The first run.

This page is a living document, it changes as we learn more about the Listers, and as we receive feedback from our readers. If you haven't read it through for a while, read it again. As we say elsewhere, big flywheel engines are dangerous, it's best that you never run one. The following is for educational purposes only.

2/22/04 Add.... Danger!   I got a call from a person who ran his Listeroid for the first time, he called and said his engine was hoping around the shop 'like a Jack Rabbit on Steroids'. After a short discussion, this person said he was counting on the governor, and how it was 'Adjusted At The Factory' to regulate the speed. If you don't have a good idea of what 600 RPMs sounds like and feels like, know that most cars idle at 900 to 1100 RPMs... that's SCREAMING compared to the maximum speed rating of these old engines!

Running a Heavy Cast Iron flywheel engine at any speed above what the engine is rated at is Dangerous! The amount of stored energy in a flywheel is huge. Take time to read about flywheel disasters in our past, when the flywheel fails, pieces can level buildings and kill people some distance away. One oil Man's personal experience recalls finding a flywheel that came off an oil field engine a mile from the engine!     

It's new, you just broke it out of the crate  and it's time to run it.....

Well... hold on a minute !

Take that door off and inspect the sump, if you find metal shavings, sand, or curry, clean it out, and put a magnet in the sump to catch and hold what you don't get, right next to the drain plug is a good spot.

As with any engine built by hand, it's always a good idea to inspect things and measure clearances for yourself. Since these engines are all hand fitted, the work is only as good as the person doing it, Your engine could have been put together by the shop boy, while the main assembler was out for a bowl of curry.

It takes so little effort, and it's fun... take the time to look it over, and clean it up, at least check the big end of the rod for proper clearance, to this date, I've heard from one person who has found a clearance problem. In his engine there was a sliver of metal caught between the rod and rod cap when assembled. Pull the rod cap noting how it came off, (it only fits one way). Pull the bearing and inspect the crank pin and the bearing shells. if you have some .003 plasti gauge, you're in luck. Read the directions on the package, check this clearance, it should be .003 or less, some folks will say you can get away with a larger clearance, I'll stick with this as a max .


If you find casting sand in your new engine's sump, know that this stuff could eat your engine in a few hours of running, get rid of this stuff, consider ordering a copy of the CD that discusses inspection of a new engine, and how to correct problems found.

As for Oil, there are several lines of thought regarding the product you should use.  Some suggest you use straight 30wt oil that meets the specs for diesel engines. There's a good deal of thinking that goes into this, but the primary motivation is the clearance of a splash oiled engine and the finish on bearing surfaces. If you have 'third world' finishes, it is best to stay away from low viscosity oils, or so the experts say. Also note, if you have no oil pump, there is reason to consider non detergent oils, as the detergents job is to suspend particles till they can be trapped in the filter? No filter? then let the particles drop out versus being circulated. 

Did you check the intake and exhaust valve settings?  Set them cold, .017" Intake, .032" Exhaust.

Get your 1 1/8 socket out and torque those head bolts 160-170 foot pounds... that's the four big ones... not that smaller one! 1 1/8 isn't a perfect fit, but it works fine, 28mm is probably the correct socket.

Did you add oil to the crank case? 

5/20/2003 Important note added:   The little oil dipper on the bottom of the big end of the rod is threaded and may be adjusted differently from engine to engine. We also can not be sure that this part is always supplied by the same vendor and cut to the same length.  Before you get carried away with adjustments, make sure you don't screw this thing in tight enough to mess up the rod bearing, you might even take off the rod cap to see how things meet each other before you make adjustments..

In one of my test engines, I have adjusted the oil to the level I think best for break in (dipper about 1/2 inch into the oil). At this level, there was nothing showing on the stock dip stick.. even when the dip stick was screwed in!

What does this mean? It could mean that you will provide too much oil to the cylinder walls via the holes in the piston and overwhelm the main oil control ring and the ring above it  that controls oil as well.  If she slobbers oil, it's fairly certain that your dipper is picking up too much oil.

What I'd consider doing is adjusting the dipper to correspond with the dip stick, to be safe, I'd adjust it to read correctly with the dip stick unscrewed versus screwed in.  Be careful; error on the too much oil side versus too little. 

Take the door off and see if your dipper on the bottom of the rod cap is hitting the oil. Also make sure it's hitting the oil 'knife edge' NOT bluntly. We are finding these engines like a load like all diesels, if you run them with high oil levels in the pan, or you lightly load them, they will slobber oil. This will aggravate the problem and the cylinder can become so overwhelmed with oil that the rings may never seat... and the slobbering will continue.  It is best to break in your engine with a low oil level, take off the door and verify that the dipper is making contact with the oil, but it's not way up on the dipper. Next put a reasonable load on the engine and let it run at 600 or so RPMs. Until I have a better understanding of this process, I recommend you avoid oils with extra zinc or other additives. Put a magnet in the pan, use regular oil, not some mystery stuff with PTFE or XYZ... (for break in at least).  If an engine continues to slobber, run it some more, and keep the sump level at the low end, and keep a load on the engine.  Once the rings seat properly, higher oil levels in the sump should be less of a problem, but as we know, all that oil follows the crank and looks like a big ole taffy pull. This can reduce your fuel efficiency and cause you to wonder why your machine isn't getting the outstanding fuel economy people brag about.  

That little valve on the breather is important, make sure it's in place before you run it... it keeps a vacuum in the lower end and helps keep oil from going past seals. In my experience, it's easier to pull the door than mess with this check valve, it looks like the proper place to pour in more oil, but it's too easy to lose one of the screws, the spacer, or the 1/4 20 bolt. If Murphy's near, you'll screw up the reed valve too, best to take off the door, or get yourself a small funnel and pour it through the dip stick hole. 

Did you lube the rocker arms? did you put a little oil in the push rod cups? how about some oil in the little well around  the valve stems? Here's a place for your high Zinc oils, If you have some Arco Graphite hidden away, use it here, these additives won't contribute to deposits inside you combustion chamber when used here, it's a great place to add all this mystery stuff and say you tried it. and if you forget to lube things for a week of running , the stuff might actually do some good?

Do you still have that little squeeze bottle that came with your tool kit? With the main door off, suck up some oil out of the sump, put the piston/rod at the bottom of the stroke, note the holes on top of the big end of the rod; squirt some oil in the holes, if you can squirt some oil in the hole on the top end of the rod do it.  Now squirt some oil into the TRBs, and squirt the cam lobes, tappet faces, and cylinder bore. We don't really know when this engine was run last, so might as well 'oil it up'. Take that plug out of the left side of the deck and squirt some oil straight down it, this plug lines up with the hole in the top of the camshaft bushing, this as well as the others is splash feed, but it doesn't hurt to prime things in an engine that has been setting for a long time. In fact, as quick as it is to take the door off, this pre lube will only make your engine happier.     

Torque the two injector nuts to  38-40 ft pounds.

Did you oil your governor linkage with a light weight oil? You better look at the article on same before you run your engine.

It's water cooled, get a fitting at the local hardware store to connect your garden hose to the bottom cooling manifold. Hook another hose to the top for the overflow, adjust the water flow down low, a mere trickle to start. (This fitting comes in plastic 3/4 NPR to hose bib.)   Remember, this engine likes to run at 190f or even higher, check my pages, a thermostat is easy to install and will allow the engine to come up to temp faster, this is a good thing. Running the engine at low temp will aggravate the oil slobber problem.

Are the flywheels clear of the ground?

Do you have the engine tied down so it won't walk around?  Lister singles make lousy dance partners. If one of those flywheels  tangles with the  washer or dryer, you could be dipping into your hobby fund to replace it.

Remove the paint from the crank shaft where the start handle will go. The handle usually needs attention, remove the detent being careful to keep track of the cotter pin and spring.  Use the wire wheel on your grinder, or a wire brush and clean up the stem on the detent. If you have some graphite, coat the detent with same, clean up the bore the detent fits into and coat the bore with more graphite and re-assemble.   Check the inside of the ring that goes over the crank, it should be absolutely flat and smooth on it's face, if it has a casting break, or is rough, take a heavy file to it, or your bench grinder and make sure there is nothing for the Gib Key to grab if someone were to walk it onto the crank that far.  Put some graphite on the inside of the ring and rub it in. These steps will make if far easier to get the handle off after a start.

4/20/2003... (and inserted note)  How to establish timing marks, and time the Lister

The Indians didn't make it obvious where the timing mark was on these engines, It's a good idea to make your own now and 'spill time' the engine, this way you'll know where you are, and you'll have the proper marks for timing in the future. Take the head off, use a dial gauge, locate TDC, I choose to use a logical spot near the injector body to file my timing mark, after locating TDC, I then filed a mark in the fly wheel to align with the fixed mark. Now, it's just simple math to locate the mark where the injector pump stroke begins, my reference material says 18-20 degrees BTDC (before top dead center). Simply do the math and realize that a single degree is going to be quite a distance on this big ole flywheel, this is vastly easier than almost anything most of us have seen before.

While you have the head off, clean up the head gasket, liberally paint acrylic floor wax on the inside of all water passages and all the way around the outside of the gasket, then wipe down the sealing surfaces. Use cheap Aluminum paint and mist on a thin coat on both clean sides and allow to dry. Before you put the head back on, run your fingers over all surfaces checking for any little bits. Make sure all  is clean dry and free of dirt, also put it back in the same orientation you found it. Clean the top of the piston and combustion chamber while you're here, there may be some carbon due to the overload test at the factory.

Simply measure the distance around the flywheel with a good tape measure. Example: measure from the 12 inch mark and subtract 12 inches, this removes the error often found in the end of the tape. One you have this measurement, divide it by 360 to get the distance per degree, and then multiply that by 20 to get the 20 degrees before TDC mark. Make sure you LEAD the TDC mark in the proper rotation, on the injection pump side of the engine! Simple for those of us who have been around engines, but this is a dandy beginners engine, so we'll be verbose. My example, I used the metric scale.... 1887MM circumference, divided by 360, then multiply that by 20 gave me about 10.5CM  prior to TDC for my spill timing mark.

Once you've found your 20 degree mark, file it in, you might even rub some white paint into the file marks and label them.

Now for the timing, ...... run the engine, get all the air out, stop the engine, loosen the high pressure fuel line from the injector, place a tight fitting piece of clear plastic over the fuel line holding it straight up in the air, Note that some folks then fit a smaller plastic tube inside the first one to get a finer reading. now turn the engine over, compression release on, throttle rack open, and get fuel into the plastic, so you can see the fuel. Now slowly turn the engine and note the spot where the fuel just begins to pump. See the adjustment under the injector pump, raise or lower it depending on how far it's out. A warning to the wise, stick your finger under the injector, and there's a good chance you'll loose part of one when the flywheel is turned! keep your mitts out of the moving parts!


It'll smoke a little since it's cold and new, are you going to upset the BOSS?   Best do it when she's shopping .

And now.. If no one ever told you... you can drive yourself mad if you don't understand how important it is to bleed out ALL the air between the fuel tank and the injector. Get some shop rags or paper towels, add some clean diesel fuel to the tank, make sure it's at least half full. Make sure the valve on the tank is open!

Here's a method that may help you avoid an hour or two of messing around.

Take the return hose loose from the injector so the air can easily escape and bleed from the fuel system.

Take a look on the inside of the injection pump body and you'll see a little bleed screw, open it slightly and allow the fuel to bubble out, place a rag under it and let it run till the bubbles quit coming out. Re-tighten the screw.

Now, take the high pressure line loose from the top of the Injection pump, Move the line to the side, where you can get a wrench on the top fitting and remove it from the injection pump... watch for the spring. Get a little bit of diesel and dribble it into the top of the injection pump, keep adding fuel oil till it over flows.

Set the decompressor under the intake valve

put the fuel delivery handle in the run position, verify fuel rack is open on the injector.

Crank the engine over with the start handle slowly, and watch the little bubbles fizz from the top of the injector. Once the little bubbles are no longer coming out, reassemble the top of the pump and hook up the high pressure line.

Loosen the high pressure line at the injector end.

Verify the fuel rack is fully open. Crank engine till fuel spills from the high pressure fuel line at the injector end, keep cranking and finger tighten the line to the injector, while you are still cranking slowly tighten the fitting with your wrench. As you crank, you should hear the injector fire with a CLINK! If you don't hear the 'clink', there's still massive amounts of air somewhere... or other problems.... backup... If you go the 'clink' proceed.

Put the handle back on and crank her up, with your free hand, move the decompressor out from under the tappet, and continue to crank, if it's above 40 degrees, it should fire first or second compression stroke. Once it fires... HOLD onto the handle!  Don't let it go, and don't worry about a kick back, I haven't seen one yet. Once running walk the handle off the crank. If the engine doesn't stay running, you still have air in the system.

When you start this thing, run it up to 500 RPMs and let it oil well, it is far more important that things get lubed real well than it is to run at low RPMs. If you have an oil pump like on the 12/2s. Take the little plug out of the top of the pump and pour oil into it to pre lube the pump, forgetting this is a bad thing. Take the plug out and crank the engine over to prove it's pumping for each and every run till you become confident it will prime.... make sure you let it rest for a few days to see how it does after it's had time to drain back.

Run your Lister for at least 20 minutes first run,  vary the speed, but run it mostly at 500 RPMs.

Watch the lifters at the bottom of the push rods, they should constantly rotate, if they don't, change the speed a little and see if they do. If you find a speed where rotation occurs, let it run there for a bit and see if they begin to rotate at other speeds. If not, inspect the tappet guides and tappets. 

Watch for water leaks at the top and bottom of the cylinder,  if you see any, try the torque wrench again. Also watch around the injector for leaks.

If the oil turns milky, don't panic, this happened to me, it takes a bit to drive the moisture out of virgin cast iron, it should clear up after a few hours of run time.

Get a load for your engine, it is better to have a load than to run it with no load. Keep the loads medium for the first 20 hours.  If you have a gen head for a load, shoot for  2200 to 2500 watts.

Think about taking the head off and lightly lapping the valves... this engine is made to take apart, it'll be fun, and you will learn more about your engine.

Now you know the magic of a Lister, just like a big ole clock, tickety tock,  a sound that could put you to sleep.

George B.



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