Navigation lights take 5-10 minutes to turn on

Electrical and electronic topics for small boats
Foulweather Jack
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Navigation lights take 5-10 minutes to turn on

Postby Foulweather Jack » Wed Jul 04, 2018 9:55 pm

This problem has vexed me for the last several years, but--for whatever reason--the red and green running lights on my 2007 Conquest 235 take 5 to 10 minutes to turn on when I'm running the boat. The white anchor light turns on immediately. I assume that the run from the batteries to the navigation lights is long and there is increased resistance in the circuit but it seems unusual that they should take so long to turn on.

Any ideas of things to look for when troubleshooting besides the obvious: corrosion at the terminals of the festoon bulb?

I'm considering replacing the running lights with LED lights which will require less electricity but it doesn't make sense to me that the original circuits aren't working.

jimh
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Re: Navigation lights take 5-10 minutes to turn on

Postby jimh » Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:26 am

If the navigation lamps are using incandescent lightbulbs, the explanation for the behavior of the lamps to take a long time to produce any light may be in the nature of incandescent lightbulbs themselves.

When no current is flowing in an incandescent lightbulb, the resistance of the filament is very low, practically a dead short in the circuit. When current begins to flow through an incandescent lightbulb the filament heats, producing light, and the resistance increases. The increased resistance causes the current flow to decrease, until some sort of equilibrium is reached, and the current flow and resistance stabilize.

In the behavior described, I would expect that somewhere in the circuit there is excessive resistance from the power source to the lightbulb. This resistance limits the initial current flow, and the lightbulb remains cold and remains very low resistance. In that condition, most of the voltage drop in the circuit is across the unusual high resistance in the wiring or connections, and there is very little voltage drop across the lightbulb. There is some current flow through the lightbulb, and it slowly begins to warm, and its resistance increases. At some point the resistance of the lightbulb increases so that more of the voltage available in the circuit is dropping across the lamp, causing it to produce more light.

This is about all I can imagine could cause the slow turn-on of the light from the lamp.

The remedy is to find the cause of the high resistance in the circuit and correct it.

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Phil T
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Re: Navigation lights take 5-10 minutes to turn on

Postby Phil T » Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:59 pm

1. Remove the bulbs, clean and reinstall.
2. Examine the wires connecting at the switch. Remove, clean, reinstall.
3. Replace bulbs.

Report back.
Member since 2003
1992 Outrage 17, 1992 Evinrude 115

Foulweather Jack
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Re: Navigation lights take 5-10 minutes to turn on

Postby Foulweather Jack » Thu Jul 05, 2018 5:42 pm

Thanks for the advice, and the generosity of all of you in sharing your expertise. Interestingly, the switch to turn on the running lights gets quite hot to the touch after a few minutes when the lights turn on.

I'll clean the contacts for the festoon bulbs and see what I can find re the switch: it seems to be a sealed unit. When I get time this weekend I'll take a look and report back.

jimh
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Re: Navigation lights take 5-10 minutes to turn on

Postby jimh » Fri Jul 06, 2018 8:26 am

Measure the voltage at the switch on the lead that is going to the lamps. Measure the voltage at the switch on the lead from the battery. There should be almost no difference.

Re the switch becoming warm: is this switch a lighted switch that has its own lamp that shows the switched circuit is on?

Foulweather Jack
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Re: Navigation lights take 5-10 minutes to turn on

Postby Foulweather Jack » Sat Jul 07, 2018 6:57 pm

I looked at the contacts on the festoon bulbs in the port and starboard navigation lamps. The contacts appeared to be clean, but I scrubbed them with a wire brush anyway and applied CRC electrical cleaner. Still no success.

Next, I took apart the electrical console to gain access to the Navigation-Anchor light switch, which did indeed have mildly corroded terminals. I cleaned the terminals with a wire brush, applied CRC cleaner, and, voila, the lights now work as they should. The switch has six or seven poles on the back, and my biggest mistake was that I didn't photograph the wires before I disconnected them (access to the switch was cramped and difficult, and I failed to think that part through ahead of the time). So it took half an hour of cursing and trial and error to find the right combination of connections to get the switch to work properly again.

Moral of the story for me is two-fold:
Electrical connections in an eleven year old boat that lives on a sal water river tend to corrode and fail over time.
Whenever possible, photograph complicated assemblies before you take them apart to troubleshoot them.

I've read on the Verado forum that many owners spray all of their electrics every year with CRC.

Jim--do you have an opinion on best practices for preventive maintenance for marine electronics?

Foulweather Jack
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Re: Navigation lights take 5-10 minutes to turn on

Postby Foulweather Jack » Sat Jul 07, 2018 6:59 pm

PS: yes, the switch is a lighted switch. I didn't have a voltmeter with me so didn't measure voltages.

jimh
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Re: Navigation lights take 5-10 minutes to turn on

Postby jimh » Sat Jul 07, 2018 8:20 pm

Foulweather Jack wrote:...I took apart the electrical console to gain access to the Navigation-Anchor light switch, which did indeed have mildly corroded terminals. I cleaned the terminals with a wire brush, applied CRC cleaner, and, voila, the lights now work as they should.


Two comments:

First, those poor connections at the switch were probably high-resistance and contributed to the oddly slow illumination of the lamps.

Second, don't use a wire brush to clean electrical contacts. Use an old toothbrush, and a soft bristle one at that.

The electrical contacts are often plated with a conductor like tin or perhaps nickel or silver, which enhances conductivity. If you use a wire brush you might have too much abrasion and remove the plating, leaving perhaps just a steel spring material.

There are many products marketed as electrical cleaners. I find WD40 is very useful.

CRC makes many products, so "CRC cleaner" is not very specific identification.

A good method for keeping moisture out of electrical contacts in lamp housings is to use a non-conductive grease coating, applied after the contacts have been mated. The grease needs to be rated for high-temperature because an incandescent light bulb, even one only rated for a few Watts, will generate plenty of heat in a navigation lamp enclosure.

jimh
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Re: Navigation lights take 5-10 minutes to turn on

Postby jimh » Sun Jul 08, 2018 8:02 am

Foulweather Jack wrote:Jim--do you have an opinion on best practices for preventive maintenance for marine electronics?


To prevent problems with marine electronics in the best way, keep water away from them.

In well-designed marine devices that employ any electrical connectors, the connectors will be appropriately chosen to keep water out of their electrical contacts, typically by use of rubber or other flexible material in seals that will block water entry.

Electrical connections that are not made via weather-tight connectors can be kept dry with other means, such as painting them with a top coating of insulating material, often called liquid electrical tape. See

https://www.permatex.com/products/adhesives-sealants/specialty-adhesives/permatex-liquid-electrical-tape/

I tend to avoid using grease on open connections as it tends to hold dirt. If grease is used, it is used only on connector seals. Grease can be used inside weather-tight enclosures like lamp housing. This is routinely done in automotive assemblies. (I just replaced a lightbulb in the taillight of my 1995 truck; the lamp contacts and lamp socket were originally installed with a grease coating. You can buy similar grease at an auto parts store.)

A general method to protect mechanical and electrical components is to apply a light top coating by spraying. When devices are new and/or completely dry, a light misting with a product like BOESHIELD T9 may be helpful to preserve the surfaces and tend to keep moisture out. See

https://boeshield.com/marine/

jimh
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Re: Navigation lights take 5-10 minutes to turn on

Postby jimh » Sun Jul 08, 2018 10:47 am

Re solvents or cleaners or treatments for electrical contacts:

My favorite liquid for restoration of electrical contacts is WD40. I don't use it on every connection, but it does work well on many. I think its base is kerosine. In the instance mentioned in this discussion, exposed electrical connections on the back of panel-mounted switches, I would use a spray of WD40 and then a toothbrush to clean them.

Also, there are now some dental products that are excellent brushes for contact cleaning. Little soft bristle brushes can reach inside female contacts. These are called "inter-dental brushes." For an example see

https://www.dentek.com/oral-care-products/interdental-brushes-and-picks/easy-brush-extra-tight

Contact "cleaners" can be harsh. They often contain solvents. For many years a typical solvent was 1,1,1-Trichloroethane. This solvent is now being phased out. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1,1,1-Trichloroethane for more information. The solvents in some electronic cleaners can be harmful to plastics. Use them with care.

For delicate and low-voltage and low-current contacts there are special solvents. In particular I would suggest using a product made by CAIG. See

http://store.caig.com/s.nl/sc.2/category.188/.f

They make a large number of contact cleaning products, and some have specific applications, such as for use on gold plated contacts.

Polarue
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Re: Navigation lights take 5-10 minutes to turn on

Postby Polarue » Mon Sep 03, 2018 4:06 am

For all bulb connections and the tabs on the rear of the carling type 20amp switches, I would recommend a dielectric grease which is usually silicone based. Cover the contact surfaces completely and attach. Any auto supply store will have tubes for about 5 bucks which will last you a very long time.

A note for anyone reconnecting to the tabs on the rear of the carling switches, there are 10 possible tabs. Some switches with as little as 2 and some with all ten and some with every possible combination in between. Two columns of 5 each . The top row and the bottom row are for lights on the switches of which there may be one or two or none. The second row from the top or bottom are the contacts that are turned on when the switch is pushed. Note that if the switch is pushed in at the top, it is now closing the circuit and connecting the 2nd row from the bottom, and likewise, if the bottom of the switch is pushed then the 2nd row from the top is energized. The 2nd rows from the top or bottom are energized by the center row which may or may not be tied together . A fully loaded switch will have the six inner tabs available for circuits and 4 outter most tabs for the two lights on the front of the switch. I hope this helps .