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Thread: Newbie. Ericson 35 MKII. Atomic 4 issues. Feeling discouraged. Need Advice. Help.

  1. #1
    Contributing Member II
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    Unhappy Newbie. Ericson 35 MKII. Atomic 4 issues. Feeling discouraged. Need Advice. Help.

    Hi all. My name is Kevin. I live In San Francisco. I grew up land locked on the east coast and always dreamed of learning to sail. This year i decided to turn my dream to reality. After lots of saving I purchased a 1975 Ericson MKII. Heres the backstory: So this is my first boat. I found her on craigslist. I was recommended a mobile mechanic who i contacted and came with me to inspect the boat. So cosmetically she is pristine and everything looked amazing. We went to start the Atomic four engine and it would not turn over. It cranks and sounds like its about to start but does not turn over. The owner Said he hadnt started it since last september and was going to put a new electric fuel pump in it which he had ordered and would throw in for free with the boat. I looked to the mechanic who agreed and said once we put that fuel pump in it should fire right up and that I had a good deal hear and should go for it and he will put in the pump for me and get her started. I listened and bought the boat for 15k which i had been saving for 2 years. So a few days later the mechanic comes and puts in the new electric fuel pump and drumrolllll. NOTHING. the engine does not turn over. He says "Oh no problem it just needs a set of points order them from moyer and I ll put them in and she will fire up" I order the points a few days later he puts them in and NOTHING. Does not turn over. He now comes back a third time and starts it right up by spraying Quick start starter fluid into the carb. It runs on the ether for a few seconds then shuts down. Mechanic said "you are probably out of gas" I put 5 gallons in and nothing. I fire this mechanic and call another. He comes on the boat and within 5 min by sight alone says I could use a new head gasket, studs, manifold, oil pressure switch plugs and oil. (did not do compression test or any test) Each mechanic refused to follow the Atomic four unexpected shutdown checklist that Ken at moyer sent me because "they didn't need it". I feel like a real schmuck for not doing enough research. Every single mechanic ive called in the bay area said they will not work on A4 s and that I should save my money and repower it or get a new boat with a diesel. List marine said they would take a look as well as SF boat works but both said I would have to get it towed to there yard which was quoted as 1000 bucks. Im feeling really overwhelmed and discouraged about my new purchase. Its sitting in the slip. Stuck. Noone will work on this engine and I got quoted at 20-25 k to repower it with diesel. Well more than I paid for the boat or its value. I have dreams of starting with coastal cruises to the farrolones , half moon bay and santa cruz and one day single handing to Hawaii like sir Christian Williams in Thelonius. (he is such an inspiration, just finished philosophy of sailing). What should I do? Any advice? Is it true what the mechanics say? Should I ditch this ancient Atomic bomb engine and eat the cost of a repower eventually? I mean this A4 fired up with starter fluid so im guessing its a fuel issue and just getting it to run on the gas is the solution, but now im just bummed in the long run from all the research ive done on the A4 now and seeing how no one will work on it and now I feel stuck. HELP.
    Last edited by Christian Williams; 04-09-2019 at 10:17 PM. Reason: spelling

  2. #2
    Advanced Beginner bgary's Avatar
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    Hi, Kevin!

    I can't help with the A4 questions, but I'd offer:
    -- you're in the right place, there are people here who know that thing inside and out....
    -- EVERY boat is a project. Especially our vintage.
    -- Ericsons have really good bones, so you did good there.

    So... breathe.

    As Christian once said... "Everyone thinks in terms of completion. It's a misunderstanding. The job at hand is the end and the meaning. The need to finish fades, the nature of the work becomes the goal, the imagination is engaged. We grow with the process. We become it."

    "finished" is an mythical place, when it comes to working on boats. enjoy the journey, it's often the best part of the ride.


    $.02
    Bruce
    "Makana" (ex-Thelonious)
    1985 Ericson 32-III #604
    Makana blog: here

  3. #3
    Curator of Broken Parts toddster's Avatar
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    Seems like the first step is to work through the Moyer manual on your own and head over to their forums for help. I sure wouldn’t think about repowering at this stage. A4’s are very simple engines to work on. Start with the basics: confirm fuel, air, and spark. Systematically work through the system and you’ll find the problem.

    For example, with an engine that sat for a long time, the fuel in the bottom of the tank may be bad or full of water - adding new fuel may not help without cleaning out the old. Or the carburetor may be full of shellac and need cleaning.

    In this day of smart phones and LTE, one can often post a question to the forum while you’re right there on the boat and get an answer or suggestion in real time.

    If you really want someone else to do the work, maybe someone on the Moyer forum knows someone in your area...
    s/v arcturus E29 #134

  4. #4
    Principal Partner
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    Fixing an Atomic 4

    Kevin: I am going back a very long way....1970's when "Boat Mechanics" in Chicago were scarce as hens teeth (also...a very ancient expression) and Atomic 4 was a mystery.

    A fellow with a big power boat who happened to own an auto repair said he had an employee that was always looking to make a side buck and he would get him to take a look.

    He told me this was nothing more complicated than a Chevy Nova 4 Cylinder.... and proceeded to go through it and found that water in the gas.....crud in the carb, and a bad ground was all it took to get it to run like a sewing machine.....

    Moral of this...look outside the "BOAT" world.....there are plenty of competent guys out there...many probably have forgotten more about engines than the fancy "Marine Specialist".... I have been doing this for years.....not looking for a bargain...just a fair shake

    Hope this give you a bit of sucess......good luck
    Mort Fligelman
    A Capella
    E35-3 1987
    Glenview, IL

  5. #5
    Principal Partner
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    When you say "It won't turn over" do you mean it won't crank (starter won't go wirr, wirr or do you mean it won't fire (start running)?
    Bob Morrison
    1987 E-34 Hull #15
    "Terra Nova"

  6. #6
    Contributing Member II
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    Thanks for your kind words everyone!! Supersailor, It makes sound when im cranking it sounds like its about to fire up it just wont.

  7. #7
    Contributing Member III
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    Don't waste time on mechanics and rocket scientists. Clean and rebuild the carb. Change the spark plugs and syringe a few drops of gas into each cylinder. Bypass your fuel tank with some new fuel line and try starting from a small jerrycan of clean and ETHANOL free hi-grade. Go shopping for a plastic tank to replace the dirty rusted one in your boat.
    1974 Ericson 27, Atomic 4, "Constance "
    North Channel, Lake Huron
    1967 Spencer 31, Hull #3, Yanmar QM15, (TBA)
    Rio Dulce, Guatemala

  8. #8
    Contributing Partner
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    NEVER spray starting fluid into a gas engine. The engine is not meant to burn that. Too hot a fuel.

    Make sure that your engine compartment is vented properly so no gas fumes are accumulating in there. You don't want to blow up the boat.

    A gas engine is very simple. You need AIR, GAS, SPARK. You must have all three. Timing of the spark and pistons comes into play, but if nothing was changed on the engine then timing should be fine and you are missing one of those three critical elements.

    Air is easy. It comes into the top of the carb. Remove the air cleaner during troubleshooting.

    Spark is from the points closing and opening, but you need the coil to be working so that a spark is generated. The points close, with the +12v properly feeding the coil it builds a magnetic field, the points open, the coil's magnetic field collapses and the only place that the current generated (from the coil field collapsing) can go is through the spark plug wire, to the distributor cap, jumps across the rotor and then follows the spark plug wire to the spark plug where the spark plug arcs and ignites the gas/ air mixture waiting in the appropriate cylinder. There is a point condenser in the circuit. That is actually a capacitor and it is there to protect the points from burning. It absorbs any current spike. A condenser can go bad and cause the circuit to fail. Fairly cheap to replace the points and condenser. Always replace them as a set.

    The points must be 'gaped' so that they have the correct opening distance so they function correctly and open/close at the correct time. You use a feeler gauge so to gap the points the correct distance.
    The coil resistance can be measured with a multi-meter to see if it is correct. But you can also tell if the coil and points are working by removing the plug wire from the distributor cap (the center wire) and hold it very close to the engine block and see if it a spark jumps from wire to engine when you turn over the engine. I have worked on gas engines forever, but have never owned a sailboat with a gasoline engine as I hate having gas on a boat. You definitely want to make sure you have the boat wide open, engine compartment good and vented so no gas fumes are present when you begin your troubleshooting.

    If you have air and spark then you are missing the gas. You need to verify that the fuel pump is working. Remove the gas line from the carb and route it into a gallon jug so you can catch the fuel and then crank the engine. Does it pump gas? No, then fuel pump, fuel filter, fuel line collapsing, clogged some place. Yes it does pump fuel, then maybe the needle valve in the carb float bowl is stuck and it is preventing gas from entering the bowl. Gas must enter a carburetor and it fills a bowl containing a float. The float does just that, floats up and shuts off the fuel flow by pressing on a needle valve, hence keeping the fuel level correct in the bowl. As gas is burned (sprayed into the intake manifold) the fuel level will go down in the bowl, float lowers, gas comes in, float goes up. That simple. The float must be set to the correct level in the carb, per instructions in a carburetor rebuild kit or service manual.

    As mentioned earlier, probably needs a carburetor rebuild. Kits are usually cheap and can be DYI, just take your time and follow the instructions in the kit. Usually you can get away with verifying the float setting and replacing the needle valve assembly after thoroughly cleaning the carburetor. So, if you have fuel flowing, then stop all the troubleshooting and rebuild the carb. If it set a while I would think it had gas in the carb and that carb is gummed up.

    Remember, AIR, GAS, SPARK.
    Last edited by Leslie Newman; 04-09-2019 at 07:35 AM.
    Leslie Newman
    E-380 #15 "Osprey"

  9. #9
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    Thank you SO MUCH everyone. all your advice has been amazing. I met a really great retired marine mechanic who wants to do the repair with me and show me and teach me as he does it which is ideal for me at this point. I just ordered a new Zenith Carb and Tune up kit from Moyer. We are gonna start with draining the fuel doin some tests and popping in the new carb , plugs rotor and cap. The new electric fuel pump is in so im hoping this will solve all the fuel issues! Will keep you posted!!!!

  10. #10
    Glenn McCarthy
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    Most of us who have been doing these things for a long time jump right to the solution. However, for a newbie, it is daunting to start out.

    The more you try things on your own, after first watching some videos (youtube is a great source), and reading articles online and boards like this one, suddenly you see that these things are actually pretty easy to do. Commonly they don't take a lot of tools, just the effort to try, then try something else if the first thing didn't work.

    There is so much knowledge given for free on the internet you eliminate the labor costs and make it the cost just of parts then. I have used the internet for many of the projects I've done on this boat, and I have been fixing up old boats for 50 years.

    I was doing some math in my head last night, I've put about 100 days into our 35-2. The guy we use for repairs sometimes charges $100 per hour. If I charged that, it would be $80,000 of my labor. How much have parts cost (1/4 was electronics) to keep me busy for 21 months? $6,366.72. And as I say, this boat should have gone to the woodchipper rather than restored. It was really in rough rough shape. Proportionately hands-on will save you tons of money or about 12.5 labor cost to 1 part "parts" cost.

    Now, how does 100 days look? My wife said, "With all of the time you have put into this, I can't see any change." So the important thing is to make it look professional which I find takes vision. I have to imagine the whole project to the end so that the end is polished, painted, varnished, etc. leaving no trace behind that I was there to begin with.
    Glenn McCarthy, Chicago
    1976 Ericson 35 MkII "Eleven"

  11. #11
    Principal Partner Mark F's Avatar
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    Hi Kevin,

    Have you seen this Craigslist ad? https://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/bpo...862785088.html
    Lotus Flower
    1976 E27
    Electric Inboard
    Santa Cruz CA

  12. #12
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    Don't get discouraged. The engine is very simple and can easily be worked on and improved. You will need to develop these skills as you learn the boat.

    First go to Moyer Marine and get the Atomic 4 manual. There are also lots of pearls on the Moyer website while you wait to get the manual. As the previous poster said it boils down to air, fuel and spark. If you are getting nothing after some easy stuff on the fuel side (including a little squirt of starting fluid in the flame arrestor) I would bet it is the ignition/spark side of things. This can be anywhere from the key/panel wiring to engine wiring to spark plugs. Get spark plug tester that goes between the plug and plug wire for about $10 dollars at NAPA before you spend any more money on mechanics and parts to see if you have juice in the ignition system.

    Just remember to vent everything well and you can suck seawater into the cylinders if you continually crank it with the cooling water intake seacock open.

    Good luck

    Chris

  13. #13
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    Tomorrow is the day of truth! I will keep everyone posted. Another question for you guys. I was at the hardware store today and grabbed some stuff. What tools should I always have aboard? I bought a full socket set, adjustable wrench, pliars, wire cutters, screw driver set and a full wrench set as well as shears. Anything else tool wise I should have handy always. Got a head lamp and flash lights and Just got my Moyer A4 manual in the mail!! Also Are there any cons to the electronic ignition? I just ordered the kit. Reccomended over the points condenser system? pros or cons? I cant state enough how helpful everyone here has been. I am feeling way more hopefully today then I was a few days ago. (even though ive owned this boat for 2 weeks and I m already near the 1200 dollar mark towards the engine already lol)
    Last edited by DeFranco84; 04-10-2019 at 08:31 PM.

  14. #14
    1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
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    Hi,
    More tools: you will need a crimper for electrical connections, Allen keys, a sharp knife, possibly a drill and drill bits, large pliers or pipe wrench, Teflon tape, electrical tape, cable /zip ties, hose clamps, fuses, spare nuts, bolts, screws, washers, multi meter, oil filter wrench, metal saw blade, small wire brush to clean electrical connections, sandpaper, grease, dielectric grease, and probably a few more that I haven't thought of.
    Frank

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Langer View Post
    Hi,
    More tools: you will need a crimper for electrical connections, Allen keys, a sharp knife, possibly a drill and drill bits, large pliers or pipe wrench, Teflon tape, electrical tape, cable /zip ties, hose clamps, fuses, spare nuts, bolts, screws, washers, multi meter, oil filter wrench, metal saw blade, small wire brush to clean electrical connections, sandpaper, grease, dielectric grease, and probably a few more that I haven't thought of.
    Frank

    Thank you Frank! Just added to my list.

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