ST Generator FAQ

From the Utterpower website



FAQ Page

This is a living document, expect content to be added ongoing. What’s posted here reflects the kind of questions we receive.

Answer: I have come across outfits that are selling generator heads and sending their customers all the way to China for warranty and repair work. I’m sure you won’t be happy with that arrangement (if something goes wrong). Make sure the folks that sell you the product are going to be involved in the repair and warranty work, if they aren’t; you should expect to be on your own. You might ask… who do I call if it doesn’t work properly? If they tell you to look in the box for the warranty, you should suspect that you’re going to be calling a number in Shanghai…and it isn’t going to be a 1-800 number…. you can bet your donkey on that.

Question: How much does it normally cost to ship a head?

Answer:   Between $50 and $400, use the following weights for quotes.

Size        Weight in lbs.        

3kw=         150             32mm shaft size

5kw=          205            38mm            

7.5kw=       285            38mm            

10kw=        305            42mm          

12kw=        340            42mm            

15kw=         420           48mm            

20kw=         440                         

30kw=         560                         

40kw= (3phase)  620                       

50kw= (3phase)   760   


Question: Are there any downsides to the slower speed 4 pole heads in the ST class?

Answer: Yes, these heads have a very high rotor mass, and the diameter is larger than the modern turbine type rotors. High RPMs generate considerable centrifugal force that could deform the windings, and even throw a bobin (winding)  off the rotor! When the RPM goes far above the rated speed, the voltage and thus the current go higher in the harmonic winding, and the field. I have not tested these heads to see where they come flying apart, and I don’t know if the current and voltage get high enough to smoke the harmonic or field winding, but it is possible. If the throttle rack sticks on your engine, and RPMs get real high, it may not be economical to fix the head id it scatters parts or smokes. One could calculate the amperage in the field. and put a fuse in series with the AC side of the rectifier, this would offer some protection in over speed, and if the generator has a load on it, the field fuse might pop before the appliances and generator head does. Experience from the field is helpful in tuning this Q and A, and I have not collected much in the way of overspeed experiences, most people know how to avoid this, if you have an engine with no governor, or a faulty governor, beware!         



Question: Does it matter which direction I rotate the generator head ?   

Answer:    No, you may turn it clockwise, or counter clockwise.


Question: Is there any penalty when running a 3 phase head versus a single phase head?

Answer:  Yes! Without adding special equipment, you can only direct 1/3 of the total output to any single 120 volt load. You can only direct 2/3 of the total output of the generator to any single 220 volt load. Since some folks don’t understand this statement, we’ll continue, “stop reading when you get it”. … Lets’ say you have a 20KW 3 Phase generator, and you have three 5000 watt 120 volt loads, you can run them all by plugging each one into one of the three phases. If you had a single 120 volt 15KW load, you wouldn’t be able to power it with this generator, but where would you find a single load this big?   When you get into high wattage loads, they usually become 240 volt appliances because this exact condition exists in your home. You can only use 1/2 of the total power coming into your house for a SINGLE 120 volt appliance. This QA was really placed here for readers to grasp the concept of 3 phase, not to suggest there’s a problem with them.  Volts times Amps equalsWatts, do the math, you’ll have no problem running your toaster on most 3 phase heads.


Question:  How much horse power do I need to produce the full rated output of my generator?

Answer:    Use the following continuous ratings. make sure you deduct 3 percent per 1000 feet of elevation for any  normally aspirated engine.  Example: my Cowiche cabin is at 4500 foot elevation, I should expect to get 8.65 horsepower out of my 10 horsepower engine. another consideration, if you are under running the rpm of an engine, estimate how much horse power it will be making at that RPM. If you direct drive at 1800, and the engines HP rating is at a higher RPM, you must factor what the engine will be making at it’s working rpm, and keep your expectations realistic. Remember that elevation thing, and always size up. In the case of the 1115, it is making 20-22 hp at 2200 RPM, if we lower the rpm to 18, we should expect 18.

Size-Horsepower (approximate)

3kw= 6.5

5kw= 12

7.5kw= 15

10kw = 18

12kw = 20

15kw = 23

20kw = 31

30kw = 46

40kw = 60

50kw = 75


Question:  Does the ST come with a twist Lock plug and other plug ins ?

Answer:  No,  these heads are for DIY people who would go to the hardware store and round up these pieces if required.  If you are not comfortable doing this, you should seek some help locally.  Generally, you can pick up these items inexpensively at a big box hardware store.

Question: How much chrome plate does the ST have? Does it have enough bells and whistles to impress my friends?

Answer: The ST generator looks like it came out of the 1950s. It’s basic and sturdy. It’s everything it needs to be for emergency power with none of the plastic, impressive art work and stuff kids like. If you order one, you better like, painted cast iron, and sheet metal.  If you’re looking for fancy plated Allen head fasteners, lots of flashing lights, digital read outs, perfect sine waves, do buy a different head.

Question: My friends tell me to be careful running a computer off a generator. They explain that computer power supplies are highly sensitive and will blow up at the drop of a hat; is this true?

Answer: Computer power supplies like the IBM PC Clones, and Apples are “switching” type power supplies, they were designed to provide nice clean power to the computer even when the AC power is not the best. Computer power supplies are often the most tolerant of them all. They survive on inexpensive UPS power that often looks far worse than any generator could make, I think the computer power supply will do well on the ST head, but I have not run one for days at a time…

  Sept 16, 2002 

I am still looking for a generator that is designed so badly that I can’t watch TV, listen to the radio, or run my computer on the power it develops. I’ve owned some real junk, and the worst generator I’ve found still runs my DSS receiver an allows me to watch several hundred channels of flawless programming without ANY problems.

Some of you will allow the marketing guys to convince you that a high degree of voltage regulation is necessary, they might even tell you your generator needs to run at 60.00000 HZ to watch TV. Fact is, it’s just not that critical, even the power company accepts plus or minus 10% for being acceptable in the voltage department.

Please send me examples of any generator you find that makes lousy AC. For the most part, the difference you’ll notice is the ability to carry loads, longevity, and efficiency; not whether it’s going to run your common household appliances.

Question: How do I produce the charging voltage necessary for my start batteries, my engine doesn’t have an alternator.

Answer: Simply buy an off the shelf battery charger and plug it in as you would at home.

Question: I think I have the wrong voltage coming out of my generator, what do I do to correct it?

See the voltage REG page for additional info.

There are a number of generator configurations, so I’ll try and address this problem in a general way. If you consider that you have no voltage coming out of a generator that is not turning, we can safely say that the voltage is affected by the speed in most all generators no matter who made the darned thing.

We can safely start with the fact that 60HZ generator heads are usually 2 or 4 pole heads, the 4 pole ST heads need to turn at 1800 RPMs to produce exactly 60HZ. Some people get caught up with a need to run at 60.00000000 HZ, I believe you’re fine at 59-61 for all the things I want to do. The days of using the sine wave for a timing reference is over.. you may have an old oscilloscope or something that demands it, but let’s be honest… most of us won’t be using our generator to run an antique oscilloscope.

Start by getting your generator set up to put out 120 volts, then plug in a frequency meter, and set the speed for 60HZ, watch the voltage as you adjust the speed..  if it gets higher than 130 volts (on the 115 volt leg), or 260 volts (on the 230 volt leg)  while you’re increasing the speed, STOP… suspect that something is wrong. It is far better to run the correct voltage and be off on the frequency, than run too high a voltage and the correct frequency… you’ll fry fewer test loads this way.

There’s a great and inexpensive device called the ‘KILL A WATT’, do a basic search and you’ll find it for as little as $29 dollars. This device plugs in like an appliance and gives you Power factor, frequency, voltage, and total KWH usage into loads up to 15 amps! This is a must have tool for a person who is going to us a generator more than once or twice. Just don’t plug it in when the voltage is too high!

Plug the Kill A Watt  in, or a frequency meter, and adjust the frequency to achieve 60hz, check your as you go. if it’s 110-125, you have something useful. This may be a time to tell you how much the power companies voltage varies… I see about 126 volts in my shop, I’ve been on farms in the Midwest, where it’s barely 110 volts. so don’t get too excited if your output isn’t text book perfect, the power company isn’t perfect either.

For those of you who think you have too high of voltage, you may have purchased a head that needs the field voltage adjusted, this is fairly easy to do. Identify the source of field excitation voltage, place a rheostat in series with this output and ‘tune’ in a little resistance to cool off ‘reduce’ the voltage. This will in turn lower the current in the field of your generator and and lower it’s output. As of 10/2003, we will be stocking rheostats to do this for our customers. In my observations, it’s better to run a a cycle less in frequency, and set your max voltage in that way.. I can’t tell you how many generators out there are a few cycles off and the owner hasn’t known the difference for the last 10 years….  

We have received a few calls from folks that have ST heads that produce around 150 volts at 60 Hz (as they measure it), I would guess that a 5 ohm resistor would be all that is required to lower the voltage to an acceptable range if one thinks it’s all important to maintain that speed. using a rheostat will allow you to tune it.  

Following are emails that might answer questions, names have been altered

> —–Original Message—–
> From: lealon []
> Sent: Friday, March 05, 2004 7:29 AM
> To:
> Subject: Re: brush Vs non brush heads

> Have been doing reading about generator heads… Considering putting 
> together a gen set to power up a battery bank and also to run my power 
> tools in my woodwork shop.

> I see the ST heads have two brushes on slip rings.

> I am confused a little. Can understand how these are used to provide 
> excitation to the coils… but don’t have a clue what makes them 
> different from brushless. eg.. have not seen anything about how 
> brushless work. Have also read in many places that brushless are more 
> reliable and give a cleaner power. This too does not make sense.

> Hopefully you can get me straightened out a bit on the two …

> Thanks

> Steve Tailet

Hi Steve,

The Alternator in your car uses a single brush per ring.

MOST alternators employ single brush per rotor designs, Honda’s well received 5KW construction generators like the EM5000 use a single brush per ring. Dual brushes are considered quieter and can increase reliability.

In nearly 40 years the automotive industry has NOT found enough incentive to move away from brushes in their alternators.

Brushes in the ST design carry a small amount of current, they last a long time, they should not be confused with brushes in series wound motors like your shop Vac, or Chop saw that have short lives and often fail and make a mess of your commutator. 

I like things you can fix when they break. ST Brush heads are simple and you can reach all parts from the outside.

A brushless head has electrical components on the rotor. A ‘capacitor’ for a minimum. This cap must survive the G forces and vibration, sometimes they don’t. Replacing this cap is not as quick as reaching in and replacing a brush.

As I mention elsewhere, the ST is a ‘third world’ head that was designed to function with simplicity. The AC output is good enough for anything I have to run including computers, and all the shop and household gear I have.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a brushless design, but if the cap or other part fails on the rotor fail, you may have further appreciation for the brush type head. I do receive emails from folks that have had failures. Lots of places charge $60 an hour to work on Generators, learn to replace that cap yourself, some brushless designs allow you to get at this part without pulling the rotor, others need to be disassembled.

As for noise, how much is there? What’s the difference between the two? Why is it my TV, radio, and direct TV box are not displaying any sign of noise on the brush head? What does this improved noise reduction buy the DIYer?

If it isn’t part of the design, it can’t fail in service. Anyone can replace a brush in a minute or two, brushes are cheap, and have an infinite shelf life.

ST Generators are NOT the best, just as anything less than a hydro turbine or jet turbine is not the best prime mover for a generator head. But somehow we get along with less and enjoy more independence through our thoughtful selection.


From: Bart A [] 
Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2005 11:20 AM
To: George Breckenridge
Subject: ST12 Output problems

 Dear George,

 Today I fired up my ST12 for the first time and have voltage but no output

current and the voltage output on U1 acts strangely when a load is applied

as you can see from the measurements below.  Here are the measurements I


 No Load Stator Voltages @1800 RPM

1.  U1 to Case Ground = 117.8 volts

2.  U2 to Case Ground = 114.8 volts

3.  U1 to U2 = 237.1 volts


 Loaded Stator Voltages @1800 RPM (100 watt light bulb attached)

1.  U1 to Ground = 235.4 volts ??? (light bulb will not light)

2.  U2 to Ground = 2.55 volts  ???  (light bulb will not light)

3.  U1 to U2 = 237.5 volts  (did not place any load across U1 and U2)

Other Measurements @0  RPM: (circuits isolated)

1.  F1 to F2 = 17.1 ohms (field)

2.  F1 to Case Ground = infinite

3.  F2 to Case Ground = infinite

 4.  Z1 to Z2 = 6.4 Ohms (harmonic winding) (circuits isolated)

5.  Z1 to Case Ground = infinite

6.  Z2 to Case Ground = infinite

 7.  U1 to U5 = 0 ohms (stator) (circuits isolated)

8.  U2 to U6 = 0 ohms

9.  U1 to Case Ground = infinite

10.  U2 to Case Ground = infinite

11.  U5 to Case Ground = infinite

12. U6 to Case Ground = infinite

 Other Measurements @1800 RPM (No load)

 Z1 to Z2 = 64.0 volts AC (harmonic winding)

F1 to F2 = 55.8 volts DC (field winding)

What do you think?


There are two ways to wire the head

I will assume you are wired for 120/240 operation


|                         put 120 volt loads across here
|                         Put more 120 volt loads across here


U5/U6 become the neutral, the gen case is NOT the neutral, although people do bond the neutral and case together..

 DO NOT connect loads to the CASE!

 Let me know if this helps..

 All the best,

 George B.






Thank You,


Bart A. Austin










All the best,

George B. 


ST5 Generator Head

From the Utterpower Website



                       ST GENERATOR PAGE

This page is left herre for reference only, utterpower no longer sells ST parts:

NOTE: March 23, 2010,


The ST is a KISS design. It is a simple generator head that operates on the same principle as about 95% of all generators made. It is a simple, reliable, time tested design, and some versions do not employ expensive voltage regulators that are often the fault of generator failures. I recently read a posting on a public forum where a self proclaimed expert said it was not a problem to stock a spare regulator, tell that to Darren Hill in New Zealand, he was recently quoted near $1000 NZ for a replacement voltage regulator for a Kubota Generator he likes.

Fact is, this simple and basic ST generator head works for DIYers and Electrical Engineers alike. Are there better Generator heads? You bet! open your wallet wide, lay out 10 times as much, and you’ll likely have a better Gen head, but you better lay out even more for some of the expensive and proprietary spares you’ll want on the shelf if you want to assure it’s going to work when you need it most. People who dismiss KISS, usually have a storeroom of something else to sell.      

 Scroll to the bottom of this page for FAQs, and LINKS.

Update: 01/22/07 NEW PS (Power Solutions) GEN Head is now shipped with Utterpower modifications installed! I asked the Power Solutions Ware House to send me a Randomly selected ST5 generator head from the new shipment of Heavy PS heads. As I have mentioned, the PS ST5 weighs 80 pounds more than other ST heads I have weighed here. This particular head weighed 232 pounds. These new heads arrive with a higher quality western style rectifier located in the bell housing where they sink heat well. High quality spade connectors are used to make connections at the rectifier.  Other mods include the sealed bearings with proper grease, and a QC tag on each head with other items of importance checked off, and signed by the factory inspector.  The leads are brought out under the steel plate, and the problem dog house is left off! I know of several DIYers who have invested a day in making these modifications and replacing the cheap bearings, or at least cleaning out the yak fat and repacking with a proper grease.  As I have mentioned, this thick grease might make it at 1500 RPMs, the 50hz Chinese standard, but at our 1800 RPMs, the grease is way to thick, and the bearings travel thru it like some sort of plastic, heat builds, and failures happen. 

Power Solutions has permission to distribute the (Utterpower ST manual), this manual is also part of the Utterpower CD, and should not be confused with the basic manual you can Download for free somewhere on this site.           

Above: This is a picture of the famous “YakFat Man” best to avoid his grease!

Picture copyrighted 01/2007 Tony Dovy

I have inspected one head at random, but I am also asking others who sell this new PS_ST with the new Utterpower mods to make some simple inspections and report back. This particular head certainly met my expectations. 

  Update: 07/23/06 The world is changing fast, there are a number of Americans who wish to try their hand at importing. There is much to learn, and many pitfalls. In an attempt to steer clear of these problems, I have involved myself in the development of the PS Brand. We have been providing feedback to the manufacturer to eliminate design flaws, or quality issues for some time, and soon their will be additional changes made that eliminate some of the more common troubles reported. (this is now the case) 

This page was getting verbose! Trust that there are differences in ST heads, and I think more of them each month, not all of them are good, Erica has sold a number of metal fans to replace the plastic ones found on some brands, as I may have said elsewhere, plastic fans are failing, and some heads are overheating unattended.  

Update 12/08/05

Update: there are a good many questions about voltage regulation. Ask a man who sells only one brand and make, and he’s likely to tell you that his is best. If you wish to make an informed decision…. , what you are looking for is percent voltage droop from no load to full load, and is this acceptable? how the gen head does this is a secondary matter, a good many designs don’t need the VR to provide adequate service, 99.9 percent of all generators sold don’t use them, and they are not in the circuit to fail. Imagine what it’s going to be like 5 or 10 years from now to get your electronic voltage regulator, how long has your vendor been in business? what relationship does he have with the manufacturer?  How much is that VR part, and should you order a couple spares with your original purchase? I have received three emails about non functioning AVRs in the STs alone! if you become convinced this is what you need, get a spare with the Gen head, and get it from the Vendor, if he has no spares, that’s a bad sign.

Better VRs are available, and we will discuss the reasons you might want one in the future. Bill Rogers has already fitted a readily available VR to the ST head, and found the output improved, if you think you need it, it’s not all that hard to fit.  

Most of the folks selling generators don’t know ohms law, and couldn’t talk you thru a repair if their life depended on it. If it isn’t there, it won’t break.  KISS engineering wins in the long run for the small guy, there’s nothing worse than really needing that power, and finding that the electronics in it are broken.

I just talked to DIYer Brandon Wright, commercial power is out, and he was not making  220 out of his ST Gen head, it took a few minutes to find the trouble and have him up and running, if you have a spare rectifier and a set of inexpensive brushes, there’s little that will stop you from making juice when the kids and wife are counting on you to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Brandon called back, and said he had 220,  the well pump was running, the house fridge was on line, and the AC was running. No doubt Brandon’s wife is glad that Brandon spent the money to build a Gen set, and went the KISS route, it was during a heat wave, and there are times when it’s more important to be cool than to eat.. 

What’s right for you, you need to determine, I will be running without AVRs, as I have for 30 years.  

The ultimate answer will be a generator that can run in KISS mode, and with a VR. Bill Rogers has found an aftermarket commercial regulator that is working well in the ST, and I hope to cover his story here in the near future.



115 at full output or 115/230 volt operation…  (this usually requires 4 or more leads out of the stator)

Dual Brushes per ring on 5KW and up models

Sealed bearing on the fan end

After years of tearing into ST heads, you learn what to look for.

PS brand ST generator heads are built like tanks, the main ingredient is cast iron.   If you read a lot, you probably know that cast iron really is a wonder metal. Where weight is not thee principle concern, it is hard to beat it’s performance. The down side is the shipping weight, you will end up paying for Cast Iron. This unit uses dual brushes for the field.

Insert: 4/2004, visitor feedback

– On the ST page, you say something about a Honda having 
“only” a single brush per slip ring, with an exclamation point, 
as if that’s a terrible thing.  That struck me as maybe “going 
over the top” a bit.  There are countless old Gennys out there 
running single brushes, and working just fine, decade after 

I just did a fuel-injection repair on a 1948 Cat D13000 
50kw set which is used 7 days a week for running irrigation 
pumps on a large ranch.  It’s a typical single brush head, and 
the owner told me that the last time he put brushes in was 1978 !

Richard- Medford, OR.

The ST design is simple and time tested, farmers and untrained persons in the field have managed to keep these heads running year after year in areas that have next to nothing in the way of repair material and spares.   


Above is a picture of the rotor, it’s a hefty piece at 72 pounds on the bathroom scale. or about as much as the complete consumer type head! The rotor laminations are1mm thickness.  Notice that fan, high tech plastic? Not a chance; it’s real cast metal, and it’s held in place with a real spring steel ‘C’ clip. On the left is the slip rings, in the center is the four poles that allow the generator to function at the lower speed of 1800 RPMS versus 3600 RPMS of the typical 2 pole head used in consumer Generators.


Here’s the inside, notice the housing, it is also made of good ole cast iron, the ends are precision machined and fit snugly into the stator housing, This allows for a nice tight air gap which adds a generous amount of efficiency to the design. I didn’t measure the gap, but it’s plenty close. The laminations in the stator were .5mm thick, which should add to the efficiency of the design.

Notice that all the windings are copper….

Here’s the end bell for the shaft and fan side, notice the generous openings for cooling and access on each side. Keep the screens in place to keep mice and other critters out, consider adding  a screen across the bottom section for the same reason. Mice; their nesting material, and their urine can wipe out machinery in no time.

Here’s the ‘slip ring side’ bell housing, yes this is cast iron too. There’s a bearing cover on the inside to assure that no grease finds it’s way into the electrical windings and rings, it doubles as a sturdy mount for the brushes, I’ll get a picture of this some day. Note the size of these openings! The cover is removed with one positive clasp, no matter how big your hands are, you can get them inside the slip ring end.

The stock bearings are of the ‘open’ type; the shaft side has a massive standard 6310 bearing, the slip ring side has a smaller 6309 standard bearing. Most bearing houses will have these on the shelf. I compared the bearing size of the ST 12KW  to a well known ‘upper end’ 12KW 3600 RPM head, the ST bearings are twice the size! 

Note: One of the leading causes of electric motor and generator head failure is over greasing. The builders of the ST heads must know this, there is no external means over grease bearings. More often than not, this is a good thing, but adding a grease fitting would be easy. I did tear down one brand of ST 12KW head and found the bearing on the fan side was open to the elements towards the fan . If you bought an ST with this situation, you might rig up a cover for that side or replace the bearing for a sealed one. 

As for the shaft size, the ST10 and ST12 have 42mm shafts, this is a standard, you should have little problem ordering a bushing through the bigger parts houses in North America.  42 mm is about 1.635 inches. You can compare it to 1 5/8 inches which is 1.625 inches. If you’re really bothered by metric, you could pull the rotor and have your local machine shop turn the rotor to 1 5/8, a simple job for them to perform. The ST15, uses a massive 48mm shaft, (about 1.9 inches)  although I haven’t ordered bushings and pulleys for a 15 yet, I’d bet they’re in the warehouse in North America  as well.

For those that have a few years under their belts, we remember a time when things were built to be repaired. To throw something out just because it quit working was unheard of. The ST Generator Heads are from our past; ”when people bought things and expected them to last their life time”. There’s nothing inside you can’t figure out or replace when it breaks. If you’re off the grid, or you just want to be independent, the old way is worth a look.

Closing thoughts? Any generator head is heavy, this will make a ‘repair and return’ expensive.  Being able to fix it yourself, or have it rewound locally could be a major cost savings over time.   

I have received several emails explaining that replacing the diodes in a brushless head requires one to pull the rotor because they are mounted on the rotor, I don’t know if this is common.   In the ST design, they are in the control and wiring box on top of the machine for easy access.

This is not the most sophisticated generator head in the world, it’s really a step backwards into our past. Some of us will welcome the simple non-electronic design, others won’t.  In simple terms, it runs everything from my induction motors to my DSS dish and TV, it’s all I need.

In closing…. Have you heard of an EMP?  Electro Magnetic Pulse ?  Some folks think that the use of  EMP tactical weapons becomes more likely everyday. One EMP could wipe out all the electronic devices, your car wouldn’t work, your microwave, TV, radio, etc;  would be junk… How about that solid state ignition system on your trusty Briggs and Stratton? It would most likely be junk too. 

But… a generator built like the ST, powered by a small diesel with no electronics could be brought back on line in the matter of minutes.   Does it make a person radical to think about these things? Today…. I don’t think so.

Cons: The connection box that sits on top of the generator head is a bad idea. I recommend removing this box and mounting a small connection box in it’s place if you will run long hours, mount your volt meter and other stuff on the wall.

There are better heads to buy than the STs, but these are doing a good job for lots of DIYers for a fraction of the cost. People who bad mouth them are often those who are selling something. Want to find the experts? Visit the public forums 🙂  

Additional info:


  Pushing this button will give you access to R.G. Keen’sBASIC Engrish to English ST Manual Translation in PDF, RG has given me permission to share this with utterpower visitors; thanks RG! There is a far more in depth manual as part of theutterpower CD

Providing the best ground for your generator head   NEW

What’s a normal voltage to run?

utterpower’s exposure testing 

 Panel Meters

How to trouble shoot the ST Gen Head.

ST Voltage Excitation (How it works)

How to inspect or replace a bearing in a ST Head

Recommendations for ST Head Installation.


What about the insulation class?

Installing brushes

ST Owner’s Installations

Playing with power

Converting center tapped  heads   for full output at 120 volts!







Lister 6/1 Problems

From the Utterpower website



Lister Problems and Fixes, and some nice things to know about these engines. I have not found a site that talks to the little quirks of this design, and I am hoping that my experience and those of our readers will help us build some useful tips.   This page will be added to as we learn more in our usual random wandering way.   Remember that the following is for educational purposes only, open flywheel engines are dangerous and should never be run.

5/20/03  Oil slobbering, see first run Page

April 2003,

I have found several tappets that do not turn freely, it’s very easy to pull the tappets and guides and check the tappet face for finish, and see that it turns freely in the guide, these are checks I make on any new engines.

Governor/Speed  Jan 4, 2003

There have been a few reports of poor governor performance in Lister power plants.   I noted a problem in the first 6/1 ST combination where the power plant didn’t seem to use all of the throttle rack, since the engine was carrying all the load I had expected and maybe more, I didn’t pay too much attention the first time I saw this problem.

Then I got an email from Southern England asking if I had seen a problem with the Governor in Indian built machines? The writer went on to explain that they had seen this problem in a few of the British built machines. To shorten the story, the governor doesn’t seem to respond when loads are dropped or increased. One can adjust spring pressure to cover light loads adequately, but if a big load comes along, the governor doesn’t seem to be able to open the rack far enough to cover this load. Is it a lack of range in movement, or is it a lack of mass in the flywheel weights?

After checking a number of Indian Listers, I have noted a potential problem that manifests itself exactly as described above. Fortunately, an improvement may be had in   about 5 minutes. This problem has been confirmed by me in two different machines, there’s a chance you’ll encounter it as well.


Note items 25 (governor upper lever) and part 27 (eye end)

Part 27 is attached via a pin to the fuel rack of the injection pump. It travels on the horizontal. Part number 25 travels in an arc causing part 25 to move downward as the fuel rack opens, and upward as the fuel rack closes.

IF the hole drilled in part 25 is not properly chamfered at both ends, parts 25 and 27 will bind causing the rack to freeze and not open or close all the way. This will act exactly like a lazy governor.  You can check your linkage by removing if from the governor lever end and moving it up and down looking for any sign of binding, but it is possible you won’t see the problem.  The best way to look for it, is to remove parts 25 and 27 and run them back and forth in your hand putting a slight side load on part 25 as you go. You’ll feel it bind… better yet,  just chamfer the darned thing and polish up the pin on 25, grease it up and put it back on.

As an added measure, I would use molly grease or something slick and water proof.

If you have an older machine, I would pull these pieces, clean them in solvent and re-apply a moly grease, or graphite, It is possible that dirt and grit could cause the same symptoms.

One last note, the Lister 12/2 has two of these, if they aren’t chamfered, clean, and well lubed, the cylinders might not work together as planned.

More on governor Linkage, Jan 5, 2003

Look at parts 22, 23, 24  this makes up a section of linkage that can contribute to binding.  If one tightens the jam nut on the linkage with no regard for a proper alignment of the eyes, this part can act as a torsion bar and contribute to binding problems. Another noteworthy condition is the paint that is liberally applied to the linkage on Indian machines. It is my practice to remove the linkage from each machine and clean the paint from the entire linkage, apply some WD40 and refit it.  Another potential problem is the long cotter pin that is found in part 28 connecting the injection pump to the linkage.   It is possible that the tails are long enough to cause interference with the injector body. Take some side cutters and trim the tails off this cotter pin.

Sluggish Throttle, Jan 6, 2003, Steve Gray has experience with both singles and twins and suggests that people pay close attention to anything that might cause binding in the linkage. In addition, Steve has noted that too much or too heavy of lube on the racks themselves (inside the injection pump) will cause the throttling to be sluggish.

March 2003,  It is now my opinion that Lister governors are just not as good as the German designed Asian diesels. The governors are far less complex, and far less sensitive. You can get good RPM control, but NOT from ‘No Load’ to ‘Heavy Loads’.

Picture above is the Lister 6/1 governor. Here you see an assembly with this extra machine work. I have seen two cams that have not been machined out in this area. The finger that fits into the sleeve is straight cut and the contact area changes from the inside to the rim of the sleeve as the flyweights travel thru the arc. Does this make any difference in operation? At this point I have no clue, but if the point of contact changes, is there some fulcrum effect that comes into play and modifies the intended relationship between spring and the force that the fly weights exert? At this time, there’s only the  question. And if you think it matters, one could easily dress the end of the finger with a chain saw file and sand paper to provide this feature.

A note on Cam removal. If you have the six spoke flywheel, you can remove the cam without removing the flywheel. This is most likely true of other flywheels, but if you don’t have a hole large enough in the wheel, and enough area to tilt at an angle as you remove it, you’re in trouble. On the standard CS 6/1 clones, you can have the complete cam/governor assembly out and on the bench in 10 minutes. This is a real nice feature, getting that gib pin out of the flywheel is a bigger challenge for people. for me, I would pass on any Listeroid variant, that required the flywheel to be pulled to service the cam.

Here’s some more on governor/cam assembly, and how to remove it.


Crank Handle

Listers start easy and with little problems,

But, if you are new to this engine it can be intimidating at first, try the following to build your confidence. Place your crank handle on the crank shaft, study the detent, spring, and keeper. Take it apart and clean, de-burr, and lube all pieces. Place the handle back on the crank and note the inward side. This face should be smooth and free of any casting marks. If it’s not flat and smooth dress it on a grinder and make it that way. This will prevent the handle from hanging up on the gib key and whipping around after a start, …..sure you’d have to be drinking to push the handle that far inward, but it could be someone else that does it.  Another note, don’t let go of the handle after the engine starts unless there’s some sort of resistance to your effort. Hold on to it and walk it off the crank, and start this process as soon as it fires.  You must clean the inside of the ring and apply some graphite, rub it into the metal with a paper towel, this will make it slick and build your confidence that it’s not going to bind or stick when you’re walking it off the crank. Also, remove that paint off the starting side of the crank shaft and apply some more graphite. Once you’ve started a Lister 5 or six times, all your worries leave, but remember the importantance of keeping the surfaces clean, and well lubed. It’s an easy engine to start. but you don’t do it with loose fitting clothing, or without a common sense approach. 

The start handle is not designed to be fool proof, and the fit and finish of start handles I’ve seen puts them in the ‘KIT’ class. That is, you have all the parts necessary to build a proper start handle, but you need to take time to smooth down the critical dimensions and remove the ragged edges. As a final warning… I am surrounded by people who should NEVER start a Lister. They should never be allowed near a running open flywheel engine. Fact is,  these are the same individuals that should never set foot on your property, because they have been raised victims and believe that they have no personal responsibility for their own safety, it is the rest of the world that is responsible for their welfare. 

Did you notice the push rods are slightly difference sizes? you will if you mix them up.

A note on the head gasket. Some folks like to take the head off and check the valves, lap them in, check for carbon deposits, etc.  I know a few guys that buy cheap aluminum paint and use it to lightly coat both sides of gaskets like the ones found on this engine. they clean them up with soap and water first. One person claims he’s reused the same gasket a number of times doing this. If you ruin a gasket, email me, I have a few gasket kits for these engines.

2/23/2003  Leaking head gasket ????  Lister 6/1#2 has been torqued and re-torqued (160 ft pounds) after running it for some hours with a load and a 190-195 degree water temp at the top of the head. Several days later I noticed there were a few drops of coolant that squeezed out between the head and top of the cylinder on both sides of the head.  I have seen this before (different engine), and I’m fairly confident it is because of the composite nature of the head gasket. The gasket is made of an alloy sandwich with a material that looks something like asbestos sandwiched in between, maybe .060″ or thicker. 

The above head gasket is stamped 5/1, Rasik,  I’ve pulled the alloy up away from the inner sandwich material so you can see, the alloy on the bottom is identical. Notice the distance from the coolant passages  to the side of the block.  If you were to buy one of these engines that was all painted up after it was put together, you MIGHT see blisters (under the paint) where the coolant was leaking through the composite material and think you had major trouble after a run or two. Note the fire ring around the cylinder hole in the gasket, this will stop all ‘wicking’ into the combustion chamber.

For those of us that expect our engines to look like show pieces, this could be unacceptable.

I have used acrylic floor wax for unconventional fixes before, and I thought I’d give it a try here. This stuff waterproofs material quite well, If you want to know how well, soak a shop rag in the stuff, ring it out and hang it up for a day or two, then try and wash it out. I took a dry gasket and peeled back the outer metal to expose the sandwich material. Next I poured an ounce of floor wax into a little bowl and used a small paint brush to apply it. This material acted exactly like an ink blotter and soaked up the floor wax like crazy!  I think this is a good sign that we’ve identified the problem, but proof is in the testing.

March 24, 2003, after tearing down a test engine to examine the piston and rings, I fitted the engine with a new head gasket treated with the acrylic floor wax, it has now been run a number of times and it’s been allowed to cool between runs. This made an amazing difference, the head gasket now performs like you would expect, no more weeping or wicking.

November 2007, another source of troubles in head gasket leaks and failures is cylinder liner protrusion, these often set up too proudly, and it creates an area around the liner that is NOT in full compression and can allow water to travel. We should always measure how high the liner sticks up, and address the problem IF it’s too high. 


I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I found a tappet that was not rotating properly in several Metro engines. It was the intake tappet. Checking out Listergen6/1#2, I noted that the intake side tappet had stopped rotating after a few hours of running. I decided to pull the tappet and investigate.  I had a second set of eyes check this out, and Randy Allmand decided to try polishing  the face of the tappet and polishing the oiling cut where the tappet runs in the guide. Randy accomplished this work by chucking up the tappet in the lathe and working the face with various emery papers and some kind of diamond dust and wax stick.

After reinstalling the tappet (less than 5 minute job), it rotated just fine! At this time, I think it was the cut (oiling groove) that may have been a little rough, this might have caused some interference and prevented the tappet from rotating. Upon re-assembly, I painted a white dot on both tappets so I could quickly note that they were rotating properly.

I continue to learn more about tappets and tappet guides, here’s a page I’ve started. 



If you have a new engine, make sure you keep the oil level low during the ‘break in‘ period. Take the door off, and check that the dipper (on the rod cap) is meeting the oil knife edge, try running the unit with the dipper one half inch into the oil. If you have doubts about effective oiling, take the dip stick out while it’s running, if it blows oil all over your shop, you’ll know there’s plenty of oiling. High oil levels can overwhelm the new engine’s ability to control all this oil till the rings seat. The high oil level may actually prevent the seating. Some of us who are researching this slobber problem believe that maintenance is often a hit and miss thing, and the manufacturer has marked dip sticks on the over full side to protect the engine.  If you look at the dip stick, you might notice that there’s plenty of reserve capacity below the very end of the dip stick even when it’s screwed all the way in. I’m sure this allows the engine manufacturer to point the finger at the operator and ask how long he ran it with no oil on the stick?  For those of us who are after efficiency, remember that high oil levels also consume energy. If you’ve ever seen pictures of what goes on in a crank case at engine speed, it looks like a huge taffy pull, where the oil is whipped around following the crankshaft.  Running lower oil levels and checking your oil level more often can give you a higher fuel economy. This is just another test we need to conduct, if we run the engine at the very bottom of the stick versus the top mark, what will the difference in fuel consumption at a specified output be? I’d bet a cup of coffee there’s a measurable difference in this engine, maybe even a significant difference. Once you have a 100 hours on your engine, try raising the oil level and monitor the slobber.

11/2003  I have a Lister 6/1 with gen head sitting out in a field in Easton, WA. The engine has went thru several heavy rain storms and squirts some water out of the muffler when I start it. The area in the top of the head also fills with water, this happens because the valve cover is not drip proof and actually channels water into this area. It is best to keep a cover over the Lister when it’s not in use. Too bad some Indian hasn’t seen the need to make a drip proof valve cover, seems it would be a fairly easy thing to do. For the time being, I put a square Tupperware basin over top of the valve cover to allow it to shed water… everything else on the engine seems to stand up to the elements, although I know it would be far happier under cover.

03-2005 Jeff Maier contributed an interesting observation, Jeff made use of a standard 30 weight oil and found that he was able to go about 500 hours before he got close to using a quart. He then tired a multi viscosity oil, and found that oil usage went way up. Once he returned the the standard weight oil, the oil consumption problem went away. We have learned that this is NOT the case in all engines.


Cam Gear Failures

As of this date, I have heard of five gear failures in the cam gear train, (all brands I have researched) If you have looked you’ll see there’s three, a small gear on the crank, another on the cam, and an the intermediate gear bringing  it all together. Often the idler takes most of the damage…. why ??? If you find yourself with no timing marks established, and don’t know how to re-time read on!

5/21/05 Bob Anderson sends key information to help solve a timing gear problem noted in Indian Made timing gears from a specific foundry.


Above, here’s a picture of the idler gear sent to me by Robert Anderson, a first class DIYer and Off grid type. Failure occurred at 55 hours of service.

Here’s a second gear that failed in less than 200 hours service in Independence OR. 

Here we see a third example of a timing idler gear from Texas, failed at 140 hours

If you are not blind or stupid, you probably noticed the timing marks punched into this cast gear.  India thought they were doing us a favor, as many gears are not marked in India. This punch mark created a stress riser that eventually caused a crack to develop, at some point the whole tooth left the gear, after that, it was a matter of one complete rotation of the crank gear for all hell to break loose, and teeth start leaving the idler gear.  The cam gear is sometimes damaged as well, and in rare occurrences, the crank gear is damaged too.

I have asked that the manufacturer use a drill bit to create a divot near the gear tooth versus using a die or punch. I have researched the types of gears and materials used, and most gear people agree that good service can be provided by cast iron gears, and that the square cut gears are strong.  Harold Spanski looked at the design and said that he thought you’d need a serious defect of some kind, and that he thought the gears could be made of some really plain cast, and still provide a decent service interval, this was before we had collected enough data to know that the first tooth to leave the gear was always next to the punch mark, and this validates what Harold had originally stated, in this case, the manufacturer has supplied a serious defect!  I expect that more of these gears will fail in service, and it will take a bit to find out how many of these gears were punched, and what engines we might find them in.

I want to thank Bob Anderson, Shelby Howell, Bob Colbertson, Steven Ribero, Cal Giordano, Mohammad Matbouei, JB Shah, Joel Koch, Harold Spanski, Stan Spanski, Randy Allmand, and others I forgot to mention that provided examples of failures, or helped to determine the probability of the root cause of the failure.  As many of us have learned, all problems seem simple once we discover the cause, and few things are accomplished without the help of others. There may be other problems with these gears, but I’d bet money they’d still be turning had they not been punch marked!

George B.       


Another method of timing the cam, no marks in gears required!

As of this date, I have heard of several engines that have lost their timing due to a gear failure, some of the engines have stover wheels and it may be difficult to use the previous method, here’s one that will work, but you will need to do some basic math and you’ll need a dial indicator and a magnetic base or other mount for the dial indicator.

Bob Colbertson of Independence Oregon told me that Mechanics often use the valve open at .020 thousands off it’s seat as a refeerence spot, he furthermore explained that trying to catch a valve just opening is not as accurate as picking a spot a know distance off the valve seat. I spent some time rocking the engine and quickly proved this thinking sound.

Here’s the steps

Ø      Find top dead center , make a mark, and establish a pointer.

Ø      Measure the circumference of the flywheel carefully with a small gauge wire or a string. 

Ø      Carefully measure the string and note the circumference.

Ø      Convert you measurement to 16ths of an inch (Measurement*16)

Ø      Divide this by 360 to get the number of units per degree, multiply by  20 and use this distance to establish your timing mark at 20 degrees BFTDC.

Ø      With the idler gear removed, set the flywheel to 20 degrees BeforeTDC, and place a wedge under the flywheel or other wise lock it in position.

Ø      Put a dial gauge on the top of the rocker end exactly over the top of the valve stem, adjust the gauge to read zero.

Ø      Remove the left cam cover, and grip the collar with a set of vice grips.

Ø      Turn the cam in the direction of rotation, (same as normal crank rotation) note the spot where the exhaust valve is closing and the intake valve is just lifting off it’s seat, watch the dial gauge and when it indicates the valve is .020 off it’s seat, slip the idler gear in position.

Ø      Remember one tooth is going to be a bunch one way or the other, so if it doesn’t drop right in, move ever so slightly one way or the other till it does.    

Ø      You should be “in time”. Please provide me feed back on this method. 




 I’m still in Love with Listers, a sound as sweet as country music.

George B.










Lister 6/1 Diesel Engine

  Utterpower Pages this needs to be saved for future reference.


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.



Build a frame for your Lister Gen set