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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My son, who is in the Sea of Cortez on a sailboat with limited internet access, has the following problem.

I have a Honda EU2000i companion generator and have been having problems with the generator not starting traced back to no spark. I have the service manual and went through the ignition control module debug section checking the windings, oil level switch etc. All of the individual components check out okay.

When I removed the ignition control module from the control panel plate, which is grounded to the generator, I got spark again and the engine started and ran. If I touched the plastic body of the ICM to the ground plate then the engine would die or not start due to lack of spark. This has me stumped because the plastic should be noncondictive. I insulated the ICM from the ground and was able to run the motor for over an hour powering a motor for a watermaker. After running the generator for a period of time, it no longer matters whether the ICM touches the ground plate and the generator starts and runs fine with it installed. This has me a bit stumped.

Also the light indicating power output on the ICM doesnt illuminate. So I checked the power at the receptical and saw 127V between line and neutral (white and red wire) then I measured to ground and saw 63.5V from line to ground and 63.5V from neutral to ground. I was assuming that all 120V should show up on line and have zero on neutral to ground like in a house. The owners manual says that this output tests differently than a standard house receptical so I'm not sure what to look for on the output.

A few questions.

1. What would cause the spark to disappear when touching the ICM to ground and then no longer be a problem after the engine has run for some time?

2. Can I verify the output power good light in case the ICM is faulty in some way?

3. What are the expected voltage measurements between line and ground and neutral and ground? How does this outlet test differently than in a house?

4. I am assuming I need to replace the ICM, but didnt see any corrosion or anything that would cause me to say it's bad. Any other suggestions?

Thanks

generator and have been having problems with the generator not starting traced back to no spark. I have the service manual and went through the ignition control module debug section checking the windings, oil level switch etc. All of the individual components check out okay.

When I removed the ignition control module from the control panel plate, which is grounded to the generator, I got spark again and the engine started and ran. If I touched the plastic body of the ICM to the ground plate then the engine would die or not start due to lack of spark. This has me stumped because the plastic should be noncondictive. I insulated the ICM from the ground and was able to run the motor for over an hour powering a motor for a watermaker. After running the generator for a period of time, it no longer matters whether the ICM touches the ground plate and the generator starts and runs fine with it installed. This has me a bit stumped.

Also the light indicating power output on the ICM doesnt illuminate. So I checked the power at the receptical and saw 127V between line and neutral (white and red wire) then I measured to ground and saw 63.5V from line to ground and 63.5V from neutral to ground. I was assuming that all 120V should show up on line and have zero on neutral to ground like in a house. The owners manual says that this output tests differently than a standard house receptical so I'm not sure what to look for on the output.

A few questions.

1. What would cause the spark to disappear when touching the ICM to ground and then no longer be a problem after the engine has run for some time?

2. Can I verify the output power good light in case the ICM is faulty in some way?

3. What are the expected voltage measurements between line and ground and neutral and ground? How does this outlet test differently than in a house?

4. I am assuming I need to replace the ICM, but didnt see any corrosion or anything that would cause me to say it's bad. Any other suggestions?

Thanks
 

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who is in the Sea of Cortez on a sailboat
First off - awesome! That is one of my life goals - to do some real sailing and explore more of the world. Some day.

1. Sounds like some kind of component failure that is related to heating. As parts heat and cool they can change states, expand and contract, etc. Parts such as semiconductors can fail in numerous ways including internal shorting. It may be that, as odd as it appears, the removal of the ICM from direct grounding removes the shorting out condition when cold. As the unit has run and heats up the temperature change may remove the shorting out condition. Just a hypothesis.

You would need a detailed circuit board schematic and component (the SMT and thru-hole parts on the board) values/specs to diagnose the depth of component failure if you don't have much else to go off of.

However, if those boards are known to fail in a particular manner already then that would be the first place I would go. I will yield that discussion to others that may know of such detail, I am not familiar with the EU2000 enough to speak to any common issues.

2. You could check for voltage on the LED. I doubt the LED itself would be bad. As to target voltage - I would imagine it should be fairly low around .5-2 volts maybe, I don't have the spec off-hand. If any of the other LED's light up you could see what voltage they run at and assume the "power is good" LED would be very much the same. It would make sense the LED power would be designed the same across all of the LED's as that would simplify the board design.

Tracing the power of the LED's back to the board also would require a detailed component level schematic. The signal to the LED will come out of an IC. However, what powers the LED may be off of a power buss circuit that is shared between all similar voltage operations (where the control signals from the IC's that trigger said operations ON and OFF tie in - think of it as a small "switch" (from the IC) tripping a high-current relay - the power to the device doesn't go through the switch, the switch only energizes the relay - same theory with a power buss circuit on a board, only they use diodes and transistors for switching as opposed to relays).

3. The ground is not bonded in these generators. Therefore, you shouldn't have continuity between ground and neutral. On larger generators, and most rotary generators (not all - my small one, dual 120v only or 120/240v - does not - it is a floating neutral) they do bond neutral to ground.

The two important measurements are:
  • Voltage of the output
  • Frequency of the output

More over, the lack of bonded neutral in these smaller generators is a known "challenge" (I quote that, because it isn't a huge problem that is difficult to overcome) in that RV voltage protection devices (and I would imagine if there is such protection on his boat this would be very much the same) will trip with a "ground fault" having generator power supplied that is NOT neutral bonded to ground. One of the solutions for this condition is to get a plug that fits in a normal AC outlet that essentially connects the ground pin and the neutral pin.

If the above was an issue for your son's boat he would have long since fixed it.

With the above theory - if that issue were overcome already then the answer to your son's question of what the voltage between neutral and ground should be is 0 - they should have direct continuity. However, that bonding is done external to the generator - you won't have that continuity at the output of the generator itself. Therefore, again, if checking the direct output of the generator the voltage and frequency mentioned are your 2 important numbers.

4. The replacement of the ICM definitely makes sense with the depth of troubleshooting done thus far. That is the common method of repairing electronics in todays day in age. If something fails - replace it. It is not cost effective for companies to troubleshoot and do surface mount board repairs. The labor time, and cost of, would counteract the cost of a board replacement. And since boards are built in automated processes they are a lot easier to churn out in production than manual soldering. Yeah, boards can be expensive - and that may make him question if its worth it to do the board repair vs. purchase a new generator.

Additional thoughts;

The question of what caused the failure is a valid question here. We don't know. The risk in not knowing is if the board failed already, is there a condition that is in place that would cause a replacement board to fail also? I think before popping in a new board that is a logical question to ask, however realize that might be an impossible question to answer.

What may give some insight to that is the history of the generator. Are there any issues that it has had in the past that have been worked on and fixed? Does it have all the original boards and parts? Or has anything been replaced over time? Has the power output been good for years up to now? Is there anything else that can be noted from your son on its' operation? Is it protected from the weather? Or does it ride top deck in the weather exposed?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
thanks for the quick response. i have sent the post on to Dave (my son) and am awaiting his reply. Dave is a EE by training so he is pretty kinowledgeable of electronics. However on a boat you have to work with what is on hand and this often limits things.
 

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My son, who is in the Sea of Cortez on a sailboat with limited internet access, has the following problem.

I have a Honda EU2000i companion generator and have been having problems with the generator not starting traced back to no spark. I have the service manual and went through the ignition control module debug section checking the windings, oil level switch etc. All of the individual components check out okay.

When I removed the ignition control module from the control panel plate, which is grounded to the generator, I got spark again and the engine started and ran. If I touched the plastic body of the ICM to the ground plate then the engine would die or not start due to lack of spark. This has me stumped because the plastic should be noncondictive. I insulated the ICM from the ground and was able to run the motor for over an hour powering a motor for a watermaker. After running the generator for a period of time, it no longer matters whether the ICM touches the ground plate and the generator starts and runs fine with it installed. This has me a bit stumped.

Also the light indicating power output on the ICM doesnt illuminate. So I checked the power at the receptical and saw 127V between line and neutral (white and red wire) then I measured to ground and saw 63.5V from line to ground and 63.5V from neutral to ground. I was assuming that all 120V should show up on line and have zero on neutral to ground like in a house. The owners manual says that this output tests differently than a standard house receptical so I'm not sure what to look for on the output.

A few questions.

1. What would cause the spark to disappear when touching the ICM to ground and then no longer be a problem after the engine has run for some time?

2. Can I verify the output power good light in case the ICM is faulty in some way?

3. What are the expected voltage measurements between line and ground and neutral and ground? How does this outlet test differently than in a house?

4. I am assuming I need to replace the ICM, but didnt see any corrosion or anything that would cause me to say it's bad. Any other suggestions?

Thanks

generator and have been having problems with the generator not starting traced back to no spark. I have the service manual and went through the ignition control module debug section checking the windings, oil level switch etc. All of the individual components check out okay.

When I removed the ignition control module from the control panel plate, which is grounded to the generator, I got spark again and the engine started and ran. If I touched the plastic body of the ICM to the ground plate then the engine would die or not start due to lack of spark. This has me stumped because the plastic should be noncondictive. I insulated the ICM from the ground and was able to run the motor for over an hour powering a motor for a watermaker. After running the generator for a period of time, it no longer matters whether the ICM touches the ground plate and the generator starts and runs fine with it installed. This has me a bit stumped.

Also the light indicating power output on the ICM doesnt illuminate. So I checked the power at the receptical and saw 127V between line and neutral (white and red wire) then I measured to ground and saw 63.5V from line to ground and 63.5V from neutral to ground. I was assuming that all 120V should show up on line and have zero on neutral to ground like in a house. The owners manual says that this output tests differently than a standard house receptical so I'm not sure what to look for on the output.

A few questions.

1. What would cause the spark to disappear when touching the ICM to ground and then no longer be a problem after the engine has run for some time?

2. Can I verify the output power good light in case the ICM is faulty in some way?

3. What are the expected voltage measurements between line and ground and neutral and ground? How does this outlet test differently than in a house?

4. I am assuming I need to replace the ICM, but didnt see any corrosion or anything that would cause me to say it's bad. Any other suggestions?

Thanks
make sure to use dielectric grease on all of those connections on any wiring in salt water area...
big job making the gen set salt water resistant...
the water spray and mist in the air will leave salt on the devices and will conduct power.
the good silicone dielectric grease will help fight that.
pm if you need links for good dielectric grease!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the response. I have owned the genset for about 2.5 years and it has been on the boat since then working well. It is stored in the cockpit on the bench by the wheel so it lives outside outside since I dont want to risk gas fumes in enclosed spaces.

When the engine starts it runs fine and powers the watermaker well. Output voltage is 127V between line and neutral. Frequency is 60hz measured at the terminals between line and neutral, neutral and ground, and line and ground.
This has only happened to me one other time about an year ago, but the engine started eventually and it wasn't a problem.

I confirmed neutral and ground are not connected on the generator. I have plugged it into my boat before and not had any issue. Neutral and ground typically aren't connected on a boat since if polarity is reversed this can electrify the water surrounding the boat through the prop and lead to shocking swimmers in the water. I havent had issues plugging the genset into the boat and it has powered our battery charger without issue.

As far as repairs that have been made to the generator, the only thing I have had to do was change the oil. I did purchase the generator off craigslist, so I cannot confirm prior maintenance.

I'm also not sure whether the output LED has ever lit up when I've used the generator, but have had no problems running equipment off the genset.

Based on the feedback it seems that replacing the ICM is the right next course of action. I was able to start the generator normally today without removing the ICM from the grounding plate, so this is probably going to be an intermittent problem until I can get a replacement part.

I'm planning on doing an A B swap out of the module when I can get a replacement part to confirm that is the issue.
 

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It is stored in the cockpit on the bench by the wheel so it lives outside outside
That is most likely the root of the problem. As Paul noted:

the water spray and mist in the air will leave salt on the devices and will conduct power.
Those generators, even though they are "engine powered equipment" like what you might consider a lawn mower - they aren't meant to live exposed to the elements. Nor is a lawn mower. You could argue the same for vehicles, but that is taking things a bit extreme. However - have you noticed the difference between vehicles that spend their lives in the warm climate state vs those in the "salt belt" up north - IE the states that use salt on the roads in the winter time?

The ocean is salt water. That is no environment, whether on the ocean or on a coast or island on land next to the ocean, for a computerized generator. Even a rotary generator is a concern (and those should not be exposed to the elements, either).

Edit - I should add there are ways to cover/protect the generator, especially when not in use. However, that won't entirely solve the issue of the corrosive environment as the salt spray can still get in to things being in the air. Covering the unit to keep it dry and protected as much as possible would give you a leg up on getting it to last as long as possible.

It is common for generators powering homes (whether installed or portable) to be put in enclosures for this very reason. Out-buildings are common. Vented, of course. On a boat where space is hard to come by that is going to be a harder challenge to overcome. If the generator can be set up in good weather and only run when necessary then storing it in some kind of weatherproof box that would be ideal. Then take it out to use. However, if the unit is needing to operate in bad weather/rough seas then you should have some kind of enclosure that allows running the generator where it can't get wet.
 
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