of distributor and the colors do not matter.

So I guess you have the black one right? So it is 10 degrees!

All I know is that tan is sure fugly :D I will get me a black one next year for sure.

pwillcutts, please post back to let us know how you made out on timing the engine.

pwillcutts
06-03-2006, 03:17 PM
Nothing but Rain today up here in N.E.
Hopefully we'll get a break in the weather soon, so i can re-time this engine.
I'll definintely post how it goes....
thx for all the info

JohnnyB
06-03-2006, 06:08 PM
If the timing checks out OK and you still have the problem, it may be your battery. I know it is new, however, it may have a bad/loose cell. I want through this with my Suburban last year.....every so often, it wouldn't start....this went on for months. I must've jump started it once a week for several weeks. Finally yanked the nearly new battery out and had it tested....tested OK the first time. Took it for a bumpy ride around the store in a cart and tested it again and it tested bad.

Put in new battery, end of problem :D

pwillcutts
06-04-2006, 03:00 PM
Got the engine running right now as i type.....got the timing light hooked up to the battery, and the sensor to the #1 spark plug wire, but I get no light from the timing light at all. I ran it back to NAPA and the guy tested it on his car, and the timing light worked fine. How could I not be getting a reading on my engine ???? :confused: I hooked it up every way possible, tried multiple different spark plug wires, double checked my battery connection....but nothing !??
Is this engine possesed??? Any clue what i could be doing wrong? Thanks

JohnnyB
06-04-2006, 04:29 PM
I'm stumped but figured I'd give ya a bump in hopes that someone else has an idea..... :mad:

pwillcutts
06-04-2006, 05:13 PM
Thanks JohnnyB. You're good kharma did the trick !
I kept working at it, and finally got the timing light going. Not sure what the issue was, but i just had to keep playing with the sensor connection before getting it to work.
Soooooooooo.....

My engine was WAY OFF on the timing !! Great call guys !! :D

I did just as you all instructed and twisted the distributor cap slightly and reset it to the 10 degree mark, retighten the bolt on the distributor cap, and that was that! I shut the engine down, and gave it a go....she fired right up !! AMAZING what a difference that tiny adjustment did ! I stoped and restarted her multiple times now, and she's totally back to normal and sounding great !

THANKS TMC1, LaurelLakeSkier, Jimmer, wesgardner, Hoff1 and especially Danofor the step by step instructions ! you guys are CLUTCH ! :woohoo: :woohoo:

theDano
06-04-2006, 07:14 PM
SWWWEEEEEEETTTTTT!!!! :headbang:

That is awesome....I am happy that you found what the issue was. I was on the lake with the family today and was wondering if you had any success. Out of curiosity, what was the position (degrees) at before you set it back to 10 degrees. Would like to know how out of whack it really was.

Congrats on saving yourself a ton of cash too! :twocents: :twocents: :twocents:

pwillcutts
06-04-2006, 09:41 PM
I think it was all the way out to 20 degrees, but I can't be sure, because I slighlty shifted the distrubutor whlie I was having problems working the timing light sensor ( I didn't have the light working yet, so couldn't get a reading). I do know that the idle speed was up at 1100 rpm before, and now its back down to 600.

BTW: How does the timing get out of whack in the first place? Does it just happen slowly over time ? I did remove my Silentmaster last year and switched to stright pipes. I wonder if that had anything to do with it ??

theDano
06-04-2006, 10:10 PM
MMMmmmm that might have done it I guess. If the distributor wasn't tighten down very well and you accidently bumped the distributor that could have rotated it. Curious once again....was the bolt pretty tight when you loosened it before performing the timing?

pwillcutts
06-04-2006, 10:23 PM
MMMmmmm that might have done it I guess. If the distributor wasn't tighten down very well and you accidently bumped the distributor that could have rotated it. Curious once again....was the bolt pretty tight when you loosened it to perform the timing?

no,no....I Had already loosened the bolt holding down the distributor when i moved it a little. It was definintely bolted down very tight before I loosened it.

Once I got the light working, I was able to set the timing by moving the distributor again. Just not sure what the timing was originally since I moved the distributor before I got the light working.

theDano
06-04-2006, 10:26 PM
Well I am not sure to be honest with you how it could have gotten so out of whack. What part of the northeast are you from? What is the temp up there? It was awesome down in GA today......about 85 and the water was nice as well. Not cold at all...just cool.

pwillcutts
06-05-2006, 12:13 AM
Well I am not sure to be honest with you how it could have gotten so out of whack. What part of the northeast are you from? What is the temp up there? It was awesome down in GA today......about 85 and the water was nice as well. Not cold at all...just cool.

I'm right on the CT/MASS border.........and nothing but RAIN all weekend here! But good weather if you're still working on your boat, like I was! WHen the sun is back, my boat is now ready to enjoy! Love to get some of your 80's temps up our way SOON ! :cool: