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Unusual "Spark" at front of engine Anyone seen before?

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Old 04-19-2014, 10:34 AM   #1
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Unusual "Spark" at front of engine Anyone seen before?

This is not Tacoma related, but I was just curious. A customer of mine came in this morning with her 2001 Hyundai. She was complaining of an intermittent "tick" noise from her engine. Sure enough we could hear it. It was somewhat consistent about every 8 seconds I would guess. Inspection showed something I had never seen or heard of before. Every 8 seconds a spark would arc from the harmonic balancer to the timing cover (an air gap of about 1/4 inch)

I had never seen this before, but when I did some searching I found that it is actually pretty common, and a result of static electricity buildup. I would think under the hood, where there is a chance of oil or fuel leaks, that this would be a bit of a concern, but I have not found any evidence of a fire linked to this. Has anyone else out there seen this before?
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Old 04-19-2014, 10:37 AM   #2
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bad ground maybe? causing electrical buildup and then it arcs to a ground, which in this case is the timing cover?
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Old 04-19-2014, 10:43 AM   #3
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All research shows that it is static electricity buildup due to the outer section of the pulley being metal, with a rubber "damper" separating it from the main part of the balancer bolted to the crankshaft. I have heard everything from harmonic vibration to bad engine drive belts. We did add a 6 gauge ground strap cable from the engine block to the unibody, and that has done nothing to change it. It is quite interesting in that I have been doing this career for 25 years, and never saw or heard of this before, but it seems to be pretty common.
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Old 04-19-2014, 11:07 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BamaToy1997 View Post
All research shows that it is static electricity buildup due to the outer section of the pulley being metal, with a rubber "damper" separating it from the main part of the balancer bolted to the crankshaft. I have heard everything from harmonic vibration to bad engine drive belts. We did add a 6 gauge ground strap cable from the engine block to the unibody, and that has done nothing to change it. It is quite interesting in that I have been doing this career for 25 years, and never saw or heard of this before, but it seems to be pretty common.
hmm... i may have to go run my truck for a bit and see if it does this as well... is there a way to ground the pulley while this is occurring to see if it stops?
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Old 04-19-2014, 11:22 AM   #5
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I did a little research in ESD about 20 years ago. ESD commonly is caused by a conductive surface rubbing against a nonconductive surface. So a rubber belt running on a steel pulley makes sense. Since you cannot reliably or safely ground the balancer, I would suggest insulating surfaces close enough for the spark to jump to. Or a second thought I just had you could try a small strand of wire jumping from the outer part to the inner part of the balancer. Hope this helps.
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Old 04-19-2014, 08:33 PM   #6
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Thanks for the idea. Not sure how I can do it while making it look good. I'll figure something out. Just thought it was pretty weird.
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Old 04-19-2014, 08:53 PM   #7
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BamaToy is stumped? Haha
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Old 04-20-2014, 08:31 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BamaToy1997 View Post
Thanks for the idea. Not sure how I can do it while making it look good. I'll figure something out. Just thought it was pretty weird.
You will want to run two strands of wire with that method. Sort of like o-0-o in order to keep it somewhat balanced. I've never seen this issue before either.
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Old 04-20-2014, 12:38 PM   #9
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BamaToy is stumped? Haha
Smart azz!
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Old 04-20-2014, 12:46 PM   #10
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get that on film and send to Hondai. it might be a kaching in your wallet for reporting it first LOL
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Old 04-20-2014, 03:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BamaToy1997 View Post
This is not Tacoma related, but I was just curious. A customer of mine came in this morning with her 2001 Hyundai. She was complaining of an intermittent "tick" noise from her engine. Sure enough we could hear it. It was somewhat consistent about every 8 seconds I would guess. Inspection showed something I had never seen or heard of before. Every 8 seconds a spark would arc from the harmonic balancer to the timing cover (an air gap of about 1/4 inch)

I had never seen this before, but when I did some searching I found that it is actually pretty common, and a result of static electricity buildup. I would think under the hood, where there is a chance of oil or fuel leaks, that this would be a bit of a concern, but I have not found any evidence of a fire linked to this. Has anyone else out there seen this before?
I've seen it bill.
Same thing. After about 5 seconds an arc from the pulley to the tcover.
Traced it to a bad fiber in the alternator belt. Swapped the belts and no more problem.
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Old 04-20-2014, 05:08 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BamaToy1997 View Post
Smart azz!
Oz-T has been rubbing off on me, I apologize
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Old 06-19-2014, 04:34 PM   #14
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I have not observed this on a vehicle, but I have seen this happen on conveyors that use rubber belts.

There was a piece of machinery at a manufacturing plant I used to work at that had a long rubber belt (like 80 feet long) that ran across several pieces of plastic. In the winter when the air was dry and when no material was being transported by the belts, a spark about an inch long would periodically appear and discharge the static charge that had accumulated on parts of the conveyor.

This is pretty much how a Van de Graff generator works.
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