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Generators count as Marine Electronics, right?  

 

Chris Dunphy
(@technomadia)
New Member
Joined:1 month  ago
Posts: 2
27/04/2018 2:30 pm  

Our Bayliner 4788 has a big old and unreliable vintage 1999 12.5KW Westerbeke generator (with only 1,600 hours on it!), and it has become increasingly prone to brownouts and stalls.

The mechanic we have working on fixing it has discovered a lot of minor problems - but no smoking gun yet.

One impeller blade torn, but the overall impeller intact. A gunked up heat exchanger, but not fully clogged. Hoses old and separating, with internal bubbles on the walls - but no hose fully failed. A partially deteriorated exhaust elbow, but still seemingly functional. Etc.

As I put it - a lot of guns, no smoke.

The mechanic doesn’t think any of the things he has found yet is likely the root of our problems, but he thinks perhaps cumulatively they might all add up to be.

He says he could put the generator back together - but he isn’t certain that we wouldn’t end up with the same problems lurking. And since the old hoses split in the process of removing the heat exchanger, putting the generator back together to even get back where we started will be expensive in time / parts.

And overall - he really just hates Westerbeke.

He is pushing us to instead invest in a new generator.

Our current generator is 12.5KW, but it is way oversized for our usage. I think 5KW - 7KW would be better. Our prime concern is something that is reliable, easy to maintain, and quiet.

And something that we can get our hands on in the next few weeks so that we aren’t stuck in Fort Pierce all summer.

Do any of you have any tips on generator options?

I’ve heard universally good things about Northern Lights, and the mechanic here is strongly recommending Phasor.

We weren’t planning to tackle a generator replacement this month, but that looks like it might need to be our next marine electronics project. Yay!

This is a good opportunity to switch to something smaller, more fuel efficient, quieter, and better sized to share loads with our upcoming Victron Quattro install though, so that is a plus.

We might still decide to keep working on the old generator, but when it comes down to it - the time spent we'll never get back. At some point it just makes sense to move on to something better.

So what might that be?

What is the coolest, geekiest, most advanced generator option out there now?

Cheers,

  - Chris


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Ben Stein
(@ben-stein)
Member Admin
Joined:3 months  ago
Posts: 26
27/04/2018 4:43 pm  

Chris,

It might not be the answer you're looking for, and it's certainly not as much fun as something new, but I'm not sure I'd throw in the towel on your current generator just yet.  Everything you've described as wrong with the generator right now sounds pretty minor but likely to impact the operational health of the generator.  I'd really want to get the existing generator back together and figure out if there are bigger problems before giving up on it altogether.  The cost difference between sorting out the issues you've described and installing a new generator is going to be awfully large.   

There's nothing wrong with Westerbeke generators.  And in this case I'd actually be more interested in know who makes the engine in the generator.  At seperate times I've had mechanics tell me that Kohler, Onan, Westerbeke, Phasor and Fisher Panda are each junk and should be avoided.  If I have a mechanic tell me the brandX is junk and I've hired him to work on brandX I'll frequently start looking for a different mechanic rather than a different product.  It's the generator you've got, I'd rather see you find someone enthusiastic about Westerbeke's product who will pour that enthusiasm into getting your generator tip-top.  

If you do end up replacing the generator you may notice the one brand I didn't list as having been told to avoid is Northern Lights.  They do seem to make a near universally respected generator and do a good job standing behind their product.  Personally, I'm very sensitive to the noise and vibration of a generator so I'd do my homework on what offers the quietest smoothest operation and then research the best vibration isolating mounts available.  

Good luck with whatever you decide

Ben

Contributing Editor, Panbo.com


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Chris Dunphy
(@technomadia)
New Member
Joined:1 month  ago
Posts: 2
28/04/2018 10:16 am  
Posted by: Ben Stein

It might not be the answer you're looking for, and it's certainly not as much fun as something new, but I'm not sure I'd throw in the towel on your current generator just yet. 

We haven't given up on the old generator just yet, but we are weighing our options.

The assessment we got from the mechanic was that it would take him $750+ in parts (plus a lot of time) just to get the generator put back together to where it had been when he started, and though he would be fixing a lot along the way he doesn't think we have found the core problem yet and we'd just need to start troubleshooting the electrical side of the generator from scratch once it was running again.

The generator has 1,600 hours on it, and was factory installed in 1999. The lack of hours is actually a concern - it had not been used much in the past decade or so.

​The symptoms were frequent brownouts where the generator would stutter, spin down, and then usually recover on its own within 5-10 seconds - but would sometimes stall entirely. If I hit the pre-heat / override switch​ the generator would recover instantly, and keep running while the switch was held in. Sometimes when I let go of the switch it would stutter / stall again immediately - other times it would run normal again for five to ten minutes.

Occasionally it would run for an hour or two straight.

Temperature and oil pressure gauges read nominal, the voltage gauge bounces a bit as the stutter starts to happen.

The issues do not seem to be tied to load on the generator - it happens the same with all three AC units running, or with no load at all.

As I said - the temperature gauge usually never budges (during the brownouts), but sometimes it starts to creep up if the generator manages to run for a while - and at least once an automatic shutdown was the heat cutoff kicking in because when I tried to restart it the gauge was showing hot. But usually when there was a complete stall to the point of shutdown, the engine gauge was still reading normal.

When the generator stalls enough to stop, sometimes the solenoid sticks and the generator will not restart unless I push it back into place.

But other than those times - the generator starts easy, and sounds "fine"...

The generator has a very simple control circuit with no brain - all it has are the exhaust temp, coolant temp, and oil pressure cutoffs switches.

The symptoms are such that it doesn't seem as if there is one single problem, and very likely there are multiple issues at work.

Trying to hunt them all down might turn into a game of whack-a-mole -- and the mechanic says he has fought with Westerbeke's in the past that just never could be made to run well.

So...  Do we keep throwing money and time at the old one, or move swiftly to something better.

Money is painful but replaceable, time on the other hand once spent can never be gotten back.

If you do end up replacing the generator you may notice the one brand I didn't list as having been told to avoid is Northern Lights.  They do seem to make a near universally respected generator and do a good job standing behind their product.  Personally, I'm very sensitive to the noise and vibration of a generator so I'd do my homework on what offers the quietest smoothest operation and then research the best vibration isolating mounts available.  

Yeah - it is amazing how good the reputation around Northern Lights is.

And we too are extremely noise sensitive. Right now our current Westerbeke is quiet enough not to hear in the staterooms, but it makes time in the salon a bit unpleasant. I'd love something even quieter.

Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Cheers,

  - Chris

 


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Ben Stein
(@ben-stein)
Member Admin
Joined:3 months  ago
Posts: 26
15/05/2018 10:40 am  

Hey Chris,

What did you end up deciding to do with your problem-child?  I'd love to know how the story ends!

Ben

Contributing Editor, Panbo.com


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Neil Langford
(@crystalbluesdigital)
New Member
Joined:21 hours  ago
Posts: 1
27/05/2018 7:48 am  

We sold our very unreliable Onan genset and replaced it with the Incredibly reliable Northern Lights 6kw unit. That was five years ago.  It is the most reliable piece of machinery I’ve ever owned. Smooth and quiet, it’s now done 2900 hours and we’ve only had to replace one exhaust elbow.  Plus I gifted it new injectors at 2500 hours. Buy one.


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