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Old 01-14-2010, 12:53 AM   #1
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Has any body heard of a diesel motor starting spontaneously?

My engine is a Volvo 2040MD. The yacht is currently locked and tied up in a marina in SE Asiawhile I return to Australia for a few weeks.

I received an email to say that it was found early one morning with the engine running. After some time the yacht was entered to turn the motor off as there was 'smoke' seen in the cabin. The engine was probably boiling due to the sea cock being closed.

Nothing is missing from the boat and marina staff believe the engine started spontaneously. The starter key was in the off position.
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Old 01-14-2010, 10:09 AM   #2
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I don't think it could have started by itself - always remove engine start key and isolate starting battery - just in case there are any wandering hands around!
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Old 01-14-2010, 12:35 PM   #3
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hmm yeah, I would guess whoever started it tried to turn it off by turning the key off and when that didn't work didn't know what to do and left... it may have saved your possessions if they were there and thieves and just got curious then got scared that the running engine would draw attention.
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Old 01-14-2010, 02:03 PM   #4
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third vote for somebody started it. What marina? Sebana Cove has some rather lazy dock boys, I wouldn't put anything past them. And as you can tell, whichever the marina, the office is clueless about engines.
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Old 01-14-2010, 08:55 PM   #5
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third vote for somebody started it. What marina? Sebana Cove has some rather lazy dock boys, I wouldn't put anything past them. And as you can tell, whichever the marina, the office is clueless about engines.
Thanks everyone for that. You have expressed all my thoughts exactly. In retrospect I should have removed the key particularly since I had closed the sea cock to the cooling system.

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third vote for somebody started it. What marina? Sebana Cove has some rather lazy dock boys, I wouldn't put anything past them. And as you can tell, whichever the marina, the office is clueless about engines.
I will identify the marina after I get back up there in a couple of weeks and talk with management.
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Old 01-15-2010, 03:30 AM   #6
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In retrospect I should have removed the key particularly since I had closed the sea cock to the cooling system.
1. key placement--we keep our engine key hanging on the handle to the sea chest valve when the valve is closed. When the valve is open, we keep the key in the ignition.

2. It is possible that an engine start w/o the starter being used-- just like a car can be push started/bump started, a marine engine diesel can be started with a jolt/bump or purposeful turn to the flywheel/movement of the pistons. Remember the hand-crank start that the older Volvo engines had? If the fuel is not shut off, in extreme heat, it would actually be possible (though highly, highly unlikely) for self ignition to occur.

3. Most likely that someone started the engine--I hope you sort it out properly when you get back.

Good luck
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Old 01-15-2010, 06:32 PM   #7
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Has any body heard of a diesel motor starting spontaneously?

My engine is a Volvo 2040MD. The yacht is currently locked and tied up in a marina in SE Asiawhile I return to Australia for a few weeks.

I received an email to say that it was found early one morning with the engine running. After some time the yacht was entered to turn the motor off as there was 'smoke' seen in the cabin. The engine was probably boiling due to the sea cock being closed.

Nothing is missing from the boat and marina staff believe the engine started spontaneously. The starter key was in the off position. -_-
It happened to us. We have twin Volvo Penta TMD41A. Suddenly one evening the starboard engine started. The kill switch worked only when holding it down for about a minute but then the starter kept going. We had no way to cut off the electrical power to the engine, which will change, and had to remove glowing hot wires to get the starter to stop. We are still going through the Volvo manual but suspect it may have been the started relay. More on this as we try to figure it out.
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Old 01-15-2010, 07:08 PM   #8
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Hello all new to fourm CK the starter relay.

I dont know that mutch about boats but if it were a car i would ck the relay.
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Old 01-16-2010, 04:15 AM   #9
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Hello all new to fourm CK the starter relay.

I dont know that mutch about boats but if it were a car i would ck the relay.
When I get back up I will go through all this. If the motor has started itself I figure the starter motor may be cooked as well as the engine starting battery. This will take a couple of weeks until I can report on it.
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Old 02-04-2010, 09:06 AM   #10
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To finish up on the problem. My boat is in Admiral Marina Port Dickson. Nothing seems to have been stolen but the motor needs some attention due to overheating.

My neighbors in the marina said they were broken into while away last November and power tools taken. This is despite a strong security presence and police boats being moored nearby.
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Old 02-04-2010, 09:10 AM   #11
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Thanks for the update.
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Old 02-05-2010, 03:13 AM   #12
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Thanks for the update.
Here is one from the "Outer Limits" kind of story. I've been trying to confirm if this really did happen for years. Anyway, the story goes..sometime in the late 1980's a sailboat was entering Havannah Pass, New Caledonia when a French Navy frigate passed very close by while sailing into the pass. Their diesel engine started spontaneously and took sometime to shut down. The crew noticed most of the electronic were zapped too. They took note of the name of the frigate and sailed to Noumea. While in Noumea the crew started sourcing new electronics ie GPS, depth sounder VHF radios etc... Sitting in the bar at CCC they heard a local telling a similar story and he commented his boat was zapped by the French Navy with an EMP (electro-magnetic pluse) while entering Boulari Pass that same year. Seems the navy was testing EMP and scalar technology equipment and playing games with yachts. This guy complained to the French Navy Station in Noumea and they quietly replaced all damaged electronic gear. The crew on this particular yacht did the same and gave the date, time of incident, and name of the frigate, oh my goodess all their electronic gear was replaced without a comment and they were requested to continue on their way.. Interesting story and I would still like to hear if anyone else has heard anything similar.
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Old 02-05-2010, 03:17 AM   #13
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Here is one from the "Outer Limits" kind of story. I've been trying to confirm if this really did happen for years. Anyway, the story goes..sometime in the late 1980's a sailboat was entering Havannah Pass, New Caledonia when a French Navy frigate passed very close by while sailing into the pass. Their diesel engine started spontaneously and took sometime to shut down. The crew noticed most of the electronic were zapped too. They took note of the name of the frigate and sailed to Noumea. While in Noumea the crew started sourcing new electronics ie GPS, depth sounder VHF radios etc... Sitting in the bar at CCC they heard a local telling a similar story and he commented his boat was zapped by the French Navy with an EMP (electro-magnetic pluse) while entering Boulari Pass that same year. Seems the navy was testing EMP and scalar technology equipment and playing games with yachts. This guy complained to the French Navy Station in Noumea and they quietly replaced all damaged electronic gear. The crew on this particular yacht did the same and gave the date, time of incident, and name of the frigate, oh my goodess all their electronic gear was replaced without a comment and they were requested to continue on their way.. Interesting story and I would still like to hear if anyone else has heard anything similar.
Sorry, meant to the older Satnav(Navy Transit System) not GPS...
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Old 02-07-2010, 07:19 PM   #14
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Yes, absolutely diesel engines on damp environments can start spontaneously. Given battery to the starter is not either disconnected or switched off (irrespective of fuel being on, or cooling being shut off) the only thing required to roll the engine with the starter is the start solenoid making contact. The coil that pulls the contacts closed just needs to have a complete circuit, and a salt coated path from a leak on deck is enough. An alligator clip wire lead, even a screwdriver across the terminals will do it as well, if you ever need to start your engine in case of a failed solenoid. If there was smoke in the cabin, this is most likely the case, as the starter would remain powered, even though the bendix drive on the starter would keep the starter from overspeeding. It would not keep it from overheating as most starters are only designed to run for 60 seconds or less. Once running, diesels need no electrical power at all, so it would run until someone came and shut it off for you, as seems to be what happened. For our boat, I carry a spare starter that is a 'wind up' spring type used for agricultural equipment, no electrical power required. Just bolt it on, ratchet the handle to wind it up, hit the release and the starter then starts the engine. If you roll the boat and the batteries are shot, you can still motor, you just need to know where the kill on the injection pump is located to then stop the engine.

I would be prepared to replace both the starter and start relay (and perhaps engine start battery) plus carefully check the wiring for shorts/grounds when you get back to the boat before you are set to go motoring again in addition to the SW pump impeller and seals need replacing. Plus, if leaving the boat unattended, disconnect the start battery, either directly, or via a disconnect switch (remember these carry a large current), fuel supply and SW seacock. If you find nothing wrong with the start relay, then it was likely someone trying to start the engine but you will still have potential damage from overheating by running without cooling water circulating.

Best of luck!

Robert (electrical engineer, and C/E on 1000' container ships for 20 years, plus 40 years maintaining my own yachts in exotic locations...)
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