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Old 19-06-2014, 22:36   #16
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Re: Engine starts by itself - Volvo Penta 2030

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Originally Posted by DeepFrz View Post
I didn't think of the possibility of a bad relay in the cct. Doesn't really sound right though but I have seen a lot of strange things in my electronic career. Often tapping on a relay with the handle of a screw driver will show up a problem. It usually will be a drop out problem, not a make problem.

belizesailor, I wonder if there is any voltage on the activation lug of the relay when the start switch is not activated?
I would not think there should be (voltage to the lug), but replacing the relay did the trick. Of course, it could be a spurious association, since it was an intermittent problem I was never actually able to positively ID the cause by testing.


....what's that sound...;-)
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Old 19-06-2014, 22:39   #17
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Re: Engine starts by itself - Volvo Penta 2030

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.... Often tapping on a relay with the handle of a screw driver will show up a problem. It usually will be a drop out problem, not a make problem.
...
Tapping when it is made I assume will cause it to open if its faulty?
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Old 20-06-2014, 00:03   #18
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Re: Engine starts by itself - Volvo Penta 2030

I bought a boat once that had been repowered with a Volvo diesel. It was a 24' boat on a trailer. Got it back to my place, went up to the fly bridge, started flipping switches. I think it was NAV LIGHTS that made the engine start. Of course the key wasn't in it, so the stop button didn't work, and no water hooked up.

The boat had two helms, both with keys. After I cut the connection to the nav light switch the key at the lower helm never worked again.

Glad you got your story fixed. I would have had no idea where to start troubleshooting an engine that randomly starts until I read this thread!
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Old 20-06-2014, 07:45   #19
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Re: Engine starts by itself - Volvo Penta 2030

Nomad, a few more thoughts:

Sounds like you are not entirely comfortable doing this work yourself so probably best to engage appropriately skilled help. I know from owning a old Jeep ashore that there are some very good "electro-mechanicos" in Central America. While marine diesels are not their speciality, troubleshooting and repairing electrical systems is. Just another possibility if your mechanic does not want to mess with the job (or does not seem to be strong in electrical troubleshooting...a surprising number of mechanics are not).

Where are you in Panama?

The basic electrical system on the MD series is relatively simple. A full replacement would of course almost certainly fix the problem, but at high cost ($2.5K sounds crazy high though, its really not a big job, but Volvo parts are always expensive).

The most likely locations of the problem are ignition switch/tumbler, start solenoid, wiring harness. Replacing the start relay appeared to resolve the problem in my case, and is cheap and easy to do, so certainly no harm in doing it, but I don't think it is the most likely candidate.

I suggest inspecting/cleaning/testing each of the components above thuroughly. A surprising number of problems can be resolved just by cleaning contacts/connectors/switches.

Also, it sounds like there is no shut off switch for your start battery - correct? There really should be. If not, I would install one AFTER you resolve this problem.

Good luck and keep us posted.
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Old 20-06-2014, 07:53   #20
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Re: Engine starts by itself - Volvo Penta 2030

The good thing about owning two engines is easier troubleshooting.

To narrow it down to the switch panel, simply swap the harness connector between the two panels and see if the problem moves to the other engine or stays.

If you think the starter solenoid is the problem - swap the starters and see where the problem occurs.

The start circuit solenoids cost ~$5 and are available everywhere, so it is easy to just replace them with new like belizesailor did and see if the problem goes away. In the meantime, you can swap them between engines and see if the problem follows.

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Old 20-06-2014, 12:45   #21
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Re: Engine starts by itself - Volvo Penta 2030

Thanks for all the replies, I've started cleaning connections and swapping components out to figure out where the issue lies.

An interesting thing happened last night: I pulled the start fuses out of the engine compartment to keep it from starting. But then the damn control panel turned itself on in the middle of the night, twice, so that the start alarm (?) went off. The second time I got smart and switched the batteries off (I do have a switch to disconnect both house and all dedicated start batteries).

My theory now is that it's in the control panel, so the next step is to swap panels (working for non-working) and see if that's the issue.

belizesailor - I'm in Puerto Lindo. And you're right, I'm not completely comfortable doing this on my own. It's easier/better to have two sets of hands and two heads to tackle this... All that said, the sooner I learn to tackle these kinds of issues the better.
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Old 20-06-2014, 13:11   #22
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Re: Engine starts by itself - Volvo Penta 2030

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Originally Posted by TheNomadTrip View Post
Thanks for all the replies, I've started cleaning connections and swapping components out to figure out where the issue lies.

An interesting thing happened last night: I pulled the start fuses out of the engine compartment to keep it from starting. But then the damn control panel turned itself on in the middle of the night, twice, so that the start alarm (?) went off. The second time I got smart and switched the batteries off (I do have a switch to disconnect both house and all dedicated start batteries).

My theory now is that it's in the control panel, so the next step is to swap panels (working for non-working) and see if that's the issue.

belizesailor - I'm in Puerto Lindo. And you're right, I'm not completely comfortable doing this on my own. It's easier/better to have two sets of hands and two heads to tackle this... All that said, the sooner I learn to tackle these kinds of issues the better.
In any case, have plenty of fire-fighting equipment close at hand http://www.cruisersforum.com/images/smilies/devil_3.gif .

(mods: I'm using a Comodo Dragon browser (Chrome based) and the smilies and a few other things don't seem to work??)
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Old 20-06-2014, 14:00   #23
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Re: Engine starts by itself - Volvo Penta 2030

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In any case, have plenty of fire-fighting equipment close at hand ......
You have plenty of great troubleshooting advice throughout the post, but don't ignore the fire risk.

The only time that I've heard of someone's engine starting "by itself" was when some cruising friends of mine woke up at night with the mystery start of their engine and this alerted them to a fire in their engine room!
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Old 20-06-2014, 16:17   #24
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Re: Engine starts by itself - Volvo Penta 2030

Yes, good to have another set of (experienced) eyes/hands. I will PM you the email of someone who may be able to help in the Puerto Lindo area. Often best to learn with a little guidance.


Edit: PM sent.

...and until you get this sorted out I would keep the start batt switch off unless you actually need to start the motor. Bad things can happen from a motor continually trying to start (mine never actually started): fire, damaged starter, water in the engine...
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Old 20-06-2014, 16:40   #25
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Re: Engine starts by itself - Volvo Penta 2030

[ And you're right, I'm not completely comfortable doing this on my own. It's easier/better to have two sets of hands and two heads to tackle this... All that said, the sooner I learn to tackle these kinds of issues the better.[/QUOTE]

I'm so glad you said that, I was thinking the same thing. And if I can make a suggestion, if you don't already have a copy of Nigel Calder's 'Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual', get one. It really does have the proverbial 'wealth of information', for both beginners and oldhands.

Further to your experience last night, the three relays that belizesailor mentioned are the start, glowplug (preheat) and grounding?! relays. I'm still trying to figure out what the grounding relay does. Also, in the alarm/signal box there are at least nine diodes, a transistor and a couple of ambiguous (to me anyway) components. The point being that there may be several ways for the start relay to get activated. Switching out the panels is a good trouble shooting idea, but it still leaves the question where in the panel is the fault? I'll be curious to see what Volvo wants for that jewel of a panel.

At any rate, if you're going to be there a while, and if it turns out that the panel is at fault, I have a alarm/signal box that came with the MD2020 I put in my boat that I didn't use (made my own harness). It's used but was supposedly working when I got it. If the problem turns out to be in the panel you're welcome to it, mail from New Orleans to Panama is probably only a week or two.
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Old 20-06-2014, 16:41   #26
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Re: Engine starts by itself - Volvo Penta 2030

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Had this exact problem on an MD2020, same basic wiring as the 30, this year in Panama...must be a Volvo-Panama thing. The starboard engine cranked a couple of times all by itself, fortunately though when I was on or near the boat. After that I truned off the start battery switch, when I was not aboard, until I could isolate the problem.

Suggesting that you rewire the entire system just means your mechanic has no idea what the problem is, and in all fairness intermitent problems are a bitch to isolate.

Below is what I did to isolate the problem. I'm relisting it all here because it might help isolate yours, which may not be the same as mine, but I suspect it is.

Like your mechanic, I went thru the entire electrical system from control panel to starter and could not find a problem.

Specifically (not necessarily in this order):

- I disconnected, inspected, and cleaned every wiring harness connection: no problems found.

- I physically inspected all sections of the wiring harness I could reasonably get too without ripping it out of the boat (which in my case is about 75% of it), looking for obviously damaged or cooked wires. None found.

- I tested continuity between all wires in the harness to try and find an internal short. None found.

- I removed, inspected, and cleaned the ignition tumbler (as much as possible since it can't be fully disassembled) and connections to it. Tested for correct connections being made as I turned the tumbler. Tested for countinuity where there should be none. No problems found.

- I removed all the relays (only 3) inspected and cleaned contacts and female sockets.

- I inspected wiring to the starter solenoid and found no problems.

- Jumped the start solenoid a few times and it engaged/disengaged fine each time.

(The above is not as big of a PITA as it sounds, took me less than a full day)


Then it happened again. Capital F!


I had eliminated a lot of options already so this narrowed down the possibilities. Clearly a connection was being made where, and most importantly when, it should not be, and barring a short somewhere in the wiring harness itself (which looked and tested good), that should narrow it down to just a few possibilities: The ignition tumbler, the start relay, the starter solenoid. The ignition tumbler and starter solenoid seemed fine in previous testing so I decided to take a closer look at the start relay. On testing, it open/closed ok, but showed big variances in ohm readings across the circuit each time it closed...clearly something was not right.

*** So I replaced the start relay and it has not happened since (that was in March) ***

For good measure, I replaced all the relays on both engines and bought spare relays. Although, I do think I will add "turn off start battery switch" to my boat storage prep list just in case.

If this turns out to be the gremlin in your case then good news, its a standard Bosch automotive relay and its cheap and easy to replace.
Well, that makes a lot of sense!

Unless those relays have been modified for marine use, there is a vent hole in the plastic case for some odd reason. It's proven to be an issue in very dirty/dusty environments where sand/dust got in and made it stick on or off.

I could see if these are mounted upside down, water or condensation could enter through the hole and cause a lot of problems. I've seen guys put a dab of silicone on the hole to prevent future problems.
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Old 20-06-2014, 17:16   #27
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Re: Engine starts by itself - Volvo Penta 2030

These are common Bosch-style relays (black plastic cube). I just looked at mine and see no vent hole anywhere. The spare I looked at was not a genuine Bosch, so maybe those are different.

I didn't see any reference to a "ground" relay. There are only two relays on that engine - the start and glow plug relays, which are the Bosch-type in the little box.

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Old 20-06-2014, 18:13   #28
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Re: Engine starts by itself - Volvo Penta 2030

The spec for the one I bought (Bosch 0332209151) shows it to IP-34 rated (light spray/splash protection level). These things are amazingly durable, the one I replaced was original from 2000...14 years of service in an engine room in the tropics...can't complain about service life. I've got some in my Jeep (1989) that to the best of my knowlege are originals!

There is a third relay on my engine (MD2020-D) which bolts to the side of the relay box containing the start and glow plug relays. Same relay, just the version with a mounting tab. I forget what that one does.
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Old 20-06-2014, 18:35   #29
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Re: Engine starts by itself - Volvo Penta 2030

Ours does not have that third external one. Our relays are also original - 1998 - perhaps I will swap them with the spares on board just because.

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Old 20-06-2014, 19:24   #30
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Re: Engine starts by itself - Volvo Penta 2030

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The general rule I taught in an advanced electronics class was: the problem is usually in whatever you touched last. Especially if the person doing the touching is clueless.

In your case, I'd look at the wiring around the starter and the solenoid, because that's where your mechanic was messing around. As soon as you start fiddling with other stuff that wasn't originally touched, chances are you stand a good chance of introducing new problems on top of existing problems unless you're very careful to reassemble everything correctly and verify input and output voltages afterwards.

While unrelated issues do occasionally crop up, it's much more common to see issues that were introduced rather than coincidental.
As my granny would say, "Dan. Go fix the the last thing you f**cked up."

The mechanic was messiing around the engine - My guess is that he's repositioned a chaffed solenoid wired.

Typical starter schematic attached (replace the key assembly with a push button) - if the small wire going to the solenoid (probably mounted right on top of your starter) is chaffed and is touching metal anywhere along it's run the engine will crank. Check it carefully all around the engine.

A cheaper way to isolate this is remove the wire from the solenoid (point 3 on the schematic) - secure it so the end doesn't touch any metal. If the engine does not mysteriously crank you have isolated to the switch circuit. If it still cranks you likely have a starter solenoid failure.

Buy a "remote starter" from any auto parts store.

It has two clamps and a "push button." Connect one end to the big supply line on the starter (point 6 on schematic) and one to the solenoid (point 3). Be super careful not to let the clamps touch both the big wire and the metal block - big sparks will happen.

Press the button several times and see if it behaves normally. If it does not you likely have a starter solenoid failure.

I doubt the start button in your panel but possible.

You also have the advantage of 2 motors. If the above troubleshooting doesn't help, swap the start buttons in the panel and see if the problem follows. Swap the starters and see if the problem follows. It's more work but if the problem does not follow the switch and starter you have a wiring short.

BTW - Your mechanic is an idiot.
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