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Is the starter a maintenance item or do I just have terrible luck?


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Have had my starter go out almost once per/year since I bought the boat.  Never any warning or slowing down symptoms -- it will work on a Saturday and be dead on a Sunday.  That's 3 starters in 4 years.  2 from Amazon (cheap) and one from the local parts store (expensive.)  Expensive one didn't last any longer.  Had one Amazon replaced under warranty (12mo) and the other one just outside.  Parts store only had 90 days.

Is there a procedure/process where I can further waterproof these?  My theory is that they sit in the bilge (which is wet) and then I put on the black cover and the super-hot and humid environment just causes them to rust faster than you can ever keep up with.  It's not the cost (or time) to replace that is the headache, it's the day stuck at the ramp or the embarrassing tow-in by the bayliner after a breakdown on the water.  

Am I the only one with this problem (bad luck?) or is the starter one of those items that everyone is constantly replacing?  

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BlindSquirrel
7 minutes ago, Fffrank said:

Have had my starter go out almost once per/year since I bought the boat.  Never any warning or slowing down symptoms -- it will work on a Saturday and be dead on a Sunday.  That's 3 starters in 4 years.  2 from Amazon (cheap) and one from the local parts store (expensive.)  Expensive one didn't last any longer.  Had one Amazon replaced under warranty (12mo) and the other one just outside.  Parts store only had 90 days.

Is there a procedure/process where I can further waterproof these?  My theory is that they sit in the bilge (which is wet) and then I put on the black cover and the super-hot and humid environment just causes them to rust faster than you can ever keep up with.  It's not the cost (or time) to replace that is the headache, it's the day stuck at the ramp or the embarrassing tow-in by the bayliner after a breakdown on the water.  

Am I the only one with this problem (bad luck?) or is the starter one of those items that everyone is constantly replacing?  

hmmm... That sounds pretty excessive. I changed my original starter 2 years ago. On year 3 with no issues. You are getting a marine version... correct? What part is failing in them? 

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Yes, always using the Marine version.  Seems like the main motor is failing.  The solenoid will click but there won't be any spinning.  A few whacks with a mallet hasn't free'd them up, either.  I've got two cores I'm going to drop off with my rebuilder and maybe/hopefully he can make recommendations.

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Posted (edited)

Have you bench tested the old starter/solenoid?

It seems like I replaced the starter on my 1999 Malibu several times with a similar sounding issue and finally found that it was a starter relay upstream from the starter itself. If I recall, it wasn't listed as an actual "relay" but it did a similar function. Once that got replaced my sporadic starting issues went away. 

Edited by ice9v2
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15 minutes ago, formulaben said:

Do you typically get a lot of water in the bilge?  That seems like way too many.

There's always water in there when I pull the plug on the way up the ramp.  I wouldn't call it excessive.  Cooler drains into there (we usually dump in 50lbs of ice every time we go out.)  And the shaft packing for the propshaft.  Autobilge rarely turns on (and even that never pumps it all out.)

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18 minutes ago, Fffrank said:

I've got two cores I'm going to drop off with my rebuilder and maybe/hopefully he can make recommendations.

They'll probably have some insights to the source of failure.  Like you, my bet is on humidy causing rust inside.  Not sure if you're on a lift or dry docked, but maybe add some vents to the cover and open up a corner seat or v-drive hatch before covering to help evacuate some of the moisture?

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If the water is getting up to the starter, you have way too much in the bilge.  Does your bilge pump pick it up if you turn it on manually?  Obviously, getting all the water out before you cover would be best.

You could ask your rebuilder to paint the inside of the starter before he assembles it.  He can use a clear product if color bothers him.  I would mask off the spindle ends and the commutator, then spray the armature.  I would also spray the entire case with the magnets inside, and even the brush plate after masking the brushes (or just removing them).  It is most likely that the case is causing the most issues.

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Water does not get as high as the starter. But it stays humid in there. Should probably pull out the v drive seat to try and dry it out a little more. 

 

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29 minutes ago, Fffrank said:

Water does not get as high as the starter. But it stays humid in there. Should probably pull out the v drive seat to try and dry it out a little more. 

I keep my boat in a garage.  That allows me to use an old 240v air conditioner fan in my rafters to dry the boat after each use.  The fan points straight down into the center of the boat.

If you can put a vent in your cover and run a fan to circulate the air, it would help a lot.

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That seems excessive IMO, I am on the original starter for my boat.  As others noted, logical suspect is corrosion due to humidity and/or a faulty relay/solenoid.  You might also check starter alignment which could cause high loads.  Is the base timing on your engine correct, too much advance is hard on the starter. 

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4 hours ago, Woodski said:

You might also check starter alignment which could cause high loads.

Good call.  If your overhauls don't show corrosion then that's where I would look next.

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4 hours ago, Woodski said:

That seems excessive IMO, I am on the original starter for my boat.  As others noted, logical suspect is corrosion due to humidity and/or a faulty relay/solenoid.  You might also check starter alignment which could cause high loads.  Is the base timing on your engine correct, too much advance is hard on the starter. 

I don't think it's the relay/solenoid as the screw driver shorting out the terminals doesn't make it come to life.  

Base timing as it's an EFI engine.

Starter alignment could be a possibility but it spins smooth/easy and no marks on the teeth.  Plus, the newer starters mount with vertical bolts that don't allow the shimming that the old face-mounted starters did.

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My original starter lasted 25 years. just recently had to change it due to a sever storm swamping the boat... my boat was outside on a lift and uncovered when we got 5 inches of rain.  found the starter submerged in water the next morning. I had disconnected the battery to do some electrical work when the storm came so the bilge pump was not running. A $300 error and what a pain to get the two 9/16 inch bolts loose (had to use every word in my vocabulary). Thought I was going to have to pull the motor but turns out there was enough clearance after all.

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