It’s been 4 months since I did a rejig of my storage server, installing a new 16-port SATA HBA to support the disk drives. I mentioned the factory fan the card came with in my previous post, and I didn’t have many hopes of it surviving long.
The heatsink card has barely had enough time to accumulate any grime from the air & the fan has already failed!
There’s no temperature sensing or fan speed sensing on this card, so a failure here could go unnoticed, and under load without a fan the heatsink becomes hot enough to cause burns. (There are a total of 5 large ICs underneath it). This would probably cause the HBA to overheat & fail rather quickly, especially when under a high I/O load, with no warning. In my case, the bearings in the fan failed, so the familiar noise of a knackered sleeve bearing fan alerted me to problems.
A replacement 80mm Delta fan has been attached to the heatsink in place of the dead fan, and this is plugged into a motherboard fan header, allowing sensing of the fan speed. The much greater airflow over the heatsink has dramatically reduced running temperatures. The original fan probably had it’s bearings cooked by the heat from the card as it’s airflow capability was minimal.
Here’s the old fan removed from the heatsink. The back label, usally the place where I’d expect to find some specifications has nothing but a red circle. This really is the cheapest crap that the manufacturer could have fitted, and considering this HBA isn’t exactly cheap, I’d expect better.
Peeling off the back label reveals the back of the bearing housing, with the plastic retaining clip. There’s some sign of heat damage here, the oil has turned into gum, all the lighter fractions having evaporated off.
The shaft doesn’t show any significant damage, but since the phosphor bronze bearing is softer, there is some dirt in here which is probably a mix of degraded oil & bearing material.
There’s more gunge around the other end of the bearing & it’s been worn enough that side play can be felt with the shaft. In ~3000 hours running this fan is totally useless.
With some recent upgrades to the boat’s heating system, the hot water circulation pumps we’ve been using are becoming far too small for the job. After the original Johnson Marine circulation pump died of old age (the brushes wore down so far the springs ate the commutator) some time ago, it was replaced with a Pierburg WUP1 circulation pump from a BMW. (As we’re moored next to a BMW garage, these are easily obtainable & much cheaper than the marine pumps).
These are also brushless, where as the standard Johnson ones are brushed PM motors – the result here is a much longer working life, due to fewer moving parts.
The rated flow & pressure on these pumps is pretty pathetic, at 13L/min at 0.1bar head pressure. As the boat’s heating system is plumbed in 15mm pipe instead of 22mm this low pressure doesn’t translate to a decent flow rate. Turns out it’s pretty difficult to shove lots of water through ~110ft of 15mm pipe ;). Oddly enough, the very low flow rate of the system was never a problem for the “high output” back boiler on the stove – I suspect the “high output” specification is a bit optimistic.
This issue was recently made worse with the addition of a Webasto Thermo Top C 5kW diesel-fired water heater, which does have it’s own circulation pump but the system flow rate was still far too low to allow the heater to operate properly. The result was a rapidly cycling heater as it couldn’t dump the generated hot water into the rest of the system fast enough.
The easiest solution to the problem here is a larger pump with a higher head pressure capability. (The more difficult route would be completely re-piping the system in 22mm to lower the flow resistance). Luckily Pierburg produce a few pumps in the range that would fit the job.
Here’s the next size up from the original WUP1 pump, the CWA50. These are rated at a much more sensible 25L/min at 0.6bar head pressure. It’s physically a bit larger, but the connector sizes are the same, which makes the install onto the existing hoses easier. (For those that are interested, the hose connectors used on BMW vehicles for the cooling system components are NormaQuick PS3 type. These snap into place with an O-Ring & are retained by a spring clip).
The CWA50 draws considerably more power than the WUP1 (4.5A vs 1.5A), and are controllable with a PWM signal on the connector, but I haven’t used this feature. The PWM pin is simply tied to the positive supply to keep the pump running at maximum speed.
Once this pump was installed the head pressure immediately increased on the gauge from the 1 bar static pressure to 1.5 bar, indicating the pump is running at about it’s highest efficiency point. The higher water flow has so far kept the Webasto happy, there will be more to come with further improvements!
CWA-50 Pump Teardown
Above is a cutaway drawing of the new pump. These have a drilling through the shaft allows water to pass from the high pressure outlet fitting, through the internals of the pump & returns through the shaft to the inlet. This keeps the bearings cool & lubricated. The control & power drive circuitry for the 3-phase brushless motor is attached to the back & uses the water flowing through the rotor chamber as a heatsink. Overall these are very well made pumps.
Here’s the impeller of the pump, which is very small considering the amount of power this unit has. The return port for the lubricating water can be seen in the centre of the impeller face.
Inside the back of the pump is the control module. The main microcontroller is hiding under the plastic frame which holds the large power chokes & the main filter electrolytic.
In a word, no they aren’t any good. As usual, cheap doesn’t equal good, and in this case the cheapo clones are a total waste of money. Read on for the details!
I’ve been looking into using a cheap Chinese clone Honda GX35 engine to drive an automotive alternator as a portable battery charging & power unit. These engines are available very cheaply on eBay, aimed at the mini-bike/go-kart market.
For those not in the know, the Honda GX25/35 4-strokes are strimmer-type engines that traditionally were always of 2-stroke construction. Honda worked out how to have a wet-sump engine without the need to keep the engine always in the “upright” position. They do not require mixing of oil into the fuel for lubrication as 2-strokes do, so should be much cleaner running.
So far I’ve had two of these cheap engines, as the first one died after only 4 hours run time, having entirely lost compression. At the time the engine was idling, no load, having been started from cold only a few minutes before. Having checked the valve clearances to make sure a valve wasn’t being held partially open, I deduced that the cause was broken piston rings. This engine was replaced by the seller, so I didn’t get a chance to pull it to bits to find out, but I decided to do a full teardown on the replacement to see where the cloners have cut corners.
I’ve already stripped off the ancillary components: exhaust, carburettor, fuel tank, cowlings, as these parts are standard to any strimmer engine. The large black hose here is the oil return feed back to the rocker cover from the crankcase. The oiling system in these engines is rather clever. The main engine block is made of light alloy, probably some permutation of Aluminium. There is much flashing left behind between the cylinder fins from the die-casting process, and not a single engine manufacturer’s logo anywhere. (From what I’ve read, the genuine Honda ones have their logo on the side of the crankcase).
Here’s the top of the engine with valves, rockers & camshaft. All the valve gear up here, minus the valves themselves & springs, are manufactured from sintered steel, there are no proper “bearings”, the steel shafts just run in the aluminium castings. The cam gear is of plastic, with the sintered steel cam pressed into place. The cam also has the bearing surface for the pin that the whole assembly rotates on. The timing belt runs in the oil & is supposed to last the life of the engine, and while I’d believe that in the original Honda, I certainly wouldn’t in this engine. The black grommet is the opening of the oil return gallery.
Here’s the cam on the back of the plastic pulley. A single cam is used for both intake & exhaust valves for space & simplicity.
Just visible under the intake valve spring is a simple stem seal, to hopefully prevent oil being sucked down the valve guide into the cylinder by intake vacuum. Running these cheap engines proves this seal to be ineffective, as they blow about as much blue oil smoke as a 2-stroke when they’re started cold. 😉
The starter side is where the oil sump is located on these engines, along with the dipstick.
The flywheel end of the engine is the usual fare for small engines. Ignition is provided by a magneto, with a magnet in the flywheel. This is no different from the 2-stroke versions. As these ignitions fire on every revolution of the crankshaft, the spark plug fires both on compression, igniting the fuel for normal operation, and again into the exhaust stroke, where the spark is wasted.
One thing I have noticed about these engines is an almost total lack of cooling air coming through the cowling over the cylinder cooling fins. Plenty was flowing over the exhaust silencer side, I believe bad housing design would be what causes this problem. A lack of cooling certainly wouldn’t help engine longevity!
Separating the bottom of the engine was a little difficult, as there is a significant bead of sealant used instead of a gasket. Inside the sump of the engine are a pair of paddles, which stir up the oil into a mist. As the piston moves in the cylinder, it acts as a pump, creating alternating pulses of pressure & vacuum in the crankcase. Oil mist flows through a drilling in the crank from the sump, into the crankcase where it (hopefully) lubricates the bearings & the cylinder wall. Incidentally, the only main bearings are on the crankcase – the far end of the shaft that carries the oil paddles & timing belt is just flapping in the breeze, the only support being the oil seal in the outer housing. The crank itself isn’t hardened – a file easily removes metal from all parts that I could get at. The big end journal pin might be, but these cranks are pressed together so I can’t access that part.
The oil mist feeds into the crankcase through this hollow section of shaft, there’s a drilling next to the timing belt pulley to connect the two spaces together.
The lower crankcase is just a simple die casting, there’s a check valve at the bottom under the crankshaft to transfer oil to the rocker cover, through the rubber tube on the outside of the engine. After the oil reaches the rocker box, it condenses & returns to the sump via the timing belt cavity.
Removing the crankshaft from the engine block gives me a look at the piston. The factory couldn’t even be arsed to machine the crown, it’s still got the rough finish from the hot-forging press. This bad finish will pick up much carbon from combustion, and would probably cause detonation once enough had accumulated to become incandescent in the heat of combustion. Only the centre is machined, just enough for them to stamp a number on.
A look up the cylinder bore shows the valves in the cylinder head. These engines, like their 2-stroke cousins have a single casting instead of a separate block & head, so getting at the valves is a little more of a pain. The cylinder bore itself is a cast-in iron liner and it’s totally smooth – like a mirror finish. There’s not a single sign of a crosshatch pattern from honing. If the first engine that died on me was the same – I’d be surprised if it wasn’t, this could easily cause ring breakage. The usual crosshatch pattern the cylinder hone produces holds oil, to better help lubricate the piston & rings. Without sufficient lubrication, the rings will overheat & expand far enough to close the end gap. Once this happens they will break.
Finally, here’s the valves with their springs removed from the cylinder. These are the smallest poppet valves I’ve ever seen, a British penny is provided for scale.
In all, these engines share many components with the older 2-stroke versions. The basic crankshaft & connecting rod setup is the same as I’ve seen in many old 2-strokes previous, the addition of the rather ingenious oiling system by Honda is what makes these tiny 4-strokes possible. I definitely won’t be trusting these very cheap copies in any of my projects, reliability is questionable at the least. The apparent lack of cooling air flow over the cylinder from the flywheel fan is concerning, along with the corner-cutting on the cylinder finishing process & piston crown, presumably to reduce factory costs.