Dirty Ground

Mark Karwowski of San Francisco, California, asks:"Recently we had trouble starting the diesel engine aboard our Nordic 40. Although all the lights and other electrical equipment aboard worked fine, whenever I touched the starter button, the starter motor hesitated at first then sped up. We checked the batteries and found that they were eight years old, so we decided to
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on
StrapUSEME

Mark Karwowski of San Francisco, California, asks:

"Recently we had trouble starting the diesel engine aboard our Nordic 40. Although all the lights and other electrical equipment aboard worked fine, whenever I touched the starter button, the starter motor hesitated at first then sped up. We checked the batteries and found that they were eight years old, so we decided to replace the type 27 starting battery and the large house battery. These were hooked in parallel and had individual on/off switches.

We installed two dual-purpose type 27 batteries, also in parallel, but the starter motor continued to hesitate and then sped up again to start the engine. There were also one or two times when nothing happened at all when we pressed the button. Finally my partner saw a flash in the vicinity of the battery ground and the engine. We sprayed some electrical contact cleaner on the ground connection, and when we pressed the stater button again the starter motor had no hesitation and the engine started up quickly. Since there were no additional sparks or flashes, we don't know what caused the flash. Could it be a loose ground cable, or is there something else we need to troubleshoot?"

Nigel Calder replies:

I'd say it's that pesky ground strap. If corrosion is allowed to occur at the point where the ground strap attaches to the engine block, that will almost certainly lead to starting problems of the sort you experienced. No matter how hard that strap may be to access, you must remove it and clean its terminal and the mating surface opposite it on the engine block. Use fine-grit wet and dry sandpaper or something similar. After you have reattached the connection, give it a good shot of corrosion inhibitor or slather it with Vaseline. That should keep you cranking happily for several years. Inspect the connection visually at least every six months to make sure its performance is not being degraded again by corrosion.

Related

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more

MK1_30542

SailGP: There’s a New Sailing Series in Town

San Francisco was the venue of the biggest come-from-behind victory in the history of the America’s Cup when Oracle Team USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand in 2013, so it seems only fitting that the first American round of Larry Ellison’s new SailGP pro sailing series will be ...read more