Got out on Saturday for a test run... first time away from the dock this year.  I've run the engines a few times and all my winter tasks are complete.  20 feet from the dock the Port engine dies.  NOT THIS AGAIN.  Water in Fuel? Water under distributor cap?  Got it going a couple times more and long story short, same thing on Sunday... decided to change the distributor cap and spark plugs because that's what I did to the Starboard last year when it acted up.   Installed them last night... everything fires up and runs nice.   Head out for a test this evening and everything is going fine.  A couple times I move up to 1500, then back to idle (that's when it stalled before) ... time to go up on step...  2000....2500...2800...3000 .....   Port engine suddenly dies at 3100 rpm  boat turns left.  After I gain control and I go to try to restart.  forgetting I'm still in forward.  engine turns over then sputters... then clunk. Not sure how it turned over when I was still in gear, normally it won't let me do that.  I pull it back to neutral. Try again. Clunk Clunk Grind.   Back to boathouse on one engine. again!   @%$#$#$&*&%%$%#@%^^%$*(

Back in the shed begin my inspections.  Pulled the starter... no shavings or wear on the gear.  Pull the Transmission dipstick.  Looks full and clean.  Move the gear cable to forward and reverse... seams ok.  try turning the shaft by hand turns free but it is really loose... compare it to starboard shaft... very loose.!

Where do I start? I'm running GM 350K engines (counter rotating engines) about 5 years old with original Paragon P33 2:1 transmissions.  This being the port it is the normal rotation.  Can they be inspected in the boat... is this a must be rebuilt to be reliable situation? Is it possible this isn't 5 Boat Bucks by the time I'm done?

Lee I read your story about a small transmission leak from 2016 about rebuilds and recommendation of Kalamazoo...  they have rebuilds on the shelf? Already sent an email to them from their website.   

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First thing to do is not jump to conclusions. I seriously doubt if there is anything actually wrong with your transmission.

When you say loose what do you mean? Easy to turn the prop shaft, or loose as in radial runout?

What is likely what has happened is that you have a bolt that came out of the drive plate and is floating around in the bottom of the bellhousing and probably rubbing on the backside of the flywheel.

Not sure how much room you have to slide the transmission back by a couple of inches so you can see in there.

Other option, which I prefer because you only need the starter out, is to put a bore scope in the starter opening and take a look.

The Paragon is a very simple design and relatively robust for its size. Not much to go wrong with them except the drive clutches which would give you dirty oil. The few things that could go wrong such as a bearing would make the output shaft difficult to turn over feel rough.

The other issue is to address the rough running engine.

Do you have the standard distributors with points?

Yes, check gap and advance, loose set bolt will allow distributor to move.

No, magical electronic conversions can fail by several methods including timing.

Your problem is not the transmission at this point, maybe later but transmissions don't prevent engines from starting.  The difference of shaft movement may be as simple as tightness of shaft packing.

Attend to the engine problem, which is probably simple, perplexing but simple.  There are not many things to fix ignition wise on an SBC or most other carbed gas engines.  Deep breath, favorite beverage, arrange tools, index rotor to #1 and procede.

Matt,  standard Mallory Distributor & Coil.  It is tight. I pulled the cap last night as part of my review and didn't notice the distributor was loose, I always go back over what I touched last and try to only change one thing at a time.

The engine was running well and attempted to start but I stopped turning it over when I heard the grinding.  It doesn't make sense to keep turning it over when all I hear is the grinding when the starter turns the flywheel.  I'm going back down tonight to re assess. I know that it's usually the simple things so as far as the engine stalling suddenly I'm going to check the fuel line. The shut off valve may not be open all the way, I should have checked that last night, it may have been giving enough to run at lower RPM but not enough at as it got going...

My big worry is the grinding noise.  I can't begin to turn the engine over or check start until I can determine source of grinding. 

Ronald, great suggestion, I will find bore scope and pull the starter and have a good look inside.

I've never checked the amount of play in the transmission at the shaft so I wouldn't know if it's more or less than before, can only compare to starboard. Can anyone tell me if I can open up the top of the transmission and view inside without it coming apart in my hands? Can it be inspected while it's still in the water?  No sense in pulling the boat out and pulling the shaft off and pulling the transmission off if I can have a look inside while it's still at the dock.  

Any other input is welcome and thank you to the Commander Club community for the open sharing. 

Ronald, I've secured a bore scope and a handy mechanic friend to join me on my inspection tonight.  It's pretty hard to inspect anything from the bridge!

Today I spoke with the great guy, Craig, at Kalamazoo Marine Gear.  Thank you Lee.  Craig suggested the likely problem isn't the transmission but the damper plate or springs.  Other theories that are being checked tonight are the distributor itself may be gone or the timing chain may be gone.  A sudden stall from 3100 rps has a lot of potential side effects.   Story to continue tomorrow. 

The simplest solution is probably the right one.  

Pulled the distributor cap, turned over the motor... rotor turned!  engine turned over... no grinding!!!!!!!!!!!!! mmmm! It's not the rotor/distributor. But if the engine turns over then timing chain is also ruled out and damper plate isn't cause of noise?????.

Why would there be no grinding when the distributor cap was off? No Spark...! No Spark = engine ok...   But Starter works!  put distributor cap back on... turn over..   AHHHHH grinding noise!!!!!! Spark = engine not ok.

Pull starter... bore scope inspecting fly wheel and damper plate... minor shavings... everything is in tact. no broken springs, no bolts lying around!!!

Second look at starter motor..... sprocket is extended!

If the starter turned over and the engine fired.... (with it's fancy new cap and spark plugs) but the sprocket didn't retract.... then the sprocket would be grinding on the flywheel when the engine fired!.  Note the transmission is about 10 inches away from the starter motor so I wasn't that far off with the initial diagnosis! only about 4 grand different.   

Pulled the starter motor put it on the bench... hook up starter to 12 volts . excite the solenoid.... it turns but doesn't retract!   look again at the starter... the shaft is out of alignment, bearings gone!   Off to rebuild.

Now the question of why it stalled!  These very basic engines need spark and fuel.   I have spark... check the fuel shut off valve... open all the way.  Initial working theory is my nice full tank of gas is the VARIABLE!  I NEVER run with a full tank of gas.  It's likely there is a fuel starvation with a full tank of gas.  I replaced all fuel lines last summer. EXCEPT THE OVERFLOW AND TANK AIR INLET LINES!. Guessing the air inlet to the tank is kinked or the overflow is blocked OR BOTH.  Once the starter is rebuilt I will remove fuel fill cap and run again to verify it's a vacuum.  Ok I'm not that smart, today my wife called me in a panic, her Acura got a warning... I searched it and it was related to the gas cap being loose... modern engines require the vacuum... these ones require air in the tank! 

YES I'm pulling the other starter and getting that rebuilt too. 

Excuse the long ramblings... update to come following starter motor rebuild. 

If you  have  anti-siphon  check valves  on the tank outlet  they could have  plugged as you accelerated.  The bouncing  and greater flow will  plug them up.


Following up on Tim's fuel starvation idea.  What about something as simple as partially plugged fuel filters?  Enough throughput to run at low RPM only. 

I put vacuum gauges on my Racor filters to monitor how blocked they are. 

We replaced the fuel tanks on our 31 because of similar stalling issues.  Long runs at high RPM would plug the pickup tubes with debris.  We diagnosed the problem by plumbing in a portable fuel tank.  Issues went away with the portable tank.  We then replaced the main tanks.  After they were out, one tank was fine the other was very rusty inside.  Must have had water sitting in the bottom for years.


Given that it has happened the last 2 times when I'm accelerating up on plane... the boat is bow up!... and my tank is at the very back middle between the stringers... filler is middle of transom as is vent... first look is going to be at vent. 

Darin, good point.  I checked my filters before my first engine run of the season but I'm going to look again.  

Tim, no check valve from the tank to the carb. but this may be an interesting discussion.  Has Bubba been working on my boat before me.  My fuel system goes like this.  

Tank (one for both engines)-> Shut off valves (2) (mounted to top of tank) -> Fuel Filter -> 12v Pump -> Flow Meter-> Carbs.   

Anything missing?  I added the Flow Meters last year when I replaced everything from the else above with all new hose and fittings. 

you didn't mention what you had for carbs but if they are Rochester quads there is a filter built into the carb inlet that will cause an engine to starve for fuel as you wind up the rpm's. Of course that doesn't account for the grinding and clunking.  You also bench tested the starter and mentioned the gear did not retract. My understanding is it is the centrifugal force once the engine starts that spins the starter gear back into the starter housing. If you spin that gear by hand and the gear pops out you cannot get it back in without spinning it, my shop had an air powered rubber wheel he would use to get it to retract.If the bearings are shot it may have bound when the engine fired.

Kevin,  I do have Rochester Quadrajets.  I will pull the fuel line to the carb and see what I can see.   

Regarding the starter... it's at the shop now.  I hate waiting. 

might your spark plug wires be shorting out causing firing out of sequence. had that happen on my sbc in our van, chewed up starter?

Russell, it is right at the carb, I believe it is a 3/4 wrench needed to undo it. It actually sits inside the housing of the carb. The part number is Quicksilver 53336Q and they are available on wal-mart .com for about 7.00. JUST DON'T TWIST YOUR COPPER FUEL LINES WHEN LOOSENING OR TIGHTENING! Loosen that first!!

Russell Moore said:

Kevin,  I do have Rochester Quadrajets.  I will pull the fuel line to the carb and see what I can see.   

Regarding the starter... it's at the shop now.  I hate waiting. 

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