11/28/2012 – Stuck in San Carlos with the Diesel Blues again

So, I imagine from the title that you can figure out what this blog is going to be about.

As I’m sure you remember, on Thanksgiving Day I mentioned that our engine wouldn’t start when they launched us the day before.  Well, it still won’t start.

Since it’s spinning like a big dog, the most likely culprit is a fuel problem.  My first step was to check the output of the electric fuel pump since that was the cause of our starting problems when we limped into Bahia Las Cocinas back in July.  Well, turns out the pump is working just fine.  The next most likely suspects in the rather scattered approach I was utilizing were the fuel injectors.  Fortunately, there’s a place in Guaymas called Diesel Laboratorio that is known around here for doing high quality work.  I pulled the injectors and hopped on the bus to Guaymas last Saturday morning.  They tested them while I waited and all three failed.  The first one just dribbled, the next one was plugged and I’m not sure what the problem was with the last one, but something.  They said they’d service them and, if they were salvageable, I could have them back on Monday.  I kind of half-assed sweated it all day Sunday, worrying that the injectors would not be serviceable.  Stupid things are way expensive, at least if you buy them from Westerbeke.

(BTW: If anyone out there knows how to cross-reference a Westerbeke 30B-Three engine to the model of Kubota that it started out its life as, please let me know.  I know that the farmers out there aren’t paying the kind of prices that the marine industry gouges us poor sailors with.  And there’s no reason that injectors, injection pumps, head gaskets, etc. need to be “marinized”.)

Went back to the Diesel Lab on Monday to get my injectors and was very pleased to hear that they were just fine.  Just needed a good cleaning.  Total cost for servicing 3 injectors was $450 (MX) which is about $35 (US).  Can’t beat that with a stick.

I returned to Siempre Sabado secure in the belief that, once I’d reinstalled the injectors, the ol’ engine would fire right up.  But I ran into a snag when I went to do the installation.  Seems I needed 3 new copper washers for sealing the injectors in the block.  Too late to go back to Guaymas so I just cooled my jets and waited until Tuesday.  On Tuesday I returned to the Diesel Lab and asked for trés arandelas de cobre (3 copper washers).  The technician on duty got me 5 washers and wouldn’t take any money.  I think he was saying something to the effect that they should have been included originally but I’m not sure.  While we were talking I asked him which word was more correct: arandela ó rondana.  They are both listed as meaning “washer” in my copy of Spanish for Cruisers.  It also says that rondana is used in Mexico.  He told me that both words were right and both equally correct.  He indicated that rondana might be a little more common among mechanics.  However, then he told me about an even more common word for washer: wasa.  Yep, sounds sort of like washer doesn’t it?  He said that most mechanics in northern Mexico at least, use wasa instead of either of the other words although they understand all three.  Reminds me of the Spanglish word troca, meaning truck.  I’ve also heard trucks referred to as trucos instead of the more correct camión.  Between the cognates in Spanish and these new Spanglish words, the language is sort of heading towards a Latin American version of Pidgin.

But back to my engine.  I returned to the boat, installed the injectors with their new washers, torqued everything down to specs and fired that mother up.  Well, that’s what happened in my imagination anyway.  In real life, the engine just spun and spun without ever catching.  Bummed, I pulled out my copy of Nigel Calder’s “Marine Diesel Engines” and started reading.  He had a pretty complete series of steps to go through to troubleshoot starting issues but it was too late in the day to get started so, instead I made us a pot of chili con carne for dinner.

Today, I jumped into the engine compartment all enthused.  I was going to get this booger started today for sure.  First I removed the injectors and reinstalled them a wee bit tighter since they were leaking a bit when tightened to the factory specs.  With everything nicely tightened down, I started in on troubleshooting:

  • Is there fuel in the tank?  Yes, it’s half full.
  • Are the fuel filters clean?  I think so but I changed them anyway, just in case.
  • Is the electric fuel pump pumping right? Yes.  I disconnected the output and pumped into a plastic jug and it pumped great.
  • Is adequate fuel arriving at the injection pump? Yes, I disconnected the hose at the injector pump input and ran the electric fuel pump and, again, got a great flow.
  • Is there air in the system? The Westerbeke is supposed to be self-priming but I cracked the two bleed screws anyway and got no bubbles out.  So, “no”.
  • Is the injection pump putting out a good, high pressure flow?  That would be a “no”.  I had read that you have to be very careful when checking this because the flow is so high-pressured that it can inject diesel right through your skin.  I had the outlet ports covered with rags when I tested the pump.  Didn’t see any evidence of high pressure so I pulled the rags back a little.  The pump was putting out a pathetic little low pressure spurt that was not going to impress the fuel injectors at all.  I think maybe I’ve found the problem.  Or at least, a problem.

So, I pulled the injection pump and tomorrow I’ll head back over to Diesel Laboratorio to  see what they can do.  I’ve been told by at least one boater that he had his injection pump rebuilt by them and they did a great job.  Hope that’s my experience, too.

So, in the meantime, I’ve informed the marina that we’ll be here for maybe another week. Just as well as the weather’s deteriorating a bit anyway.

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About sryoder

Steve & Lulu... retired. Had enough of the cold wet dreary fall/winter/spring in the Pacific Northwest. Bought a boat, fixed it up, sold our home and sailed to Mexico in November, 2010. Been here ever since except for occasional forays to the States (summer only, thank you) to visit the kids, parents and siblings. If you're looking for a sailing blog, this is the wrong place. This is a traveling, hunkering in, eating blog. Sailing is just how we get from place to place when we can't walk.
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8 Responses to 11/28/2012 – Stuck in San Carlos with the Diesel Blues again

  1. charlesaperrone says:

    Do you have Twitter down there?

  2. Victor says:

    I remember these sorts of things from our tropical times in the Keys and Bahamas. Ours were always fuel issues. Algae actually grows in diesel fuel above 80 degrees Farenheit. Do you put additives in to prevent algae?
    We had dual filtration systems with a diverter valve so we could easily switch over. God, what a pain in the ass having a diesel engine, below the water line with salt water cooling! Give me a radiator instead! The other thing was forever having to bleed the lines, due to agitation of the fuel when under way in heaving seas. Oh, I got very good at it…..to my chagrin!
    Keep on cruising……

    • sryoder says:

      I do use a biocide in my fuel. I also have the dual, hot-switchable Racor set-up. Fortunately, my Westerbeke is fresh water cooled so I avoid a few problems while adding others two water pumps, a heat exchanger that’s rone to corrosion and electrolysis, etc.). It’s also generally very good at self-priming. I’ve never actually had to bleed the engine by hand.

  3. MWhite:LittleCunningPlan says:

    Hey Steve, maybe this will be useful to you. In this month’s copy of Good Old Boat magazine, there is a letter about Westerbeke parts, referring to the fact that they started out being manufactured by British Motor Corp. Anyhoo, the guy writing the letter has used this info to find cheaper parts. He says some small parts are available using the Nash Metropolitan 1500 model. He has used http://www.metpitstop.com. for items like your injectors, he has ordered from http://www.importtractorparts.net as well as http://www.kipmotor.com, who carry Metropolitan parts and also Austin FX3 parts. He makes the point that these sources are not knowledgeable about the Westerbeke conversion so you have to know what you are doing.
    I’ll check the Good old boat site and see if this letter is available on line. Hope it’s helpful. I just read it last night and earmarked it to show Mike.

  4. Adele says:

    Steve, Samy and I feel your pain. We tried to repair the Farymann Diesel but gave up as we are not nearly as adept as you. Our issue was in the choke and throttle mechanism. We kept the engine and may work on it in the garage someday! The outboard has been a dream…and so quiet! Side note: Samy’s son has been driving a diesel truck up from deep in Mexico and about 200 miles from the border he had major problems….Long story short- he was sold bad gas!!! A missionary from Texas helped him drain it and now he has made it to Texas. Buena Suerte to you, Senor. Keep us posted.

  5. Sorry to hear about the diesel blues. Nigel Calder (yup, one of the bibles) makes it all look sooo simple.
    Spanglish, eh. What till you hear some Greeglish. A truck is troki and its belowzeria when it’s freezing! Funny stuff
    Hey! No dinner this week?
    Cheers

    • sryoder says:

      “Belowzeria”. That’s a good one.

      We did eat dinner this week but I guess I was too distracted by the diesel to write about it. We had potato pancakes (made from leftover Thanksgiving mashed spuds) with eggs one night. Made chili one day and had it two nights in a row. Then, made some chicken-tortilla soup and we had that two nights in a row as well. No telling what’s on the menu tonight.

  6. Dani says:

    UGH, how frustrating!! Our engine wouldn’t stay running after a 5 month install and I wanted to blow up the boat with a canon. Luckily Tate had better sense and finally after a month of having it die mid way he checked the hose clamps, and yep they were loose, very. We tightened them up and it’s fired up ever since.

    It was however so tramatic that still to this day I worry whether it will start and staying running…like maybe it wasn’t just the hose clamps. I hope you get that puppy working!

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