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Onan vs Northern Lights

Discussion in 'Generators' started by Capt Ralph, Nov 11, 2018.

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  1. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

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    Satsuma, FL
    We have a good quote from Onan on a 21.5KW gen-set for a customer. We are hitting hard our Northern Lights vendors for a good price on their 20KW also.
    We are replacing a Hat's MD4 20Kw reef material pile.
    I noticed the later Onan's are coming with the Kobota blocks rather than the Shibaura blocks that N L & Onan shared. I have always been a Kobota fan but also have no complaints on the Shibaura either.
    Onan has fancy electrical thingies. N L has relays.
    N L has their own generator end. Onan uses the stanford-NextGen windings.
    Gear driven raw water pumps seem to be better on the N L.
    The N L heat ex-changer seems to be more serviceable.

    We also need the N2K I/O. The Onan would come with the J1939 and N2K option plugs into that.
    N L has a non company vendor to use for N2K I/O.

    Eager to read what other members have to say about these two packages.

    If you have any history on me, You already know I'm not a Kohler or Worse & break fan. Please don't bring that crap (no relation) up.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2018
  2. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    NL. In 8 years running a pair of 20 NLs I had fewer shut downs than in 2 years on a pair of 27.5 Ohnos with 1/4 of the hours
  3. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    We had Onan in that size range on our loop boat and had no issues with them. However, we've run our four NL's extensively and for a longer time without issues so if I had a choice, I'd always go with NL.
  4. motoryachtlover

    motoryachtlover Senior Member

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    Last year I replaced my Onan 20 with a NL 20. Had an oil leak fixed under warranty. I did have an issue that I never would have figured out had I not been onboard when it happened. Anchored out and I heard the pitch of the genny engine change and major black smoke and soot on the water. Ran down to the engine room and it was about stalled out and opened up the sound shield and there is a rubber air inlet hose that has a clamp to hold it but it had walked its way up against the side soundshield and was sucked closed. Pulled the hose back and tightened the clamp and it fired right back up. Wonder if NL should have installed wire reinforced hose that would be less likely to get sucked shut. Minor issue but had I not been there it would have been a real pain to figure that one out.
  5. Bamboo

    Bamboo Senior Member

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    Not familiar with the Onan, but have quite a bit of experience with different NL- and think they are very very good.
  6. Trinimax

    Trinimax Senior Member

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    For me what you said there,"Onan has fancy electrical thingies. N L has relays." would make the decision a simple one. Have had too many bad experiences with Onan and Kholer units not working due to some fault that was picked up by their overly complicated control system.
  7. Fishtigua

    Fishtigua Senior Member

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    As an ex-Onan dealer, the number of $800 control panel/PCBs we have had replace, just as units are out of warranty, is annoying. I'd stick with N/Ls too.
  8. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

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    Update
    The Onan rep was real good to us on his last quote.
    I sensed our customer really wanted the N L setup.
    I beat up our N L rep with the numbers.

    Less some blood loss and other sore body parts, a couple of extra days of wrestling, this morning our N L rep did beat the numbers and received his order check.

    I am happy to report a new 20KW Northern Lights has been ordered with the new design sound box and extra optional (below the tray) vibration isolators.

    Fyi, N L discontinued their N2K data box option a while back.
    A new N2K and auto remote start options have just been released by N L. It is factory installed only and is over $3000 extra.

    There are other simple N2K I/O boxes out there that will work with our planned inverter system and will be just at (maybe still under) the Onan budget when installed.
  9. Lenny

    Lenny Member

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    We have older Northern Light 35Kw generators (2). 1200 RPM. Time to rebuild or replace. About the same price. Spoke to engineering department. They said that these generates are built proof and rebuild. When did you ever hear that from a company that sells new generators. A few years ago we added a PTO to one of the generators. Not easy and the factory went out of their way to help.
    My last boat had an Onan - new- replacement for a Kohler. First trip to the Bahamas from Miami. Injector system broke. Factory ok but not great
    Firm believer in Northern.
  10. GhostriderIII

    GhostriderIII Senior Member

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    Had Onan for many years replaced them with NL. Replaced them with remaned 453s
  11. Tom Gauger

    Tom Gauger New Member

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    Onan is Cummins...and therein lies the tale of bad and rather uncaring service.
  12. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

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    Pretty fast and hard slam.
    Can you explain?
    Our Cummins and Onan services in North East Florida is very good.
    I do prefer NL over the OhNos but that is a different reason from service.
  13. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    I also prefer NL but I have only heard good things on Cummins service and am aware of some very impressive. His quick hit was a bit strange. Even as a strong fan of NL, we had no issues with our Onans on our Sunseeker.
  14. Tom Gauger

    Tom Gauger New Member

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    Over the years I've owned two airplanes, three boats and three motorhomes. The most recent motorhome is powered by a excellent 500 ISM engine...and there's a 10kw Onan up front. The problem with Cummins is customer relations and the kind of attention you get driving into their locations. According to a general manager at a Georgia Cummins locatioon, the company has laid off employees and treat those remaining with disdain. He went on to say that increased work loads and pressure to "get it done" result in work delays and unhappy customers.
    Yes,he's a "disgruntled employee." But I've heard similar unhappiness when buddying up to the guy working on my coach at Cummins Harrisburg as well.
    My coach was in for work on the genset as one of its electronic "thingies" kept shutting it down. Reading the "blink codes" told me that it was an overheat situation. I replaced the pressure cap. Problem continued.
    After many hours the expensive tech said the fan belt was slipping. No,they did not have a replacement.
    It arrived the net day. It was a $600 event..."fan belt is hard to get to."
  15. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    So your only customer experience with Cummins was it took one day to repair your generator?

    The rest is disgruntled employees which is not to be dismissed as that can lead to issues.
  16. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    $600 to change a fan belt is pretty steep, especially when he brought it to their location. It'd have me grumbling, and a fan belt I expect them to have in stock. That said it's a DIY repair. When employee dissatisfaction gets to the point of grumbling to customers that's a serious problem for the company.
  17. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    I have zero issues with getting good ONAN service and warranty support. Northern Lights are good and do last a very long time. However they're best suited for some yachts where they fit well. Onan has it's place also, it really just depends on the fit and usage. Now I've had some strange Gremlins with some Kohler generators that we never have figured out.
  18. Tom Gauger

    Tom Gauger New Member

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    My poor relation with Cummins extends back over ten years.
    The engine is excellent.
  19. Scott M

    Scott M New Member

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    I have had both. The NL seems to be simpler and more reliable. The Kohler is very good, but small issues always popping up, especially as hours increased (relays, exhaust elbow, water pump...to name a few).
  20. tusindtak

    tusindtak Member

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    We have about 60 5.5 Onan gas gens in robot pipeline inspection trucks. General results are 10,000 to 12,000 hours on older units vs. 6,000 - 8,000 hours on the newer units. We look for the older version on replacements. Overall a small operational cost. Downtime is expensive so with first bit of issues, we replace. With the RV market strong repair/replacement service availability is more difficult. Cummins diesels are very good engines. Last boat Westerbeke was from 1990 era. Never a missed minute.