Q & A — May 2003
By Capt. Ken Kreisler
| Troubleshooting starter problems, and varnishing tips.
have a small diesel engine aboard my 40-footer. I tried to start it
and was greeted by a clicking noise from the starter without it engaging.
How do I troubleshoot this problem? N.D., via e-mail
If the starter spins, the problem is likely a faulty connection, and you should check all your wiring and connections. To help you do this correctly, it may help to understand the operation of a basic starter system. Refer to the accompanying diagram for clarification.
When you turn the starter key or press the start button, current flows to the solenoid. As the starter begins spinning, the solenoid pushes out the starter gear so that it engages the teeth on the flywheel, turning the engine. Once the engine starts and you release the switch or key, the solenoid is de-energized and the starter disengages.
The battery, switch, starter, and solenoid are each joined to the others by various types of connections, and because of the high-amperage load a starter demands, a loose connection can easily cause a loss of electrical power large enough that the starter cannot turn the engine, especially if it’s a diesel. The clicking you hear is most likely the solenoid engaging, even though there is insufficient amperage reaching the starter to turn it.
Start at the battery terminals and work your way to the starter, looking for loose terminals or connections and frayed, cracked, or peeling wires. Tighten all connections, and replace wire that looks suspicious with wire of the same gauge. Never splice two lengths of wire. Remove any corrosion from around terminals, remove the cable, and brighten the terminal; a small piece of emery cloth will do the trick. Applying a sealant like Star brite’s Liquid Electrical Tape will help prevent further corrosion.
This article originally appeared in the April 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.