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Henry Botham

Vetus Engine alternator

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We are very new to all this, day 2 of living on our 58ft narrowboat. Our Vetus M4.15 engine fired up like normal tonight however in its 'on' position the buzzer sounded with the battery warning light coming on. To turn off the buzzer we turn the key to the 'off' position and the engine continues to run. However this is obviously not charging our batteries so we have quickly turned it off. Now we are slowly depleting the batteries with no way of charging.. my guess is there is a fault with the alternator but I'm not sure. I thought perhaps we could try and rev the engine with the buzzer going to help the alternator out however that didn't help. So now all out of ideas. If anyone has any suggestions then please help!! Henry

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28 minutes ago, Henry Botham said:

We are very new to all this, day 2 of living on our 58ft narrowboat. Our Vetus M4.15 engine fired up like normal tonight however in its 'on' position the buzzer sounded with the battery warning light coming on. To turn off the buzzer we turn the key to the 'off' position and the engine continues to run. However this is obviously not charging our batteries so we have quickly turned it off. Now we are slowly depleting the batteries with no way of charging.. my guess is there is a fault with the alternator but I'm not sure. I thought perhaps we could try and rev the engine with the buzzer going to help the alternator out however that didn't help. So now all out of ideas. If anyone has any suggestions then please help!! Henry

Is there not a separate push button to stop the engine, if so this must be pressed to stop the engine before turning the key off.  If this is your set up then turning the key off while the engine is running can damage the alternator. Did the charge warning light go out when you revved the engine?  Have you two alternators, one for the engine and one for the cabin batteries? You need to check charging outputs at the batteries with a volt meter, Is there a built in voltmeter gauge  ? if so what does it read when the engine is running.

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Do you have a multimeter with a 'clamp', able to read amps? Or is there perhaps a friendly boater nearby who has one? If so, simply clamp it around the positive from the power lead running from the alternator to the batteries. Start the engine, it should give you a reading. If not, either the alternator is goosed or there's a connection problem somewhere. If you don't have a meter it's certainly worth checking the electrical connections then trying running the engine again.

 

If the alternator is goosed Vetus branded parts are horrendously expensive. Don't panic at this stage though, it might only cost 60 quid or so to get it repaired, if you can take it off and get it to an alternator repairer. If it can't be fixed it's likely that a suitable alternator can be sourced without the Vetus brand, and their gold plated prices.    

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8 hours ago, bizzard said:

Is there not a separate push button to stop the engine, if so this must be pressed to stop the engine before turning the key off.  If this is your set up then turning the key off while the engine is running can damage the alternator. Did the charge warning light go out when you revved the engine?  Have you two alternators, one for the engine and one for the cabin batteries? You need to check charging outputs at the batteries with a volt meter, Is there a built in voltmeter gauge  ? if so what does it read when the engine is running.

No, turning the key off with the engine running does not damage the alternator.

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9 hours ago, Henry Botham said:

We are very new to all this, day 2 of living on our 58ft narrowboat. Our Vetus M4.15 engine fired up like normal tonight however in its 'on' position the buzzer sounded with the battery warning light coming on. To turn off the buzzer we turn the key to the 'off' position and the engine continues to run. However this is obviously not charging our batteries so we have quickly turned it off. Now we are slowly depleting the batteries with no way of charging.. my guess is there is a fault with the alternator but I'm not sure. I thought perhaps we could try and rev the engine with the buzzer going to help the alternator out however that didn't help. So now all out of ideas. If anyone has any suggestions then please help!! Henry

It does rather sound as though the alternator has failed. This presumes the alternator drive belt is still there, and not excessively loose?

 

The problem with electrics is that without adequate test equipment you don’t know what is going on. I would get a multimeter and check the voltage between the alternator case and the fat (charging) wire connected to the alternator with the engine running at fast idle. Obviously, take care with moving parts.

 

These modern engines usually have a multi-way connector block where all the wiring up to the panel connects to the wiring on the engine. These are a known source of problems - coming loose, getting damp and corroded contacts etc. It would be worth locating this connector, disconnecting it and checking for corroded contacts etc.

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1 hour ago, nicknorman said:

No, turning the key off with the engine running does not damage the alternator.

I dare you to try it Nick :) We'd want a movie of you doing it though, main cable only mind, not the field wire.  Anyway I think its disconnecting or connecting the main alternator cable while the engine is running that can do the damage, with the field charge light wire still connected.

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2 minutes ago, bizzard said:

I dare you to try it Nick :) We'd want a movie of you doing it though, main cable only mind, not the field wire.  Anyway I think its disconnecting or connecting the main alternator cable while the engine is running that can do the damage, with the field charge light wire still connected.

I’ve done it quite few times - found I have accidentally managed to turn the key switch off with the engine running. The only impact is that warning alarms are disabled for the duration the key switch is off. The only connection between the key switch and the alternator is via the warning light. When the engine is running, both the alternator terminal, and the keyswitch terminal (between which the light is wired) are at the same voltage and thus no current flows and thus the alternator is unaware of whether the key switch is on or off.

 

Disconnecting the alternator from the battery is an entirely different thing, and a bad thing, but this doesn’t happen when you turn the key switch off.

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The Vetus-branded alternators have a weakness for blowing the regulator.  These can be bought on eBay for about £15-20 and are very easy to replace.  I have done it even without removing the alternator, as long as you can get the back off.  However it could be the diode pack that failed, also easy to replace

.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/12V-REPLACEMENT-ISKRA-LETRIKA-JOHN-DEERE-NEW-HOLLAND-ALTERNATOR-REGULATOR-231045-/283649204372?hash=item420acf6094

 

If you are not sure about this,  take it to an alternator repairer.  If it just the regulator they will probably charge about £40 and may throw in new bearings.  If it's the diode pack then maybe £70.

 

While you are at it, get the Cargo 14.7V regulator which will give you much better charging, better than a Sterling external regulator which always seem to go into float too soon.

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1 hour ago, nicknorman said:

It does rather sound as though the alternator has failed. This presumes the alternator drive belt is still there, and not excessively loose?

 

I would look at that first, it may have even snapped

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16 minutes ago, nicknorman said:

I’ve done it quite few times - found I have accidentally managed to turn the key switch off with the engine running. The only impact is that warning alarms are disabled for the duration the key switch is off. The only connection between the key switch and the alternator is via the warning light. When the engine is running, both the alternator terminal, and the keyswitch terminal (between which the light is wired) are at the same voltage and thus no current flows and thus the alternator is unaware of whether the key switch is on or off.

 

Disconnecting the alternator from the battery is an entirely different thing, and a bad thing, but this doesn’t happen when you turn the key switch off.

And yet I remember some trucks that had hefty relays that switched out the the main cable when the engine was switched off and made the alternator open circuit which blew it when it didn't reconnect on next start up.  We have a wide beam boat here which was a mystery that blew the alternator. It was a new boat and under warrantee. I had a quick look, and checked charging and that was all.  Sterling inverter blown, Main Megga fuse blown and alternator blown. An electrician turned up engaged by ''Big Fish'' the Fitter outerers, and renewed the Alternator, the inverter and the fuse, then it blew the alternator again. It turned out to be a blown immersion heat element, what connection that had with the charging system heaven knows. Its been ok since, but she blows an immersion element once a year but that is all, which I replace for her, very hard limescaley water here.

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1 hour ago, bizzard said:

And yet I remember some trucks that had hefty relays that switched out the the main cable when the engine was switched off and made the alternator open circuit which blew it when it didn't reconnect on next start up. 

I was talking about boats. I don’t know much about trucks.

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50 minutes ago, bizzard said:

  Its been ok since, but she blows an immersion element once a year but that is all, which I replace for her, very hard limescaley water here.

As an apprentice in Norfolk I would think I changed a couple of immersion heaters every week and very few were more than a year old, we dug the scale out of the bottom of the cylinder via the immersion boss with a table spoon on a long stick.

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7 hours ago, nicknorman said:

I’ve done it quite few times - found I have accidentally managed to turn the key switch off with the engine running. The only impact is that warning alarms are disabled for the duration the key switch is off. The only connection between the key switch and the alternator is via the warning light. When the engine is running, both the alternator terminal, and the keyswitch terminal (between which the light is wired) are at the same voltage and thus no current flows and thus the alternator is unaware of whether the key switch is on or off.

 

Disconnecting the alternator from the battery is an entirely different thing, and a bad thing, but this doesn’t happen when you turn the key switch off.

 

It is likely that when the key switch is turned off with the engine running that the charge warning lamp will come on because the warning lamp will be back fed via the alternator fired diodes, through the bulb to the ignition switch terminal and from there it will try to supply the instruments and other warning lamps. The buzzer may or may not also sound. The other warning lamps and instruments may well pass enough current to illuminate the charge warning lamp.

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10 minutes ago, Tony Brooks said:

 

It is likely that when the key switch is turned off with the engine running that the charge warning lamp will come on because the warning lamp will be back fed via the alternator fired diodes, through the bulb to the ignition switch terminal and from there it will try to supply the instruments and other warning lamps. The buzzer may or may not also sound. The other warning lamps and instruments may well pass enough current to illuminate the charge warning lamp.

Maybe, but doesn’t happen on ours. Probably down to the diodes that allow any one of 3 sources of signal to activate the buzzer

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Just now, nicknorman said:

Maybe, but doesn’t happen on ours. Probably down to the diodes that allow any one of 3 sources of signal to activate the buzzer

Those diodes should be related to the buzzer and in parallel to the lamps.

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