The starter saga ¬†drags on in Cairns, what was intended to be a two day stop has now gone on for two weeks and two days so far…

With finding crew and then a starter failure, as we went to leave, the saga began.

It all started with a slight whine in the engine that came good after two restarts. The motor then started and ran without a problem until I went to start it the next day and found we had nothing. With some quick diagnosis the problem was tracked down to a fault with the armature in the starter motor. With the combination of the wine previously heard it would indicate a starter motor stuck in while the engine is running. With a ring gear of about 80 teeth and a starter with about 12 teeth that means the starter would be doing about 30,000 RPM when the engine reaches 4500 RPM. Well out of its design range. This caused the armature to self destruct, tearing a hole in the armature.

Starter after having been rotated above 30,000 RPM

Starter after having been rotated above 30,000 RPM

Luckily a new starter was located locally and installed next morning. Motor started and ran fine. We left the marina for fuel at Yorkeys Knob Boat Club a short 2.2 nautical miles away. After topping up with fuel I went to start the motor, nothing. Another fried starter motor. First phone call was to Ashdowns for another starter motor, luckily they had another on the shelf in Cairns. They also provided me with the phone number for Kevin Bradshaw from Cairns Automarine Electrics. (0438 330 315). Kevin was on Thursday Island so was unable to come to the boat however he supplied me invaluable advice on what the problem could be and how to diagnose it. I would highly recommend Kevin to anyone in the Cairns area for any automotive or marine electrical needs.The circuit contains an ignition switch, starter safety relay, remote solenoid, starter solenoid, starter motor and associated wiring. I followed Kevin’s advice and wired the motor up so I could test the starter circuit without a starter motor. I rigged a test light into the starter circuit at the starter motor location and found that it stayed on when the key went from start to on. Next was out with the multi-meter, the ignition switch tested perfectly every time.

The next test was the remote solenoid located on the rear of the motor, accessible through a small craw hatch lined with exposed high amperage terminals and on top of a 360 Amp Hour battery bank. The access to this hatch is via a small passage way to the aft cabin. The only way to get in is to lay on the carpet and shimmy into the hatch onto the top of the motor. With the ignition turned to start then on the test light would stay on until I lightly tapped the remote solenoid. The test light went out. I repeated the process several times, every time I tapped the solenoid, the test lamp would go out. Another call to Kevin and he suggested KG Mechanical in Cairns, they are the local Yanmar dealer. They located a part number and checked, Melbourne had them in stock. I had it sent overnight.

Remote Starter Solenoid and relay, located on the back of the engine

Remote Starter Solenoid and relay, located on the back of the engine

In the meantime I had a faulty thermostat in one of the fridges and decided to update it to a digital one. I contacted Jeremy Spence from Neptune Refrigeration & Air Conditioning on 0418 825 903. He wasn’t able to supply anyone to fit a new thermostat but could drop one out to the boat and give me some information on fitting it. He also offered to pick up the solenoid on the way out. Jeremy was sailing around Australia with his wife and ended up in Cairns. He is an ex Fremantle local and has his yacht moored a few berths down from us.

I fitted the new remote solenoid… Fired the motor up and the bloody starter motor stayed on. That only leaves the starter safety relay and the wiring harness. The average car starter relay can be purchased on the net from $6 unfortunately the pin out on this relay is slightly different and would require wires to be cut and re terminated is a space that does not allow room for tools. I organise to have the part overnight-ed from Melbourne $109 plus GST and freight. The part has just arrived, time to pick it up and fit it, then head off to Double Island for the night.

Starter Relay Pin Out

Starter Relay Pin Out

Starter Relay

Starter Relay