07/21/2007: "Starter problem solved"
It was supposed to be a week of projects but it came down to one that became a major headache. I needed to get a replacement for the starter solenoid that has been causing problems. Finding one is not hard, any Westerbeke dealer is happy to sell you one, at $350 to $380 each. The problem is in finding one for less, much less. I tried everything I could think of to find a replacement. No one I talked to was able to come up with any cross reference to the Westerbeke part number. One parts dealer was confident they could come up with a part if I could give them a number off of the solenoid or the starter. I was going to have to remove the parts without having a replacement in hand. The engine is not original to the boat and fills the engine compartment as tightly as possible. After removing the exhaust hose and several cooling lines, including one that drained all the coolant into the bilge, I was able to get the solenoid and starter off. Unfortunately there were no numbers anywhere on either part. One of the suppliers has their catalog with drawings online and I was able to find what looked like a close match. Using this information I tried one of the local auto parts suppliers. They were not able to find a replacement but one of their customers suggested a starter and alternator repair shop in New Bern. I brought the solenoid there and with only a quick glance and asking if it was 12 or 24 volt they brought out an exact match. It is made by Delco it turns out it is a fairly common part. The good news is that including tax it only cost $51, a savings of over $300 from what it would have cost going through a dealer or buying online. Installing was not as much of a problem as removal, and once I refilled the coolant it was time for a test start. Before, it was necessary to have two people to start the engine, one to push the start button and another to give the solenoid a light tap with a hammer if it didnít close its contact. We are now back to one person who pushes the start button and the engine cranks over immediately, and we do not have to use the combiner to combine power from the house bank and the starting battery to get enough power to crank it over.
Among the things I learned is that if you have a starter repair shop you do not need to advertise to stay in business. However it is hard for a new customer not familiar with the community to find you.