Lister Ailments

Here’s a surprising one on equipment failure. We’ve been running our 1 cylinder, 6 horsepower Lister engine on filtered waste vegetable oil for 2 years now. It’s the backbone of our off grid power. Yesterday, it lost compression. So today, I opened up the cylinder head, and examined the inlet and outlet valves that are right above the cylinder bore. Those are the two circles in the picture:

The small hole is where the fuel injector is located. I noticed one of the valves had significant carbon buildup on it. This prevented the valve from closing tightly, and that’s what I thought caused the compression loss. I cleaned it off, hammering it gently. The picture shows what the result looked like after some cleaning.

This proved to be no more than an anatomy lesson on the Lister. After I put it back together, it did not fire up – same loss of compression. Air was exiting from the exhaust port when I cranked the Lister. My guess is that the exhaust valve rod or something is bent, so that air is leaking out.

Since I don’t understand the Lister well, I have no idea how to fix it right now. This is the point: if you have some piece of technology and want to be its master, you need service and replacement parts nearby, or understand it well enough to fix it yourself. There’s probably not another one of these machines around for hundreds of miles.


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  1. […] is next. The Lister, since we cleaned it out to regain compression – is still not put back together completely – as the CEB was a […]