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Well my question is regrding an Onan generaor 20kw, it is…

Well my question is...

Well my question is regrding an Onan generaor 20kw, it is getting a spark but I cannot get the generator to start.

Mechanic's Assistant: Do you have fuel in the tank? If so, is the shut-off valve open and the fuel clean?

It is propane and the valves are open, I am thinking there may be an auto shut-off that is keeping the propane from getting to the engine, it turns over just fine by battery but won't ignite.

Mechanic's Assistant: Do you plan on doing the work yourself?

No, not myself, I am just looking at a hint of what to do. I am on the island of St. Croix, and while there is an Onan dealer here they have not been able to figure it out either.

Mechanic's Assistant: Anything else we should know to help you best?

NO, it just mysteriously stopped. We had made some replacements, we replaced the radiator (a small leak) and the alternator, things that my caretaker could do. But then the engine would not start Is a 20 K generator a "small engine"

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
Is a 20 K propane generator a "small engine" category?
Answered in 9 hours by:
3/9/2018
Hank F.
Hank F., Technician
Category: Small Engine
Satisfied Customers: 15,978
Experience: Certified on Onan and Generac generators
Verified

Hello, my name is ***** ***** I am going to assist you with this.

What is the full model number of the genset?

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
Well it is a Cummings Onan Propane 20 K never looked gor a model number - let me see if it is on the genset.Generator Set with power Comman 1301 Controller CGMA , CGMB, CGMC
Customer reply replied 5 months ago
With the time difference, that is hard , although it changes this weekend and we dont...not sure where you are alocated, we are atiny islnad in the middle of the Atlantic time Zone. I am basically looking to guide a repair person that works on small engines, there are only 2-3 generrator experts on the island, and one of them has not been even able to hazard a guess. So typing some ideas so I have somthing to pass on to try (in writing) would work best. I am no motor expert even though I have had three generators, two in the Caribbean and one in Florida......it seems to me that the engine is in good condition, indtalled in 2009, the genset is well preserved, maintained and not many hours on it of use. but for some reason once we switched out new alternator and new radiator - jobs we felt we could do with out a generator reapair license, we could not get the engine to ignite. So we have 500 gallons of propane, but maybe there is some auto shut-off that is broken and is keeping the propane from getting into the combustion chamber. I know nothing about engines, so I am just advancing ideas that I come up with logic, and not that anyone gave me a Cummings generator license.

I need the actual model and serial number from the data plate on the unit.

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
Model GGMA -(###) ###-####serial C090235732
Customer reply replied 5 months ago
OK, I never got an answeer to my first question Hank "08 March 2018 12:24
"Is a 20 K propane generator a "small engine" category?"Am I entered into the right Answer Me category? Have you ever worked on an Onan Propane genset before?

This unit could go to either Small Engine or Industrial Equipment.

I am a certified Onan technician, and yes, I have worked on many.

This is not an air cooled home standby unit, but is a liquid cooled heavy duty unit.

I am not certified by Onan to work on it, but I have worked on a couple.

If you would like me to opt out of this, just let me know.

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
I just want to make sure I am in the right engine category. I am not sure you have be a certified Onan person and if you know something about these big generators we sure could use some guidance. We do have an Onan dealer down here and I bought the genset from them. , but it is like everything on a tiny Caribbean island, the skilled labor is in high demand. No one seems to know what is wrong. It took them two months to even come out to look at it. Then it took anoher 6 weeks to replace the spark plugs and the wires to the spark plugs, replaced the radiator that had a slow leak. I replaced the alternator.
Nothing major has happened to it, it is nine years old but it is seldom used and is in a specially constructed mechancial room to keep it out of the open until the generator fan turns on and the vents auto- open to exhaust and intake. The Onan guy has no idea at this point he said he will replace the ignition coil if I pay for it even if it does not solve the problem. I frankly don't know what to do and I am on this tiny island with not a lot of options. If I was back home in Florida, this would have been fixed five months ago.

I will be right up front with you and say that I do not know everything. Nobody does.

But I have been a generator tech for 17 years, and have picked up a thing or 2 along the way.

As I'm sure you are aware, an engine needs 3 things to run - fuel/air mixed in the proper proportions, compression, and a spark delivered at the proper time.

So lets start with the basics - which is always the best place to start.

You stated that you are getting spark. Where did you check for spark at? If at the coil, that is not good enough. It needs to be checked at the plugs, and all 4 plugs must be checked.

If it was tested at the plugs, and all 4 are getting fire, then we need to check the fuel.

The easiest way to do that is to remove the air filter. While cranking the engine, start spraying in some carb cleaner. I do not recommend starting fluid, but on a liquid cooled engine, if that is all you have, that is what you have to work with.

Can you get the engine to fire on carb cleaner, even if it will not actually start?

If so, we have a fuel delivery issue.

If not, we have an internal engine issue.

Let me know what happens.

I do have a service run I need to make, and may be out for a couple of hours.

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
Thanks these are very sound questions....I have had the same question about the spark continuum, did hey avtually check the spark plug and I have never had an answer, I have somebody coming tomorrow that is knowledgeable and I will run all this by him, it all makes lots of sense.

Ok.

Like I said, just let me know what you find.

Don't be afraid to ask questions - it will not only gain you knowledge, but it will also better tell you what kind of tech you are dealing with.

Just because someone works for Cummin/Onan, Generac, Honda or what not, or even if they are certified, does not mean they are proficient.

Any tech who suggests just changing parts (like a coil) just because it "could be the problem", or is "the most common problem", but does no troubleshooting, be wary of them. They could end up costing a lot of money unnecessarily.

It would be nice to know what kind of troubleshooting your guy did.

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
your observations are right on, and especially here in the Caribbean, some of the techs are really not any more proficient than the average handy man. All the repair guy tells me is that they keep replacing parts but nothing seems to work...I ask them what parts? and get no answer, except to say they will only replace the coil if I agree ahead of time to pay for it whether it works or not. It is not like I have a lot of choice down here, I know if this generator was in Florida, it would have been repaired a long time ago.So we only checked one spark plug initially and it did have a spark, do we really need to check all four? I have a guy coming who does work on generators so I am hopeful.....he is thinking one of the valves that control the propane release might be at fault......I already had been thinking that way, but anyway, I picked up a spray can of carb cleaner and we will try your suggestions first.
Customer reply replied 5 months ago
I am remembering one weird part of this, it goes back to October. The repair guy told his supervisor he found "broken magnetic pieces" in the engine and claimed some unauthorized (non-Onan) person was working on the generator Which was absolutely untrue. His boss later told me that they had to replace something magnetic that did a reading on revolutions of the engine or something I did not understand,,,,sounded like some kind of magnetic sensor.... that, and the radiator, I know they repaired. The radiator had a slow leak in it, but that was totally unrelated to the engine problem, as the genset was working fine at the time that they did that. Now also at the same time my caretaker noticed that the alternator was not charging the battery properly and we asked the Onan dealer if it was alright if we replaced it. At that point they were so busy with post hurricane stuff that they said they would be grateful if we took care of that part of it, but at that point the engine was not starting at all. Turns over very well, but does not fire. Carb cleaner and spark plug checks are next.

The broken magnetic pieces could indeed by parts of the magnet for the MPU (magnetic pickup unit). It is the device that tells the controller how fast the engine is running.

Yes, it is very possible to have only 1 cylinder firing. It would not be common to lose 3 cylinders, but it can happen, and we must know. It doesn't do much good to check for fuel delivery if you are not even getting spark to ignite the fuel.

Yes, this could very well be a frozen/clogged fuel shut off valve, or a bad regulator.

As I said in an earlier post, if the engine will fire and try to start with carb cleaner, it is not an engine problem, but a fuel delivery problem. There are many parts in each of the systems, and right now we are just trying to narrow down which system is failing.

Then we can go in to more detailed troubleshooting.

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
OK, he has not showed up - and this is typical for the island - he was supposed to be here 2 hours ago. So I still have not checked all the plugs, because I do not have that special spark plug wrench.....but I did shoot in some carb cleaner, and he had done the same previously, and it did not "pop".
Customer reply replied 5 months ago
Do I need to wait till we check all the plugs or does the lack of iginition on the carb cleaner tell us something to move on to?

If it did not even fire on carb cleaner, the plugs definitely need to be checked.

Now it becomes an ignition or compression issue.

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
what is the proper way to test the plugs, I have new plugs, and new wires. I assume just unscrewing each and laying it down on the generator and cranking it for a second or two?

Yes, that is the easiest way. But it is better to use insulated pliers to hold them against the engine, so they don't bounce around while cranking.

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Have you checked for spark yet?

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
Hank, thank you so much I am having someone else do it as I had to leave the island.

OK.

Thank you for using Just Answer, and please take a moment to rate the quality of my assistance.

Hank F.
Hank F., Technician
Category: Small Engine
Satisfied Customers: 15,978
Experience: Certified on Onan and Generac generators
Verified
Hank F. and 87 other Small Engine Specialists are ready to help you
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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
I will be glad to do that, and I will be back in touch once I get a mechanic out there to do the spark plug test.

Ok.

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
can you give me a link to make a payment to you ?

I was paid when you rated my answer - thank you.

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
Great, I was trying to pay more than the suggested amount and it was showing that it did not go through
I am not sure how your end of things works, but I do know that if you wish to give more, you have the option of leaving a bonus.
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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
exactly, that is what I was trying to do....I will figure it out, I have o get back to you fter the spark plug test anyway.

Ok.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
If we find that all the spark plugs work, and we know the carb cleaner did not ignite, would we buy pass the ignition parts and look at compression, would there be any sense to place the rotor or ignition coil ?
Sorry, I headed outbon vacation, and haven't had cell service.
Yea, if all spark plugs are working, therebis no need to change any ignition components. Then we need to look at valves and compression.
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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
Hi Hank, hopefully youg ot my payment and tip from last time we talked? OK, they finally were able to check the spark plugs, all 4 of them are sparking nicely. What do we move onto next? It would seem that the rotor or iginition coil would not need to be replaced then?

Sorry, I've been very busy at work, and having to work a lot of overtime.

No, if all 4 plugs are firing, there is no need to replace any ignition components.

Since you have spark, that leaves us with 2 options - fuel or compression.

Fuel is by far the most likely issue, so lets start there.

First, loosen the fuel line at the genset. Make sure LP is getting to the genset, and that there is no air in the line.

Next, once you are sure you have fuel getting to the genset, disconnect the wires at the fuel shut off solenoid, and jump 12V directly to the solenoid. You should hear it click open.

If the solenoid is good, remove the air filter.

While cranking the engine, spray in some carb cleaner.

Can you get the engine to at least fire on carb cleaner, even if it will not actually start?

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
OK, I will try the next step, the fuel check. Remember we already tried spraying car cleaner into the unit and got not "pop" from that.
Customer reply replied 4 months ago
I am guessing he silver one that has a litle hexagon cap/plug that is labeled VENT ?by simply unscrewing that plug would that tell us if there was LP coming to the controller?
Customer reply replied 4 months ago
since we have spark, is it possible it is a mater of timing ? what part of the gense controls the timing of the sprk ignitions?

Those are not controllers, they are solenoids.

The 2 blue ones, before the regulator, are the ones that control gas flow.

The vent on the regulator is a pressure differential vent. It is what allows the diaphragm to move when the engine puts a vacuum on the regulator. Removing the plug will not tell you if gas is flowing or not.

Yes, timing is a possibility. Not as likely as other issues, but a definite possibility.

This is a GM 3L engine. Ignition timing is controlled by a timing gear attached to the crankshaft, just like in a car. But it is a direct driven gear, not chain or belt driven, so the chances of it being out of time are very slim.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
which of those do we disconnect to see if we have LP pressure? Or should I just follow the LP Copper from the outide into the mechancial room? And if we have spark on all four plugs, then why wouldn't there be some type of "pop" when spraying in car b cleaner while cranking it?

To see if you are getting LP to the genset, just loosen the supply line at the genset - you don't need to pull a solenoid.

Yes, there should be something at the engine when spraying carb cleaner.

There may be a compression issue.

Do a compression test of all 4 cylinders.

I would also pull the valve cover to make sure all valves are opening and closing properly, and check valve lash while I was in there.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
when you say the "two blue ones" control the LP intake, there are not two blue ones, did you mean the two black ones??

No, the black ones are after the regulator.

There is a blue one in the picture before the regulator, and another almost idrectly below it. You can only see a tiny corner of the second one in your picture.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
My thought from
The beginning h is that is is likely that it is just one of the valves/salenoufds or controllers that has failed perhaps the regulator for the fuel failing so even if we Have good LP flow and good spark and compression, it won’t vome together

Yes, but if it were a lack of fuel, you should be getting the engine to at least fire when spraying in carb cleaner. Due to it not even trying to fire, it is looking like it may not be a fuel issue at all.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
Yeah, that makes real. good sense.What I am doing is loosening the round air filter you see in the photo to the right and then spraying carb cleaner down that oepning?
Customer reply replied 4 months ago
I was thinking that there are some (salenoids/auto-valves/ controllers, whatever) that shut down things that would not allow the generator to start.....I don't know what all of them are but the ones I did the photo of all seem to have wires coming out of them. ONe of them I know is a low coolant shut off - but we have plenty of coolant - but what if just the valve is showing we don't have coolant? I know there are supposed to be a sequence of flashing red lights to tell us what is wrong...but we are getting no signal at all. To save money we took that option rather than the diagnostic LED dsiplay when we ordered it, but at the time, th guys said "you don't need that" these things hadly ever stop running."

Yes, the carb opening behind the air filter.

None of those are the low coolant level switch. The low coolant level switch is mounted in the top of the radiator.

Both of the blue solenoids are fuel shut off solenoids.They are electro-mechanical valves that shut off the flow of gas. Both are located before the regulator.

The first black one after the regulator is a safety valve for the fuel.

The second black one from the regulator is not a solenoid. It is the throttle control module.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
I knew that, about the coolant low level switch. I did not word that properly. What I was trying to kick around is the idea that maybe there is nothing wrong with the genset other than some switch is overriding the ignition and not allowing the genset to fire up. I don't know much about the Onan and you have increased my understanding about 500%, but my Onan dealer has not a clue either. Here is what we know:1) there is good compression - (we ran a test)
2) coolant and oil is fine
3) 4 sparkplugs fire just fine
4) Will NOT fire by spraying into the carborator ( 3 different people tried this including the onan guy)
5) I have not yet tested that there is LP gas up to the genset, but there is plenty of fuel in the tank and all valves are open .The last part about checking "valve lash" I do not understand - and will have to find somebody that can do that part.

There is no sensor disabling the ignition, or you wouldn't have any spark at the plugs.

But again, if it is not even firing with carb cleaner, it is likely not a fuel issue.

This leads to checking the valves, and the timing (even though timing is not very likely, it should still be checked).

A compression test alone is not sufficient. An engine can show good compression, even if the valves are not working.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
OK, again I do not know what "valve lash" is, but if I know I can have someone check it....there is a general all around generator motor guy I can go to.
Customer reply replied 4 months ago
The odd thing is that, while this generator was installed 8 or 9 years ago, it does not have a lot of hours on it, in fact until Hurricane Maria, in September, it hardly ran at all. It is just for emergencies. We are seaside, and lt is always a concern but the genset is inside the mechanical room with the radiator/fan facing a panel of plastic louvres that blow open when in operation. so it is somewhat sheltered, although not completely, from the sea salt. My Onan guy wants to put in a new ignition coil, but I just don't see the point.

Valve lash is the clearance between the valve lifter and the valve. Any mechainc can set it. It is done the same on any 4-stroke engine, whether it is a lawn mower, generator, motorcycle, car or tractor.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
First of all, how can I send you more money? , you have been so good at giving me these tips along the way! Here is one thing I just don't get. If you have good compression, wouldn't that exclude a valve problem. I mean the intake and exhaust valves would have to be completely sealed at the right time in order for the compression to work properly, right?
Customer reply replied 4 months ago
ONe other thing, the Onan dealer wants me to agree to pay for a new ignition coil, but wants me to agree to it ahead of time because he is not guaranteeing anything. But if I have four sparking plugs, would a new ignition coil really help anything.

That sounds like a pretty shady dealer to me. I would never make a customer agree to just start changing parts without knowing they are bad. That is bad business, and not a sign of a professional technician.

If you are getting good spark to all 4 plugs, the coil is good.

Yes, it is possible to get good compression readings, even with a bad valve.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
I agree and he actually put it in writing....but really, I don't think he is dishonest as much as clueless. They just keep replacing parts with no results. After assuring me there was a good spark to the engine, he then replaced all the spark plug cords and spark plugs.....after talking to you we then independently checked the spark and assured ourselves that indeed, the spark is good..... I can give you so many examples over the years - such as his inability to tell an oil leak from a coolant leak ( "well it looked like oil on the floor, but it does look like it is coming from the radiator") or his assertion that the generator was covered in beach sand ( we have only a rock beach) and the result was the sand had acted as sandpaper and wore a hole through one of the rubber hoses. The white stuff was actually soft powder from a bag of DE that the pool boy dropped and it blew around the room in the course of him putting it in the pool filter. So that is why I have resulted in talking to you - just because I am on this island without any resources....my wife is now saying I should find a Cummins/Onan guy here in Florida and offer him a week vacation at our lovely seaside home during which his job is to fix the generator.

I really don't know how your end of this works. I see different screens than you do.

You would need to contact customer service about that.

http://ww2.justanswer.com/customer-support

I'm sure you wouldn't have any trouble finding someone to take you up on that deal - I know I would if I were closer to Florida.

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Customer reply replied 3 months ago
hi Hank, its me the guy with the Onanc cummins generator in the caribbean. We had some guests that stayed lately and work on motors. Here is what they said:When we were cranking the motor, we could smell fuel, all plugs were firing great but there was no suction on the intake manifold. We removed the air filter and laid our hand on the intake, no suction. It must me that the cam is not rotating. This is why we believe is a timing chain broken. I called cummings and asked about the difficulty of replacing the timing chain. Cummings siad taking the pieces off to get to the timing chain was difficult. Maybe order a new generator?
Customer reply replied 3 months ago
Hnak, one more thing,they also discovered that the oil was overfilled by 1/2 gallon. What type of damage could have been done in that situation *whipped oil)

Hello, welcome back.

Let's start with the easy one - the over filled oil.

1/2 gallon shouldn't have hurt anything, except to maybe make a mess.

Now the hard one. Someone at the Cummins dealer you are working with either doesn't want to deal with you, or they are completely incompetent. I think it is time for you to question their qualifications and intentions.

That engine, a PSI 3.0L, does not have a timing chain. Timing is controlled by a direct drive gear system, which rotates the cam shaft, which drives push rods up to the valve rockers.

It is possible that one of the gears is broken, stripped, or the key sheared, or possibly a broken cam shaft, but not very likely.

It would be very easy to verify if the valve train is working or not. You can just pull the valve cover off and watch the valves as you crank the engine. There is also an access shield on the side of the engine that can be removed to watch the push rods.

As far as repair or replace, I would definitely have this dug into deeper, and repair - unless catastrophic internal engine failure is found. Repair will be a fraction of the cost of replacement. This is an expensive genset.

On a plus note, this engine is basically a 3L car engine. If you have a good auto mechanic you trust, they would be more than capable of repairing this engine.

If need be, I can provide a copy of the service manual for the engine.

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Customer reply replied 3 months ago
Hank, you are absolutely right about the lack of competency by Cummins, but is there some other reason for no suction on the intake....I think the guys who looked at it were just trying to do me a favor, they were guests at our house and were staying there while doing business on the island. They may not have known there was not a timing chain, in fact I didn't know that, but are they on the right track that there is something wrong with the cam since there was no suction on the intake manifold. They did mention to me they did not want to take off the valve cover because they would have to replace the gasket and had no way of getting one and did not want to cause a problem with the Cummins people locally that supposedly are supposed to be taking care of this for me, but don't seem able.

Lack of vacuum can be caused by a few things.

Sure, a broken cam shaft, gear, or key will definitely cause it. So can bad valves, burnt cylinders, and bent pushrods.

The engine needs to be opened up a little bit to be able to tell exactly what is wrong, and then you decide what to do from there.

If it is just a broken key on the cam gear, maybe $10 for the part, and a few hours labor, and you're back in business.

If it would be something as severe as a broken cam, there could be other damage inside, and it could get very expensive to fix. But that would be a long shot to be what is wrong.

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
Hello Hank, I wanted to follow up and thank you for leading me down the path to possible repair after waiting on the onan/cumming dealer for 6 months. While you did not necessarily find the solution, you kept me moving down the path when I met have given up as the dealer had. I brought in an independent generator/motor guy and he said not only was the engine lacking intake suction but the pressure was*****tooo high for that engine. I said how can you have too much pressure and not enough intake? and he showed me which could only be done by opening up the engine which the Onan/Cummings folks had never done. The engine had not been opened up...ever. This guy showed me that there was a black gunky residue and carbon on the valvesthat he says is from the propane. While I have only 770 hours on the engine, it is possible part of the problem was the engine setting long periods unused. Anyway he showed me that after a short time of cranking that one of the valves (exhaust) did not come back up, like it was stuck (down position) even though the rest of the valves kept in motion up and down.....anyway he felt we should replace all the valves. There is no problems with the gear, with the cam shaft or pistons. I am hoping valve replacement will do the job.

I'm glad the problem was found.

But if you scroll back up to my last reply to you, you will see that back on April 8, I suggested having a compression test done. You stated that it had good compression, so I just assumed it was in the proper 80 - 120 psi range. If you had said it was 250, I would have realized the problem was there.

Then on the 9th, I specifically suggested checking the valves.

And on the 10th, after you informed me that there was no vacuum at the intake, I stated "

Lack of vacuum can be caused by a few things.

Sure, a broken cam shaft, gear, or key will definitely cause it. So can bad valves, burnt cylinders, and bent push rods.

The engine needs to be opened up a little bit to be able to tell exactly what is wrong, and then you decide what to do from there."

No, I may not have been able to specifically say "The valves are bad", but I sure covered them. The problem is that valves are something that need to be seen physically - which I can't do from here.

The black gunky residue is not from the propane, though. Propane is a very clean burning fuel. The residue is burnt oil. The engine may have been running too hot, and/or there is a valve seal leaking.

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
that is exactly what I was trying to say,you had it right.... that you mentioned the valves and that is exactly why we proceeded that way. Now the compression test was from Onan, this guy checked it first himself before he took the engine apart. Surprised he did not know that propane is clean burining.

I'm surprised, also.

That is one of the biggest advantages of LP and NG - no carbon build up in the engine.

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Disclaimer: Information in questions, answers, and other posts on this site ("Posts") comes from individual users, not JustAnswer; JustAnswer is not responsible for Posts. Posts are for general information, are not intended to substitute for informed professional advice (medical, legal, veterinary, financial, etc.), or to establish a professional-client relationship. The site and services are provided "as is" with no warranty or representations by JustAnswer regarding the qualifications of Experts. To see what credentials have been verified by a third-party service, please click on the "Verified" symbol in some Experts' profiles. JustAnswer is not intended or designed for EMERGENCY questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals.

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