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  1. #1
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    Default 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    Hello....I have a frustrating issue. Just bought a 91 commander jet boat with a 350 chevy small block. I replaced the battery, battery cables, starter and the spark plugs. It started up just fine, ran it on the lake for about 20 min then all of a sudden the engine died. I started it back up and the engine sputtered, then died again. I eventually got back to shore and now the engine doesn't even start up. It cranks, but won't fire. It has gas in it, fuel is being squirted into the carb so there is no issue there. Spark plugs are fine. I even replaced the starter key ignition switch. One problem I was able to find was I had a dual point ignitor, but one side would only spark. I replaced it with a Pertronix electronic ignitor, thinking it would be the issue. Now when I crank the engine, it will turn over, but as I let go of the key, it tries to fire. I did the spark test, and as I'm cranking the engine there is no power going from the coil to the distributor, but as I let go of the key, there is a spark from the coil to the distributor. I even replaced the coil also. Tried using Engine Start with Ether.....still not firing up. Do you guys have any suggestions? LOL...I'm ready to take it to a shop.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    Lose the ether or lose your motor. You don't need it. Check for 12v at the +side of the coil, key on engine off. If you do, recheck the instructions on how you wired everything. Could be you have something wrong in your installation of the new distrib.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    Quote Originally Posted by searay3 View Post
    Lose the ether or lose your motor. You don't need it. Check for 12v at the +side of the coil, key on engine off. If you do, recheck the instructions on how you wired everything. Could be you have something wrong in your installation of the new distrib.
    Thanks for your reply. But it was doing this before I put the new ignitor in. I ony replaced it after it had died on the lake. I'll give it a shot though.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    I have seen this before, A wire cold have been geting a cross feed 12V during cranking and now it isn't. Automotive startors have a terminal on the startor to give a full 12V while cranking and bypass a resitor. An easy check is to hook a jumper wire from known 12V to the coil and see if it starts, just know you will have to pull the wire off to stop the engine. If this gets it see if the startor has an R and an S terminal , I belive you would want to run a wire from the R to the B+ on the coil. If you really want to do it right put a diode in line to prevent back feed. Good luck

  5. #5
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    I just checked and only 2.85 volts was coming out. Any ideas what the issue could be now? I'm wondering if the ballast resistor is causing this problem because I put in the pertronix electronic ignitor....or I just wired it wrong....

  6. #6
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    As long as your coil can take a full 12 volts get rid of the resistor, it's only there to protect the points. Just make sure it's 12V while cranking.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    Pay close attention to your wiring instructions and make sure the 12 volt source you are using is switched at the ignition. Don't know what power package you have as lots of the boats of this size use chebby's, so I can't help you with the coloring of the wires.

  8. #8
    Commander FreeBeeTony's Avatar
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    If memory serves me correctly.........the ballast resistor is not needed with the Pertronix ignition.
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    Quote Originally Posted by FreeBeeTony View Post
    If memory serves me correctly.........the ballast resistor is not needed with the Pertronix ignition.
    I just unplugged the wire from the ballast resistor to the + side of the coil. When I turned on the ignition, it shot up to 12V which was good. The engine cranked, but still wouldnt fire.

    I'm just so thrown back as to why it ran for 20 min perfect, died on the lake, started back up, died again. When I got home, it wouldn't start up at all. Checked the dual points and only one was sparking. Took that out and replaced it with an electronic ignitor. Still doing the same thing.....not firing up.

  10. #10

    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    Did you possibly kill the coil????
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  11. #11
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    When I turned on the ignition, it shot up to 12V which was good. The engine cranked, but still wouldnt fire.
    Ayuh,... Is there 12Vs at the (+) terminal of the coil,.. While it's Cranking over,..??
    There should be a wire from the starter that supplies the coil,.. While Cranking on the starter,.....
    It's the small terminal on the solenoid, away from the block...
    Any Grease is Better,..... Than No Grease at All.......

  12. #12
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    Quote Originally Posted by snoski View Post
    Did you possibly kill the coil????
    No...it did this when I had the old one, and I replaced it thinking that could have been the issue. But no....still not starting up.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    Quote Originally Posted by Bond-o View Post
    Ayuh,... Is there 12Vs at the (+) terminal of the coil,.. While it's Cranking over,..??
    There should be a wire from the starter that supplies the coil,.. While Cranking on the starter,.....
    It's the small terminal on the solenoid, away from the block...
    Here's what happend. The voltmeter guage on the boat would read about 8-10volts when I turned the key without cranking the engine. I unplugged the wire going from the ballast resistor to the + side of the coil. Now it's reading 12V when I turn the key on. I used my volt reader to see how much was being put out at the + end of the coil while being cranked and it was only showing 2.85 with the ballast resistor plugged in. This morning I unplugged the wire going from the ballast to the + end of the coil. Didn't check what the reading was with my volt reader, but it still didn't fire up. It's doing this thing where the engine will turn over, but after I let go of the key, it sounds like it's trying to fire but doesn't. Like it's firing at the end and not at the beginning.

  14. #14
    Moderator Bondo's Avatar
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    Here's what happend. The voltmeter guage on the boat would read about 8-10volts when I turned the key without cranking the engine. I unplugged the wire going from the ballast resistor to the + side of the coil. Now it's reading 12V when I turn the key on. I used my volt reader to see how much was being put out at the + end of the coil while being cranked and it was only showing 2.85 with the ballast resistor plugged in. This morning I unplugged the wire going from the ballast to the + end of the coil. Didn't check what the reading was with my volt reader, but it still didn't fire up. It's doing this thing where the engine will turn over, but after I let go of the key, it sounds like it's trying to fire but doesn't. Like it's firing at the end and not at the beginning.
    Ayuh,..... Your Wiring is AFUp...

    The only thing the resistor is supposed to be resisting is the Coil... You're showing it on the Voltmeter...
    It's doing this thing where the engine will turn over, but after I let go of the key, it sounds like it's trying to fire but doesn't. Like it's firing at the end and not at the beginning.
    The last line of my previous post deals with Just That....
    Any Grease is Better,..... Than No Grease at All.......

  15. #15
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    Quote Originally Posted by Bond-o View Post
    Ayuh,..... Your Wiring is AFUp...

    The only thing the resistor is supposed to be resisting is the Coil... You're showing it on the Voltmeter...

    The last line of my previous post deals with Just That....

    Thanks. I really appreciate the information on this. So is there a way to fix this issue?

  16. #16
    Moderator Bondo's Avatar
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    So is there a way to fix this issue?
    Ayuh,.... Sure,....
    All it takes is a Test Light, Multimeter,+ an understanding of What goes Where...
    With the vague discription of your driveline,... I don't know Where you'd find a diagram,...
    Not that it matters,... Your's doesn't sound like it's even Close to Stock...
    Any Grease is Better,..... Than No Grease at All.......

  17. #17
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    Regarding ballast resistance or not, the coil determines that. There are external resistance coils and internal resistance coils. The type of ignition does not determine if the coil can "take" the full 12 volts or not. An electronic ignition system can be designed either way, for internal or external resistance coils. Be sure to replace it with whatever the circuit was designed for.

    Ballast is the operative description of why the resistance component is in the circuit, it helps to maintain balance kind of like a wheel weight sorta. Coil circuits experience normal resistance as well as reluctance, which is resistance to the building of magnetic flux lines, kind of like a head wind. In this way the ballast is like the tail of a kite, when things get windy the ballast helps keep it from getting too far off kilter.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    Quote Originally Posted by Maclin View Post
    Regarding ballast resistance or not, the coil determines that. There are external resistance coils and internal resistance coils. The type of ignition does not determine if the coil can "take" the full 12 volts or not. An electronic ignition system can be designed either way, for internal or external resistance coils. Be sure to replace it with whatever the circuit was designed for.

    Ballast is the operative description of why the resistance component is in the circuit, it helps to maintain balance kind of like a wheel weight sorta. Coil circuits experience normal resistance as well as reluctance, which is resistance to the building of magnetic flux lines, kind of like a head wind. In this way the ballast is like the tail of a kite, when things get windy the ballast helps keep it from getting too far off kilter.

    My question is...would the stalling on the lake before putting in the new pertronix ignitor be due to this electrical issue?

  19. #19
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    Good chance it meesed up something you know what you got now and you know what you need I would stop trying to figure out what happend and just consitrate on geting it right. All you need is a wire that has 12V while cranking. Not all wires with 12V have it while cranking. Run a wire from the R terminal on your startor or the only small terminal without a wire going to it and try again. The reason it sounds like it is trying to start when you stop cranking is that when you stop cranking the ignition get's 12V and trys to catch. Two people have sugested this just give it a try it will work.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    the reason it tries to fire as you are releasing the key is there was 2 circuits. one for 12 volts while cranking and one for 9 volts while running. Now you need 12 volts for both, and you have none foe cranking. recheck the wiring. There needs to be 12 volts to the coil from the ign. side of the key. you can get this from the starter sol. if i remember right the term closest to the motor is the run side. anyway one will have an "S" and the other will have an "R" marked on it. you want the "R" side. make a new wire from there to the coil, as the old one is a resistor wire. just a 10 or 12 gauge should do. prefer 10. If it has a ballist resistor, bypass it. and your good.
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    Quote Originally Posted by bifflefan View Post
    the reason it tries to fire as you are releasing the key is there was 2 circuits. one for 12 volts while cranking and one for 9 volts while running. Now you need 12 volts for both, and you have none foe cranking. recheck the wiring. There needs to be 12 volts to the coil from the ign. side of the key. you can get this from the starter sol. if i remember right the term closest to the motor is the run side. anyway one will have an "S" and the other will have an "R" marked on it. you want the "R" side. make a new wire from there to the coil, as the old one is a resistor wire. just a 10 or 12 gauge should do. prefer 10. If it has a ballist resistor, bypass it. and your good.

    Ok i'll give it a shot. So when I run the wire from the "R" side, I connect it to the positive side of the solenoid?

  22. #22
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    Quote Originally Posted by bifflefan View Post
    the reason it tries to fire as you are releasing the key is there was 2 circuits. one for 12 volts while cranking and one for 9 volts while running. Now you need 12 volts for both, and you have none foe cranking. recheck the wiring. There needs to be 12 volts to the coil from the ign. side of the key. you can get this from the starter sol. if i remember right the term closest to the motor is the run side. anyway one will have an "S" and the other will have an "R" marked on it. you want the "R" side. make a new wire from there to the coil, as the old one is a resistor wire. just a 10 or 12 gauge should do. prefer 10. If it has a ballist resistor, bypass it. and your good.

    Ok I just tried this. I have a starter which enters in the port side of the engine. The positive battery cable screws into the back of it, with a yellow wire screwing into the "S" side of the solenoid. I ran a wire from the "R" side of the solenoid (nothing was screwed in there previously) to the + side of the coil. I tried cranking the engine with the ballist resistor connected and once with it not connected. Still the same result. Cranking over, won't fire.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    yeah, ignition system problems are frustrating.

    my mercruiser 140 had one of those resister wires in the wiring harness. they get old and deteriorate. then when they warm up after running, their resistance increases too much, and the starting voltage drops. i have a pertronix ignition like you. they are digital in nature--if the starting voltage drops below some level (like 7 to 9v or something), the pertronix shuts down. it took me a LONG time to figure out what was happening. i ended up bypassing the resister wire. first i added an external resister and put in the coil for that--no joy. i ended up removing the external resister and running a coil with internal resistance. not what was called out but it has worked great for many years now.

    are you sure your pertronix is still good? you can't leave the key in the "on" position for too long without the engine running, because it will ruin the pertronix. the "aux" position is ok.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    Quote Originally Posted by myoldboat2 View Post
    yeah, ignition system problems are frustrating.

    my mercruiser 140 had one of those resister wires in the wiring harness. they get old and deteriorate. then when they warm up after running, their resistance increases too much, and the starting voltage drops. i have a pertronix ignition like you. they are digital in nature--if the starting voltage drops below some level (like 7 to 9v or something), the pertronix shuts down. it took me a LONG time to figure out what was happening. i ended up bypassing the resister wire. first i added an external resister and put in the coil for that--no joy. i ended up removing the external resister and running a coil with internal resistance. not what was called out but it has worked great for many years now.

    are you sure your pertronix is still good? you can't leave the key in the "on" position for too long without the engine running, because it will ruin the pertronix. the "aux" position is ok.
    Yeah the pertronix is still good. I just put it in about a week ago, and I never leave the ignition on when firing it up. When the boat died on me initially, I checked the points, and it was equipped with dual points. One side was sparking, the other was not. That was when I decided to switch it over to a electronic ignitor....HOPING that would fix the issue. Nope still no luck. It just puzzles me as how it ran fine, fired right up, put it in the water, drove it around for 20 min, and then it crapped out. Now it wont start. I thought it was the fuel, but it's going in to the carb with no problem. It's gotta be a spark issue.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: 350 Chevy Small block starting problems ***please help!****

    I will try as best I remember to give you a flow chart for ignition. all voltage checks should be made with a test light hoked up while checking voltage with a volt meter, this way it puts a small load on the circuit and checks that you have current as well as voltage. If the voltage drops when a test light is connected it means you have a bad conection somewhere. Check for B+ at the coil+ both key on and engine cranking. If you can do a voltage drop test, do one between the battery+ and coil+ and between the battery- and engine block. If every thing is ok less than about .2 volts hook a test light between B+ and the coil- crank the engine if the test light blinks your points/pertronix is ok if not you need to check that it is hooked up properly. It may also be a bad ground from the distributor to block or block to battery. If you know the specs on the coil you can check the resistance between the primary and secondary side of the coil. the resistance between coil+ and coil- should be around 3-4 ohm and the secondary coil+ and the coil tower (where the wire goes from the coil to cap) it depends on the coil but it should be over 1,000 ohm. but not open. Another explination for what your describing is a bad ground between the engine and the battery. do a voltage test between the engine block and battery- while cranking the engine if there is more than .5 volts you need to add a ground or replace the ground wire. This would also explain the voltage gauge problem, and no spark. The engine may have been grounding through a control cable.

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