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Old 02-16-2021, 07:41 PM   #1
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Engine stopped mid passage. Why?

All the threads about redundancy got me thinking: how often does a diesel actually involuntarily stop running after its been running just fine for at least several hours?

Credible and first hand failures:

Jeff Merrill interviewed a Swede on a DD where the engine died in the middle of the pacific. Was a cracked fuel line. Took several hours but he scavenged one from elsewhere

I've had a water pump shaft break that disabled an engine

I've had an impellor shred that disabled an engine.

I've forgotten to turn fuel valves correctly and ran out of fuel (first date - she thought I did it on purpose - she's now my wife).

I've been on a power cat that picked up a crab trap. The whole line and wound the trap into his prop. That disabled the engine.

I've had electronic engines not run properly due to a bad connection in a control and hobble (but not disable) an engine.

All the above makes me wonder. What are the chances a diesel engine conks out mid ocean? With all the hand wringing over twins or a wing, what really is the risk, and to what extent can it be mitigated with spares or a small welder?

Peter
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Old 02-16-2021, 07:47 PM   #2
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Fuel leaks and such are possible, but fairly rare. I'd say the vast majority of unplanned shutdowns I've seen on any type of engine have been either a cooling problem or other external factor that forced a shutdown. The engine just deciding it's no longer running is much less common and is usually fuel related when it happens, either contaminated fuel, failed pump, etc. My last engine shutdown was due to a transmission issue. The engine was perfectly fine, but there was no point in keeping it running as the transmission behind it had lost the ability to spin the prop shaft with no quick fix available.

Redundancy isn't always about just getting somewhere after a problem, sometimes it's about being able to isolate a problem (such as an unusable engine) and then fix it under controlled conditions, or have time to plan out a better fix, rather than having the issue be an emergency right from the start.
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Old 02-16-2021, 08:33 PM   #3
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I have 3,000+ hours on my John Deere. The only thing that has stopped me so far (touch wood) was the mult pin plug mating with the computer. Resetting the plug solved the problem. The second time it happened, Corrosion X was applied to the connector. It hasn't happened again.

My thinking has evolved as far as outside of towing services or in remote locations where self sufficiency is the rule. Simply, twins that are completely 100% independent. If you're seriously going that far off the beaten path, you need to be able to cruise at normal speed with one of 2 engines.

Ted
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Old 02-16-2021, 08:39 PM   #4
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That's one reason we wanted an older, mechanical engine. Except for start, alternator and gauges, all we have to worry about is fuel, air, oil, cooling, and compression!
The only time I ever had a diesel engine in a boat quit was for one of exactly the same reasons you stated above. I was drawing fuel from one tank, and returning excess to another tank . . . ran out of fuel with 300 gallons on board Completely pilot error, can't blame the engine for THAT one. . .
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Old 02-16-2021, 08:39 PM   #5
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Several outboards threw rods. And a friends lobster boat twice due to running over trash. Not ordinary trash but a swimming pool cover and a large plastic trash can.
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Old 02-16-2021, 09:08 PM   #6
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A hard to find air leak that is somewhat dependent on the amount of fuel in a tank can drive you nuts and randomly shut you down with a single numerous times a day......
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Old 02-16-2021, 09:19 PM   #7
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A couple weeks ago there was a thread that included pressure plate failures in transmissions. Frankly, it never occurred to me. Before I venture too far, I will replace mine with a newer non-spring model.

I was just wondering about real world failures vs belt and suspenders approach to preventing failures. I totally understand the impact of a mid ocean failure. But what is the probability? Meteorite insurance?

Peter
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Old 02-16-2021, 09:45 PM   #8
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If travelling in rough seas for some time the stuff stuck ti the bottom can get stirred up and plug an outlet or filter.
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Old 02-16-2021, 10:43 PM   #9
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Had a freshly rebuilt high pressure fuel pump fail after 4 hours of running. But as Capital Ron says "well if anythings gonna happen its gonna happen out there"!
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Old 02-16-2021, 10:46 PM   #10
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QSB 5.9, 5,500 miles not 1 missed RPM [ knock on fiberglass ]
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Old 02-16-2021, 11:01 PM   #11
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Bottom mounting bolt of alternator worked itself loose, fan belt proceeded to turn itself into shredded pieces, resulting in a very overheated engine. I carry spare belts and tools to accomplish the repair but very lucky the head didn't warp. Temp was pegged at 250 for an unknown period of time.
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Old 02-16-2021, 11:23 PM   #12
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Had the exit hose of my single engine's raw water pump burst two years back, but I was not running a slow boat with a low performance engine putting across a vast expanse. I was running my 6LPA Yanmar 315HP at 3400 RPM pushing around 35 gallons of seawater through its cooling system every minute. Tow BoatUS to the rescue for a two mile tow to home.

One my trawler with twins, I had a Borg Warner pressure plate give out - 200 yards from home.

Also on the twin had a starter burn up - 200 yards from the marina we were entering. New one arrived next day.

Had an air ingestion issue regularly stopping one engine for several months until I found/fixed. Until the fix. just turned on fuel transfer pump to pressurize it and ran fine for rest of the trips.

While on patrol in the ship I commanded in the Trust Territories of the Pacific we had our one and only diesel oil purifier crap out. None of our four D399 Cats quite due to un-purified oil from the day tanks (to which said purifier sent stored fuel from storage tanks - 96,000 gallons capacity), but being 1,000 miles from Guam, we worried about it a lot. In home waters around Hawaii, we had a cracked cylinder head in one engine, but there were three others available in that single prop diesel-electric setup; so we hardly noticed while the engineers swapped in another bulkhead spare.
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Old 02-16-2021, 11:54 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soo-Valley View Post
If travelling in rough seas for some time the stuff stuck ti the bottom can get stirred up and plug an outlet or filter.
If that happens then you will have two none working engines!

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Old 02-17-2021, 01:48 AM   #14
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There's going to be a lot more engines failing at sea in the future. These new, electronically controlled engines are unreliable. Look at the trouble people with newer diesel pickups are having. Even my older diesel pu has been made unreliable because of the sensors. And there's no close by tow trucks in the ocean. That's why I have mechanical Detroits in my boat. If I was younger, I'd put a Detroit in my truck.
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Old 02-17-2021, 03:13 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mvweebles View Post
A couple weeks ago there was a thread that included pressure plate failures in transmissions. Frankly, it never occurred to me. Before I venture too far, I will replace mine with a newer non-spring model.

I was just wondering about real world failures vs belt and suspenders approach to preventing failures. I totally understand the impact of a mid ocean failure. But what is the probability? Meteorite insurance?

Peter


In 25 years Iíve had one spring plate failure and two non-spring failures, both by Torflex where a bad batch of rubber delaminated from the attaching plate. Not sure any of them have a superior design or not.
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Old 02-17-2021, 07:07 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mvweebles View Post
I was just wondering about real world failures vs belt and suspenders approach to preventing failures. I totally understand the impact of a mid ocean failure. But what is the probability? Meteorite insurance?

Peter
To understand probability you only have to look to Lindberg. Flying across the Atlantic one time on a single engine airplane (past the infant mortality period) is likely to have a good rate of success. The more complicated the plane becomes (requiring all systems to work versus redundancy) the greater the risk of failure. The more times that the single engine plane does the flight, the greater the likelihood of a failure.

So how many times you plan to wonder to the edge of the earth, probably has a lot to do with whether you need meteorite insurance.

Ted
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Old 02-17-2021, 07:21 AM   #17
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Lepke, I love my twin Lehman 120s for the same reason, simple, no tearing your hair out trying to run down an electrical interface problem. However, the idea that there are going to be many at-sea failures in the future, I do not think so. I own a 2003 Chevy Duramax with 7,600 hours and 316,000 miles, all computer controlled with many sensors. Except for injector replacement, a wear item, this truck has never failed to start, with one exception and that was fuel supply related. One of my fuel filters was slightly loose and was sucking air but not leaking.
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There's going to be a lot more engines failing at sea in the future. These new, electronically controlled engines are unreliable. Look at the trouble people with newer diesel pickups are having. Even my older diesel pu has been made unreliable because of the sensors. And there's no close by tow trucks in the ocean. That's why I have mechanical Detroits in my boat. If I was younger, I'd put a Detroit in my truck.
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Old 02-17-2021, 07:27 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lepke View Post
There's going to be a lot more engines failing at sea in the future. These new, electronically controlled engines are unreliable. Look at the trouble people with newer diesel pickups are having. Even my older diesel pu has been made unreliable because of the sensors. And there's no close by tow trucks in the ocean. That's why I have mechanical Detroits in my boat. If I was younger, I'd put a Detroit in my truck.
Certainly has been my observation, limited as it may be. The engine itself is probably rock-solid, but the gizmos providing micro-controls seem to be a bit fragile, especially in a marine environment. A friend's 2014 ~425 hp Cummins was hobbled with RPMs varying widely between 2500 and 1500. Cummins' tech diagnosed and replaced $5k worth of stuff over a couple visits before a crackerjack marine electrician finally found a small 4-pin connector in about 15-mins of troubleshooting. Watching it play out was sobering: I'd have zero chance of finding/fixing the problem. Yes, the boat kept going. But having the RPMs vary so widely was not at all reassuring.

Peter
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Old 02-17-2021, 07:27 AM   #19
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There's going to be a lot more engines failing at sea in the future. These new, electronically controlled engines are unreliable. Look at the trouble people with newer diesel pickups are having. Even my older diesel pu has been made unreliable because of the sensors. And there's no close by tow trucks in the ocean. That's why I have mechanical Detroits in my boat. If I was younger, I'd put a Detroit in my truck.
I see no data on this. The diesel electronics seen to be rock solid . The failure is far more likely from a belt, pump or hose. Not a computer.
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Old 02-17-2021, 07:35 AM   #20
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Ted wonder if that’s really true. Had my first new boat built for me. First year had more failures due to weird stuff than in all subsequent years. Bits of construction debris in the most unusual places acting as gremlins. Any seal or attachment or adhesive that could fail did. Each boat, even inside a given production run, is different. Over time you learn your boat in a very intimate way. You learn what to check or prophylactically inspect, service or replace before passage. Nothing teaches like experience. Personally feel more secure crewing or captaining a well maintained boat that does periodic regular passages in company of seasoned sailors then one that does it rarely.
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