Hard start, not fuel return[?]

vagabond0351

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Hi folks, first post, although I must have read about 200 over the past several months. this truck is the first diesel I've owned, although I've worked fairly extensively on a range of gas autos.

Truck in question is an early 86 f250, stock NA 6.9.
ODO currently reads 49,000. by the interior condition and pedals I would think its 149k much more likely than 249k.
I've put about 5k on it in the past year and a half, scratching and clawing
got it in a trade from a guy who worked at a tire shop. he'd done a full skyjacker lift and allegedly had the glow plugs and maybe 4 injectors replaced shortly before i bought it, and the condition could support that, but he also said "oh it threw belts but they're replaced and its fine." it wasn't fine, the water pump pulley was absolutely shot, flopping all over, and seized up about 20 miles after I bought it as I drove to my shop. so I immediately lost faith in everything he'd done. he did also mention that "the lifter pump should probably be replaced with an electric" and said some things that I eventually read about the drain back issues, but made it seem like less of a big deal. I'm in Montana and it was winter when I bought it, so plugging in the heater was an expectation anyway, and apparently masked the greater issue.

on to the main problem:

after sitting for 4-6+ hours or overnight, it effectively will not start on its own, even with extra cycles of glow plugs, but will start right away with the shortest little spray of starter fluid(I know its often frowned upon, I use as little as possible and only the stuff with lube).
If its been running and warm, fires right up. If its been just a few hours, it takes some extra cranks, but will start on its own. It never has done the "start for a few seconds then dies".
It idles and drives well enough, struggles more than I think it should with slight loads like small trailers, but I am in the mountains.

I purchased @typ4 russ's oring and olive kit, but this being my first diesel and still unsure of some things, I waited to install it.
I had the glow plugs burn out on me, I think a locked up relay/solenoid did that, and they were then replaced at the only local diesel shop that would touch my IDI.
The shop replaced the glow plugs with new motorcraft, which I didnt ask them to until they told me they'd already tested and removed the old ones, and they didn't do the orings which is what I asked them to do when it was brought in.
I have a few other complaints about that shop and the work they did, but they claimed they tested compression and all cylinders were "equal and right above 300psi".

Even with the brand new glow plugs, it was starting just the same- crank on it for days(in 10second intervals with 30 second breaks), no start until i gave it at least a hint of starter fluid.
eventually after reading dozens more posts and watching some videos, I replaced orings on the injectors that looked damp, and subsequently the next ones that started clearly leaking after being touched, like everyone said they would. not everything leaked tho, which is probably because some of the injectors do look different and newer.
anyway, that didnt fix the starting issue.

around this point I did what the previous owner, and several forum members had suggested, and installed an e pump (holley red) down on the frame rail below the tank.
procedure went great. problem did not go away or improve.

I tried reaching out to @Dregs Garage since he's local to me, and thankfully he replied, but he's backed up on his return caps i guess, so I purchased r&d justin's solid rails.
it probably took me 15 attempts and twice as many extra viton orings, and absolutely smothering everything in super lube by the end of it, but eventually no leaks apparent. (by the way, pretty sure the harbor freight ones are out-of-spec for the size).
it still wouldnt start after sitting.
I started replacing the lines with clear poly. some bubbles at first, checked tightness everywhere and replaced now questionable fitting from lift pump to filter.
eventually got NO BUBBLES, even after sitting, in any of the clear lines(to filter, filter to return 1, and IP to return). this indicates I do not have fuel drain-back[anymore], correct??
still not starting on its own.

so to keep throwing money I don't have at it, I purchased russ's rebuilt injectors and filter to IP replacement line kit. they're currently on the way, along with the ebay "made in italy" $160 injector hard line kit, simply because the fuel coming out was a little dingy and I'm losing my mind.
just before typing this up, I plugged the block heater in for about 1.5-2hours(its been sunny and 70+ degrees today), and after otherwise sitting dead cold for 2 days, it fired right up like it had been running. maybe 2 seconds of cranking.

what is going on here? is it the injectors? because they were partially replaced and not pop matched?
any insight greatly appreciated....

Thanks
Martin
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chillman88

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Your problem isn't fuel system related. Your glow plugs aren't working properly!

It could be the relay, or the controller or something. The dead giveaway is the fact that it starts perfectly plugged in.

How long does the wait to start light stay on? Do you hear the solenoid clicking repeatedly after the light goes out?
 

vagabond0351

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How long does the wait to start light stay on? Do you hear the solenoid clicking repeatedly after the light goes out?

glow plug light comes on for ~8 seconds, then goes off ~4, then on again ~2, then off ~4, then on ~2, then off... with the solenoid clicking each time. Doesnt click out of time with the light. Appears to be working with the controller

I just tried the same cycle again manually with my wired in switch. After 2 times "letting the controller do it" and one cycle of the same pattern with the switch, doesn't even try to start on its own with 10 seconds of cranking
 
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Rdnck84_03

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Do your new glow plugs have the spade connector or the bullet style.

If the spade type then the 8sec glow time seems kinda short to me.

I am running the 6 volt 7.3 style and a cold start in the 70s requires about 7sec with manual control.

James
 

MadMac

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You didn’t mention the fuel water separator. Bypass it until you know its not the problem. Mine passed bubble tests b/c it leaked vacuum in the cold, and unfortunately was the last thing I isolated (see any description of: “it was the last beer”…)

Some 10 years back I bought an 85 as “the project” (now it does them). Symptoms so similar I’m writing this… It was my first Diesel, I was *not* a wrench, my lack of experience led me down a similar path. There are not too many avenues to chase, though there are quite a number of parts down each path. Either there is an electrical issue, or there is a vacuum / fuel issue. Maybe others, but that is what comes to mind.

Roughly - I went through the GP system first. Orings, controller (manual switch), GP harness, return lines, GP solenoid. But also ended up doing the batteries, some of the vacuum lines, and the least likely problem - replacing the hot+ground wiring with a 4-0 set, to include a pair of red-tops. Everything made starting marginally better - but didn’t solve the problem. The second path - was the fuel system. The lift pump & the vacuum pump, then tanks & senders (working fuel gauges, not the starting issue). There were several runs at the glow plugs themselves - discovering how truly despicable counterfeit GPs (bench test everything).

The one fix which changed everything for me - was replacing a marginal air / fuel separator (I call this “major marginal”) with a marine Racor unit (R45 bolts on with elbow fittings). It was also one which required the most research, and had the least amount of information available (I’m a better researcher now…). Given that everything was marginal - everything was somewhat the improvement which lowered the overall problems until it was reliable enough to make it drivable. Though it *always* failed for my wife… The lesson in my old truck: its not just one thing, its likely a bunch of minor marginal things - and one major marginal thing.

This winter it sat for three months and immediately started after two GP cycles. I’m not even certain I need the GP system for the truck to start in above freezing weather. I converted the manual GP back to the stock controller to protect the engine b/c other people drive it, and the rule for everyone else is - GPs have to cycle three times before starting. Also notable - burned up two starters in the process, even using a 10/30 on/off schedule.

Its very painful, but find a way to test each of these things, or at least eliminate them one by one.
 

vagabond0351

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You didn’t mention the fuel water separator. Bypass it until you know its not the problem. Mine passed bubble tests b/c it leaked vacuum in the cold, and unfortunately was the last thing I isolated (see any description of: “it was the last beer”…)
Forgot to mention this, original seperator started dripping on a drive in the middle of all this troubleshooting/repair, so I did bypass it. I'd pulled the ring to drain a couple times before, and it didnt seem to leak at all until one day when it started leaking a lot. And not from inside the hose, interestingly enough. But it is removed and bypassed now.
And since the fuel is staying full in the clear lines on either side of the injector pump(not to mention the e-pump primes to the ip), it couldnt be an issue before that, right?
Also have two new interstate costco group65 batteries within the past year.

I'm certainly in agreement, I've found plenty of little problems, but none of them seem to significantly influence the starting problem
 

vagabond0351

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Do your new glow plugs have the spade connector or the bullet style.

If the spade type then the 8sec glow time seems kinda short to me.

I am running the 6 volt 7.3 style and a cold start in the 70s requires about 7sec with manual control.

James

They're spade style. The shop that replaced them made a big stink about only using the oem motorcraft plugs, from their oem supplier or whatever. I havent pulled them out, but my invoice says ZD28. They also replaced the control unit with a motorcraft one, DY861.

I've let them do their full cycles, key off, cycle again several times to no avail. Also used the manual switch in addition the the controller, no change.
I'll try to get a meter on them today and ensure they're still reading good
 

vagabond0351

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Just gave it a "controller" cycle, then 2 additional 10 second hits from the manual switch.

Cranked for 10 seconds, then waited, and 10 again, not even a cough of an attempt to start.
It does lope a bit sometimes I'm realizing, but it cranks very fast and strong.

here are photos of the controllers


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vagabond0351

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ok. just pulled 3 of the glow plugs. they're all new ZD28. they're all bad.

I guess its nice to find 'the problem'.
Not nice the brand new plugs a shop charged me an arm and a leg to replace apparently all went bad immediately, and for reasons yet unknown...

although, even on hot days the starting is the same. thought we weren't supposed to need the glow plugs when its hot out?
 

vagabond0351

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can we get a picture of the plugs?
Is it normal that they're all wet/oily? 3 three pictured right, I had wiped off, then set them back in but didn't screw them before removing again for photo. the left one in the photo, I didn't wipe off at all
These are from cylinders 1, 2, 4, and 7, for no reason other than ease of access

Thanks for the responses

oh, assuming unrelated, since the problem was there before and after, but when I got it back from said shop (this past fall), the alternator (suddenly?) wasn't charging the batteries. at the time I -hoped- weak electrical was part of the problem, so I did the 3G alt upgrade. It went pretty smoothly. still no change in starting.

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Black dawg

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Those sure dont look like genuine beru plugs to me.

What I have been doing on trucks with the early system is, using the bosch 80034 plug, and adding a push button at the same time. The 80034 is the most dependable glow plug that I have used.

The 80034 is slower to get hot than the oe plug, but most trucks start fine in mild weather with the factory controller, with the button added for a little extra when it is colder. The spade is narrower, so changing the connector on the glow plug harness is best, but I have used them as is as well.
 

vagabond0351

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Sorry to be making a novel out of this, and I appreciate everyones time and help.

From a folder i was given with the truck, looks like two owners ago, in 2012, replaced all the glow plugs and controller(s) with the dieselRx kit, and installed the manual switch.
previous owner bought it around 2018, and a shop said "the switch was wired wrong, and they fixed it". PO then replaced 2 injectors in 2020, 6 more in 2021 along with the glowplugs.
I bought it january of 2022. I watched the gp relay freeze closed(light stayed on) that summer. Cant remember now if the hard starting was before or after that, but it wasn't "at the same time".
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vagabond0351

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Those sure dont look like genuine beru plugs to me.

It would feel about on par for that shop if they're counterfeit...
Here are closer cleaner pics of both sides

Thanks for the info on the bosch plugs, I've seen them referenced before, but seems every other opinion is good or bad for everything
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