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Old 10-11-2020, 16:56   #1
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Volvo Penta P2 would not start - battery good, display only brief flash

Hi All,

I was wondering whether anybody could help me. I have looked at the Volvo documents but cannot find this problem described there:

A fairly new Volvo Penta P2, 75 horse powers....

I have the gear in neutral as normal and then press the ON switch. The expectation is to see light coming up and the Volvo welcome message.

But this does not happen... I see no light, and the welcome message appears only briefly. I do hear a soft click like from a relay. Then nothing further happens.

When I press the ON switch again, I would not get even the welcome message...

The battery is fully charged at 13.6V.

I need to switch off the main switch to get back to the stage where upon hitting ON again, I would briefly see the Volvo welcome screen - once.

I noticed that my Mastervolt alternator is still getting field current - and was getting hot - so it almost looks like something of the start-up phase is happening, but not relayed back to the display...

I do have Easy Connect, and the green light is flashing regularly, which according to manual means the device has power and communications with both NMEA and the EVC/engine.

Any advice is highly appreciated.

Cheers

Mathias
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Old 10-11-2020, 21:57   #2
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Re: Volvo Penta P2 would not start - battery good, display only brief flash

Other than 'electronic demons' (originating in the ECU, or whatever Volvo calls it) sounds a lot like a faulty or intermittent ground.

Check the obvious connections first; I like to start at the battery, but it really is a toss-up.

Older VP's were/are notorious for having problems with their harness connectors; long cable runs may hide them. The connectors at the engine and the instrument panel can also cause problems, especially if they're inadequately supported.
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Old 11-11-2020, 13:08   #3
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Re: Volvo Penta P2 would not start - battery good, display only brief flash

Connections in a starting circuit can show full voltage when in fact the circuit will not conduct the amperage necessary to run a starter motor. When the starter circuit is completed, voltage drops like a rock and your screen goes blank. A likely cause is going to be corrosion on one or more of the high amperage connections. I recommend that you get out your fine sandpaper and make shiny every lug and washer, starting at one end (starter, battery) and moving to the other. Also check for loose connections, which can do the same thing.
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Old 11-11-2020, 13:16   #4
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Re: Volvo Penta P2 would not start - battery good, display only brief flash

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Originally Posted by tkeithlu View Post
Connections in a starting circuit can show full voltage when in fact the circuit will not conduct the amperage necessary to run a starter motor. When the starter circuit is completed, voltage drops like a rock and your screen goes blank. A likely cause is going to be corrosion on one or more of the high amperage connections. I recommend that you get out your fine sandpaper and make shiny every lug and washer, starting at one end (starter, battery) and moving to the other. Also check for loose connections, which can do the same thing.
I find that putting a thin smear of dialectric grease on the terminals and any nuts/washers when reassembling helps them remain corrosion free longer.

OP mentions hearing a click when initially turning on, which reoccurs when power has been shut off then restored. Is there a resetting breaker or some sort of mechanical ground fault device in the circuit?

Or is that click the starter solenoid engaging but there not being enough juice to turn the starter itself?
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Old 11-11-2020, 13:43   #5
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Re: Volvo Penta P2 would not start - battery good, display only brief flash

I thought it to be the starter solenoid click, but I should think that there are other possibilities. The scenario presented just looks so much like corroded or loose connections, and in a boat they are so likely, that suggesting that MathiasW do that first seemded obvious.

Good point on the grease, but boy is that stuff a) expensive and b) able to stain anything it touches. I've go a tube, and it should have an instruction "Use VERY sparingly."
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Old 11-11-2020, 14:15   #6
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Re: Volvo Penta P2 would not start - battery good, display only brief flash

You can do a quick check by trying to start the engine by jumping at the MDI box. There are three large wires connected to studs on the bottom side of the MDI; the center (red) cable is +12V to the system (including to the control box/tach) the studs to either side are the glow plugs and the starter solenoid (they should be labeled, I can't recall which is which). If you jump from the center stud to the starter stud that should pull in the solenoid and try to start the engine.

If the engine turns over then the problem is in the wiring harness between the MDI and the control panel (or in the MDI itself). If you still don't get the engine to turn over then the problem is in the main wiring (positive or negative) between the battery and the engine.


In this picture I think (IIRC) the orange wire is glow plugs, the yellow/red is start, but please check the labels, I am not certain of that, could be the opposite (you can check the wire that goes to the loom on the glow plugs on top of the engine, it is right on top and the wire is exposed so should be able to tell if it is orange or yellow/red).

In an emergency you don't need the control box at all (although you will lose things like the low oil pressure alarm), you can start the engine by jumping the glow plugs for 10-15 seconds and then the starter lug on the bottom of the MDI. A few of us have backup switches in place to make that possible without having to stick a screwdriver in there.
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Old 11-11-2020, 14:28   #7
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Re: Volvo Penta P2 would not start - battery good, display only brief flash

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Originally Posted by tkeithlu View Post
Good point on the grease, but boy is that stuff a) expensive and b) able to stain anything it touches. I've go a tube, and it should have an instruction "Use VERY sparingly."
lol Yes, agreed.

Its available from auto parts stores in little sachets though and sold as "bulb grease". I think I paid $3 last time.
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Old 12-11-2020, 10:23   #8
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Re: Volvo Penta P2 would not start - battery good, display only brief flash

All, thanks for all this very useful feedback!

I followed the advice given in the first response and tried to get access to as many as possible connectors on the system, including those behind the panel in the helm station, and checked for corrosion or faulty contacts, shock and rocked each connector in the process. Although I could not find anything obvious, when I tried to start again, it worked!

A Gremlin of some sort.

So, preference would have been to know and understand what the problem was and what made it go away, but ok, you can't have it all, can you.

The bridging switch at the MDI looks like an interesting approach to me. I need a switch capable of switching some 30A, I guess.

Thanks again to all. Mathias
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Old 12-11-2020, 10:36   #9
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Re: Volvo Penta P2 would not start - battery good, display only brief flash

Congrats!!! Good job, happy sailor
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Old 12-11-2020, 10:42   #10
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Re: Volvo Penta P2 would not start - battery good, display only brief flash

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Originally Posted by MathiasW View Post
...The bridging switch at the MDI looks like an interesting approach to me. I need a switch capable of switching some 30A, I guess...
Yes. We moved the MDI off the engine and when we did built a little bracket that holds the MDI and two momentary pushbuttons that are (IIRC) 40A. They're in the engine room so not the easiest start, but it works (and has been used twice in anger when an MDI failed). For a fancier solution you can put in relays and move your switches to wherever you like.

These are not the exact item, but something like this:



https://www.grainger.com/product/6TX...P7A1P:20501231
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Old 12-11-2020, 10:50   #11
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Re: Volvo Penta P2 would not start - battery good, display only brief flash

Thanks for this additional info!

I will definitely look into this! I have gone to quite some lengths to increase reliably of the engine by adding a day tank, double filter paths, etc. etc, but on the electric side I have not done much yet...

Cheers

Mathias
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Old 12-11-2020, 11:43   #12
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Re: Volvo Penta P2 would not start - battery good, display only brief flash

Not gremlins. It was a loose or corroded connection, and you do know what caused it, at least to it's being one or the other. Since you did not see corrosion, that suggests a loose contact, but you know what to do the next time you get volts but not current. You have not just solved this problem, you've solved several in the future.

I learned about this problem in 1980. My car would not start, but the headlights were bright. A mechanic told me to check. I've been using that understanding ever since.
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Old 12-11-2020, 12:12   #13
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Re: Volvo Penta P2 would not start - battery good, display only brief flash

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Originally Posted by tkeithlu View Post
Not gremlins. It was a loose or corroded connection, and you do know what caused it, at least to it's being one or the other. Since you did not see corrosion, that suggests a loose contact, but you know what to do the next time you get volts but not current. You have not just solved this problem, you've solved several in the future.

I learned about this problem in 1980. My car would not start, but the headlights were bright. A mechanic told me to check. I've been using that understanding ever since.
The thing that I have found out with those problems that just "go away" during diagnostics and you're not sure why, is that they come back again. Usually at the worst possible time
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Old 12-11-2020, 12:17   #14
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Re: Volvo Penta P2 would not start - battery good, display only brief flash

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The thing that I have found out with those problems that just "go away" during diagnostics and you're not sure why, is that they come back again. Usually at the worst possible time
That is precisely my worry as well..

Like just now... I could switch off the engine with the STOP button, but the ON/OFF button had no effect...

Not very reassuring....

I guess I will check all connectors double...
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