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Author Topic:   Are Circuit Breakers Really Needed?
bkoelbel posted 01-21-2003 07:25 AM ET (US)   Profile for bkoelbel   Send Email to bkoelbel  
I have an '86 20' Outrage, and the original wiring has a circuit breaker mounted near the transom on the starboard side.

I've had several mechanics say that they're really not required, but I want to consult the forum before changing anything.

I have 2 batteries (primary and back-up)supporting a mounted VHF, CD Player, Fishfinder, normal lighting, and ignition.

Appreciate your thoughts, thanks.

Dr T posted 01-21-2003 07:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for Dr T  Send Email to Dr T     
Well, you really don't need them if you don't care about frying all of your electronics on the same circuit and running the risk of fire if something shorts out.

My 13 doesn't have any, but all I have are running lights and a fishfinder. If I want to work on anything, I just pull the battery cable.

You are carrying a lot more power and complicated electronics around. The circuit breaker will also let you pull power without having to pull the battery cable.

weekendwarrior posted 01-21-2003 09:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for weekendwarrior  Send Email to weekendwarrior     
I was taught that a circuit breaker or fuse should always be present no more than 12" from the battery on every wire connected to the battery. The main purpose is fire protection. Then every electrical component is individually fused for the protection of that particular component.
triblet posted 01-21-2003 10:08 AM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
Dr T, short circuits trip breakers. Shorts
don't fry electronics. A short in the wiring
simply removes power from the electronics on
the other end. Absent a CB or fuse, the
wiring smokes a lot between the short and the
battery but the electonics survive fine.

Eevery circuit should have an
apporiate fuse or CB close to the battery.
"Appropriate" is determined by wire size.


Tom W Clark posted 01-21-2003 10:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     

You've asked a loaded question. Is the circuit breaker mounted in the stern of your 1986 Outrage 20 required? No, it is not required.

It is not required by the Coast Guard and it is not required by ABYC.

It is not required to protect your electronics, as there is (or should be) another circuit breaker in the console guarding the electrical distribution panel and also every electrical device should have its own fuse or circuit breaker.

Is the circuit breaker desirable? Yes it is. It protects the wiring run form the battery to the console. Without the circuit breaker, a short circuit could damage the wiring and start a fire. Is that very likely to happen? No, it is not, but it can and has.

It’s really your call. If you have the circuit breaker, leave it alone. If you do not have one but want one, then install one. They’re not that intrusive. Can you get by without one? Yes, you can get by without one in that location as all Whalers did up until the mid 1980’s, but you will be somewhat less protected.

dreid posted 01-21-2003 10:43 AM ET (US)     Profile for dreid  Send Email to dreid     
A benefit not touched on by the others here, I like being able to "turn off" the boat with that one breaker located aft, near the batteries. Without it, and you could easily leave on a fishfinder, gps or something else to drain your batteries over night. If re-wiring, make sure the main lead going to the console remains wired through that breaker, and you'll retain that benefit as well as reduce the chance of fried wiring or worse.
bkoelbel posted 01-21-2003 11:32 AM ET (US)     Profile for bkoelbel  Send Email to bkoelbel     
Well, I am certainly glad I asked!

If 'desired' = smart, I'm all over retaining the original wiring.

Makes me very suspicious of my mechanic now.....thanks for the feedback.

ratherwhalering posted 01-21-2003 01:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for ratherwhalering  Send Email to ratherwhalering     
I always try to remember to trip my circut breaker when I leave the boat, not only to protect the battery against unintentional discharge, but also because my kill switch and ignition is wired to the console breaker; the engine will turn over, but not start when the circut is open. I figure it may prevent theft, or joy riding, someday. It just takes me a few cranks to remember to reset the thing again!
mtbadfish posted 01-21-2003 03:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for mtbadfish  Send Email to mtbadfish     
I haven't come across a breaker in the console on my boat, but the one in the stern had been removed by the previous owner, evidently when the batteries were relocated to the console (cleaner looking stern, but a pain to work with).

Were there breakers in all consoles('89 Outrage)?

How involved is it to install one?


ratherwhalering posted 01-21-2003 06:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for ratherwhalering  Send Email to ratherwhalering     
Perhaps I used the wrong term. My switch is stock Whaler, located in the starbord stern quarter. There is a push/pull black button mounted to a plastic cover, and it is the main switch for the buss bar located in the console. I thought this was a circut breaker, is that correct? (All other electronics and accessories have in-line fuses too)
triblet posted 01-21-2003 10:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
mtbadfish, you don't need a master breaker
in the console if battery is in the console,
the individual circuits have breakers or
fuses, and the run from those individual
breakers or fuses to the battery is short.

A master breaker would only be helpful if it
was located significantly closer to the battery
than the individuals. That's why a master
breaker is a good idea in boats with rear
batteries. It's a long run from the battery
to the console.

Note that all wiring from the master breaker
to the idividual breakers or fuses must be
sized to handle the master breaker's current
rating. So, if you have a 20A master breaker,
all the wiring coming off it must be at least
14 ga. (I'd use 12 ga.) until it gets to the
individuals. Generally there would be one
fat wire from the master to the hot side of
all the individuals.


Roscoe posted 01-22-2003 02:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for Roscoe  Send Email to Roscoe     
Note * Circuit breakers are not to be used as switches.They are sensitive circuit protection(expensive fuses). Using as a switch can easily cause damage to the breaker unit.
dfmcintyre posted 01-22-2003 09:15 AM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
I thought it was ok to use cb's as switches.

Someone should tell the folks over at Tiara, as they've been installing cb panels to be used as switches for at least a decade.


Tom W Clark posted 01-22-2003 10:58 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
Mike Hayden,

I just looked at the exploded parts diagram for the 1986 Standard Console and I found no circuit breaker shown at the console, though the circuit breaker is shown in the rear of the boat. I think I made a false assumption.

On my 1983 Outrage 18 there was a large circuit breaker mounted immediately above the front console door inside the console. It was mounted to a short piece of aluminum angle so you could simply reach up there and switch it. My assumption was that when Whaler added a circuit breaker in the stern it was to supplement the protection afforded by this breaker. I now suppose Whaler simply moved the circuit breaker to protect a greater portion of the wiring run, which makes some sense.

Until the late 1980's I do not think the Montauk even had a circuit breaker at all, but instead simply had the fuses protecting the individual electrical devices.

As time progressed, two things happened. One: more and more electrical demands were (and are) being placed on the boats electrical distribution system as fish finders, navigation gear, radios, ect became increasingly popular. As an example of how simple early Whaler wiring was, consider the factory optional bilge pump offered in the 1960's. All it had was a two pronged pig tail that you plugged into the lead for the stern light when you wanted to use it. You would turn it on and off with the light switch.

The other thing that has happened is that everybody including boat manufacturers are going to greater and greater lengths to make things safe and idiot proof. While a worthy goal, making something idiot proof is just about impossible.

It is true that the circuit breakers in your home really should not be used as switches with any sort of regularity, but they are routinely used as such on boats.

triblet posted 01-22-2003 11:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
Some circuit breakers are designed to be used
as switches, other are not. Check the specs.


mtbadfish posted 01-22-2003 11:50 AM ET (US)     Profile for mtbadfish  Send Email to mtbadfish     
Tom and Chuck,
Thanks for the info, I was thinking about pulling up the cover and taking another look in the console. My dad's 20' Outrage had the breaker in the stern and mine has the cover but the breaker is gone and the wires bolted together.

I quess I'll check the lines going to the motor and the trim pump to make sure they are adequately protected in the console though.

I've got such a misch mash of wiring in the console it scares me. It'll be interesting to see what it takes to straighten it out. I contacted the local Whaler dealer and made tentative plans to have them take care of the more technical aspects of the job. Just have to get my end done first.

Thanks again,

dburton posted 01-22-2003 11:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for dburton  Send Email to dburton     
I have a 1986 18 Outrage with a master circuit breaker on the stern. About 6 months after I bought her I discovered that all my power at the console wouldn’t work. This was my first boat, so I was pretty clueless. Anyway, something, maybe me, caused the master circuit breaker to open. Because of the -corrosion of the salt water environment the switch would not close. Luckily I made my discovery on-shore and replacing the breaker was no big deal but cost around $35-$40. My point is, that if your breaker is original, it may be a good idea to check that it is holding up well. If you are out on the water and you are unable to reset the breaker it could be the start of a bad day.


triblet posted 01-23-2003 12:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
If you can't reset it, and you're sure you
don't have a short, hot wire it. Put a penny
in, so to speak:

Turn everything off, or, better, unplug it.
Make sure it still won't reset, then briefly
jump the breaker terminals with a screwdriver.
If there aren't any big sparks, either the
short is in something you unpluged, or
there's no short. Jump the terminals
permanently (connect both leads to one
terminal), fire it up, and go home.

If there were big sparks, you do have a short,
and it won't reset because of the short.
Find and fix the short.

I know, easy for YOU to say, Chuck, you're
an EE.


Whalerdan posted 01-23-2003 12:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for Whalerdan  Send Email to Whalerdan     
I wouldn't do it that way! Just disconnect the leads on the breaker. If it dosen't hold with no wires on it, it's probably bad.

THEN do what Chuck saids.

triblet posted 01-23-2003 07:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
whalerdan, you are absolutely right. DUH.

The good news is I can go diving this weekend.
Maybe then my brain will work.


lhg posted 01-23-2003 08:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
The Whaler Outrage/Revenge circuit breaker used in the 1986 and later second generation boats, is a hard item to find for replacement. If one has an older boat, bought used, it's entirely possible the original one corroded or failed, and some other non-factory replacement was made. One of mine had to be replaced, and only the factory had it. They are not designed to be used as switches, since they are the pop-up variety. It is not a push-pull button. Mine cost $75 from BW about 12 years ago! I still don't know who made them, or where to find one if needed. The boat catalogs do not show it anywhere. Anybody know? Post in OEM section please.

On my '86 and '89 boats, these are 50 amp, and the only breaker on the boat. Then, there are fuses to every single electrical accessory, including nav lights, in the console, or in-line for a few pumps connected directly with battery leads. I was always under the assumption that this starboard stern corner mounted breaker was required by codes, for fire prevention. Most boat fires are electrical in origin, including static electricity. The fuses protect your electronics, but the breaker protects you from fire, especially since the heavy gauge leads up to the control station/console are in the tunnel, near the fuel tank and possible leaking fuel tank fumes.

Note: I think this stern mounted breaker could have been a new change in 1986 or slightly earlier. My Owners manual indicates, incorrectly for 86 models, that the breaker was in the console. It is not, as described above.

That seems to be a bad idea, since it was too far from the battery. Hence the newer design immediately adjacent to the battery location, which protects the long run to the console.

Scirocco posted 01-23-2003 09:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for Scirocco  Send Email to Scirocco     
this evening i was re-wiring the center console in my 82 montauk and i was wondering what to do about replacing the factory 30A circuit breaker. i was planning on just re-using the original breaker but that idea fell apart when the breaker shattered in my hand as i was disconnecting it from the instrament panel. the breaker looks like it was made by AMF. i just finished surfing the net for replacements and here's what i found.[/url]

there's no price listed so i'll have to call tomorrow. it looks like a good match.

they even have a replacement boot.
go to section #4 item A

one question...
the current configuration of my boat has the battery in the stern. the battery is hooked to a perko battery switch (also in stern), from the switch there is a pair of 14ga wires (soon to be 12ga duplex) connecting to a 30amp breaker (now shattered) in the console. is this wrong or maybe is there a better configuration. i like the idea of having a breaker on the console providing a first-line defense for my e-gear. also, with the breaker i don't have to worry about carrying extra fuses. peanut gallery, any thoughts please??

Scirocco posted 01-23-2003 09:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for Scirocco  Send Email to Scirocco     
sorry about that first link
Knockerjoe posted 01-23-2003 09:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for Knockerjoe  Send Email to Knockerjoe     
The aft starboard breaker is an aviation type cuircuit breaker. If you need one check out aviation supply type places like this Problem is that aviation stuff is usually more expensive than marine!

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