Did the starter just die?

You know, there are a few things that just has to work. One thing is the engine. On a sail boat, really? Yes, really. Well, maybe not on all sail boats, but on mine. Not only because I need it to get around, but also because it is my only source of electricity.

So this morning, as I got up to start it to charge the batteries, my heart sank to the bottom of the river Bandon (where by chance I’m located at the moment) when all I got when I pressed the start button was a “click”, no wroom-wroom, no chucka-chucka-chucka. Just “click”.

I don’t need one more project. Honestly.

A failing engine is also one of the more acute kind of projects, too, and if I should be honest I’m no mechanic, really. I know how they work, in a general sense, but not good enough to troubleshoot a “click”.

So I started looking for tips on internet. A suggestion was that the solenoid might have stuck, so whack it with a hammer to see if it comes lose. No, that’s not the issue. So, I dug up a Volvo Penta group on Facebook and posted my very few findings and asked what the trouble could be.

I was asked if there was 12v to the solenoid when I tried to start the engine, as that would indicate a dead starter if it was. I was dreading the result. Either it was the electronics in the engine being faulty or the starter itself. Hard place, meet rock. Rock, meet hard place.

I jury rigged a cable (thank god I didn’t throw ALL of them out as I removed them from the boat!), since I had to be in two places at once, both reading the volt meter in the engine bay as well as in the cockpit pushing the start button.

To my surprise, after some fiddling around with the cable and the voltmeter, it didn’t show 0 volts, nor 12. It showed 7.5 volts. How..? What..? Weird! One more thing that I noticed, as I was trying to get an accurate reading, was that the longer I held down the start button – still no starter turning – the voltage slowly increased. How odd.

At about 8.5 volts I got another surprise, the starter engaged and the engine started to crank and eventually was running. As if nothing had happened and all was just another morning and it was time to charge the batteries.

I was baffled. And concerned, since this shouldn’t be like this. But also thrilled!

Because now I could charge my batteries once more, and I could finally get down to the galley to make breakfast. Ah, yes. It was nice.

After brunch (yeah, it had taken most of my morning trying to figure out what was happening to the engine) I started to analyze the issue with the auto pilot. I wrote about it in my last post that it kept beeping and complaining trough out the sail and I wanted to get rid of its complaints. It seems as if it is a larger issue than I thought. I get the “No Compass adjustment data” popup whenever I put it into auto mode, and then I get it every 10 seconds or so after I have acknowledged it.

My presumption initially was that the magnetic compass that is connected to the auto pilot control box wasn’t sending the right information (I admit it, I was fiddling around with it the day before and made some changes) so all I had to do was to make sure the right information was sent and then all would be grand. Well, no. Nothing helped. I even reset the compass to factory default, without luck.

I read in the manual of the display unit that when the error occur I should “Check heading sensor.” and that’s it. So, the mystery prevails. A second thought is that it might be the GPS data that is missing, to correct the magnetic compass. Even if I can see that there is data on the bus for this, it could be that the auto pilot for some reason doesn’t see it or acknowledge it somehow. I will have to continue the investigation tomorrow.

A third thing that I had to take a look at is the seizing traveler for the main sail. Under load it gets really hard to move and to be frank I was worried to snap a line as I was winching it into place. So I have had some time investigating what model I have, what I can do to get it to operate smoother and how to service it. It seems I have a “Big Boat CB 4500 Series” type of traveler, which means that it should be possible to disassemble it without the balls falling out of the car. I couldn’t feel any missing or deformed from underneath the car, but it is not much you can feel that way, really. But tomorrow I will know more. It just has to work as expected, since it has to do with the safety of the boat to be able to adjust the sails correctly.

So, yeah, that was one day in my life. How was yours?

2 thoughts on “Did the starter just die?

    1. Definitivt! Varje steg gör att vi rör oss framåt. Det kommer bli fantastiskt att komma ned till Medelhavet och få uppleva allt som finns där!

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