Yacht Devices J1708 Engine Gateway brings data from older engines to NMEA 2000

When I bought Have Another Day I really wanted the data from my early electronically controlled diesel engines available on my MFDs. I’ve had access to this data previously and knew the value of the data for fuel management and engine monitoring. My path to getting that data wasn’t easy but I think I helped blaze a trail to easy engine data on your NMEA 2000 network.

Have Another Day came equipped with Volvo-Penta electronic displays

The monochrome 4″ electronic engine displays that came on board Have Another Day only display a few pieces of data at a time and don’t age well. As they get older the displays tend to become heat sensitive — turning off in direct sunlight isn’t an attractive habit for engine displays — and the displays develop dark spots making them very hard to read. My displays exhibited both problems and after spending several boat units repairing them I decided to redouble my efforts to find a workable NMEA 2000 option.

Failed attempts

When I bought Have Another Day one of my first projects was to connect her 2002 era Volvo-Penta D12 EDC engines to a NMEA 2000 network. Research at that time suggested the engines likely communicated using J1939. My first try was a Maretron J2K100, an excellent J1939 converter, but I couldn’t get any data out of it. Eventually I ordered a Yacht Devices YDEG-04 (also a J1939 to NMEA 2000 converter) because I read of success with older Volvo-Penta engines. Lots of back and forth with Yacht Devices resulted in finding an RPM only J1939 stream used for RPM sync. Unfortunately, that turned out to be the only usable data on that stream.

A Solution

Over the course of several months I worked with Yacht Devices’ principal, Aleksandr Gorlach, and an oscilloscope to capture the data on the CAN bus network between the engines and the display. From these captures Aleksandr figured out the engines and displays were using J1708, an older serial protocol used by industrial engines. As a result, Yacht Devices developed the YDES J1708 to NMEA 2000 engine gateway.

The YDES-04 — available both with NMEA 2000 DeviceNet connectors and Raymarine SeatalkNG connectors — is capable of decoding J1708 (the physical protocol) carrying J1587 (the logical data protocol) and Volvo-Penta’s KAD protocol (used on KAD and TAMD series engines). The list of supported data varies by protocol with a fuller set of data supported via J1587.

The table above shows not only the data available via each protocol but also what data can be substituted into the data stream from another sensor. Substitute data can come from other Yacht Devices sensors to augment data the original engine control unit (ECU) didn’t provide. The KAD series engines didn’t run the oil pressure sensor into the ECU so the YDES doesn’t have access to that information. But, you can use a Yacht Devices tank adapter (which can convert any resistance type sender’s data to NMEA 2000) to read values from the pressure sensor and insert those readings into the engine data stream.



Installation

The diagnostic connector inside the relay box on my port Volvo-Penta D12C-A 675

Installation varies from engine to engine. On most of the Volvo-Penta EDC I and II engines it’s quite simple. The white, nylon, two-pin connector that comes on the YDES is the mate to the diagnostic connector on the engine. In Volvo-Penta TAMD-73,74 and 75 engines as well as D12s that connector is located in a black metal box on top of the engine. Physical installation is as simple as connecting to the two-pin diagnostic connector in the box and connecting the other end of the YDES to your NMEA 2000 (or SeatalkNG) network.

Once the device is physically connected it may need some configuring. Like many of Yacht Devices’ products, configuration is performed with a text file copied onto a MicroSD card and then inserted into the card reader on the top of the device. The sample configuration above sets the engine ID to 1 (port is 0 and starboard is 1), tells the gateway to use the KAD protocol (if this is set to auto, the gateway will typically self discover between J1587 and KAD without trouble), sets an hours offset of 1250 (for cases where an ECU has been replaced), sets the fuel to diesel, tells the gateway to use the builtin requests for engine data (rather than user defined requests for unusual engine configurations), and finally tells the gateway to substitute oil pressure data from the sensor with an instance ID of 5. Once the configuration is read, it’s written to the device and the MicroSD card can be removed.

Using the data

The web gauges from my YDWG WiFi Gateway displaying engine data sent from the YDES Engine Gateways

Once engine data is on NMEA 2000 the data can be displayed on any NMEA 2000 compatible display. Above is a screenshot of the web gauges built into all of Yacht Devices WiFi gateways displaying data from my engines. These gauges and a cheap tablet can make an effective second set of gauges anywhere on the boat.

If you’re reconfiguring your helm, displaying engine data on an MFD or small gauge display can recover precious dash space from your analog gauges. A side note on that, if you’re going to remove analog gauges and have the opportunity I’m a big fan of keeping them mounted somewhere on the boat, perhaps in the engine room above the engines.

Other Engines

I’ve concentrated on Volvo-Penta engines with the YDES but it is also suitable for several other engine manufacturers who used J1708. Caterpillar and Cummins used J1708 for several years on a number of their engines.

But, starting in about 2004, J1939 replaced J1708 as the protocol of choice. There are now many engines including Caterpillar, Cummins, Volvo-Penta, Yanmar, gasoline engines with MEFI-4B (and later) ECUs, and many others that utilize J1939. Yacht Devices offers the YDEG-04 J1939 gateway, Maretron offers the J2K100 and now quite a few MFD manufacturers are beginning to build J1939 converters right into their high-end MFDs.

For owners of older engines without an ECU there are several options. Actisense offers the EMU-1 and Noland Engineering has the RS11. Both are analog to NMEA 2000 gateways. Ben Ellison has an EMU-1 running on Gizmo and has been quite pleased with the results. Both these options will require more installation, configuration and calibration work than the protocol converter gateways that are largely plug and play.

Lastly, for owners of gasoline boats with MEFI-1, 2, 3, or 4 ECUs, Fox Marine has a series of gateways for converting from these ECUs to NMEA 2000.



Regardless of which converter is employed, I believe the returns from engine data on NMEA 2000 are clear. Many early electronically controlled engines weren’t outfitted with electronic displays. Without these displays operators don’t have a way to monitor fuel flow — without use of separate flow meters. Access to fuel flow data can massively improve efficiency. I keep tabs on my fuel flow and speed when running. I frequently find that reducing my RPMs just a little bit may result in a drop of multiple gallons-per-hour of fuel consumption but only cost me one or two tenths of a knot.

I’ve helped lots of folks install engine gateways so if you have any questions, please fire away in the comments.

Note: This entry focuses on Yacht Devices‘ products. In addition to being the publisher of Panbo, I own the U.S. distributor of Yacht Devices. It was actually the process of getting my engines monitored that caused me to start working with Yacht Devices. We have high standards for impartiality at Panbo and I’ve taken great pains to ensure the editorial side of Panbo is always kept separate from advertising or any other businesses I’m involved in. Our about page describes our commitment to keeping the two separate and I welcome a conversation about any concerns or desire for clarification.

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Ben Stein

Ben Stein

Publisher of Panbo.com, passionate marine electronics enthusiast, completed the Great Loop in 2017.

11 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Good article. Also this product for Yanmar http://mbwtech.com/node/127. I’ve not used it yet but for this investigating it looks like a good plug and play solution.

  2. Patrick says:

    Very interesting. Do you know if this device would work on a 2002 Luggar L6108A2?

    • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

      Patrick,

      I believe the L6108A2 is an entirely mechanical engine. The protocol converters (YDES, YDEG, J2K100, etc) are all designed to interface with an ECU which isn’t present on the L6108A2. So, I think your only option would be the EMU-1 or RS11.

  3. William L. Bowen says:

    Great and timely article. Maybe you can help me with my own setup. I a have a 2006 Volvo Penta D6-260I-B with a Volvo Penta NMEA 2000 Gateway No. 3840289, Serial No. 06260017 (original equipment with the boat) and a Garmin 5212 MFD. The Garmin reads fuel flow inaccurately at about twice the actual usage. I can find no configuration in the Garmin setup. Garmin has not been able to help. The only thing I can think of is that this early version of gateway is not up to date with the NMEA 2000 protocols. Can you help?

    • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

      William,

      I don’t have a ton of experience with the VP Easy Connect gateways. Volvo seems to show limited interest in the product and doesn’t do much to support them. I don’t think there’s a way to capture raw data coming out of the engine with the Volvo product. That’s my normal first step in troubleshooting as the Yacht Devices products allow a capture of the raw J1939 or J1708 stream that can then be analyzed and corrections made.

  4. Rick says:

    HI… I have all B&G on my Lagoon… so the network is SimNet. I have ordered the YachtD devices for my Yanmar engines, as well as the YDWG-02 to get NMEA data to my laptop… I have located three 7 port SimNet joiners onboard. Two at the salon Nav station and one in the starboard engine bay. But only have three empty ports, two in the engine bay, and one at the Nav station. That should be enough for what I have ordered, but am also interested in the Voyage Recorder. How would I connect the Voyage Recorder. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t have multiple devices off a SimNet port. I had thought I could just connect two NMEA 2000 T connectors to a Navico converter cable that was plugged into the SimNet port. But am told by Navico support that doing that could cause issues. Thoughts?

    • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

      Rick,

      Unfortunately I don’t know SimNet too well but here’s what I do know… SimNet (like Raymarine SeatalkNG) appears to be just a differently physical connector overlayed on top of the NMEA 2000 spec. The NMEA 2000 spec is quite clear about that drops are limited to 6 meters, but what’s less understood is that along that drop there can be many devices connected (Ben E. has a great post that shows all sorts of interesting things you can do and remain in spec here https://www.panbo.com/actisense-nmea-2000-cables-connectors-plus-network-design-tips/).

      With that in mind, and knowing that SimNet is just a different connector I sure don’t see a problem with multiple devices off Ts on a converter cable. But, I’d also be curious to know what Simrad recommends if they don’t want multiple Ts off a converter.

      Ben S.

      • Rick says:

        Hi,

        Thanks for the reply. I have found all five 7 port Simnet joiners on board and have enough empty ports to add my new YachtD devices with adaptor cables. Now the hunt for the cables, as I only see 0.5m, 1m,and 4m cables online…, I’ve also been told to keep the cables to 6m or less, but I know the anemometer is connected with a 20m cable, and the joiner to joiner cables are up to 10m… and there is a total cable length for all cables…

        Regards. Rick

  5. Xavier says:

    Back in 2013, I had a Maretron EMS 100 installed so we could monitor our Yanmar 4JH3-HTE built in 2001. To this day, things such as RPM, oil pressure, etc., display beautifully on our B&G Zeus 12 and B&G Zeus2 chartplotters.

    If your engine is not N2K compatible, you need a box (such as my Maretron or the Yacht Devices J1708) that can put out the engine’s data on the N2K bus. Once the data is there, many, if not all modern chart plotters should be able to display the information.

  6. Mike Field says:

    Great article Ben,

    We recently supplied some of these to be fitted to a pair of TAMD75
    They worked perfectly, we only added the “ENGINE_ID=1” to one unit before installation. 🙂
    All data including fuel rate displayed.

    Having installed quite a few of the YDEG versions for D4 / D6 / D12 without a hitch I must say how impressed we are with them.

    The support from yachtd is also first class.

    Regards

    Mike Field

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