Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Engine stops suddenly

This is one in a series of A Guide to Narrow Boat Problems.

Engine stops suddenly when in gear and won't restart.
A major mechanical failure in a slow running, low stressed diesel engine is relatively rare - a fuel system problem would be the most likely internal cause of an engine stopping suddenly. It could be: A. Something wrapped around the prop
B. Fuel starvation
C. Mechanical engine problem.
A. Put engine in reverse, which may clear weed on the prop. If not, switch off ignition and remove key. Moor up, using a pole to the bank if necessary. If you have a cabin hook (short pole with hook on the end) this may pull away the weed. If not, remove weed hatch cover and feel for obstruction. Weed should be cleared by hand or with a serrated knife and disposed of on the bank. If the obstruction is large, such as a log, lever it off carefully to avoid damaging the prop blades. Have the blades checked as soon as possible. If fishing line, cut it off with a sharp blade. Don't forget to replace the weed hatch securely! If it is an engine problem such as an oil filter or ignition problem switch off ignition and call for assistance.
B. 1 Check fuel level with dip stick. No fuel? Fill up! 
2 Contaminated fuel could be the dreaded diesel bug which can usually be checked and sometimes cured by filtering and cleaning at a fuel filling point. 
3 A blocked filter might be fixable or replaceable if you can find the culprit.
4  Injector pump failure, broken fuel pipe would also starve the engine of fuel.
C. A mechanical problem could be broken timing chain, broken con-rod, broken crankshaft, camshaft, valve stem. Call a qualified mechanic.
When underway always try to avoid floating objects. Logs, weeds and shopping trolleys are hazards. Minimise risk from large areas of weed by setting prop to neutral before approaching the weed. If trapped in weed use pole to escape the area before mooring up, clearing and restarting. Fuel problems usually are avoided by regular servicing by a qualified mechanic. Also keep spare filters available and keep an eye on fuel levels using a dip stick. 
Fishing line wound round the prop could start to accumulate more debris

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