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Old 12-01-2015, 10:12 PM   #1
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15 yr old Generator - What can go wrong?

Hi,

I'm considering purchasing a 15 year old trawler that appears to be in great shape with low hours.

The 8kw Northern Lights generator has only 180 hours and is 15 years old.

Assuming annual maintenance was performed what types of issues can I expect to encounter? The broker will provide proof of maintenance and I have no reason to doubt that the maintenance was performed. Also the quality of the diesel fuel is should not be an issue - if it looks bad, we'll have the tanks flushed/cleaned as part of the purchase.

On another thread on this forum, I read that electrical components have a finite life regardless of number of hours used. I'm interested in your collective thoughts on how the electrical components and the mechanical components would fare over a 15 year period with only approx 180 hours.

Thanks for your consideration.

JimL
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Old 12-01-2015, 10:50 PM   #2
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Lots of 15 year old generators out there doing just fine.

If it were me I'd make sure the maintenance is up to date, inspect it thuroughly, and test out the generator. Generators are simple, it it'll pull its full rated kw at 57 hz you're good to go
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Old 12-01-2015, 10:58 PM   #3
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Seals and gaskets can dry out and such. The condition of the exhaust hose should be looked at. Connections looked at. Take a look into the valve cover at the condition of the valve train looking for rust. You could as well bore scope the cylinders. But if it runs clean I'm not sure it would be worth it. The insulation in the armature should probably be tested with a megger. (That should be periodically done on a genset anyway.)

But if you have service records, I'd just run it and fix things as they come. More than likely you'll not run into any major problems.
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Old 12-01-2015, 11:17 PM   #4
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Be sure the exhaust elbow has been replaced with a SS one. This has been a very common NL "need to do."
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Old 12-02-2015, 01:10 AM   #5
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My NL 5kw is 15yrs old, I got it out of a boat that sank at the dock, it had 3600hrs on it. I "unsunk" it, load banked it, etc, and then insurance paid the boat for a new one, and abandoned it in my shop. It sat in a corner for five years. When I built my boat, I tried to get my normal dealer pricing for a new unit, crap they wanted full retail. So I pulled that little unit out and spruced it up and load banked it again, all ok. I have since put 8yrs and 2000 more hours on it since. It's still running fine, knock on wood!! So been under water and over 5000hrs and 15yrs. Pretty harsh life for a little diesel genny.

So with a little attention I think yours will be ok!!
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Old 12-02-2015, 01:02 PM   #6
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Our Koler gen set is 37 years old. I view a gen sent as two separate of a motor and an generator that is package together. Our gen engine is the Perkins 435 with 2847 hours. Its all protection shut down electric that has been the trouble over the years, so I cut out or wired around, so the engine and gen are basic separate. I am more concerned about the engine as it also power the hydraulic pump for the bow thrust and a alternator, but not all the same time. I can run the engine separate of the generator.

I agree about the elbow, but I would also have the heat exchanger checked tested, and all the raw water hoses replace if they have not been with in 10 years. I just had both the gen and main engine tested last spring. Also check the zinc and run every month or so.
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Old 12-02-2015, 02:30 PM   #7
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A good engine surveyor should be able to assess the particular unit you are looking at. Some hull surveyors have that ability as well, get references.
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Old 12-02-2015, 10:38 PM   #8
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I agree that you should regard the genset as two separate machines -- an engine and the electrical end. The engine could/should run for ever. If it is in good condition now, you can keep it that way. On the electrical end, the biggest (most expensive) problem you can have is a short in the windings. In that regard, moisture is your worst enemy. But, you can always have it re-wound, and re-dipped in new insulation. A friend did that and rejuvenated his electrical end.
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Old 12-02-2015, 10:50 PM   #9
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Mine has been around since 1987 so..28years. Nothing more than oil changes. You're just breaking in. Relax and enjoy the boat.
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Old 12-02-2015, 11:12 PM   #10
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I have a 28 year old Westerbeke with 1315 hours that still works just as it should, I wouldn't worry about a 15 year old Northern Lights if it passes the mechanical survey.


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Old 12-03-2015, 11:18 AM   #11
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My 1985 Westerbeke 8.0 BTD with 1100 hours still runs like a top. Only ever had oil changes. Thats 30 years!
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Old 12-03-2015, 05:49 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obthomas View Post
My 1985 Westerbeke 8.0 BTD with 1100 hours still runs like a top. Only ever had oil changes. Thats 30 years!
I don't know how old the two generators are on our 1983 Defever 44 are but at least one of them, probably the Kohler 12.5kw powered by a Perkins, is original. It has over 5,000 hours on the clock as does the Westerbeke 7.7kw on board. Both start easily and power up properly.
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Old 12-04-2015, 07:13 AM   #13
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Corrosion is the killer , keep all the wire connections in A1 condition and it will go until its Killed.

Overheating , no oil , water in the cylinders , much un fun.
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Old 12-29-2015, 09:21 AM   #14
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I happen to run a generator service shop, and generally agree with what's been posted so far. On the engine end, the same advice applies as what you would say for the propulsion engine. Electrically, just fire it up and see what you get for voltage and frequency.

Then the most important thing is to run it frequently, and under load. That makes everything heat up, which is crucial for driving out moisture. I recommend once per month during the season, and at a minimum of 50% of rated load. We use plug-in space heaters, 1500 watts each. That keeps things nice and exercised, and believe me, it prevents a ton of headaches.

And, yes - you do not need to worry about wearing it out. I see lots of those little diesels with 20,000+ hours on them. More worries about not running enough than running too much.

GOOD LUCK!

J.S.
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Old 12-30-2015, 06:29 AM   #15
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"Then the most important thing is to run it frequently, and under load. That makes everything heat up, which is crucial for driving out moisture. I recommend once per month during the season, and at a minimum of 50% of rated load. We use plug-in space heaters, 1500 watts each. That keeps things nice and exercised, and believe me, it prevents a ton of headaches. "

DARN GOOD ADVICE FOR THE MAIN ENGINE TOO.
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