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Discussion Starter #1
Old battleaxe of a 1989 International 1654 U-Haul/Converted Flatbed truck that was sold to me "needing" starting fluid to cold start. I got good use out of it and even after going through glow plug circuit (with your help), never got it cold starting without fluid. It still performed quite well for what it was for a couple years. 7.3, no turbo, 5-speed, 200K plus miles.

About 3 weeks ago, after it had been starting and running fine, it wouldn't start. Wouldn't even "fire" even with its spritz of fluid. I finally bled fuel lines at injectors and it started. Started fine on its own for several days. Drove it around several times in those few days, pulled it to the spot where it sits now and let it sit for about 2-3 days at one point and it wouldn't start again. I tried bleeding fuel lines at injectors again, but still not even a quick/temporary "fire" even with strtr fld.

I'm going out to try to trace the fuel lines and see if I can find any tiny moisture to indicate leak/vacuum loss/air intrusion into fuel lines. Thought I would ask some questions while doing that in case it may be something else.

First, I had very recently noticed a louder clack after starting, that was to the point that I was concerned it was a rod/bearing situation. More diesel knowledgeable neighbor said he thought it was just a valve clanking. But it seemed to come on suddenly and spontaneously, and it also seemed to lessen or go away after engine heated up.

So, though I feel that chasing the fuel lines is a good place to start, is the valve noise possibly tied in? It "felt"/sounded like it was likely from the 2nd cylinder from the front on the driver's side (3?), and that was the only area it "sounded" like it was from. Could a valve going loose or out of time or something happen suddenly/quickly and keep the whole engine from starting? I've read that the injection pump timing can cause a "knocking" sound, so wondering if this could be an issue also. Any input?

To be clear, batteries are good, there is enough oil in it and the starter is turning the engine as fast as it ever did. And the batteries have been charged a couple of times during my starting attempts in this process to make sure they are staying well charged. Fuel is seeping out of all injectors when I try to bleed them. Glow plugs worked last time I checked them, though because of the use of starter fluid, I always start it quickly before they cycle, and in this instance, I don't believe that would be pertinent.

I know starter fluid is hated, but to the prior owners this truck was basically a throw-away and I got it very reasonably. I tried everything I could to get it to start without fluid, but it never did. Thus, after it had served me well a couple times, I decided it had earned its keep and was a borderline throwaway for me as well, and when it died, it died and I would be thankful it worked for me as much as it did. So at this point, though I would LOVE to get it going and find out I had gotten it to where it doesn't need fluid anymore, none of that is the question. WHY it went from starting and running fine and drove into its current spot seemingly perfectly fine and happy, will it now not even fire with its beloved starter fluid? THAT is my question. Thanks!
 

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Starting fluid does nasty things to these high compression engines. broken rings, broken pistons, bent rods. bent valves just to name a few. over the years ether addicted engines tend to refuse to start anymore. Partly because of the damage done every time it is used. They usually get progressively harder to start, then nothing at all. This even happened on the older diesel engines that were commonly started with the stuff. Judging by your description of the situation, it is probably time for an engine rebuild.
 
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I always laugh at "ether addicted."
Sounds like you aren't getting fuel. Pull the fuel filter, see if it has anything in it.

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Discussion Starter #4
Starting fluid does nasty things to these high compression engines. broken rings, broken pistons, bent rods. bent valves just to name a few. over the years ether addicted engines tend to refuse to start anymore. Partly because of the damage done every time it is used. They usually get progressively harder to start, then nothing at all. This even happened on the older diesel engines that were commonly started with the stuff. Judging by your description of the situation, it is probably time for an engine rebuild.

Thanks, OldRebuiltDodge. I know that you could be right. I just am surprised it gave no other signs (besides the starting, of course) that it was about to give up the ghost. Drove great to where it sits, 3 days later, NOPE! So, I'm going to troubleshoot everything I can before I surrender, but I thank you for the input and accept it as a very good possibility!
 

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I always laugh at "ether addicted."
Sounds like you aren't getting fuel. Pull the fuel filter, see if it has anything in it.

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Will do next chance I get. Ground battery joiner cable started to melt down on me today during the turnovers to try to prime injectors, so I had to give up for the day. Went and got a new SUPER HEAVY ground terminal joiner cable made as well as bought a new ground strap. Batteries are in super charging again for the night. Thanks for the input.
 

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If there isn't enough fuel, why won't it even try on ether?? It should at least hit.
 

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If there isn't enough fuel, why won't it even try on ether?? It should at least hit.
I agree, although it did this once before and I purged/primed and it went. And then ran good for about a week.

You seem pretty knowledgeable, as I've seen before. Battery ground question. Never had THIS problem until recently, but (-) battery terminals started corroding. Very quickly and very noticeably. Cleaned them off, and clamps, and they did it again. Have a big, sturdy, probably 2" wide but old ground strap. It goes directly to frame just above battery box. It also started corroding and it never had before. Somehow, I've apparently lost good ground? As I stated, the other day I nearly melted off my cable between the two batteries while trying to purge fuel lines. It was a newer, generic, parts store purchase, only about 4 gauge, but had also worked fine for some time. Got new one made from 00. Also bought new ground strap. Going to wire brush off frame at connector bolt for strap and install new one (this one's only about 1" wide-napa guy said it shouldn't matter). I had debated also running auxillary lines to starter bolt (12' away) and maybe alternator bracket (same) as "helpers." But those I was going to just run wire, as I don't want to spend $200 on cables to do this until I find out if truck has any life left in it. Is there something flawed in my system? Or my logic? Negative battery terminal also has 2 small wires running to it that I do not know where they go, so maybe one of those broke causing some problem as well? Thanks if you've got any input on this. I'm not good with auto electric theory. Do I NEED a massive cable from batteries to starter or alternator? Frame mounted ground strap seemed to work good for a couple years. Would regular smaller wire work for battery bolt and alternator bracket grounds, if frame strap is there as well?
 

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From the batteries to the engine/frame, the cable should be 0 or 00. On mine I ran one to the frame, and one directly to the engine. Along with the other straps about 1" wide going between engine and frame/cab. 12 GA. wire should work for a while, but I wouldn't use it permanently. The two small wires running to the neg. cable, I don't remember, might be for glow plugs and charging system. sometimes they like to be grounded separately. It might be best to trace them out and see where they go. You would find out if they're broken too. You're right about needing good connections everywhere, the engine needs to spin fast enough to make compression happen, and the older it is the faster it needs to spin. I at one time had an old tractor that needed "help" to start. it finally got to where it had to be pull started every time after it cooled down. Eventually got to where it took about 1/2 mile of pulling to get it to hit. When I pulled the engine down, the only rings that were in one piece was the oil control rings ALL of the rest of them were broken in at least 3 pieces. That was the result of lots of ether due to originally bad glow plugs, and a weak injector pump. Ether will eventually destroy an engine if it doesn't do it all at once. That tractor up until the day I stopped using it like that ran strong, used very little oil and had blow-by like you wouldn't believe but it started hot every time it was tried. I'm just letting you know what you might be looking at if not now then later on if you don't quit using the ether to mask a possibly simple problem. A rebuilt injector pump costs a WHOLE lot less than a rebuilt engine.
















a
 
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If there isn't enough fuel, why won't it even try on ether?? It should at least hit.
I've seen many diesels not even hit off ether, if they aren't getting any fuel at all. Specifically the Ford idi's.
Ether isn't what it used to be.
For example, 90% of cummins that are "ether addicted" can get sober but adjusting the pump timing.

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Discussion Starter #10
From the batteries to the engine/frame, the cable should be 0 or 00. On mine I ran one to the frame, and one directly to the engine. Along with the other straps about 1" wide going between engine and frame/cab. 12 GA. wire should work for a while, but I wouldn't use it permanently. The two small wires running to the neg. cable, I don't remember, might be for glow plugs and charging system. sometimes they like to be grounded separately. It might be best to trace them out and see where they go. You would find out if they're broken too. You're right about needing good connections everywhere, the engine needs to spin fast enough to make compression happen, and the older it is the faster it needs to spin. I at one time had an old tractor that needed "help" to start. it finally got to where it had to be pull started every time after it cooled down. Eventually got to where it took about 1/2 mile of pulling to get it to hit. When I pulled the engine down, the only rings that were in one piece was the oil control rings ALL of the rest of them were broken in at least 3 pieces. That was the result of lots of ether due to originally bad glow plugs, and a weak injector pump. Ether will eventually destroy an engine if it doesn't do it all at once. That tractor up until the day I stopped using it like that ran strong, used very little oil and had blow-by like you wouldn't believe but it started hot every time it was tried. I'm just letting you know what you might be looking at if not now then later on if you don't quit using the ether to mask a possibly simple problem. A rebuilt injector pump costs a WHOLE lot less than a rebuilt engine.
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THANKS for your input on all of this. As mine is set up, it has a "strap style" ground strap from battery to frame and that is all at battery end. As I said, it was a good, heavy, thick strap (upon checking it next to the new one it was probably about 1.5" wide and "doubled over" so was kind of a "flattened tube" in construction). However, upon further inspection, it was definitely showing some signs of aging and getting some corrosion as well as the rest of the ground system cables and connectors, so I put the new one on. It is only about 1" thick and a single strap, but the guys at NAPA said that for a ground, it still ought to be enough (Opinions are welcome on this idea also!) I have not yet even looked for engine to frame strap, though don't plan to unless I get some indication I should. I did find a good, long piece of #2 welding cable I had that was part of the cables that ran to the old winch on this beast, so I took that off and am planning to run that to the starter bolt. Even with just that, since there was never anything grounding back to engine before, it should be an improved system, no?

Also, I do thank you again for the warning and info on the ether situation. I do recognize and accept all of this info. It was mainly because the guys from whom I bought it owned a large equip shop and did it and said that the prior owner had done it for years, etc, that I simply accepted it as how ti was to be done and have continued to do it that way. Even with glow plug circuit working it never wanted to cold start, so I just stayed with it. And, again, I got it very reasonably, don't have a lot of money, and have moved 7 vehicles with it that I have flipped for profit, including towing a '73 Blazer behind it with a '75 Scout Traveller on top of it from New Mexico to the UP of MI, so I figure after about 8000 miles of this kind of service, if it is finally dead, I will live with the consequences. But I ALWAYS have a hard time with the LOGIC side of things when something just quits. My brain needs to know why and understand things, so it drives me crazy that it started fine and ran fine the last time it started, drove to where it's parked fine, and then simply wouldn't start 3 days later. So I am desperately chasing at least one more start just to see if it will. I found several local older trucks with (supposedly good running) engines in them locally this weekend, and if worst comes to worst, I simply buy one of those and try to swap one in. But I still really want to know why this one finally just gave up with no OTHER symptoms!

Thanks for the help VERY MUCH!
 

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Just to put a coda on this thread:

Ultimately, I did get it to start. STILL needing its spritz of ether, but starting well and quick with that-possibly better than at any time since I've had it.

What was it? Very possibly a multi-symptom problem, but I think the biggest thing was, indeed, not spinning the starter fast enough.

I had discussed what I felt was the negligent amount of ground on the truck, and because of this, the ground strap from the battery to the frame was getting LOTS of corrosion, and one battery ended up melting down between the two negative posts on the batteries. So, I had a good long length of #2 Welding cable, which I made into a cable by adding the appropriate ends/eyelets. I bought a new ground strap to run from one battery (-) to the frame right near the battery box (where the old one was in place. The new one was only about 2/3 as wide, but I figured it would at least work for trouble shooting). I ran the long welding cable from the negative post of one battery up to the ear of the starter for ground (about 10' away on this big truck!). And because the one cable had melted down, I had another piece of 000 cable that I made a new "Jump cable" between the 2 negative battery posts. Then, because I could no longer "nut down" the cable connectors to the one battery's negative post-this battery has the 3/8" threaded posts (the plastic around it had also melted in the process of all of that engine turnover and bad grounding of this troubleshooting experience, and thus, the post would now spin when the nut was getting tight), I went to WalMart and bought two of their super cheapy line batteries to use (I was not about to spend $500 buying a couple of killer batteries for my $2K purchase truck that I wasn't sure was ever going to run again!). After hooking up the new batteries with all of my new ground connections in place, the speed of starter turnover was faster than I had ever heard it on this rig. Though it still would not fire off on its own or with the glow plugs cycled, the second I introduced a spritz of starter fluid, it fired up quicker than it ever has.

The prior batteries were 2 huge batteries meant for this kind of application, though were "blemished" models that the shop I bought from had gotten at a discount because they were blemished models, but they were brand new the day I bought it, and I don;t think it ever spun as fast with those big puppies as it did with these little WalMart 810/650 CA batteries-BECAUSE it never had enough ground, I am thinking. So I kept charging my batteries and because it had always started at a certain starter speed that I was used to, I was convinced that THAT was not the problem. BUT, it must have always been kind of on the edge of being too slow. So, IF ALL ELSE FAILS, and it makes no sense, TRY WHATEVER YOU CAN to get enough charge and good connections to the starter. I had cleaned all connections and charged the batteries, and as I said, it had always spun at about the same speed, so even though I read that a million times, I was convinced mine was spinning fast enough. I am now guessing that was the biggest culprit in my problem that I wasted a month playing with!

I did also, before actually trying to fire it up the final time, bleed/prime/purge the fuel lines to the injectors to make sure they were good to go as well.

So, the lesson from this is, as stated above, and stated a million times everywhere in this forum, THESE ENGINES NEED TO SPIN FAST TO START!

Mine is spinning so fast now that I'm thinking if I actually put in the right batteries and a new gear reduction starter, it might pull itself down the road using the air flow from the radiator fan it would be spinning so fast! Like a horizontal helicopter.

Thanks to those that offered advice and to this group for being here. Happy to be back on the road.

So, the lesson to be learned here
 

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Many like to swap in the group 31 batteries. They are physically larger.

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