What the click’s up?

Canal Boat - - Back Cabin - WIGGYSARK, via the CB web­site

QWhen I turn the key to start the en­gine I get just a click­ing noise for per­haps 10 to 20 at­tempts, then it just sud­denly starts. I have pur­chased a new starter mo­tor but that has not fixed the prob­lem. TONY REPLIES... At the end of the smaller cylin­der on top of the starter mo­tor, you should see two nut type ter­mi­nals, one with more than one wire on it, and one sin­gle small blade or small nut ter­mi­nal with just one wire on it. This ter­mi­nal ‘turns the starter on’.

Get a length of cable (say house­hold three-core mains flex), fit a crocodile clip to one end (use all three cores), strip and twist the other ends to­gether. Clip the cable to the starter bat­tery pos­i­tive tak­ing care not to touch the other end to any­thing me­tal. Now firmly push the bare end against the small so­le­noid ter­mi­nal with just a sin­gle wire on it.

If it ‘clicks’ as be­fore, then the prob­lem is within the starter (un­likely as it is new), loose or dirty main bat­tery con­nec­tions, faulty master switch, or some­thing odd on the large neg­a­tive (earth) wiring for the en­gine.

AIf it works ev­ery time then the prob­lem is with the sup­ply to that sin­gle wire ter­mi­nal. Look along the main wiring har­ness from en­gine to in­stru­ment panel and you may find at least one large multi-way plug and socket. Ma­nip­u­late this: if the fault clears, make sure all its con­nec­tions are clean and tight.

If that doesn’t work, then I would sus­pect un­der­sized ca­bles or loose/ dirty ter­mi­nals be­tween the bat­ter­ies and ig­ni­tion switch or be­tween the ig­ni­tion switch and starter, or faulty ig­ni­tion switch. How­ever, the fact the heater and fridge are okay for 24 hours sug­gests that the al­ter­na­tor is prob­a­bly all right.

I sus­pect your bat­ter­ies are badly sul­phated (ends of bat­ter­ies bowed out are a sign) so they are down to a frac­tion of orig­i­nal ca­pac­ity. One or more may also have faulty cells (which will nor­mally gas more when charg­ing and be drier than good cells).

With­out hy­drom­e­ter read­ings for each cell plus the volt­age read­ing it’s hard to be cer­tain, but I sus­pect a new set of bat­ter­ies has a bet­ter than 75 per­cent chance of solv­ing the prob­lem.

It’s also worth un­der­tak­ing a power au­dit of your boat and charg­ing cal­cu­la­tions: there’s a sam­ple in the main­te­nance notes at tb-train­ing.co.uk. I sus­pect just three x 110 Ah bat­ter­ies run­ning a fridge and Eber­spächer for more than 24 hours with­out recharg­ing is op­ti­mistic and may lead to re­duced bat­tery life.

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