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Author Topic:   Reference Article: Wire Color Codes
jimh posted 07-20-2002 11:56 PM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
The Reference Article on Wire Color Codes
is a good source of information when trying to understand the electrical wiring found on your Boston Whaler.

Please use this message thread for any follow-up comments or questions on the information in the article.

Many thanks to Mike Williams who sent this information to me and created the PDF document that is available.

Drydock posted 07-23-2002 10:44 AM ET (US)     Profile for Drydock  Send Email to Drydock     
I just looked at the wire chart that was posted. Could anyone give me a real quick answer on the difference between a "ground" and "bonding" as it relates to the wiring?
DaveH posted 07-23-2002 03:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for DaveH  Send Email to DaveH     
Bonding wires usually connect metallic parts which are part of the lightening protection system. They are usually tracable to an exterior ground plate or an engine block in small boats. In some cases I have seen cathodic protection circuits run through them as well, but the former is the actual use.
DaveH posted 07-23-2002 03:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for DaveH  Send Email to DaveH     
And to answer your question (sometimes I wonder where my head's at), the difference is that ground wires are part of completing electronic circuits (e.g. AC and DC) where bonding is for safe passage of lightening surges to ground out through the boat.
jimh posted 07-23-2002 06:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Wires used for bonding should not have current flowing on them, nor should any "ground" wires. Particularly on a boat, you do not want to have any loads return their current to the battery via a ground wire. All circuits should have +12 Vdc source wiring and isolated returns. The returns are usually bussed together at the power distribution panel and returned to the battery by a single large-gauge conductor.

If you have currents flowing on the bonded circuits you increase the risk of corrosion.

Here is an interesting anecdote about wiring and corrosion. A salt water boater kept his boat moored with the (aluminum) outboard motor tilted out of the water. Accidentally his boat became filled with water, too much for the bilge pumps to handle. This forced the transom down so far that the outboard skeg was immersed in the water, as well as submerging the positive terminal of the battery. The result was very rapid corrosion of the aluminum skeg and propeller, driven by the strong currents of the battery postive through the sea water and then to the submerged engine parts.

DaveH posted 07-24-2002 09:28 AM ET (US)     Profile for DaveH  Send Email to DaveH     
To clarify, jimh is correct about cathodic protection through bonding wires (my opinion). I just mentioned that I have seen these wire systems used in the past during the late 60's and early 70's boats in case someone runs across it.

There was, and still is a huge industry for "black box" cathodic protection for the industrial marine market. In theory it works but it seldom was executed properly (with disastrous results)for the pleasure boat market. I believe there was one type called MerCathode which was a real problem for Mercury. I saw way too many outdrives waste away in one season from a faulty install or failing system due to lack of maintenance. The easiest system for the pleasure boater is still the use of sacrificial anodic metal (e.g. zinc).

With regard to the 12v ground wire, I mentioned that "ground wires" are used to complete an electronic circuit (still true). I did not mean to over simplify (jimh, your description of proper wiring is right on) but rather to help create distinction in the reader's mind.

empy1000 posted 07-24-2002 10:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for empy1000  Send Email to empy1000     
The bonding system is not part of any lightning protection system. The wire gauge sizes and routing requirements are are very specific for a lightning protection system (Min. 6 gauge wire and no sharp bends). The bonding system is to connect all submersed metallic components together with a common underwater zinc to prevent galvanic corrosion.
DaveH posted 07-24-2002 12:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for DaveH  Send Email to DaveH     
Although I do not manufacture boats, I must give way to you since you would be up on the latest ABYC Codes.

I should have stated that the bonding system is a dual use system (both cathodic and protection) used in conjunction with the lightening protection system. It requires (according to NFPA-LPC) a minimum 8 AWG connection between all major metal masses and the ground plate within a 6' radius of main conductor path. The main conductor path should be as straight as possible with a minimum 8 AWG connection and 8" minimum radius bends to a ground plate of at least 1 sq.ft.

I was not entirely correct in stating only one use and eluding to cathodic protection as a possibility. If ABYC Codes are more stringent than NFPC-LPC, please correct me on the wire size or any other info.

jimh posted 07-24-2002 12:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
In a Whaler the green wire (bonding) is about 10-AWG and just serves to bond all the metal components of the fuel system together, i.e., the fill tube and the tank. For some time there was also a sintered bronze electrode bolted to the transom (in a position so as to be submerged) which was bonded to the fuel system, too.

I believe they no longer use the bronze electrode and now bond all to the battery negative. If the engine is tilted out of the water then I guess the whole boat "floats" above ground potential until you lower the skeg and prop into the water.

Swellmonster posted 08-21-2002 07:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for Swellmonster  Send Email to Swellmonster     
What guage wire are the battery cables on outrages w/batteries in center console?
BWBirdNW posted 01-22-2005 12:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for BWBirdNW  Send Email to BWBirdNW     
Is there a resource for obtaining an original electrical diagram for the 1989 Montauk? The previous owner disconnected the rear electrical panel from the console and I'm attempting to install a new bilge pump, but I'm unsure of the proper console panel hook-up. I've attempted to follow the bilge installation instructions on the reference article on this site and the directions that came with the new pump, but I believe my problem is related to this needed panel - console repair. I've called Boston Whaler's 800 number, but they unfortunately do not have the eletrical plans for any of the 1980's Whalers. Thanks for any guidence you can provide.
LHG posted 02-15-2005 03:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for LHG    
Why do all marine lighting fixtures, including navigation lights, have on white lead, and one black lead? The industry standard for Nav lights seems to be grey.
LHG posted 02-15-2005 03:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for LHG    
"one" instead of "on"
jimh posted 02-16-2005 01:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Wiring a lamp fixture with black and white conductors is probably an artifact of AC electrical codes. In AC wiring, the "hot" conductor is BLACK and the "neutral" conductor is WHITE.

If a bulb has a screw-in base, the "hot" conductor is the small tip and the "neutral" conductor is the metal screw-thread portion.

In DC wiring this is something of a problem as often BLACK is used for the negative (-) terminal. In DC wiring the "hot" terminal is considered the positive, so this would imply you ought to connect the lamp fixture like this:

LAMP BLACK wire ---> "hot" --->
Battery Positive (+) (normally RED conductor)

LAMP WHITE wire ---> "netural or cold" --->
Battery Negative (-) (often BLACK or YELLOW conductor)

So at the point of wiring the lamp fixture, you would connect:

White to Black or Yellow
Black to Red

If the lamp fixture is symetical, and both conductors and lamp sock base connections are more or less equal, the use of a "hot" and "neutral" designator is blurred, and there is not a particular reason to designate one in preference to the other. Usually the neutral conductor goes to the portion of the lamp fixture that has the greatest potential for contact with the user, to reduce the shock hazard. The "hot" conductor goes to the most recessed portion of the connection, to reduce the shock hazard.

If you think about it, this makes sense. When you a screwing in a light bulb into a typical 115-VAC lamp socket, you may come in contact with the threaded portion. If this is neutral conductor, there will be minimal shock hazzard. If it was the hot conductor, you could get a "good poke" (as my father the Master Electrician and Electrical Inspector used to say). Of course, on a table lamp with a two-conductor cord and a non-polarized plug, this is a moot point.

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