As my post count would indicate, I don’t post here too often, but I’ve been a member since Fish the River. I’ve fished with James and a few others, I’ve made some friends, and I’ve learned a lot. I contribute when I can, however I can, but I will never be able to give back as well as several others here do. The subject of this post would be a great help to our community.
I’ve had many fishing boats/motors over the years, but early this year I was looking at buying my first fish/ski boat that would be more enjoyable for my entire family. I came here looking for info on what to look for in used boats. Unfortunately, one of our most valuable assets here at IDO, who I was hoping to get some info from, had just decided to take a break from posting at IDO. Some other great members here, were kind enough to contact Iowaboy1 and let him know that a member had some questions he might be able to help with. With my permission, my contact info was passed to Iowaboy1, and that very night I received a generous email inviting me to call or email him with any questions I have and he would do his best to help me out. Now I had read many of his posts over the years, and I was aware of his reputation for being a good guy who felt it was his duty to help others whenever he could, so I asked my questions and he answered them immediately. Eventually, I found a boat that I liked, even though it was over 20 years old, I told Sheldon about it, and he again offered to answer any questions that may come up.
Throughout the summer, very intermittently the boat would die for no reason while running at low speed or idling, but mostly ran fairly well, and when it did die, it would usually restart pretty easily before long, I added some Seafoam and new plugs, never a big enough bother to investigate it. Just a few weeks ago, it died and would not restart, even after cranking on and off for 15 minutes. I hauled the boat home and sent an email to Sheldon. I told him I wanted to meet him and his wife anyway, and I was willing to drive over 4 hours to his shop in Iowa so that he could diagnose my issue properly. He made an appointment for me this past Monday and I towed the boat down.
Now you have to understand, I had never met this man or even spoken by phone, just a couple PM’s and emails. I had enjoyed many of his posts at IDO and he hardly knew me at all since I don’t post much. Neither of us owes the other a single thing. I just knew he had a reputation for treating people fairly, and that he was a mechanic who had previously worked for Mercury and had the knowledge and equipment to DIAGNOSE my problem and not just sell me parts until it was fixed or I give up on it. That being said, he went to work testing and inspecting as meticulously as humanly possible, every aspect that could be related to my motor issues. He has testing equipment for almost any motor out there, he can connect a laptop and test virtually all aspects of the motor right in his shop. He went through the whole list of fault codes that have appeared on this motor over 21 years of use.
The initial test results were not good news. My 20 year old Mercury 200 EFI had poor spark, was running hot, and had poor fuel delivery, though compression was still good. There are plenty of shops that would have told me it needed a new ECU, 6 new coils, 6 new injectors, and two new thermostats, plus all the gaskets and labor to replace those parts – easily reaching over $5,000. That’s pretty much a catastrophic repair on a 20 year old motor.
And now we get to why I towed my boat over 4 hours each way. Sheldon went above and beyond to make absolutely certain of what was causing my issues. He tested continuity on each fuel injector and then flow tested every one of my injectors at every RPM range repeatedly, verifying that they are all functioning properly. Those are nearly $400 each, and we now knew that they were good so there must be another reason why the injector on cylinder #4 was not pumping properly.
He checked the intensity of the spark on each coil repeatedly, and found them to all be rather weak, even when he added a boost pack, all coils were weak and would not produce a good spark across the air gap spark tester. These are nearly $200 each, and though he recommends OEM replacement parts most times, he could provide me with a less expensive alternative that has proven to be a great substitute for OEM – saving me nearly $80 each.
In his vast experience, he has encountered situations where bad coils can fry a circuit in the ECU, and since we had already determined that the injectors themselves were working perfectly but the coils were failing, a $2500 ECU may be necessary to resolve the issue. The ECU has 3 electrical plugs going into it, and each plug has dozens of very short wires going through them. Sheldon painstakingly tested every one of those circuits to verify it was functioning properly. They all checked out. If it hadn’t, he assured me that he has a place that can repair ECU’s for less than half the price of a new one, and they give excellent results. Another bullet dodged.
So after all this, what was the cause? Sheldon was now certain there was an electrical issue causing the injector to not cycle properly, he began testing and inspecting every single wire and connection to the injectors. He disassembled the loom of wires that goes to the fuel rail, wiggling each wire and probing every single pin and receptacle on the connectors. Then he saw something, he held the wire loom into the sunlight, and when he rotated it just right, a glint of light reflected off the yellow wire in a spot that was no more than 1/8 inch long on a 22 gauge piece of stranded copper wire. The yellow wire goes to the injector for cylinder #4, the one that was not cycling properly. And with the help of a pair of reading glasses, it was clear that the shine was indeed copper wire exposed through the insulation, exactly underneath where the wire is clamped to the fuel rail. The injector had been shorting out against the clamp occasionally and not providing fuel to that cylinder, and with weak spark on the other cylinders, it was enough to shut it down. We went from a catastrophic repair to a few hours of labor and a diagnostics fee. Thank you Sheldon for the dedicated work, and thank you God for that glint of sunlight.
Now the point of this post was not to tell a long story, but to invite Sheldon (Iowaboy1) back here to IDO. I know he’s busy, and personal time is precious, but we are missing out by not having his presence here. The man is an asset wherever he goes, a resource of knowledge, and a genuine good man who takes time out of his own life to assist anyone who asks, just because he believes it is the right thing to do. Like many others here at IDO, I think he’s earned the right to be a little coarse on occasion, but his sense of humor and the stories he can tell alone are well worth it. The knowledge, ability and desire to help, are second to none. Entertaining and educational.
This is my way of inviting him back and calling on those who hold the power around here to assist in restoring him. Maybe Iowaboy2 is available as a username? or could he sign up as “member not found”?
I for one, would sure like to see him around again.