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Badger

Need help to diagnose Sportster no-start condition

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Badger

I was asked to help my neighbors diagnose a no-start condition on their Sportster later tonight. I have a basic mechanical understanding, but am definitely not a mechanic. Can you help me with a plan of attack and basic decision tree?

What I know from their conversation:

Boat won’t start and is making a clicking sound

Battery was replaced earlier this year from Wal-Mart. Unsure of what type of battery was purchased or CCA.

They apparently have been still needing to use a portable jumper device to carry with them to start the boat up till this point. Now that won’t crank the boat either. (I assume it’s charged, because I know they used it all last summer before buying the new battery.)

When they bought the battery, I told them they would need to charge it before use and asked if they needed to borrow a charger. He said no need to borrow, so I assumed he charged it before installation.

Where to start?

1. Alternator problem?

a. I can check the battery voltage with a simple multi-meter. I don’t have quick access to a battery tester. Obviously I can take the battery to an auto parts store.

b. If I can’t start the boat, I don’t know how to test the alternator.

i. If I can get it started, should I be able to test alternator output at the leads to the battery with my multi-meter? I think I should be looking for 14-15V or so. If I don’t get that, I’m guessing I have an alternator that needs to be replaced.

2. If battery has 12.6V or higher: Starter problem?

a. TMC search has taught me about starter relay somewhere near the ECM

i. Am I correct that I can swap it out with one of the other relays there to see if the boat will crank? I realize it probably won’t start when swapping it out.

b. I’m not sure of where to go from there to test the starter or solenoid, other than giving the solenoid a whack to see if it’s sticking. I’ve read about jumping the starter directly from the battery, but not sure what the process for doing that actually is.

I’d appreciate any other steps you might be able to give me. Also, I know that there are marine starters, but are there also marine alternators?

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Badger

I haven't tried anything yet. Going over tonight.

I don't know how to get to the document. It takes me to a google sign in screen. After signing in, I don't know how to get to the document.

Can you elaborate on how to jump to the solenoid, and what does it mean if the boat cranks after doing that?

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BlastRlxi

Make sure all the battery cables are tight.

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scfdfireman

Usually a new battery doesn't need to be charged prior to it being instaled. The clicking that you're hearing may be the starter solenoid reacting to low battery voltage. If a battery is good you shouldn't have to suppliment it with a jumper, something is wrong somewhere. Have them take the battery in to an auto store (or back to Walmart) and have a "load test" done. This will truly tell you the condition of the battery. Just checking the voltage will only tell you the surface charge which may be insufficient to start the motor. Once that you have a "good battery" established, install it and get the motor running. The voltmeter on the dash should read 13-13.5 volts at a minimum, if not you need to address a possible problem with the charging system.

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Sixball

Sounds like a dirty connection somewhere. Bad ground? The battery can show 12 volts but not have enough cranking amps.

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Murphy8166

The problem is that your starter is not getting enought current to turn over and it could be as simple as a loose coonection or as complex as the alternator failed and the battery is not getting charged and now the battery is toast.

I would start by cleaning and checking all connections. Check the connections to the battery, the switch if applicable, the alternator and the starter. You will also want to check the grounds on the battery, the alternator and the block of the engine. Try and fire the boat up.

If that does not work, then you have to get the battery up to snuff in order to start testing the charging system. Whether you jump, charge or replace the battery - get the boat started. If you have a fully charged battery that is delivering the need amperage to the start but fails to start - then you move to the starter.

If the boat starts with the charged battery, you will want to test the alternator. A simple multimeter can be used on the battery to do so...you are looking for 14.4 volts.

Dont' ever assume that the battery is charged wheter you get it from a store or it has been in the boat without without charge. Also, the voltmeter on the dash is not accurate enought for testing purpose. Use a MM

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Badger

Thanks for the replies. I also just found Tvano's No-start guide. I'll bring all of this with me tonight and hopefully give the good news tomorrow.

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Badger

Update: I checked and reconnected all connections. Battery was showing 12.4 volts at the terminals as well as at the starter with the key on.

Question: if I show constant voltage at the starter with the key turned on, what actually activates the solenoid when I turn the key to "start"? It surprised me to see voltage there with the key on.

I then used a jump pack to the positive terminal of the starter and grounded on an engine mount. I still got clicking when turning the key. I whacked the solenoid with a wrench, with no change.

Lastly I removed the starter and will have my buddy take it to an autoparts store for tester.

Anything else I should have done?

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SeanQ

Just because the battery shows it has >12v doesn't mean it's charged, that just means you don't have any dead cells in it. You need to see how many amps the battery has, and I know my cheapo multimeter doesn't have that function. If you bring it to a parts store they should be able to tell you and charge it if needed.

Those portable jumper packs seem to have a short life span, especially when used often. I used to work at a parts store and we had one of those to jump customer cars and each one seemed to last <6 months before it couldn't jump cars anymore.

I'm thinking whoever said loose/dirty connection somewhere could be on the right track. Or whoever said the alternator isn't charging the battery leaving you with a dead battery could be right as well.

So for your question...

the starter relay activates the starter when you turn the key to start.

I know you said you whacked the solenoid, but have you tried being nice to it and just crossing the terminals with a screwdriver? (that takes the starter relay out of the picture)

Given the history of the problem I'm betting it's just a dead battery for starters, but that's not the underlying problem of why it's getting drained.

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Sixball

Have you put a wrench on the crank bolt to see if the motor turns over?

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Badger

SeanQ - thanks for the info. When I was using the jumper pack directly to the post on the starter, I thought I was taking the relay out of the equation, but maybe that wasn't the case.

I think that you and Sixball are asking the same question about jumping the starter. Once I got out there, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to cross. I had read about using a jumper to do that but wasn't sure where it was going to go. In order to take out the starter, I only had to remove 2 wires: a main red wire that was probably about 6 or 8 guage and a much smaller yellow wire (probably about 16 or 18 guage.) I wasn't sure what that wire was responsible for.

While the starter was on the boat, I disconnented a wire running from inside the starter to the solenoid terminals. Even though that wire was sheathed in green (typically ground in my limited experience), I assume that was the hot lead into the starter. Correct??????

I also touched the positive lead of the jumper pack to that wire, thinking it would turn the starter. But nothing happened.

At that point, I just removed the starter to have it tested. I'll have him bring the battery in for testing too.

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Michigan boarder

When you turneed the key, did it make 1 click or a repeated and fast click-click-click-click like a camera shutter?

If it was the latter, odds are it is a loose or dirtly connection.

Edit: or a bad battery.

Edited by Michigan boarder

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Badger

Single click with each turn and hold of the key.

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Michigan boarder

Single click with each turn and hold of the key.

Then I say starter. I got a few hundred NDawg bucks in my sock drawer that I'd be willing to wager.

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skiatook_bu

My guess would be the starter. I had mine do this many years ago. I took it apart, cleaned it, and put it back together and it is still working today.

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Sixball

I was thinking of just being sure your motor is free. Not a hydraulic situation. !

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Badger

I wasn't there for it, but apparently the starter was tested tonight and totally frozen up at an autoparts store. They'll be ordering a new one (Marine grade).

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Badger

Hey guys - New starter fixed the problem, but I caused another issue.

When tightening the main lead to the battery, I broke the stud on the solenoid about halfway down, leaving too few threads. I took the cover off of the solenoid from the old one and replaced it to get the boat back running. My fault for not realizing I was tightening a nut onto a copper stud.

Anyways, I haven't done a google search yet, but would like to get the broken stud out of the new solenoid and replace it. Does anyone know if this is possible, or is that stud soldered internally to the solenoid?

And thanks to the crew for your help. Probably saved my neighbor a couple hundred bucks from having to have a marine service come out.

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