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A cautionary tale about the use or rather mis-use of ether to start a IDI motor.

Discussion in '6.9L IH & 7.3L IDI Diesels' started by HawkDavis, Nov 11, 2019.

  1. HawkDavis

    HawkDavis Registered User

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    I have owned and operated many diesel motors in my time and I’ve used ether to start them and many a cold gas motor. Never thought twice about it as at least on of the diesels had a system built in that would inject ether right into the intake manifold. Today however I will bet money I will NEVER go near my 1984 F250 with ether ever again. My tale begins.

    Back it March of this year I went to start up the before mentioned truck. As I have done for years (my dad bought it new and it has been in the family since) I opened the hood and squirted some ether into the air filter, went to the cab and hit the starter. It turned over a few times and then there was a rather loud detonation bang, and the engine stopped. I thought for just a moment, hit the starter again and it (starter) was stuck. Kept turning the switch off and on and then it worked and the motor started and ran fine. Off to the lake, fished and came home. Result of the rather loud detonation can be seen in these pictures. In the side view the bend of the rod can be easily seen. It was not easy to see the bend when the oil pan was off and I was looking up from underneath the motor using a flashlight. But this not the end of the story dear reader there is more. My tale will continue.

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    Last edited: Nov 12, 2019
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  2. FordGuy100

    FordGuy100 Registered User

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    Glow plug system was operational? I've used ether, but only on a diesel that I know for sure the grid heater/glow plugs aren't being used.
     
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  3. Thewespaul

    Thewespaul Supporting Vendor Supporting Member

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    Looks like a hydro lock, I don’t think the ether could make enough cylinder pressure to bend a rod on its on.
     
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  4. HawkDavis

    HawkDavis Registered User

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    No, operating glow plugs and no evidence of fluids in the cylinder.

    My tale continues. Not only did the truck run but it hauled a full pallet of quikrete (3400lbs on a 60 mile trip up to my farm. Then the day before Memorial Day there was another even louder detonation bang , ( I have to add here that I had started a practice of cranking the motor over and then adding the ether in an effort to dilute the ether with fuel, seemed to work but on this day I forgot to do it), So it went bang, then started but was blowing a lot of white something out of the tailpipe so I shut it down. I was sure the head gasket was lifted. It was not like the motor didn't needed work, it was leaking oil at every place it could and at 195000 miles the thing which I had been avoiding was to happen. I bought a cherry picker at Harbor Fright and pulled the motor. Note here that when the motor was fully assembled it was hard to turn over by hand, with a breaker bar and socket on the crank bolt. It would get stuck at one place. But the starter motor would turn the engine over just fine. A few weeks later with new seals at the front and back of the crankshaft, new head gaskets valve cover gaskets, new seals on the valves and I put the motor back into the truck. I also cleaned up the t19 trany as it was also a grease dirt ball and replaced all the seals it it. I did not at the time know it had a bent rod. It started right up, but was still blowing all kinds of white stuff out of the tailpipe. So back out it came for another look. I’m getting good at pulling the motor by now. But wait there is more to my tail. to be continued!
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2019
  5. HawkDavis

    HawkDavis Registered User

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    This time I wanted to do more to the motor and make it easier to do it. So I bought a HF engine stand, the bigger of the two they offer. Once onto the stand, the oil pan off and upside down I could then see the bent rod. From the pictures you can see while in the engine the bend is very subtle. Once out it is easy to see the bend and where it was tapping the balancing lobe on the crankshaft, the reason it would stick when I turned it over by hand. The heads went off to a machine shop, they checked the heads for cracks, planed them and ground the valves. They turned out good. Here is an interesting little tidbit about my heads. The fellow who planed them wondered if they had ever been worked on before. Having had this engine all of its life I now it has not. The reason he wonders was this. There where in his opinion sander scratches in a continues line from one end of the head to the other. He said some machine shops use a sander belt on top of a very flat bed to smooth and flatten the head. He said not a bad way to do it just different, but it does leave a slight wave to the head surface as the table under the sandpaper is not always flat. I suppose this is due to the paper wearing some parts of the table a little more than others. I was left with the thought that International had used this method to true up the heads at their factory. Them a I replaced the bad rod and piston,( I also found when I took the right head off that something which looks a lot like a cotter pin had been sucked down into the cylinder. I will post some pictures. It looks like the one valve was just hitting the top of the piston. Believe you me I cleaned the hell out of the intake manifold. I told the machine ship guys what I had found and they said it is very important to clean the intake manifold when doing a rebuild as stuff in them can get loosened up and then get sucked into the cylinder.
    ) new head gaskets, new water pump, new fuel pump, new oil pump. And new rod bearings. When the heads got back from the machine shop I put the motor back together and put it into the truck. I was getting better at this. I tried starting the engine but it would not go. It was late on a Saturday and the batteries where getting low so I decided to get a brand new HF battery charger one with a 200 amp starting capacity. The next day before I set off to get the charger I decided to give it another go. I was sitting in the cab, looking at the right exhaust manifold when I hit the starter. I bet at least a pint maybe two of radiator coolant came right out of the manifold. Fail. I checked coolant level and as far as I could see there was none. The oil level however was way up. I now knew what was wrong. I just had to figure out where the coolant was going.
     
  6. HawkDavis

    HawkDavis Registered User

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    This time I wanted to do more to the motor and make it easier to do it. So I bought a HF engine stand, the bigger of the two they offer. Once onto the stand, the oil pan off and upside down I could then see the bent rod. From the pictures you can see while in the engine the bend is very subtle. Once out it is easy to see the bend and where it was tapping the balancing lobe on the crankshaft, the reason it would stick when I turned it over by hand. The heads went off to a machine shop, they checked the heads for cracks, planed them and ground the valves. They turned out good. Here is an interesting little tidbit about my heads. The fellow who planed them wondered if they had ever been worked on before. Having had this engine all of its life I now it has not. The reason he wonders was this. There where in his opinion sander scratches in a continues line from one end of the head to the other. He said some machine shops use a sander belt on top of a very flat bed to smooth and flatten the head. He said not a bad way to do it just different, but it does leave a slight wave to the head surface as the table under the sandpaper is not always flat. I suppose this is due to the paper wearing some parts of the table a little more than others. I was left with the thought that International had used this method to true up the heads at their factory. Them a I replaced the bad rod and piston, also replace the number 1 piston. (When I took the engine apart I found what look like the remains of a cotter pin. My only guess is somehow it was up in the intake manifold and was sucked down past the valve and into the cylinder. Or what ever it is got into the head when I was working on it and went unnoticed. One of the picture shows what looks like the imprint of a valve. I told the guys at the machine ship and they said it was very important to clean out the intake manifold when doing a rebuild as it does happen. Things in the manifold get loosened up and get sucked into the cylinder. I will post some pictures. It damaged the head a little but the planning job took care of it.) new head gaskets, new water pump, new fuel pump, new oil pump. And new rod bearings. When the heads got back from the machine shop I put the motor back together and put it into the truck. I was getting better at this. I tried starting the engine but it would not go. It was late on a Saturday and the batteries where getting low so I decided to get a brand new HF battery charger one with a 200 amp starting capacity. The next day before I set off to get the charger I decided to give it another go. I was sitting in the cab, looking at the right exaust manifold when I hit the starter. I bet at least a pint maybe two of radiator coolent came right out of the manifold. Fail. I checked coolant level and as far as I could see there was none. The oil level however was way up. I now knew what was wrong. I just had to figure out where the coolant was going. Can anyone guess where it was going. More to come.

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  7. DaytonaBill

    DaytonaBill Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    My guess would be a breached cylinder wall?
     
  8. riphip

    riphip Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    Had it been raining hard before this happened? Looks like some broken glowplug damages over time on top of the piston. I have a rod that matches that one from hydrolock after rainstorm.
    Blown head gasket will send coolant to oil passage.
     
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  9. Thewespaul

    Thewespaul Supporting Vendor Supporting Member

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    Combustion of ether will not bend a rod, and with it running for awhile after the event there won’t be any signs leftover from water in the cylinders.
     
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  10. gfemling

    gfemling Registered User

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    You didn’t happen to go through the oil cooler assembly did you? From my experience that’s where my oil level increase immediately after overhaul came from- had cut one of the big orings on assembly.
     
  11. Shamoke

    Shamoke Registered User

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    Please keep us posted to what you find.
     
  12. HawkDavis

    HawkDavis Registered User

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    OK, just to be clear the last three photo’s are of the top and side of the number one piston. The damage seen in the photo’s happened after I put the heads on the first time. I only ran the engine a few minutes. I pulled the motor for the second time and found this. I was the only person to work on the heads so I’m to blame for what ever it was that got into the cylinder and caused the damage. It looks a lot like a cotter pin and a magnet will stick to the largest piece. One thing for sure it was not there when I put the head on. I also did not start the motor with ether. I had installed new glow plugs and they where working.
     
  13. HawkDavis

    HawkDavis Registered User

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    Gfeming, I think yours is an really good guess. I had gone through putting new o-rings in the oil cooler. Since I don’t have anyway to test an oil cooler for pressure I had to go with blind faith that the o-rings would work and not be damaged when I put it together. I pressed it together with a big hydraulic jack and used the bottom side of the truck bumper. Seemed crazy when I did it but it worked and I don’t think it has any issues. Of course it is a given it will leak somewhere down the road, at least I have heard they all do.

    The correct guess is a crack in the number one cylinder. I am positive the cylinder cracked when I heard the second very loud detonation bang. See the pic’s.



    I thought it would take a lot of time to find a crack having read sometimes magnifluxing has to be used. Surprisingly it didn’t take very long but it did take a strong flashlight and when viewed with the naked eye the crack isn’t very big and very hard to see. I looks like the grand canyon in the photo when the photo is enlarged.



    I called the machine shop and they said they had sleeved some 7.3’s so didn’t see any problem with a 6.9. I stripped it down to the bare block and took it down to them.

    They had it for a few weeks and then called me. After doing their cleanup of the block they thought they had found what might be a small pin hole in the number 8 cylinder. I’ll be damned if I can see the hole in the photo but there was a telltale trail of rust going down ( in the second photo you can see a rusty spot the block was upside down so in the photo the rust trail goes up. A small pin hole might explain some of the rust which was down below on the crank. And it did use a very small amount of coolant. I chocked up the loss of coolant to just normal evaporation. So I had them sleeve that cylinder too.
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    Last edited: Nov 13, 2019
  14. HawkDavis

    HawkDavis Registered User

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    So the machine shop sleeved two cylinders and honed four. They wanted to do all eight but as the cylinders all measured within new tolerances I did not have them do it.I was able to locate four oil squirters and install them ( I found the oilers by searching eBay ( NOS 1983 1984 1985 FORD TRUCK F250 F350 6.9L DIESEL PISTON COOLING TUBES ) They are Ford part # E3TZ-6C327-A. I modified a long socket on the advice of the machine shop and tapped them in be careful to measure how much was into the original hole as I did it. Seems to have worked but is one of those blind faith things.

    Well towards to middle of Oct. I had the motor all back together and into the truck. I tried all day to get it started and came to the conclusion the Injector pump just was not working. A week later and with a rebuilt IP it started and has been running well. So far no issues at all. Started it yesterday when the temp was 0, didn’t start easy but it did. Seems to have a few more horses too. One thing I have noticed is there is no coolant loss, and the coolant is going in and out of the overflow like it is supposed to do. It was not doing that before the rebuild or should I say the third rebuild. Maybe the pin hole was not letting it build pressure. So is there anything to learn here. I would not have thought ether all by itself would cause damage to an engine. The guys at the machine shop said they had seen damage like this before and felt ether can be the cause. Maybe it was a particular can of ether, or the brand. Maybe the pump was slow to get going and my spraying ether in before I cranked it over a few times was why it did what it did. It is impossible to be 100 percent certain what it was, but the evidence sure does point in that direction. I didn’t really want to spend all my free time working on the motor this last summer, I would have liked to go fishing which is why I decided to bring the truck up to a like new standard. I want it to pull my boat to a few of the local lakes and up to Minnesota once or twice a year. Blowing it up may have been a blessing in disguise because now it is like new. I also don’t mind knowing and understanding more about the IH motor.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2019
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  15. HawkDavis

    HawkDavis Registered User

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    Motor going in 20190811_074923_1573659813642.jpg 20190811_084900_1573659813771.jpg .
     

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