Intermittent Electrical Connection in Navigation Lamp and Switch Illumination Circuits

Electrical and electronic topics for small boats
svennn
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Intermittent Electrical Connection in Navigation Lamp and Switch Illumination Circuits

Postby svennn » Wed Oct 02, 2019 1:58 pm

I have my first problem on a boat that is new to me, a 2001 Boston Whaler 26 Outrage: all the navigation lights will randomly blink and come back on in a seemingly random way.

At the same time all the lighted switches on the dash panel will blink out. Everything else continues to function, VHF, stereo, and gauges.

It seems like a single wire or ground that feeds the panel holding the switches could be the [cause], but I'm a neophyte at electrical diagnosis. I also have no diagram of the electrical wiring. I hope this might be [a symptom] seen before.

Thanks.

Steve

jimh
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Re: Intermittent Electrical Connection in Navigation Lamp and Switch Illumination Circuits

Postby jimh » Wed Oct 02, 2019 6:55 pm

Is the boat underway in some rough seas when the navigation lamps individually extinguish and re-illuminate in a random manner?

There must be a multiplicity of bad connections in the wiring. Since the lamps re-illuminate in a random manner, that is, not all at once, there must be several bad connections. That multiple circuits are affected in a random pattern means there are multiple bad connections.

Approach the problem one lamp at a time.

A circuit diagram is necessary. If there is none, you will have to create one by carefully tracing the wiring.

If the problem occurs when there is some motion on the boat, you can easily simulate that condition by physically moving the wiring with your hand.

svennn
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Re: Lamps blink in Unison

Postby svennn » Thu Oct 03, 2019 9:30 am

I'll try and give some better context.

I first noticed [the blinking of the navigation lighitng] while at anchor fishing on a calm evening. There was no movement at all. The lamp blinking continued as I made my way home. The blinking did not correlate in any obvious way with an impact on the hull that would shake a loose wire.

As far as the panel lamps, the lamps in all the switches blink on and off in perfect time with the all the navigation lamps. That is the reason I hoped there was some sort of single wire feeding power to that switch panel that then flows to the navigation lamps.

Thanks for your help.

jimh
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Re: Intermittent Electrical Connection in Navigation Lamp and Switch Illumination Circuits

Postby jimh » Thu Oct 03, 2019 9:41 am

If all lamp extinguish simultaneously, they are all being fed by the same branch circuit of the power distribution. Investigate the wiring of that circuit in the portion that is common to all those lamps. Investigate both the positive and negative branches of the circuit.

Also, are you certain that no other electrical loads are affected? That only these lighting circuits blink? The reason I ask this: it is unlikely that the navigation lamp circuit is part of the switch illumination circuits of other switches. If ALL the switch illumination lamps extinguish in unison with all the navigation lamps, then the cause is probably not in either individual circuit, but in a common circuit that supplies power to both branch circuits.

Generally the power distribution wiring on a small boat is confined to a very limited area, and a visual inspection of the wiring can easily deduce how the circuits are arranged. Since it is impossible for me to make a visual inspection of the wiring of your boat, I cannot offer any advice on how it might be wired. That investigation will have to be done by someone who can see the wiring.

Have you obtained an electrical wiring diagram from the boat builder? Boston Whaler generally provides on-line resources that include electrical wiring diagrams. You can often find PDF versions of engineering drawings at

https://www.bostonwhaler.com/boat-ownership/resources/

I don't see a wiring diagram for your model and model year. Here is a diagram for a similar model and slightly newer:

http://bostonwhaler.com.s3.amazonaws.co ... m-2007.pdf

That diagram may be useful or at a minimum will give you an idea of the typical circuitry used by Boston Whaler.

If the electrical wiring diagram is not available on-line, you can contact Boston Whaler. Boston Whaler is renown for their excellent customer service department.

Once you have a schematic diagram of the electrical wiring, the arrangement of the branch circuits in the power distribution will be clear. Concentrate on the circuitry that is common to all the lighting loads you have observed blinking.

Also, is this boat operated in saltwater? Is would be quite common for electrical connections on a boat that has been operated in saltwater for almost 20-years to develop corrosion, particularly at any point where a connection is made that is exposed to air. In 12-Volt circuits, even a very slight corrosion between electrical contacts can be sufficient to stop the flow of electrical current.

A general approach to solving this problem may be to obtain a spray can of WD40 with a tube in the nozzle. Without using an excessive amount, spray any suspected electrical contact with WD40. Undo the mechanical connection of the electrical conductors to each other. Re-make any plug-socket connection. Re-tighten any connections made under a screw fastener.

The preferred method to investigate this problem would be to pinpoint the one circuit that is causing all problems. You should be able to do that by slowly and carefully manipulating just one conductor at a time, while observing the behavior of the lamps that are affected. In this way you will know when you have found the real source of this problem, and they you can be certain you have remedied the problem. Locating intermittent electrical problems can be very time consuming. Investigating this yourself will be the best method, as paying a skilled technician an hourly rate could be an expensive solution.

HINT: inspect a large conductor, probably red 8-AWG that originates at the main circuit breaker (positive) and provides power to ALL switches, their loads, and their illumination. Also check the negative portion of this circuit.

svennn
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Re: Intermittent Electrical Connection in Navigation Lamp and Switch Illumination Circuits

Postby svennn » Fri Oct 04, 2019 10:40 am

Thanks for the details. I'll spend some time looking things over this weekend.

I do have one follow up question. My son was thinking over the symptoms and had a thought that seems logical.

All the lighted rocker switches light up when the nav-anchor switch is on. They all are blinking out in time with the actual nav/anchor lights. Is it possible the switch itself is defective? For instance, corrosion in the three-position switch causes the circuit to open causing an "Off"? Thus, everything blinks out in unison.

I'm going to call Whaler today and try and get manuals so I can get to work.

jimh
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Re: Intermittent Electrical Connection in Navigation Lamp and Switch Illumination Circuits

Postby jimh » Fri Oct 04, 2019 4:34 pm

svennn wrote:All the lighted rocker switches light up when the nav-anchor switch is on.


Usually there is a three position switch for the navigation lamps. There are two ON positions: ON for just at anchor; ON for underway with power propulsion.

Based on your description, there may be a bit of an oddity in the wiring of the switch illumination circuit. The switch illumination circuit may be wired in parallel with a navigation lamp. If the switch illumination circuit goes ON when the the navigation lamp switch is in either ON position, then I would infer that the switch illumination circuit is wired in parallel with the WHITE ALL-ROUND lamp circuit.

This may have been done on the basis that the switch illumination is only needed during periods of darkness, and since the navigation lamps would only be illuminated during periods of darkness the switch illumination circuit could just be wired in parallel with the WHITE ALL-ROUND lamp.

This is just my speculation based on your further descriptions of the behaviors you are observing. The more details you provide about the behavior you observe, the more inferences I can make.

jimh
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Re: Intermittent Electrical Connection in Navigation Lamp and Switch Illumination Circuits

Postby jimh » Fri Oct 04, 2019 4:35 pm

svennn wrote:Is it possible the [navigation lamp] switch itself is defective?


Yes, that is certainly a possibility.

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Re: Intermittent Electrical Connection in Navigation Lamp and Switch Illumination Circuits

Postby jimh » Fri Oct 04, 2019 4:38 pm

Regarding the wiring used by Boston Whaler for the three-position switch that controls the navigation lamps, I have written in great detail with several illustrations how this is accomplished in newer Boston Whaler boats. See

Navigation Lamp Circuits Used on Newer Boston Whaler Boats
http://continuouswave.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=4136

I have no knowledge of how the switch on your boat is wired. I don't want you to infer that the article linked above is authoritative for your c.2001 boat.