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Ignition system troubleshooting help ('93 echelon LXI)


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Working through my overheating issue here:  

While dealing with the above, I've run into an ignition issue that I can't seem to figure out.  

Last time out on the lake, the hose to the oiler cooler came off and was pumping water into the bilge area.  The water in the bilge area was about 1/2" from overflowing at the front of the bilge area (front of the engine).  Shut things down and let the bilge pump do it's job and got a tow to the dock.

Symptoms: with power to the boat, I turn the key in the ignition and all I get is a click - one single click.  It sounds like it is coming from what I believe is the starter relay.  The noise location to the starboard side of T-stat housing sitting above the impellor pump and next to a push button circuit breaker.  There are two posts on top and two at the base.  I believe this is my starter relay and I'm fairly certain the click comes from there and not the circuit breaker.  I have not been able to reset the circuit breaker (i.e. I can not push it in as though it tripped).   Nothing happens at the starter, no noise.  I'm pretty good at wrenching, but I'm not too good with electrical testing (i.e. checking on volts, ohms, etc.).  Not sure what I'm doing, how to read the meters, etc.

Testing to date:  I put both batteries on my charger for a 2amp slow charge.  Battery showing full charge and still get one click.  initially tried to "jump" the starter with a screw driver and all I got was a whirring sound, or what I'll call a spinning up of the starter motor shaft - although at the time I wasn't sure about that.  Got a remote starter from harbor freight, hooked it up and the same result - starter not fully engaging, but spinning up but not engaging the bendix.  Seemed the starter might not be working completely, but with the jump/remote start it was doing something.  At the relay, I've read you can jump/bypass the relay using the two posts on top.  I used a set of gator clips and touched both posts simultaneously and got nothing.  I've had to strip some rubber coating off them - I'm finding several places that appear to be coated with "rubber" type material.  The post, the ring connection, the wire, etc.   I would get a spark on occasion, but no click sound.  I played with the throttle to make sure it was in the neutral position and made sure the throttle lock was engaged.

I've pulled three wires off the back of the motor above the tranny.  Looked like they were attached to a sensor of some kind.  I brushed them off and they appeared clean as well as the contact points.  Looks like I've got clean metal to metal contact. 

Am I correct that if I'm getting a click at the relay, it is opening/closing (?), or doing what it is supposed to to allow current to flow to the starter solenoid?   If I'm getting a click at the starter relay, then the neutral switch is functioning correctly.  I think the wiring diagram is ignition switch, neutral safety switch, starter relay, starter solenoid, starter motor, correct?  Could the relay be working but the starter/solenoid not be getting enough juice through the relay to engage the starter, even slightly?

After I get the starter issue resolved, I'll get back to finishing up issues related to my overheating.

Thanks all for any guidance.

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Did you jump the right terminals on the starter? If you jumped the positive battery cable terminal to the other large terminal wired to the starter motor it will only spin the motor without engaging. You need to jump the positive to one of smaller terminals on the solenoid. I suspect if you jump it this way it will confirm whether or not your solenoid is bad or good. Then you can proceed with diagnosis.

Either way I would suggest taking apart and cleaning all connections at the starter and relay with sandpaper. I fought a similar issue years ago that was fixed just by doing this.

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Michigan boarder

I would do some further testing on the batteries.  How old are they?  What voltage do you measure across the pos and neg on them (not the gauge, but with a multimeter)?

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3 hours ago, Michigan boarder said:

I would do some further testing on the batteries.  How old are they?  What voltage do you measure across the pos and neg on them (not the gauge, but with a multimeter)?

I know one of the batteries is bad and the other is good.  I have a new battery in the garage to replace the bad one.  Prior to this particular issue ignition issue, I've had the boat started multiple times in the driveway and on the water.  It wasn't until the hose coming loose and filling the bilge bay did I have issue with starting the boat.  I'm confident the battery is strong enough.

After I bought the boat I slow charged the good battery overnight.  Then when this issue presented itself, i pulled the charger out and went for the slow charge again and it registered at least 75% charge.  I've also have a good 12v & 6v charger that I purchased when I started working a '55 New Yorker (it's a 6 volt positive ground system) and I've learned some electrical from that; but I'm still a novice.

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4 hours ago, drh said:

Did you jump the right terminals on the starter? If you jumped the positive battery cable terminal to the other large terminal wired to the starter motor it will only spin the motor without engaging. You need to jump the positive to one of smaller terminals on the solenoid. I suspect if you jump it this way it will confirm whether or not your solenoid is bad or good. Then you can proceed with diagnosis.

Either way I would suggest taking apart and cleaning all connections at the starter and relay with sandpaper. I fought a similar issue years ago that was fixed just by doing this.

I think I was jumping the two large posts because I wasn't getting anything from the smaller posts.  Initially it appeared all the wires were attached to the larger posts, but after I removed the bolts and tried to free the starter.  One wire was attached to the small post on the engine side.  I did not trace it, but if I'm reading the wiring diagram correctly, is that the wire from the relay?  

And to confirm, If I am in fact hearing a click at the relay, does that typically indicate the relay is function as intended?  And if the relay is functioning correctly, and I can NOT engage the starter by jumping the positive post and the smaller post on the solenoid, then most likely I have a bad solenoid.  Is my reasoning sound?

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Yes the wire from the relay connects to small post on the solenoid. If you jump positive to this post and solenoid doesn't engage then you know that's the problem. If it does engage it could be the relay or wiring between the two. I wouldn't assume a click always indicates the relay is working but it is a good sign. Whether or not you get 12v at the back of solenoid with relay closed would be a better test. But like I said I would strongly recommend cleaning the connections before you get too much farther.

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@Sig556 - can we assume there are 2 events between starting fine and not starting based on your comments?  Bilge was filled with water and battery was connected to slow charger?  With that I would look at starter (because it was submerged) and at the battery (because it was hooked to a charger between ok and not).  You might need to rebuild the starter given it’s time in the ‘bathtub’.

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@Woodski - Bingo regarding the timeline.  And the submersion event occurred, then I got the click at the relay and assumed it was low battery.  Hooked up the charger, and when it was fully charged, nothing changed.  It acted the same before and after the charge.  

@drh - I'll clean my connections and since the starter is out, I've got some jumper cables and various size gator clips I can use to test the solenoid.

Thanks for the responses.  Hopefully I get this sorted shortly and I can get back to finishing the overheating issues.

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1 hour ago, Sig556 said:

@Woodski - Bingo regarding the timeline.  And the submersion event occurred, then I got the click at the relay and assumed it was low battery.  Hooked up the charger, and when it was fully charged, nothing changed.  It acted the same before and after the charge.  

@drh - I'll clean my connections and since the starter is out, I've got some jumper cables and various size gator clips I can use to test the solenoid.

Thanks for the responses.  Hopefully I get this sorted shortly and I can get back to finishing the overheating issues.

You can try (gently) tapping on the starter as you turn the key or otherwise apply power to it.  This should help dislodge built up carbon in the commutator and near the brush holders.  Don't tap too hard or you risk breaking a magnet.  If that helps get it going, you should rebuild it.  If you are cheap like me, you can do it yourself.  Even if it still doesn't work, at least you tried, and you can still take it in as a core on a rebuilt one.  Your starter may be older and bigger, in which case you may not have the planetary gears.  Everything should be similar enough to get you through the job.

 

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