Just Say No To Ether
Nearly every week customers post inquiry to the Torresen Marine Diesel Direct forum asking about how to overcome starting difficulties with their diesel engine. Nearly as often, the subject of starting fluids and ether accompanies the conversation. It appears that we all want a quick fix. Instead of getting to the root of the problem we look for a magic potion that will solve the problem in a spray form.
Not only does the use of ether not solve the problem; it also is liable to shorten the life of the engine by causing serious damage. The damage could include cracked piston ring grooves or the rings and pistons themselves. When a cylinder fires from normal injection, the fuel burns for the entire stroke of the piston. Ether explodes when the compression gets it hot enough and that could be well before the piston is at the top of its compression stroke and the forces exerted are well beyond the design of the engine.
Our recommendation is simple. Stay away from ether.
There are a number of things that must be right to start any engine, especially on the first try of the day. Here is a summary list you should consider (not in any specific order):
1 – Valves should be properly adjusted.
2 – Starter motor must be in good condition – after years of service, it is not unlikely that there is wear in the starter motor that slows it’s speed. Slow speed can be critical to cold
3 – Battery – if it is nearing the end of its life or wasn’t rated properly to begin with, it could be the cause of slower starter motor speed. Batteries must be of good quality and fully charged.
4 – Battery cables must be properly sized and in good condition. All connectors should be clean. Tight connection does not always mean a good connection. Failing wires and/or the connections could result in reduced power to the starter motor.
5 – Lubricating oil should be to specification.
6 – Fuel octane level should be 45 or higher. A good quality fuel is an important part of running your diesel engine.
7 – The end of the fuel return line should be submerged in fuel.
8 – Injection timing – very critical and the most difficult to correct. This should be the last thing to evaluate and correct.
If evaluation and correction of the above doesn’t give the results you want, the symptoms are those of lowered compression. A compression test, made with the proper tester, can confirm this. You may even want to do this before trying to set the injection timing.
In the mean time – if you have access to electrical power, try putting the output of a hair dryer into the air inlet on the engine for a few minutes before the first start of the day. It
can work wonders, but it won’t correct your problems.
Hard starting can be attributed to a number of reasons, including compression, HP fuel pump, fuel, air intake, injector, injection timing, etc.
If you have used ether, there is a good chance that you have broken a piston or possibly a piston ring. Try taking the compression with your rubber nosed compression tester. If you can hold it in the hole, your compression is too low. You are looking for pressures that approach 400PSIG and it takes a pretty sophisticated set-up to read it.
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