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Posted: Fri Dec 19, 2008 12:04pm


Red and Dead? Can I attempt to open up the can of worms that seems lost in a conspiracy of silence, namely the problems associated with running Webasto and Eberspacher heaters on RED DIESEL or whatever it is that we on the inland waterways fill our diesel tanks with The WEB is alive with failures, court cases, accusations, denials and some support for Weberspachers, however the underlying trend is that these heaters are not suitable for live aboard or prolonged use using RED diesel At least one of the big names in boat sales/building has changed over to gas heating following a court case where the verdict was that Webasto heaters were not fit for use on the fuel available on the inland waterways Mikuni are advertising the fact that “some premium brand heaters will not run on ‘red’ diesel or gas oil” ditto Hurricane who also say there heaters can run 24/7 unlike Webasto who say there heaters must not run 24 hrs but must be run for 2 to 3 hrs max then left to cool down for 1 or 2 hrs several times a day – no chance of night use then ???? Can the manufactures come out clean and give a definitive statement on the use of these heaters in an inland marine environment where users are likely to require them to work long and hard in the winter months on live aboard/residential boats


Posted: Fri Dec 19, 2008 12:45pm


Dear Ray, I think your last paragraph says it all, "can the manufacturers come clean", to which I will reply "I very much doubt it because things are not as clear cut as you seem to imply. A few years ago I got hold of the specifications for Total gas oil (red diesel) and derv (road diesel) and to be honest I could see very little differences that should affect one of these heaters. I also know that all of them seem to give perfectly satisfactory service in all sorts of other industries although I must admit these do tend to feed them derv. My observations are that a significant number in marine use are not installed as per the manufacturer's data and even if they are using a side exhaust where piling/the bankside is likely to obstruct it is asking for overheat failures and probably incomplete combustion (thus carbon formation). I also know that many inland boat batteries are anything but well charged which will cause startup problems. There is some evidence that the big three give far less problems if run on high heat rather than the lower setting and finally they do require very regular maintenance in the way of removal of carbon and I think may boaters simply ignore this. We hear very few moans from owners of diesel fired stoves like the Bubble because they have to decarbonise the burner pot regularly but it seems learning to clean the combustion chamber on the big three diesel heaters is beyond many. You will hear people claim that the cetane rating of red diesel is different to white, and so it is, but this relates to how many microseconds it takes a droplet of the fuel to ignite - NOT the seconds it has in such heaters. It is also true that much gas oil is still high sulphur but there was still the difference in reliability when road diesel had high sulphur so I feel that is also not an explanation. I know from my contact with RCR Ltd. that many more boaters than most people believe are suffering from "diesel bug" and excess water in the fuel system (read Bones' pieces over the last few months!) both of these will cause problems for such heaters but the owners seem to think it is not their fault that their fuel leaves much to be desired when they suffer the consequences. Now, your statement about us filling our tanks with red diesel is simply not true. When I was running a hire fleet all our Webastos had separate fuel tanks and ran on 28 second oil (kerosene) simply because it burnt far cleaner than either red or white diesel so minimising the maintenance they required. I know other boaters also use separate tanks and several use kerosene. I would contend that the electrical load this type of heater requires makes it unsuitable for livaboard use UNLESS you have shoreline charging and once you have mains aboard you can start looking at small domestic oil fired boilers. Having mounted what may look like a defence of the big three makers I must point out that when the time came to review the heating on my boat I went for Alde gas plus solid fuel stove but I also think that if I had ANY of the big three heaters I would have little trouble with it, but then it would have a stern exhaust, my fuel would be treated for bug, water would be removed form the fuel, the batteries would be well charged when I was using the heater, the heater would only use two settings - maximum and off and finally I would make absolutely sure the thing was serviced every summer and the are around the glow plug a couple more times a year. However nothing would persuade me to buy a heater that required the use of dedicated electronic test equipment to reset it after a failure. Tony Brooks

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