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Engine starts first go, but stalls in neutral


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Good evening, I've recently had a pre-purchase survey which found that the engine stalls in neutral, but starts easily. The owner gets around this by putting it into gear and hitting the disabling button. It will then supposedly work in neutral once warmed up. The engine is a Lister petter diesel around 20 years old. The surveyor said that starting it the way the owner does could damage the gears. The owner claims that this isn't an issue. Should I get a quote for repair and negotiate price down? Any thoughts on possible issues? Supposedly the engine has just been serviced, but oil level is only half full. Would a service normally top up the oil? 

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29 minutes ago, winterbanana said:

Good evening, I've recently had a pre-purchase survey which found that the engine stalls in neutral, but starts easily. The owner gets around this by putting it into gear and hitting the disabling button. It will then supposedly work in neutral once warmed up. The engine is a Lister petter diesel around 20 years old. The surveyor said that starting it the way the owner does could damage the gears. The owner claims that this isn't an issue. Should I get a quote for repair and negotiate price down? Any thoughts on possible issues? Supposedly the engine has just been serviced, but oil level is only half full. Would a service normally top up the oil? 

 

I would expect a "service" to include changing the oil and filters so providing the dipstick is the correct one it should read full, but some "services" seem to be not much more than wipe over with an oily rag.

 

Could the idle seed be too low? Do you have an way of checking it?

 

 

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On a boat with a single lever control it is common practice when starting from cold to pull out the knob or lever (according to model) to disengage the gear cable and to push the lever forward to around the mid-throttle position for starting. Once the engine has fired the lever can be adjusted to keep the revs a little above tickover until the engine has warmed up. Then when ready to set off, push the lever back to the neutral position, push in the knob or lever to re-engage the gear cable, then push the lever so that the revs rise and the gear engages, and off you go. I suspect this is what the vendor is doing. And no harm to the gears results.

If when going back into neutral the engine regularly cuts out, then the idle stop needs adjusting to slightly higher revs.

Edited by David Mack
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1 hour ago, Tony Brooks said:

 

I would expect a "service" to include changing the oil and filters so providing the dipstick is the correct one it should read full, but some "services" seem to be not much more than wipe over with an oily rag.

 

Could the idle seed be too low? Do you have an way of checking it?

 

 

As a complete novice, the rcr course I attended in Jan 2020 was brilliant, along with the comprehensive booklet they provided (courtesy of yourself). I managed to use what I learned to get a basic service in before the lockdown. Oil and filter change, gearbox fluid change, air filter, coolant check, belt check, fuel filter change. I'm not an expert now know more about things to be aware of if getting someone in to work on things I can't do myself. It's a pity that was the last time they offered the course.

Edited by Ianws
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1 hour ago, winterbanana said:

Supposedly the engine has just been serviced, but oil level is only half full. Would a service normally top up the oil? 

By 'half full' do you mean half way between the upper and lower notches on the dipstick?

After a service I would expect the oil to be at or just below the upper mark. It should not be above the upper mark.  If the oil level is much lower then you have either been short-changed for oil, or the engine has used a lot of oil in the short time since it was serviced. The latter would be bad news!

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9 hours ago, David Mack said:

By 'half full' do you mean half way between the upper and lower notches on the dipstick?

After a service I would expect the oil to be at or just below the upper mark. It should not be above the upper mark.  If the oil level is much lower then you have either been short-changed for oil, or the engine has used a lot of oil in the short time since it was serviced. The latter would be bad news!

Suspect that the oil was filled to the mark without filling the filter, then the engine started and the filter fills up dropping the level on the dipstick. The dipstick doing the service then didn't bother to top it up☹️

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50 minutes ago, Loddon said:

Suspect that the oil was filled to the mark without filling the filter, then the engine started and the filter fills up dropping the level on the dipstick. The dipstick doing the service then didn't bother to top it up☹️

 

That makes sense and seems the likely explanation. 

 

Failing to address (or notice perhaps) the tick-over problem during a service seems slapdash. Unless they did notice and couldn't fix it, pointing out there is a deeper problem which the owner ignored knowing they would be selling the boat soon. 

 

My gut feeling given the circumstances, is this will turn out to be more than just a case of adjusting the idle stop. If it was that easy, someone would have already done it. 

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1 hour ago, Loddon said:

Suspect that the oil was filled to the mark without filling the filter, then the engine started and the filter fills up dropping the level on the dipstick. The dipstick doing the service then didn't bother to top it up☹️

 

Or indeed they never bothered to start the engine after filling the oil, thus avoiding noticing the stalling problem.

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5 hours ago, MtB said:

Failing to address (or notice perhaps) the tick-over problem during a service seems slapdash. Unless they did notice and couldn't fix it, pointing out there is a deeper problem which the owner ignored knowing they would be selling the boat soon. 

 

Maybe they didn't see it as a problem  because they started the engine and warmed it up as per David Mack's procedure above.

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3 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

Maybe they didn't see it as a problem  because they started the engine and warmed it up as per David Mack's procedure above.

Very likely. If I've done an oil change, it's start in neutral at idle until oil pressure light off, then fast idle for a couple of minutes to check for leaks.   

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The poster says this is a Lister Petter engine. If it is one of the Alpha range of engines then idle speed could be the issue. They had a habit of the speeder springs stretching over a long period of use causing the idle speed to drop. The first thing would be to ensure that the engine idles at 850 rpm when in gear and with a warm engine.

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And if its one with hydraulic valve lifters I have heard that on poorly maintained engines the oil pump wears and causes lifter problems. Also clagged up hydraulic lifters are far from uncommon across a range of engines. Best not to make too many assumptions until the OP clarifies the engine model.

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54 minutes ago, Tony Brooks said:

And if its one with hydraulic valve lifters I have heard that on poorly maintained engines the oil pump wears and causes lifter problems. Also clagged up hydraulic lifters are far from uncommon across a range of engines. Best not to make too many assumptions until the OP clarifies the engine model.

As you say that can also be a problem on the Alpa range with hydraulic tappets. If the oil is not changed at the correct intervals it can cause the tappet to jack itself open causing the valves to hit the pistons.

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10 minutes ago, winterbanana said:

Thanks for all the super helpful feedback! I've spoken with an engineer and he said if it's not the idle speed, then it could be a band in the gearbox that needs replacing! Need to find out what kind of gearbox it is. 

 

That sounds like he is thinking a LH150 box but I don't think those were ever fitted to the modern engines. We need the engine model or a photo.  Modern boxes do not use brake bands.

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34 minutes ago, Tacet said:

The original post could be clearer - but is it the engine stalls if the revs are at tickover or stalls when it is in neutral, but not when it is in gear? 

 

Possibly a single leaver control and when in gear it has already advanced the throttle cable, in other words not correctly adjusted.

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3 hours ago, Tacet said:

The original post could be clearer - but is it the engine stalls if the revs are at tickover or stalls when it is in neutral, but not when it is in gear? 

 

Thanks. It stalls in neutral, but is fine in gear. I believe it can go into neutral once it is warmed up.

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20 minutes ago, winterbanana said:

Thanks. It stalls in neutral, but is fine in gear. I believe it can go into neutral once it is warmed up.

 

So what is the engine model or post a photo. (2nd time of asking)

 

A the moment what you say your engineer told you is likely to mean the gearbox is an LH150 on  a SL or SR engine or there may be questions over his competency. If it is an LH150 then it could be low gearbox oil level or, as the engineer says, a broken band holding it in reverse. As it seems to work once the engine is warm it makes a brake band less likely but low oil level a little more likely.

 

If its is not an SL/SR engine then it is very unlikely it is an LH150 box so it is unlikely to be a brake band so we are looking at maladjusted control cables or a low idles speed as being the most likely. After that there are more obscure things.

 

Assuming a modern engine I would take the throttle cable off the injector pump lever and then set the warm idle speed to around 800 rpm or a tad more. Then try putting it in and out of gear. If that works OK stop the engine. Put the control into slow ahead or slow astern and then adjust the cable length by screwing the end fitting in or out so  drops into the hole in the throttle lever.

 

Once again MODEL of engine, make and model of gearbox, or photos of both please.

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