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Old 15-03-2013, 06:48   #1
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More electronics in diesels = more problems?

A post in another forum indicated that the poster was advised by his mechanic that in 14 months or so, the new, mandated, common rail diesel will be installed on many diesel engines. Apparently this system has a lot of electronics, which "you don't want on your boat".

Has anyone heard of this, and if so, how the heck does one mitigate against the inevitable failure that will occur in a marine environment of those electronics. I assume the electronics referred to are the ECU, and we know how often they go on vehicles.
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Old 15-03-2013, 07:03   #2
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Re: More electronics in diesels = more problems?

I don't know nothing about this, but looking through Google it looks like injector failures are a problem with pressures as high as 29,000 PSI being a contributing factor. From my experience with mechanics in the Caribbean, I think it will be difficult to find one to fix these things should you have a problem at least for a decade or more.

Some people suggest that Honda makes better systems than the Bosch since theirs came out after Bosch and maybe they learned something from the Germans.

I'm still using my old gas powered Japanese two cycle outboard for now.
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Old 15-03-2013, 07:36   #3
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pirate Re: More electronics in diesels = more problems?

Maybe its time for 'Consumer Power'...
Re-build don't buy new... refuse to buy Bendi's etc fitted with the new 'Let me screw you even more with registered mechanics only elecs'.
But reality check... WFC... quick tug on the 'Latest Greatest NEW' nosering and the herd follows..
Yeah... I know.. its progress to be retarded..
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Old 15-03-2013, 07:36   #4
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Re: More electronics in diesels = more problems?

Common-rail diesel technology has been around for a while. I believe most heavy trucks have electronically-controlled common-rail diesel engines since the 90s. It's not 'alot' of electronics, just one ECU module and some sensors, which makes it like about 99.9% of cars and trucks nowadays. Personally I haven't had an ECU fail on any of our vehicles, even after 12+ years...

I've only read a bit about common-rail; here's what I've gathered so far:

Pluses:
- quieter engine (less knock and rattle)
- more power at different speeds
- cleaner exhaust
- fuel economy
- I believe (not certain) that the injectors can be changed out individually in the field, which means you could carry a spare injector.

Negatives
- higher fuel pressure
- smaller injector orifices, tighter tolerances
- apparently, only Bosch makes good enough injectors; the copycats are inferior
- possibly fussier about grade of diesel?
- electronics
- some negative feedback from the automotive world

Granted, the current all-mechanical, cam-injected small marine diesels are proven and reliable technology. According to my mechanic friend, sailboat diesels suffer most from not being used often or hard enough. And they're going to fail far more often from diesel bug and clogged filters than from an ECU failure, anyway.

It will be interesting to watch. Any small common-rail marine diesels on the market yet?
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Old 15-03-2013, 08:22   #5
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Re: More electronics in diesels = more problems?

So if you have a diesel with electronic controls and your power dies is there a 'get you home' mode or are you back to pure sail power?
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Old 15-03-2013, 08:39   #6
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Re: More electronics in diesels = more problems?

Firstly, I don't think common-rail technology is mandated. Better emissions are mandated, and the manufacturers found that the best way to meet them is with common-rail.

It's like saying 2-strokes were banned, which they never were. Better emissions were mandated, and 2-strokes had difficulty meeting them.

VWs recent experience with the high pressure common rail diesel that they introduced in 2009 should be a good precedent. It's not the ECU, or the injectors that have been the problem, it's the fuel pump. It seems that a combination of the marginal lubricity of US ultra-low-sulphur diesel, combined with people's propensity to put gasoline in diesel cars, has led to a lot of failures. A lot being defined as 1% initially, down to 0.1% now.

Interestingly, a lot of the reduction was down to a recall. What did they do? Stuck a sticker to the dashboard, reminding people to only put diesel in the tank.

I'm presuming sailors will be able to not put gasoline in the tank.
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Old 15-03-2013, 12:40   #7
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Re: More electronics in diesels = more problems?

I think for an average user, more electronics is good.

But it is (for me) more difficult to fix up engines with too much electronics.

So to say, problem to few, blessing to most.

b.
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Old 15-03-2013, 13:32   #8
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Re: More electronics in diesels = more problems?

As with all things electronic, when it works, it's great. When it doesn't, trying to get it fixed can be a major headache and forget having any hope of doing it yourself. You can either play swap the very expensive, though cheap to make, electronics prt till you find the offender or have very expensive test equipment that may or may not identify the offending part. Heaven help you if you have an intermittant problem. Salt and printed circuits are not a harmonious marriage. Salt is always going to win.

With mechanical injection, keep the fuel clean and they will run for a long time. When wear becomes an issue, it's not an all or nothing thing. Engine will still run, just not well, and slowly go down hill so you have time to get to where you can fix it and/or arrange the money to get it done.

Given rebuilding a slightly less efficient and less clean burning mechanical injection diesel or buying a new electronically injected diesel, rebuilding wins out for me.
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Old 15-03-2013, 14:14   #9
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Re: More electronics in diesels = more problems?

I have three common rail diesel vehicles. You need computer and software to work on them. From there it is a matter of learning how to interpret the codes. This takes a lot of thinking and I find it more difficult then working on a non electronic engine. The sensors give the engine a lot of info and when a sensor gives info to the ECU you have to go back and verify what could have caused that bad info. All of the automotive engines that I know of have a "limp home" mode that allows the engine to run but not at its max efficiency. But they all need power to run. I don't think that they will be good for a marine environment.
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Old 15-03-2013, 20:05   #10
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Re: More electronics in diesels = more problems?

Buncha curmudgeons in here.....dang sounds like 1979 when they started taking away carburetors on cars. :lol:

Hi Charlie and Gord!

Let's talk about electronic diesels on a mature adult level WITHOUT any assumptions and preconceived notions. I'll be glad to answer questions. But If you bring a Luddite attitude. I will ignore you.


Why are electronic diesels being brought to market?
Easy answer; Governmental imposed emissions regulations. Ever heard of global warming? green house emission? clean air initiatives? "were running out of oil"? All these issues have caused governments around the world to regulate engines to use less fuel AND produce less exhaust emissions.

It's a fact of the world we live in and isn't going to change. get use to it.

Volvo has been a leader in the development of Common rail engines in marine use. Granted they are in power boats. But the technology scales to any size engine. Even the Smart CDi is a 3 cylinder common rail engine.

Volvo EVC (Electronic Vessel Control) has been in the market since 2005. It controls several thousand engines. These vessels arn't littering the beaches of the world from failures. Yes a catastrophic lightening strike can take out your EVC. But it can hole your boat too. For some failures detected by the system. There are limp home modes. There are failures that can shut down the system leaving to resort to sail or TowBoat. These failures are rare.

Over the years the quality of the mechanical part of almost every engine. Has become less and less a failure point. Between CAD/CAM development and tight quality control. Manufacturers have learned to produce the same engine +/- a set tolerance. Many thousands of times over and over.

The electronic parts I've personally worked with are all designed for the marine environment. O-ring sealed connectors, epoxy sealed ECU modules. This has all been covered.

The software is proprietary. The diagnostic tool is proprietary, and yes you need training to use it. The good news is the systems I've touched with Volvo, Yanmar, Detroit, Cat, Cummins all give you some failure information to help guide the owner. This is not enough information to perform a repair. It will most often need the tool and a trained tech to perform a proper diagnosis. But the info will give the owner something to tell the tech. Other than "it's broke"

edit;
This isn't something that needs to be scary. It's different, new and intimidating to most. But the engineers designing these systems are boaters too.
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Old 15-03-2013, 20:19   #11
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Re: More electronics in diesels = more problems?

Hey never monday, good to see you back. Stick around, you have been missed.
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Old 15-03-2013, 20:22   #12
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Re: More electronics in diesels = more problems?

the wind blew me this way. :lol:
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Old 15-03-2013, 20:26   #13
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Re: More electronics in diesels = more problems?

Common rail engines on boats are going to demand clean fuel. Filtering to a finer degree than most people now do and good fuel polishing systems will help these engines survive. At the high pressures they operate at tiny specs of grit will damage the fuel system. I think that from watching all of the horror stories on here about fuel problems that there will be a lot of sailors having problems with the new engines unless they overhaul their fuel systems.
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Old 15-03-2013, 20:28   #14
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Re: More electronics in diesels = more problems?

Thanks, never monday, for the viewpoint.

The only thing I'd put against your positive experience is that yacht diesels are often used infrequently and lightly... over a hoped-for lifespan of decades, whereas a truck diesel engine has probably been run into the ground twice in 10 years (assuming a big rebuild after 5 years). So the question is... will a small marine diesel with common-rail, electrically controlled injectors and ECU stand up to the expected use pattern and lifespan without maintenance costs bankrupting the boat-owner?

Also, the new common-rail diesels work with a higher pressure to the injectors, and this requires a better pump and more precision in the injectors. An article i linked to earlier suggested that there were many field problems with injectors made with inferior materials compared to the Bosch injectors, and other pressure related wear and failures. Do you think these concerns are realistic?
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Old 15-03-2013, 20:31   #15
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Re: More electronics in diesels = more problems?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DeepFrz View Post
Common rail engines on boats are going to demand clean fuel. Filtering to a finer degree than most people now do and good fuel polishing systems will help these engines survive. At the high pressures they operate at tiny specs of grit will damage the fuel system. I think that from watching all of the horror stories on here about fuel problems that there will be a lot of sailors having problems with the new engines unless they overhaul their fuel systems.
Current recommendations are no less than 10mcn primary filtration. On engine filters are 2mcn.
Gunk is handled by the filters as usual. Water is the enemy! Common rail high pressure pump are allergic to water. Consider it an anaphalatic (sp?) allergy.
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