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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am new to the forum but have an issue that needs some quick attention. I've searched and read some other threads with similar issues discussed, but some of the replies were too technical and the symptoms weren't quite the same.

I have a 1989 F-350 dually with 7.3L IDI. I've owned the truck for about a year and a half...bought it from a friend who had it for about 4 years...and he got it from another friend of ours who bought it new. I have no idea how many miles are on the engine since its been replaced at least once (maybe twice...the original owner is since deceased). I use the truck to pull a horse trailer in the spring, summer and fall...and then I store it for the winter, since it gets stuck so easily (2WD, dually and no limited slip diff) in the Michigan snow. The last time I drove the truck was in the middle of November. Yesterday, I went out to start it up to make sure it would run so I could get some hay with it today. It started up and I let it idle for about 10 minutes to warm up a little. Temps here were in the mid 20s.

Today (temps are similar), I went out, started it up and it was really rough. Almost like all of the cylinders weren't firing. I gave it a little fuel and it really shook. I let off the pedal and it smoothed out. I drove it for about 15 minutes (8 miles) to pick up a trailer and realized I didn't have the right hitch. I drove back to my place, pulled into the entrance to my drive, shut down the truck, went inside for about 15 minutes, came out with the hitch and started up the truck. It fired right up. I put it in reverse, began to back out of the driveway and the truck just died. No sputtering, no hesitation, just shut down. I knew right then I was screwed. I tried to start it but nothing. It turns over but won't start. Front tank indicates 3/4 full (which is erroneous...its probably got about a 1/3). I switched to the rear tank, which is full, but still nothing.

Here's my dilemma. The truck is blocking my drive. I'd rather not have it towed just yet if I can avoid it. I just dumped a bunch of money into my SUV and am not in a position, financially, to tow this behemoth to the shop and have it worked on, when I probably won't be using it for another 4-5 months still. I would, however, like to get it moved as soon as possible without pulling it with the tractor (which is hard to do alone...trust me, I have tried) and I would love to fix it myself if at all possible.

Searching through the threads, I see a number of things it could be...injector pump, fuel pump, water/frozen line, clogged fuel filter, injector solenoid, air in the line, etc. What I don't know is where to start and how to diagnose. I'm not a mechanic, but I am mechanically inclined and can do quite a bit if I have good instructions/guidance.

Here are some known issues and work that I've had done on the truck already. It had the glow plug controller changed about 1 year ago (less than 3,000 miles ago) and all glow plugs were tested and working. The truck always has trouble starting when hot....but will eventually start. I actually expected to have trouble starting it the second time...but it started up fine before it eventually died and now won't even start cold (it usually starts up like a champ when cold). I thought the warm start issue might be injector pump related (solenoid?). THe mechanic tried to replicate it and said that the injector pump works fine, even when warm/hot...said it was flowing fuel at the injectors. He said that the hard start issue was due to a bad glow plug controller and swapped in a new controller (for free). It continued to have the warm start issue still, but I never took it back since I could still get it started eventually. Incidentally, my dad has a 1990 7.3L and has had glow plug issues...but never a warm start issue like mine.

So, does anyone have any suggestions where I should start? Thanks in advance for any help you can throw my way.

Also, if I do need to take it to a shop, is there anyone on the forum who lives in the area (Battle Creek, MI) and can recommend a good diesel mechanic? I have a good general mechanic, but he doesn't work on diesel fuel systems. The other guys in town that work on the big trucks generally don't want to mess with my "little" F-350 and aren't afraid to tell me that, and other shops only want to work on the new ones with the computers that throw codes.
 

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It sounds like the one tank has a broken pickup and you ran out of fuel. Bleed the system and try again. It also sounds like a bad GP. Can you plug it in for a few hours?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the quick reply.

Do you happen to have a link to directions for bleeding the system? Would this be at the injectors by loosening the lines?

I can't plug the truck in where it sits right now, but I'm going to tow it to the barn tomorrow where I can plug it in and charge the batteries. I'll report back after trying with it plugged in for a couple of hours.

FYI, the wait to start light stays on for about 10-12 seconds before going off. I know how to test the GPs using a test light and the battery...but I've read that bad plugs can still show as ok and that one should test the plugs resistance with an OHM meter instead. Is that true? If so, what should the resistance be?

I thought that perhaps I lost the injector pump...and that was the problem with the hot starts.

A broken pickup doesn't sound like much fun to fix...
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I found the following in another thread...is this what you meant by bleeding the system?

I assume your talking about the bleeder on top of your filter housing under the hood. You should be depressing that 'while' cranking the engine over. I used to throw some rags near the filter and prop a small soda bottle or something to catch the fuel. With the wheels chocked and trans in neutral, I would get the starter solenoid right there on the fender (go across small term and big term with something like a pair of needle nose, and turn the motor over for maybe 5 seconds while pushing in the bleeder with a key, or whatever. Key off, by the way.

After you have a healthy spurt coming from the bleeder, the engine should be ready to start, turn the key on, and crank it for 5 seconds with the pedal on the floor and it should come to life. If nothing, then cover the area under at least a few injectors, and crack the line nuts about a half turn. Crank it a few times till you see healthy spurts on each injector and tighten down the nuts. If everything else is zen, the damn thing should start. It takes a lot more than a runout or two to kill an IP or lift pump. Allow a few minutes between cranking sessions for the starter to cool.
 

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That would be bleeding the system...... filter first then a couple of lines at the cap nut on the injector........ try 1 on each side. Cranking the engine on the starter for 20 seconds max and a 2 minute cool down.

If you get considerable air at the filter I would suggest a low fuel condition in wherever the fuel selector valve is getting it from. If the starter is not spinning that engine faster than you can count RPMs you need new batteries or a starter.

True if the IP is worn out on a warm engine, starts will be hard or non existant until it cools down.

Try this too.....

Take the filter header Schrader valve core out and hook a hose and pressure guage to the outlet.........crank engine see what you get for pressure, should have 4-6 psi from a good lift pump. ( a good constant squirt with no air would be good if you have no guage)

Volume test same place hook a hose to it crank over the engine 10 seconds you should get 1/3 pint of fuel minimum.

****Important the fuel shutoff solenoid (FSS) wire on the IP should be disconnected if you do not want a start just cranking. Re connect FSS after test complete.

Part Number: CP7803 for Azone guage pressure/vacuum
 

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Yes, that's how you bleed air out - first at the filter, then at the injectors if needed. Just remember to not crank for more than 15 seconds at a time, and to let the starter cool down for 2 minutes or so between cranking cycles. Also, I'd leave injector #1 (front one in the passenger side) alone while bleeding the lines, that timing adapter on top of it is just a pain to deal with.

A few additional comments:

a) hot start issues are usually caused by a worn out injection pump. Also these trucks don't need glowplugs to restart once they're all warmed up, hence how some folks can drive around with dead glowplugs, god bless the folks who invented block heaters and ether, lol

b) the broken fuel pickup tube in the tank is not something you need to worry about right now, just don't go under 1/2 tank and you'll be fine. With our weather here, tis good idea to keep at 3/4 or more full anyways, to reduce water condensation inside the tanks.

Overall I think you did indeed run outta fuel in the front tank due to the pickup issue mentioned by Snotzalot, so just start off the rear tank and bleed the air out and then fill up both tanks and you'll be okay. Oh yah, make sure your batteries are fully charged for that, I got good big batteries in my truck and I can get less than ten 15-second cranks out of them before I run them down to where they need recharging.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Well, the more i think about it, the more I think that this may be a pickup issue.

My sending units are pretty much shot, too...the gauge shows full until its about 1/3 or less...then the gauge drops to empty over about a 50 mile range. That happens with both tanks. Are the sending unit and pickup one combined part? I've seen some pics in the other threads on this topic and they appear to be one part.

I also have one other possible related issue...when my front tank is full, I leak fuel from somewhere on the top of the tank. I didn't pinpoint the issue because I just don't top off the tank...and I run down the front tank first before the back one. Could this be related to my issues?

Lovely...so, lets see...all I have to do is drop the tanks, replace the sending unit/pickup, replace the injector pump and injectors...and possibly the glow plugs. *sigh*

I won't even get into the transmission woes I've had with this thing (which seem to have cleared up since replacing the speed sensor...although the converter still doesn't lock up until its warm).

Oh, and any idea how big the two tanks are on this 1989? I was told 19 gallons each...but can't remember where I read/heard it.
 

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One tank is 19 gal, the other is 17.5 gal, heck if I remember which is which tho. And I got the same issue with my front tank, of course I found tin when I got back from being up in Gaylord for like a week with some buddies and found out half the driveway is wet - hey, at least it don't ice over, lol, but now I'm about to post a "No Smoking! Flammable!" sign next to the truck cause there ain't no way I'm fighting fuel lines and stuff at below 32F temperatures!

The fuel level sender is attached to the pickup tubes, but tis an unrelated issue - the pickup breaks or falls off well below that, tis really a rubber-ish doohicky that disintegrates, the steel tubing usually survives just fine.

Oh yah, my converter is on a switch now, so I don't really care what the PCM wants to do, tis me who controls the lockup now, me and only me - sure is nice having a 4-spd trans can behave like a 6-spd, gotta have a nice big cooler for that tho.
 

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A bad/going bad starter can cause hot start problems too.

I'd bleed the fuel filter first and then try a start prior to going through bleeding all of the injectors. Make sure the block heater has been on for a long time and your batteries are fully charged.
 

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When bleeding air from the system crack open 2 or 3 lines at the injecters. Then turn on the ignition switch to the run section, not the start section. Now from under the hood remove the small wire on the starter solenoid located on the left fender well and jump across that to the hot side of that solenoid. Have the injection upmp held wide open so more fuel is purging thru the lines. Do this till it starts and tighten up the loose fuel lines as its running. These pumps don't squirt fuel out the lines like its comming out of the fuel filter. Its really not much at cranking speeds. You will see it purging out the air because the cracked open lines will start to show fuel but at a very small amount. Don't crank for more than 15 or 20 seconds with a 2 minute break. Is the fuel in the tanks the winter blend or not... That could also be why its not running because the fuel gelled up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I cranked over the truck and immediately had fuel at the bleeder valve before the filter. I'm not sure if the pickup is the issue or not. I can't be sure, though...since I switched to the rear tank after the truck died and turned it over quite a bit. Is it possible that I got fuel to the filter from doing that? I was going to crack some of the injector lines to see if I had fuel at the injectors, but the battery was low and I hadnt been able to plug in the GPs...that and it was cold, windy and snowing here today. So, instead I towed it up by the garage with my tractor, plugged it in and put the battery charger on it. Tomorrow, if the weather is better, I'll try to bleed it at the injectors and see if I can get it to start.

The last time I put in diesel was in mid November. Not positive, but I would guess that would be winter blend...the weather was turning cold at the time.

Thanks to everyone for their input and I will be sure to keep you posted on progress.
 

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If there is a chance the wrong fuel is part of the problem..... remove/replace the filter and use Power service diesel fuel conditioner or Hayes Diesel treat to fill the filter and install/replace it. This would allow fresh ignition fuel and return remainder to the tank for correction of wrong fuel problem. Dumping directly into the tank may also help once it starts.......
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Ok, things just got interesting. I was going to go buy a new fuel filter, get some diesel treatment and prepare to bleed at the injector caps. I had the truck plugged in all night and on the battery charger...before I left, I thought I would try to start it. Bam, started right up.

I'm letting it idle for a bit right now. So, whaddya think? I guess it could still be a pickup issue in the front tank, since its now switched to the rear tank. Only way to diagnose that would be to switch the front tank again. The truck isn't on level ground right now, though...and to get to level ground would put me back at the end of the driveway where I got stuck before! Heh.

Maybe when it isn't snowing I will experiment a little. Plugging in and having full juice on the batteries probably helped as well.

So, good news is I got it started. Bad news is...I don't know what the problem was for sure. I do know its not because of fuel gelling, though.
 

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Which way was it..... nose up or nose down hill.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
When it died it was on level ground and the first tank. Its now nose downhill and on the rear tank. Should I just switch to the front tank and see if it dies?
 

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My reason for asking is usually when nose down any air intrusion to the engine area of the fuel system is blocked by fuel pressure..... Nose up allows air to enter the engine area of the fuel system and drain back to the tank.

You can try the tank switching for what it's worth......
 
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