Guest Column  
by Charlie Whipple - Hamilton, New Zealand

Making friends with your Diesel

I’m just about ready to install a little 64kg 7.5HP Bukh diesel engine in my Sundowner Resolution. Assuming I get everything right, she should start up at the flick of a key. But what if she doesn’t, or what if she takes it into her head on fine day later on to ignore me when I need her most? What then? Well, I’ve put together a little troubleshooting crib sheet for my own use. Maybe it will help someone else, too.

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I’m just about ready to install a little 64kg 7.5HP Bukh diesel engine in my Sundowner Resolution.

1. Does the alarm sound when you turn the key on?


Check the main battery switch. If it’s OFF, turn it ON and try the engine again.


Check your batteries. Voltage? It should be 14.6 with a 12-volt battery. Liquid level, if appropriate. If the battery’s dead, replace it and try the engine again.

Battery OK.

Check the cables between the main switch and the engine. Wiring OK? Connections OK?

Tighten loose connections. Replace broken or damaged wiring. Try the engine again.

Wiring and connections OK.

Check the fuses in the engine wiring system. If they burnt out, your wiring system needs to be checked by a professional.

Fuses OK. Put in new fuses and try the engine again.

So the alarm sounds when you turn the key on, indicating you’re getting power to the system. Does the starter turn the engine over?


Open the decompression lever and try the starter again.

If the starter turns the engine over well, get it going and then close the decompression lever to start the engine. Then check the alternator output to make sure it’s charging the battery.

If the starter growls the engine over with the decompression lever open, charge the battery and try it again.

Starts? Check the alternator output before leaving the dock.
Starter doesn’t turn over at all? Even with the decompression lever open?

With the decompression level open, try turning the crankshaft by pulling on the V-belt. Or, if you have a Bukh like mine, with no belts, turn the crank over with the hand-starting handle.

Doesn’t turn over? Well, there is one more thing you can do before calling the service man. Grab the appropriate wrench and loosen the injector(s) until they are almost out of their holes. Turn the crank again. If there’s water in the engine, it will spurt out the injector holes. This means you need to check the exhaust line between the water lock and the engine. In my case (former boat) someone had installed the anti-siphon hose backwards. But dumb me, I didn’t figure that out before my engine got water in it three times. Anyway, once the water stops spurting from the injectors, you can tighten them down and the engine will usually start (mine did anyway).

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Assuming I get everything right, she should start up at the flick of a key.

Starter motor remains silent? Check the wiring and connections from the starter all the way back to the battery. Find something lose or broken? Fix it and try the starter again.

Nothing wrong? Have a pro check the starter motor.

Starter motor turns over well. But will your motor start cold?

Check your decompression lever. Open? Close it and start the engine.

Does your engine restart easily after you finally get it started after a layover? It does? Well, maybe you’d better have a serviceman give it a checkover.

Still hard to start? Check the kill switch cable. Perhaps it’s rusted and doesn’t completely return after use. Once it moves freely, try starting the engine again. Works? Good.

Of course, before even trying to start your engine, you’ll check the fuel level in the tanks. And it’s easy to check the fuel lines to make sure there is no stoppage there. When the main filter gets clogged, for instance, you’ll not get enough fuel to the engine. A vacuum meter on top the filter housing will tell you when the engine is working too hard to get fuel. You should carry at least two extra filter cartridges for every fuel filter, too.

That’s my little list. Is there anything anyone wants to add to it?