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Old 08-12-2015, 05:48 AM   #1
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Survey of Problems with Electronic Engines

Following to the thread Old Engine for New Trawler, it would be interesting to see what feedback there is about electronically controlled engines. It's easy to just say "electricity and water don't mix" but what is the reality of the situation?

How many have had problems or none/little at all?
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Old 08-12-2015, 09:35 AM   #2
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Following to the thread Old Engine for New Trawler, it would be interesting to see what feedback there is about electronically controlled engines. It's easy to just say "electricity and water don't mix" but what is the reality of the situation?

How many have had problems or none/little at all?
I have electronic throttles and shifters on my boat. (The engines, however, are mechanical.) There is about a second and a half delay when I shift before the transmission engages which I don't like at all. I've had the controls looked at by the Micro Commander guy & an attempt to change the software for faster response but to no avail. (My Micro Commanders don't have dip switches for changing the reaction times. All changes are through software changes.) Although I'm getting use to the delay time, when maneuvering in tight places, it can be a real PITA.
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Old 08-12-2015, 10:20 AM   #3
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I have been an avid follower of boatdiesel for the last ten years which covers the era of electronic engines. I am guessing that less than 5% of problems posted on boatdiesel relate to problems with the electronics. The number seems to be increasing but that probably merely represents the increase in electronic engines in the fleet over time.


Rarely does a problem posted result in the OP reporting the ultimate fix. Of those fixes that I can remember, some are simple corroded connections and a squirt of WD40 or similar in the connector solved it.


Do electronics save engines from potential catastrophic failure? My guess is that on balance, no. There are several reports of bad fuel damaging an injector causing huge amounts of fuel injected by the CR system and destroying a cylinder, but the electronics didn't catch it. Electronics can identify over propping but not fix it. Electronics will not do anything for a corroded air cooler. Etc., etc.


So what good are electronic, CR engines. Emissions primarily and secondarily low smoke and less engine noise. We wouldn't see almost half of European cars running diesels without CR injection. Compare a 90s Dodge diesel pickup with today's Dodge or a new Mercedes Blutec with yesterday's diesel.


But I am guessing that the great majority, probably 99% of electronic engine boat owners will never have a problem with their engine related to electronics. Even so I am glad I have a totally mechanical engine on my boat.


David
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Old 08-12-2015, 10:48 AM   #4
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I think electronic engine problems are like the boogey man under the bed, i.e. a figment of our imaginations. 100% of the world's modern trucking fleet runs on electronic engines, as does 100% of the modern automobile fleet. Cars and trucks are more reliable today than they have ever been.

Yes, there are and will be cases of failures, just as there are cases of failure of just about everything.

Persoanlly, I love modern diesels for all the reason's David mentions. They are quieter, don't stink, and don't smoke. Plus they are run much better across a wider load range with less sooting and slobbering.
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Old 08-12-2015, 10:51 AM   #5
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Oh, and for the survey....

I have had two boats with electronic engines (both the engine itself, and the gear/shift control). Zero problems with both of them.

I have also owned 3 cars/trucks with electronic common rail engines. Again, zero problems.
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Old 08-12-2015, 11:07 AM   #6
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They are quieter, don't stink, and don't smoke. Plus they are run much better across a wider load range with less sooting and slobbering.
It's a shame that a modern Tier 3 burns more fuel per hp than my 60 year old Gray Marines.
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Old 08-12-2015, 11:21 AM   #7
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I think electronic engine problems are like the boogey man under the bed, i.e. a figment of our imaginations. 100% of the world's modern trucking fleet runs on electronic engines, as does 100% of the modern automobile fleet. Cars and trucks are more reliable today than they have ever been.

Yes, there are and will be cases of failures, just as there are cases of failure of just about everything.

Persoanlly, I love modern diesels for all the reason's David mentions. They are quieter, don't stink, and don't smoke. Plus they are run much better across a wider load range with less sooting and slobbering.

+1
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Old 08-12-2015, 11:21 AM   #8
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Fuel consumption

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It's a shame that a modern Tier 3 burns more fuel per hp than my 60 year old Gray Marines.
You are kidding, right? If I look at a fuel consumption curve for an old NA DD engine, more or less the same engine as the old Grey Marine, I get 16-17 hp per gph. Virtually all modern common rail engines produce 19-20 hp per gph.

And they are lighter, run clean, don't burn oil, make much less noise, and meet Tier 3 emissions standards which the DD never will.

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Old 08-12-2015, 11:26 AM   #9
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You are kidding, right? If I look at a fuel consumption curve for an old NA DD engine, more or less the same engine as the old Grey Marine, I get 16-17 hp per gph. Virtually all modern common rail engines produce 19-20 hp per gph.

And they are lighter, run clean, don't burn oil, make much less noise, and meet Tier 3 emissions standards which the DD never will.

David
I was being facetious, but only slightly. My old Grays (I roughly calculated at a solid 17 hp/g. Modern engines can get over 20+, but the SISU charts indicate about 18, which I assume is because of the emissions requirements. Maybe I did the conversion wrong???

What does 220 g/kwH at 131 kw convert into in "hp/g"?
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Old 08-12-2015, 12:13 PM   #10
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What does 220 g/kwH at 131 kw convert into in "hp/g"?
220 g/KWH = 19.4 hp per gph. BTW the 131 KW is irrelevant to the conversion. It is simply the KW or Hp where the g/KWH is measured.

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Old 08-12-2015, 12:17 PM   #11
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220 g/KWH = 19.4 hp per gph. BTW the 131 KW is irrelevant to the conversion. It is simply the KW or Hp where the g/KWH is measured.

David
Thank you David. 19.4 hp/g isn't such a bad yield after all.
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Old 08-12-2015, 02:01 PM   #12
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Further to my post #3 above on this topic, I also posted it on boatdiesel for comment. Ron Sparks ,a respected Detroit Diesel contributor, posted the following there. I totally agree with his last paragraph. I am a little surprised by his 25% electronic failure rate. That is at least ten times higher than I would have expected.


If true or if even 1% it supports his thesis that you should never go far offshore with an electronic engine.

David


David, I am largely in agreement with what you have posted, however, offshore boating with an electronic engine, and possibly electronic marine gear has some serious safety issues associated with electronic and wiring connection failures, as well as lightning induced currents destroying circuits and wiring harnesses. Having dealt numerous times with all of these issues, and having boated 130 miles offshore, frankly I would not have an electronic controlled engine or marine gear in my boat, if the vessel was to be used more than a few miles from shore and available tow services. And I believe the electrical/electronic problems to be experienced over a engine´s service life will be 25 percent of the population, or greater.

Not going to get into a debate, and not going to just give in to the, "Well that is all there is these days argument". When going to sea, one MUST be self sufficient for any condition, and electronics for recreational marine engines and marine gears do not presently lend themselves to that requirement, and cannot be made so for technical and economic reasons in the foreseeable future.

Ron Sparks
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Old 08-12-2015, 05:01 PM   #13
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Whatever happened to K.I.S.S.? Some VOLVO owners are lookin' at months to get electronic marine gear replacement parts at any price.
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Old 08-12-2015, 05:36 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by djmarchand View Post
Further to my post #3 above on this topic, I also posted it on boatdiesel for comment. Ron Sparks ,a respected Detroit Diesel contributor, posted the following there. I totally agree with his last paragraph. I am a little surprised by his 25% electronic failure rate. That is at least ten times higher than I would have expected.


If true or if even 1% it supports his thesis that you should never go far offshore with an electronic engine.

David


And I believe the electrical/electronic problems to be experienced over a engine´s service life will be 25 percent of the population, or greater.
I guess it all depends on how you want to read that. For recreational users, service life should be 5 to 10 thousand hours and 10 to 20 years. If 75% of my computer enhanced items lasted 10 to 20 years, I'd be pretty happy. Also, for the same service life, I'm guessing you could have a 25% mortality rate in injector pumps, turbos, and transmissions on mechanical engines. Finally, my sense is that the environment of the engine room plays a big role in problems. Lots of Chesapeake Bay waterman now have electronic engines. The ones that are kept clean and relatively dry don't seem to be having problems. The ones that more resemble a pile of rust, seem to suffer more, go figure.

Ted
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Old 08-13-2015, 06:42 AM   #15
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"I get 16-17 hp per gph. Virtually all modern common rail engines produce 19-20 hp per gph."

That efficiency was certainly worth waiting since 1936 for!

The big hassle is electronic injection was mostly used in bigger boats due to the air police rules.

Most commercials are tin boats , a floating Faraday Cage, unlike our plastic cookies.
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Old 08-13-2015, 07:44 AM   #16
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"Most commercials are tin boats , a floating Faraday Cage, unlike our plastic cookies.
As long as there are wires running in or out of the engine room to the myriad of devices located in every area of the boat, inside and out, it doesn't matter what the boat is made of. A boat is far from being a Faraday cage, there is almost no place on a ship or boat where a cell phone or handheld radio doesn't work as well as it does on deck.

There are hundreds (thousands?) of plastic yachts cruising the world every day with electronic engines, there are thousands of metal and plastic workboats fitted with electronically controlled engines working all over the world and have been for years without failure.

Most of the ECM problems I have come across were related to vessel power supply issues or poor control cable connections caused by lack of maintenance or contamination. One or two lightning caused issues out of thousands of boats does not mean there is a serious threat imposed by using electronic engines.

If you want to worry about sources of engine failures, worry about water in your fuel, dirty filters, total lack of preventive maintenance, neglect, and all the real reasons toy boat engines fail by the hundreds every single day.
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