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hauptjm posted 08-30-2002 12:00 PM ET (US)   Profile for hauptjm  
I had a recent unpleasant experience: motor died while running at 3000rpm. Would not start for anything and had to be towed in. Culprit: the optical sensor for the ignition.

This is roughly a $45.00 part that ruined my day. Apparently they are suspect parts for OMCs. In my case this is the first time it went out since the engine was bought new in '95. The sensor is the firing order mechanism that used to be handled by points and condensors (for those of you old enough to remember those). It takes roughly 10-15 minutes to change, and I'll be carrying a spare from now on. It is located just under the fly wheel housing on the top of the motor. Just remove the springs that hold it in place (remember how it comes apart) plug it in, replace the housing and away you go.

Tip: if you're testing that to be your problem, you don't have to put the housing back together to test. You do have to at least put the motor cover back on because sunlight will interfere with the operation of the sensor. The flywheel housing usually covers it so it will operate with the engine cover off.

NEVER SCARED posted 09-04-2002 03:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for NEVER SCARED    
I had a similar problem, engine ran fine till I tried to restart. I could hear the small starter spinning but wasnt contacting the gears to crank engine! Before this happened (another trip) I turned the engine off but could hear the starter spinning like it never stopped the whole time. The flywheel has about 20 bolts that hold it on and a few small plastic gizmos. Is it THAT easy to remove? Is my problem the same as yours? Mechanic said its the starter solenoid thats bad.

Never scared

ShrimpBurrito posted 09-04-2002 07:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for ShrimpBurrito  Send Email to ShrimpBurrito     
If you starter is turning when you turn the key, your solenoid should be fine.
hauptjm posted 09-05-2002 02:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for hauptjm    
never, I think our problems were different. My starter was engaging, and in fact everything was working perfect with one exception: no ignition. the Optical Controller(for lack of a better description) acts like a point and condensor within the distributor. The ability to "fire" the cylinders was totally lost.

This part is a sealed unit that can't be reparied, only replaced. It's as critical a component to the operation of an engine that there is. Obviously, we can't carry around every critical part to repair an engine while underway, but I think since this part is so small and relatively inexpensive and easy to replace, it's worth saving a day of fishing, exploring, etc.

triblet posted 09-06-2002 12:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
The optical sensor replaces the points. The
condensor is there to keep the points from
getting eaten up by arcing.

To digress a little: the points/plugs/condensor
ignition system is properly called a
Kettering ignition. Charles Kettering was
the head engineer at GM in the early days
(Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute == Sloan
was the money man, Kettering was the

Anyway: Kettering's law: Any part that can
be left off costs nothing to make, nothing
to install, and never breaks. IMHO, it's
a good law to remember when trying to
understand why the factory did something
the way they did. It even applies to


hauptjm posted 09-06-2002 11:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for hauptjm    

My impression is that the optical sensor, as a component replaces both the point and the condensor. There is no separate condensor in my motor's "distributor". I agree the working function is to fire the cylinder such as points did in the Kettering system. In fact, I believe the current system could still be consider a simple hybrid due to the fact the design elements haven't changed other than as an update to this one component.

Regardless, the new system essentially breaks, as compared to "wears out", as did old points. I even remember being able to "regap" and old point to milk out a little more service from it until it could be replaced. Not so with the new component. My point was to illustrate this as a simple carry-on to prevent a similar fate as mine.

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