Honestly at this point my somewhat loose theory that Webasto’s are part of some evil German scientist plot to overthrow the civilized world seems less like a theory… and more like a plausible reality.
So what happened THIS time right?
One night my wife and I get back to the boat and flip on the Webasto as we normally do. Everything was fine until a few minutes in when the pipes started to bang and jump inside and outside the Webasto itself. I hurriedly shut the unit off as it was making the boat shake a bit. After letting it rest I fired it up again. And the same thing happened. Great… We have no heat from the furnace tonight.
Before we get too far into the Webastard struggle let me have a side panel here regarding liveaboard boaters and redundant systems.
Simply put, have backups. Ok ok. Not everyone has a boat as large as ours so you don’t have the space to spare for redundant systems. Let me paint a picture for you: It’s winter… you’re snug in your boat… your heater of some sorts (lets go with electric) all the sudden goes out along with any of your 110 volt devices. OH NO! What should you do? Well go check the breakers obviously to see what tripped. BUT EGAD! It turns out that due to faulty wiring your power cord from your boat to the shore plug has in fact melted due to too much draw.
This happened to me the first year I was wintering. Basically we were drawing 30 amps consistently for days. A 30 amp cord should not be used at maximum capacity all the time. It’s rated up TO 30 amps. Not rated for continuous use at 30 amps.
Anyways back to our troubled boater scenario. So you go “Nuts! I’ll have to abandon ship and get a hotel room for the night since it’ll be -20 out!”. Tough luck boy’o. There’s a game on in your city. Hotel rooms are booked solid.
At this point you need an alternative heating system of some sorts that’ll last you until you can fix your current issue.
Our boat has 3 separate heating systems.
- The Webasto which uses 12 volt power and diesel
- 110 volt electrics (specifically we have 2 Dyson heater/cooler units)
- A fireplace (seriously)
Now I don’t recommend that people go with all 3 since not all boats can fit them naturally. But the fireplace… Seriously… They’re a good idea to have since one of the nice things about fire is that things burn with or without electricity. Plus they help dry out boats that are covered with plastic during winter as well. Bonus. Also guys… romance ain’t dead. Chicks dig fireplaces… JUUUUUST saying.
I may go over redundancy in more detail in another post but ya. For people that winter… Backups are a must.
Alright back to the struggles I had with the Webasto.
With the Webasto dead I started checking everything around it. No leaks. No closed valves. The coolant levels were fine. I called Webasto’s support line. No luck getting through at all. I hot wired the pump to see if maybe the pump was busted. But the circulation pump in the unit was fine. Perhaps it was a contact issue with the wiring. So I scrubbed off the wire contacts of any corrosion. Wired it back up and it started banging again. UGH!
Well it was late so I had to call it a night. Fire up the fire place, drag on down the 2 Dyson heaters and boom. It was a bit cool in the cargo hold but not too bad.
The next day I called a lot of people. My Dad and I talked it over and agreed it sounded like a circulation issue. The theory I had put forward was that perhaps the banging was a result of the coolant getting too hot in the lines and it was steam that was banging around in there. That sounded reasonable so I called Webasto to confirm that. They said it sounded like it was most likely the issue but that there could be others so perhaps I should talk to a technician in my area. I asked who that would be… Turns out that there isn’t any in the Toronto area. They directed me to a dealer instead… Who also agreed it was a circulation issue most likely but they don’t do repairs… But they do know someone who does! I called those people… The answer was… less than enthusiastic. Yes they can service Webasto units but that it’s more of a best effort thing since they’re an Espar dealer. But they said that my thought on the circulation sounded good as well. 1 more call. HMP. Peter and I had a talk on how to test this stuff if it is the circulation pump. He pointed out that if the pump is at least turning it most likely isn’t that since the Webasto probably uses a centrifugal pump so the chance of the impeller breaking is pretty minimal.
The plan was basically worked out to be this.
- Test the flow rate of the system at rest by opening a valve near the Webasto without the system running.
- Turn on the Webasto and test the flow rate again. If it’s more then it’s not the pump. If it’s the same then it’s a circulation issue.
- Drain the system.
- Remove the pump.
- Test it with water.
- If that works check for any blockages in the system.
- If that doesn’t turn anything up remove the Webasto and shoot squarely between the eyes to ensure a quick death.
I did 1 and 2 and saw that there wasn’t any increase in circulation at step 2 in one night. I wasn’t feeling the greatest since I had one hell of a migraine at the time so I called it a night.
Next day while on the toilet (where I get most of my good ideas) I thought… Well… the pump works… But there doesn’t seem to be flow… Perhaps the Webasto isn’t providing power to the pump itself? Perhaps something is stopping power from getting there? I got home. Looked and there is an inline fuse in a “waterproof” fuse holder. I opened it up. It was full of glycol (So other interesting tid bit about Webasto’s. When you get them from Webasto they don’t tighten all the fittings fully. Do that or you’ll lose a lot of coolant). And the fuse was totally shot. I ran out to a Canadian Tire, bought a few 15amp mini fuses (each smaller than a dime). Came back. Jammed in a new one. Boom! Off it went as if nothing was wrong.
So not that I’ve had similar super small issues before… Like an unplugged sensor or anything. But seriously. I suppose if in the future my industry dies (IT Security) I’ll at least be able to easily become a Webasto repairman.