I was helping a customer the other day who requested a heat exchanger tube stack for an M753K.  This is a 10 year old generator, but I was still shocked that he needed a heat exchanger.  In our experience, the only thing that can cause a heat exchanger tube stack failure on a 5-20 kw generator is very poor maintenance.  When I looked up the part number for the tube stack I noticed that we had sold 3 in the last 12 months.

There are, conservatively 300-400 of these generators in operation in the Caribbean, so that works out to less than a 0.75% failure rate.  Most of our competitors would be envious of such a low failure rate, but we still feel that is too high.  The only reason that these tube stacks are failing is because of poor maintenance practices, or using the wrong coolant.

We need to educate our customers that the only proper coolant is Distilled Water, or a 50/50 premix ethylene glycol mix.  If our customers want to use 100% ethylene glycol, they need to dilute it with 50% Distilled Water.  Most of the water we get in the Caribbean comes from Reverse Osmosis, and that often leaves too high a mineral (including salt) content.  Even with proper coolant, sludge, scale and corrosion build up over a period of time.  So we recommend that our customers drain, flush and refill their cooling system every year as part of their annual maintenance.

If the customer wants to extend the coolant change interval, they should purchase a pack of coolant test strips (part number 20-00005) and test their coolant every 6 months past the 1 year anniversary of the last coolant change.  The coolant strips cost $15.  A tube stack costs nearly $500.

In addition to the tube stack failing, poor coolant quality can cause water pump failure, and the core plugs (water jackets) to corrode from the inside out.  Made of a thinner, less corrosion resistant material, the core plugs can often be the “canary in the coal mine”.  If they start to leak, the customer knows he has a problem.  A bigger problem is that some of these core plugs can be very hard to get to in order to change them.

So we need to emphasize to our customers that it is a very good investment to change their coolant every year, even if they need to hire their local dealer to do so.  It can save them a lot of money down the road.



If you mention the words “emissions regulations” to anyone in the diesel engine industry, you will usually detect a noticeable cringing on their part.  It is followed by bad news that is sometimes downright distressing.  Yet the news is not all bad.
As far as the effect of EPA Emissions Regulations on Northern Lights Marine Generators the good news is that the product line under 40 kWw, which constitutes the majority of the product in the Caribbean, remains largely unchanged (IMO has no regulations for engines below 175 hp).  The M673LD3 (5 kW @ 60 Hz) through the M844LW3 will not see any changes for the foreseeable future.  The M944T will be changed to the M944T3.  The only outwardly apparent difference will be a rating change from 38 kW to 40 kw in 3 phase configurations, but the 1 phase rating will remain at 38kW.
The 30 kW (M944W3) is an unfortunate victim of the tightened emissions threshold. The engine cannot achieve emissions regulations at 60 Hz, but the 50 Hz version at 26 kW remains a viable and available product for appropriate applications.  The 25kW-40kW rating gap (at 60Hz) is recognized as being a significant hurdle, and Northern Lights’ product development team is actively seeking alternatives to close this gap and fill out the product line.
Above 40 kW, the news remains largely good for any vessel under 500 gross tons as the Northern Lights product line meets emissions standards without after treatment.  Beginning in 2016, vessels above 500 gross tons will need after treatment (in the form of SCR: Selective Catalytic Reduction) to achieve the NOX levels set by the IMO.  Thankfully, most of us dodge the after treatment bullet until the regulations again change in 2021 for sub-500gt vessels.  After that, any vessel with an engine producing 127 kW or greater will be required to have after treatment for NOX.  However, Northern Lights will continue to stay ahead of the emissions technology curve and is already working to provide a fully-compliant package for the upcoming regulations around the world.
Interestingly IMO is not addressing “soot”, the bane of most marine diesel engine owners.  Despite that, Northern Lights has been addressing soot for many years.  Some may remember the old STARS units (Soot Trap And Regeneration System).  It was very effective for treating soot in exhaust.  It used heaters that doubled as a load bank and also heated the exhaust gas to a level where it could be catalyzed.  Due to problems, mostly dealing with misapplication and maintenance, the product line was discontinued some years ago.  Today’s solution is called a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) that does not need heaters.  The DPF does need to be closely matched to the engine though to make sure that the generator Exhaust Gas Temperature (EGT) is high enough to be properly catalyzed. With the benefit of less complicated systems to clean our exhaust, comes the burden to periodically clean the catalytic “brick”.  More maintenance! However, the fact that DPF technology has been widely adopted in both on-highway and industrial applications means that there are a number of outlets for DPF filter cleaning in most ports of call around the world.
So, it could be worse, as they say. Most of us can continue to use our generators in the manner that we have been accustomed to, due to some engineering magic done by Northern Lights.  But changes will be felt by the larger yacht owner and crew.  Years of experience has taught us that as soon as we learn to comply with the new regulations, there will be more on the horizon.  However, the progressive team at Northern Lights will continually strive to keep us ahead of the regulatory curve, no matter what new challenges come our way!


Kelly Soares is the voice many in the Caribbean Northern Light family are familiar with.  She has been Service Administrator for Parts & Power for over 4 years.  She has shepherded a line of Service Managers at Parts & Power including Dan Durbin, David Romasco and recently Stewart Dovey.  She also manages to keep order among the Service Staff at Parts & Power.  She has, for many years now, trained dealers on the process of how to submit Northern Lights warranty claims, issued warranty authorizations and liaised with the factory on the status of warranty claims for dealers and customers.

On 1 July she left for maternity leave to prepare for the arrival of her third child.  Kelly is of fairly small stature.  She struggles to achieve 5 feet in height.  Normally of very slim build, her recent pregnancy seemed to have made her as wide as she was tall.   It is hard to look and be tough with Service Engineers when your belly is so large that it would seem to only take a pin prick to pop.  But she managed to do it over the last 3 or 4 months.
On 13 July, she gave birth to her third boy, who was 7 lbs, 8 oz.  His name is Kehzai Elijah.

The entire Parts & Power family welcomes Kehzai.  We expect him to be typically healthy, happy and good looking.  And we look forward to Kelly’s return in October!


From now through the end of May, Northern Lights Caribbean Dealers can take an additional 5% off your regular cost of a 5 or 6 kw Northern Lights sets, and an additional10% off your regular cost of a 9 – 38 kw Northern Lights marine generator set.
We are pleased to announce the Northern Lights Caribbean Dealers’ Spring Repower Sale. Big discounts are available on units purchased between now and the 31st of May 2014. Eligible generators are the M673LD3 (5Kw @ 60 hz, 4 kw@ 50 hz) through to the M944T (38Kw @ 60 hz, 32 kw @ 50 hz).
Caribbean dealers will receive the additional discount off of their net price for the unit only. All options will remain at the regular pricing.
Don’t forget to ask about our Special Pricing on the Technicold brand of Marine Air Conditioning!
For quotations on units please contact your nearest Northern Lights dealer or:
Drew Bremner ( ),  Greig Warner ( ) or call 284-494-2830.


On Tuesday and Wednesday 20 & 21 August, Dealer Principles and Representatives met in Deerfield Beach, FL for their semi-annual Caribbean Dealer Conference.  Dealerships from the USVI to Trinidad were in attendance.  A wide range of issues were discussed, and factory representatives were updated on issues arising from Dealers’ Territories.  The Caribbean is a prime cruising area for owners’ of Northern Lights Products and the factory encourages these meetings to get feedback from their customers and monitor the level of service their Caribbean Dealership is able to provide.
New products were discussed, including the new generator pan and sound enclosure designs.  The combination has resulted in reductions of overall package designs by nearly 30%.  Product changes initiated by suggestions from previous meetings, such as cast stainless steel exhaust elbows and attachment bolts, were shown. New generator models up to 500 kw, currently under development were unveiled.
A general discussion on what freight methods from the US to the Caribbean were discussed, with particular emphasis on the fastest method of shipping to each country.  Ideas were also generated on how they could reduce the cost of shipping, to improve customer satisfaction.  Although some countries are able to import items on a duty free basis for Yachts in Transit, all countries impose some costs, such as Brokerage Fees and Government surcharges.  There is no solution for these charges and so parts prices suffer the unavoidable additional costs.
Comparison of the Northern Lights products vs other Marine Generators was discussed.  It was generally felt that the NL product required less maintenance, used far fewer parts, was easier to repair, had far more parts redundancy, and ran longer than anything else on the Market today.  The competition, with more than 30 ways to shut down, was generally felt to be less reliable.  A major differentiator was the factory support that is offered by Northern Lights.  Although most of the dealers attending are dealers for at least one other Marine Generator manufacturer, none had the level of support they experience with NL with any other manufacturer.  The 3 levels of service and parts support they got from Parts & Power, the factory branch in Deerfield Beach, and the factory in Seattle allowed them to get assistance as late as 2100 local time for both technical and parts assistance.  No other manufacturer even comes close to this support.  The overall cost of ownership with Northern Lights was felt to be significantly less than any competitor, despite the fact that the NL product was slightly more expensive up front. All of these factors make the NL product uniquely qualified for customers in the Caribbean, as they put far more hours on their generators than most pleasure craft owners.  Dealers reported that their customers routinely put between 1,000 and 4,000 hours per year, as opposed to less than 500 for the average pleasure craft owner.
The website was discussed and ways to make it more attractive and user friendly were suggested.  Parts Specials are being advertised on the website currently.
Warranty policy and claim procedures were discussed. With a 1 year parts and labor, second year parts and limited 5 year policy, the NL warranty is the best in the Industry. Means of submitting warranty claims on line was demonstrated.  It was revealed that warranty on the NL product was less than 1%, which is the lowest in the Industry.
The Technicold brand of Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Load Banks was discussed.  Northern Lights design criteria were used in designing the products.  Robust 316 s/s is used throughout the constructions.  Off the shelf, non-proprietary, controls assure that the products can be repaired anywhere in the world.  Automatic load banks are freshwater cooled and far outlive the competition.  In fact, NL has never sold a heating element replacement part in their long history of providing the load banks. Several Dealers expressed interest in becoming Technicold dealers after seeing the features and benefits of the product line. The robust construction and reliability are important to their customers.
The subject matter was interesting enough that all the participants remained on at the Conference well after the planned ending time of noon on Wed.


Northern Lights and Caribbean Distributor, Parts & Power, are holding a Caribbean Dealer Conference on 20 & 21 August. Representatives from Dockyard Electric in Trinidad, Grenada Marine and Palm Tree Marine in Grenada, Marintek in St. Lucia, Dominica Marine Center in Dominica, Seagull Services and Marine Power Service in Antigua, Electec in St. Maarten, All Points Marine and Plan B in St. Thomas, and Parts & Power in Tortola will be in attendance.
The two day Conference is an opportunity for the Caribbean Northern Lights dealers to get together and discuss how they can improve customer satisfaction with Northern Lights generators, Lugger propulsion engines and Technicold Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Load Bank products.  New products that are being launched currently, and in the near future, will be unveiled.  Feedback from customers’ experience in the field will be discussed, and conveyed to Design and Engineering Teams.  It will be a unique opportunity to translate information on customers’ comments and suggestions into modifications and changes in the Product lines.  EPA and European emissions law changes, future regulations, and how those will force changes to the products in next few years, will be discussed.  Service topics will be shared from the Factory to Dealers and Dealers back to the Factory.
The constantly evolving Technicold Product Line will be introduced to many of the Caribbean dealers in attendance.  Technicold’s high quality stainless steel Air Conditioning products will be displayed and demonstrated with particular attention paid to the features and benefits of the product.  Dealers will also be introduced to Technicold s/s Refrigeration products and the Automatic Load Banks.  Technicold Load Banks are fresh water cooled, designed to utilize a small footprint for installations, are standard with Digital controllers, and are offered with PLC full color LCD screen as an option. These systems allow the vessel to manage loading of generators to ensure better engine performance.
We will be introducing the new Northern Lights HybriGen system. HybriGen is the result of the collaboration between Northern Lights and BAE systems, a worldwide leader defence technologies, electronics and military equipment. HybriGen is the first truly variable speed power generation system which can be used for ships service AC power, and as an AC propulsion system simultaneously. HybriGen  is a completely load dependent system so the engine only runs at the speed required to make the power that the vessel needs and, when used in conjunction with a battery storage system the engine will shut down once the batteries are charged allowing the vessel to run quietly and cleanly on batteries only. 
Unlike others in the market, the HybriGen system is the only one on the market which is a completely engineered, tested and commercially fielded system in the world with over 4000 operating in major city busses worldwide every day.
Previous Caribbean Dealer Meetings have produced changes such as changes to s/w pumps from lip to mechanical ceramic seals and hex head as well as slotted screws on cover plates; introduction of stainless steel exhaust elbows to replace cast iron ones; addition of coolant recovery bottles, reduction in overall package size, the change to all s/s bolts and screws on the generator set and many others.  Customer feedback and dealer ideas on how to make the Products more customer-friendly, more reliable, and longer lived will, once again, be translated into product improvements and changes.
Stay tuned for updates on the ideas and developments coming from the Conference.


A little over a year ago I had spinal surgery.  It was not something I wanted to do and, indeed, did everything I could to avoid it.  In the process, I saw 13 different health professionals.  Of those 13, only 2 agreed on what was wrong and what action to take.  They were both wrong.  Of the other 11, not only did they disagree with the other 10 opinions, but they said that the previous advice was the worst thing I could possibly do.

This gave me a greater appreciation of what I’ve devoted the last 35 years in dealing with: diesel engines.  Although there are a variety of opinions on diagnosis and treatment of diesel maladies, they should not differ that much.

Unlike the human body, diesel engines are very simple devices.  All they need is Air, Compression and Fuel.  If they have that, they will run.  They may not run all that well, but they will run.  Getting them to run well may take a bit of finesse, but they will run.

The principles of diesel engine operation was best described to me as Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow.  This applies to 4 stroke diesel engines, of which the vast majority of modern diesels are.  The first down stroke happens with the Intake Valve open.  This “sucks” in air.  As the piston starts its second stroke upward the intake valve closes.  This causes the air to compress or “squeeze”.  At or near Top Dead Center, fuel in injected.  The atomized fuel hitting the hot compressed air causes it to ignite or “bang”.  This causes the third stroke downward, or the “power stroke”.  On the upward 4th stroke, the exhaust valve opens and the ignition residue, or “exhaust” is “blown” out, completing the 4 cycles of a diesel engine.

Take one of the 3 elements required away, and the engine will not run.  So let’s review them in order of simplicity to identify.  
Fuel.  To determine if there is fuel, you can loosen the high pressure pipes at the injectors.  You don’t want to completely disconnect it, and you certainly don’t want to get body parts or anything you want to hang onto into the potential spray pattern.  Injection pressures can exceed 20,000 psi on some engines.  By loosening the connectors though, you should be able to see if fuel is coming out.  If there is no fuel, you need to work your way backwards to see where the fuel is being interrupted.  A shortcut to this sometimes tedious process is to determine if it is a “boat” problem, or an “engine” problem.  This can be done by gravity feeding fuel to the low pressure fuel pump.  A simple way is to disconnect the fuel inlet and return lines.  Run both into a gallon jug of known good, clean diesel.  Bleed the air out of the system per the manufacturer’s instructions, then try to start the engine.  If the engine starts, you have a “boat” problem.  If the engine doesn’t start, then you have an “engine” problem.  Now you can troubleshoot with a narrower focus.

Air is the next easiest to determine.  Air not only includes air going into the engine, but exhaust “air” leaving the engine.  So you need to check it from Appetite to Ass…er, Exhaust.  Air In is pretty easy.  If restricted, you usually get warning signals such as black exhaust.  Intake air problems can include a dirty air filter or a plugged after cooler.  Start from the beginning and check everything until you can look inside the intake ports on the head.  If there is nothing in the way, then it is not Air In.  Air Out is more problematic.  We have seen everything from plugged exhausts to collapsed inner liners of the exhaust hose.  We once had a customer who rebuilt his engine three times before he finally looked at his exhaust elbow.  It was plugged with carbon, and its 2” port had narrowed to about ¼”.  Again, start at the beginning and work your way to the end.  It is very common to find the exhaust outlet plugged at the water injection point on the exhaust elbow.  This is especially true of lightly loaded diesels.  Extensive running of a diesel engine to only charge batteries or run a refrigeration compressor spell early death for a diesel engine.

If both Fuel and Air is present, then it only leaves compression.  Compression can only be measured using a “compression tester”.  It requires a gauge, a hose and an adaptor to connect the hose to the cylinder.  A “cannibalized” injector is the most common adaptor.  If you don’t have compression tester, you will need to hire someone who does.

There are no “set” numbers for compression.  The number depends on a lot of variables, including atmospheric conditions (temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure), battery voltage, the volume of space inside the test equipment, and a few other factors.  Diesel engines that have low compression almost never have identical wear on all cylinders.  One cylinder will “fail” first.  It might be a burned or corroded valve, a broken ring, bore wear, bore glazing, or a variety of other problems.  But one, or maybe two, cylinders will fail before the others.  So, when a compression test is done, the examiner is looking for differences in compression between cylinders.  If they are all very close (within 50-60 psi), compression is good.  If all are reading on the low side, a commonly used technique is to squirt oil into the cylinder and do a second test.  If the compression comes up significantly, the problem tends to be rings.  If the compression does not, the problem is most likely valves or, more precisely, the failure of the valves to seat tightly in the head.

So, unlike the human body, diesel engines are pretty straightforward.  If you are getting a lot of different diagnoses and treatment suggestions, you are talking to a lot of the wrong people.  It’s time to seek out someone who has been trained and has experience with your particular engine.   If you can find 2 such people, then get your second opinion.  They ought to be pretty close.  Hopefully they won’t tell you that, what the other guy said, was the worst possible thing you could do.



Parts & Power Ltd conducted Northern Lights Service Training on Tortola on 17, 18 & 19 July.  The Training was well attended, with 19 persons attending.  Dealers from Marine Maintenance Services (Tortola), Electec (St. Maarten), Marintek (St. Lucia), Marine Power Service (Antigua), Grenada Marine (Grenada), Parts & Power and Cay Electronics (Tortola) were in attendance.  This year, select Fleet Operators were invited to attend.  Technicians from Tui Marine (the Moorings), BVI Yacht Charters, TMM, Horizons Yacht Charters and Conch Charters attended the 3 day training.

The Training was conducted by Parts & Power Director of Technical Services, Dan Durbin, and Service Administrator, Kelly Soares.  The event was coordinated by Gladys Jones and ably administered by Somora Hazel, with the assistance of Kester Agard.

Training included Product Identification; Diesel Engine theory, maintenance and troubleshooting; DC electrical troubleshooting and understanding wiring schematics; AC electrical theory, troubleshooting and repair; Warranty Training for dealers; and 10 hours of hands-on generator work.  A running take out generator was disassembled, the rear seal replaced, injectors tested, compression test performed, had the DC and AC system analyzed, and was started.  The proper way to design and troubleshoot exhaust systems was discussed and demonstrated.

Participants were unanimous in the high grades they gave the training.  Several said it was one of the better training programs they had ever attended.  Even the more experience technicians said that they benefitted immensely by attending.  The only complaint voiced was that the Training was too short.

Parts & Power want to thank all of those who organized, performed and attended the training.  They especially want to acknowledge the outstanding support they received from Scott Putnicki and Nathan Price of Northern Lights in assisting with the implementation of the training.




Northern Lights M843NW2 or M843NW3 Sound Enclosure, part number 05-73100.
LIST PRICE: $5,500.00 SPECIAL PRICE: $1406.00
Northern Lights M844K/M844LK Sound Enclosure, part number Northern Lights 05-70000.
LIST PRICE: $7,950.00 SPECIAL PRICE: $1,977.00
Northern Lights M7536K/M773LK Sound Enclosure, part number Northern Lights 05-78600.
LIST PRICE: $4,350.00 SPECIAL PRICE: $1,350.00


  1. All prices FOB Road Town, Tortola.
  2. Not subject to gift certificates or other promotions.
  3. Limited supplies.
  4. Prices subject to availability


Everyone in the Caribbean watched with great interest as Hurricane Earl formed in the Eastern Atlantic at the end of August.  From the beginning, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) had it passing anywhere from 100-200 miles to the north of the BVI.  Despite this, the hurricane kept tracking to the West.  While still on the NHC track, it was disconcerting to see a fairly major storm heading right for the NE Caribbean.  The only comforting thought was that it was only predicted to be a strong Tropical Storm or relatively mild Category 1 hurricane.
In what, at the time, seemed to be an abundance of caution, some business and home owners put up Storm Shutters, but most did not.  On Monday, the 25th, we at Parts & Power prepared for what we thought would be a lot of rain and possible flooding.  At the last minute, we decided to put a recent shipment of Industrial generators inside and put up Storm Shutters.
Although Earl continued to track exactly along the NHC track, it built rapidly from a Storm to Cat 1 and then Cat 2.  We started to get some wind.  As the day dawned on Tues, the 30th, Earl was a Cat 4.  Obviously we had all underestimated Earl.  Hurricane force winds pummeled the island of Anegada which experienced heavy devastation.  On Tortola, 22 miles away, the winds seemed more selective.  West End was battered, with a majority of the fleet there either blown aground or sunk.  The North side of the island had patches running up the mountain that was reminiscent of a strip of bark being torn off a tree, with relatively unscathed sections on either side.  Road Harbour, although in the most protected area of the island, had 6 or 7 commercial vessels severely damaged or sunk.  Even the most conservative of mariners had not prepared for what Earl brought.  The difference seems to be on those vessels that remained manned and were able to deploy more anchors and motor into the winds.
In the end, Earl stayed pretty much right on the track the NHC predicted.  The Closest Point of Approach (CPA) to Tortola was about 140 miles by my calculations as I watched the eye pass to the North on Nexrad radar.  While at my house, which is totally exposed 360 degrees, we experienced winds that approached hurricane force, other people on the island recorded wind gusts of over 110 mph.  The large seas generated by the Storm caused the majority of the damage.
Utility current was lost throughout the country.  Some homes and businesses were without power for over a week.  Those whose generators had recently been serviced fared well.  All emergency calls both during the hurricane, as well as immediately following, came from customers who had not done the recommended Summer Maintenance.
The lesson learned was never to underestimate a Storm or Hurricane.  Hurricanes can and will do unpredictable things.  No one who boarded up, prepared their property or serviced their equipment regretted doing so.  The same can’t be said of those who did not.