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Author Topic:   Whaler Factory Electrical Installation Practices
Mambo Minnow posted 04-19-2006 11:30 AM ET (US)   Profile for Mambo Minnow  
Just repaired my bilge wiring. I have a Rule 1000 GPH bilge pump, with also an float switch in lowest part of bilge. Found bilge pump wiring connected to house wiring by butt connectors. One butt in the water and disconnected due to corrosion.

Just curious if this is standard from factory equipment install or was an aftermarket install by original owner? I know he added a separate on/off bilge pump toggle switch on bulkhead to isolate running bilge from other electrical accessories.

Seems to me Whaler would not use unprotected butt connectors on any wiring setup...Drove me crazy finding the problem, when all my house electronics went dead due to the disconnection!

st posted 04-19-2006 11:57 AM ET (US)     Profile for st  Send Email to st     
My guess: non factory. I think BW ships the boats without any "add on" wiring to the dealers , who then wired it; after it left the dealership, who knows... Hope someone who actually bought the boat new can elaborate...
jimh posted 04-19-2006 01:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
As far as I know, the electrical installation in a Boston Whaler boat was done at the factory in accordance with the usual marine practices in place at the time of manufacture, and the boat was probably in compliance with ABYC recommendations.

It is impossible to know the history of the electrical installation on a particular boat once it has been delivered to the dealer and owner. It is my observation that there is a lot of haywire in small boat wiring, and the fundamental cause of it is poor installation practices by dealers, owners, and other installers after the boat has left the factory.

This is not to say that on c.1980 Boston Whaler boats you might find a corroded connection. Even Class-A installations can develop problems after 25-years of use in a marine environment.

If you find poor wiring practices on a 25-year old Boston Whaler, there is little to be gained from investigation of who did them. I'd just make proper repairs and call it a day.

Mambo Minnow posted 04-22-2006 04:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for Mambo Minnow are probably right. I thought reconnecting the float switch wiring solved my problem, but wrong again! I know the problem is close to the batteries but still no house circuit power to the helm. I suspect now a 50 Amp circuit breaker reset button on the separate bilge cut off wiring box, located next to the Perko 4 way switch aft.

The 50 A reset button is a simple plastic button you push down. It just "pops" right back up in the upright position...should this sort of reset button "stay in" if it is working properly?

The newer bilge cut off switch panels I saw at West Marine seem to have a more standard screw on fuse holder now next to the toggle on/off switch. Boat is new to me and I never noticed the button settings in brief time I have operated the boat. How do you tell when on of these circuit breakers has gone bad and needs to be replaced?

Chuck Tribolet posted 04-22-2006 04:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Turn on the bilge pump. Measure the voltage across the
circuit breaker. It it's greater than 0, then either:

the breaker has failed open
you have a short downstream of the breaker, and the breaker is
do its job.

A 50A breaker sems like a LOT esp. on a boat of
that vintage. How thick are the wires? A 50 A breaker should
be feeding about 8 or 6 ga.


jimh posted 04-22-2006 05:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Those direct-current circuit breakers seem to have a shorter life span than the AC-current types. If the breaker pops out immediately, there are two possible causes:

--there is a heavy over-current that immediately trips off the breaker, or

--the breaker is defective.

Mambo Minnow posted 04-23-2006 12:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for Mambo Minnow    
Many thanks for constructive and JimH both post many replies re: electrical systems. Obviously, if there is a forum dedicated, it must be the biggest bugga-boo for the DIY maintainer.

There are actually two (2) circuit breakers mounted with the on/off toggle switch dedicated to the bilge. One is a standard 20 amp with rubber nipple reset, exactly like the ones on the helm instrument panel under the instrument accessory switches. It has 14 gauge red wire.

There is a second "push down" plastic button labelled "50". It has a red, 8 gauge wire. The circuit breaker is labelled "E-T-A" (manufacturer?) and is stenciled "114AC-14 or 28V (can't remember which)DC".

The circuit breakers, the toggle switch are all mounted to a black plastic housing on aft bulkhead next to the perko 4- way. I traced both the 8 and 14 gauge wires directly to the Perko 4 way, where they appear to terminate. I checked the screw on connectors to wires were tight. All connections are painted with liquid electrical tape. It is a very neat installation, no bird's nest of wire hacking here.

When I re-installed and re-energized, voila, power back to my helm house electrics! I have not bought the multi-meter yet.

Question: Most schematics I see show only one fuse for a bilge pump electrical system with a separate bilge cut off switch from the helm. Any one care to guess why two circuit breakers installed here, one for considerably more juice? Is is possible one is for the Rule 1000 GPH pump and the other is for the Rule mercury float switch installed in the sump?

I am guessing the circuit breaker is not popping, but perhaps after 7 years it is going bad. In any event, I sincerely appreciate the help on here and saving several hundred bucks for a tech to state something simple. This is such a great site!

Mambo Minnow posted 04-23-2006 07:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for Mambo Minnow    
Just an added comment to my last post...upon looking at Bluewaterpirate's photos in the Perko 4 way thread, my bilge switchbox set looks identical to his, except he has labels "Bilge" and "DC Main"'s the DC Main circuit breaker like his that I have the most questions pertaining...what is the purpose of this DC Main breaker? How is the settings for this particular type of breaker supposed to work?

Ideally, bluewater pirate will read this and comment. I will post to his thread as well. [And I removed it--please stick to one thread for your discussion. The other thread is now closed.]

jimh posted 04-23-2006 10:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
At work we have a fleet of trucks with a lot of 12-volt DC systems added to them to run electronics. It is very common for those circuit breakers to go bad. They seem more fragile mechanically than the household AC circuit breakers. Maybe it is all the bouncing around they are subjected to. The purpose of the 50-A circuit breaker is to provide over-current protection for the heavy wiring which runs from battery to the power distribution panel near the helm.
Chuck Tribolet posted 04-23-2006 11:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Where are these breakers? (It sound like on the console, and
I'll go forward assuming that's true).

Where is the battery?

What boat? What year?

I would guess that the 50A breaker is on the line from the
battery to the console (DC Main). I hope the battery is in the console --
Breakers/fuses should be as close to the power source as
possible. If the battery is in the stern, and the breaker
in the console, that breaker really isn't protecting anyhing
except the inch between it and the next (20A) breaker.

If the only thing past the 50A breaker is the bilge pump,
I think I'd jumper the 50A breaker with a 20A fuse. If the
fuse doesn't blow, you have a bad breaker (no way you should
be pulling even 20A unless you have a trolling motor on).
If the fuse does blow, you have a wiring problem.

The 50A breaker would be like the big (200ish? amp) breaker or fuse
in with the electric meter on your house. The 20A breaker
would be like the individual breakers in the breaker panel
for your house).

Mambo Minnow posted 04-23-2006 11:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for Mambo Minnow    
My set up is somewhat identical to the pictures BlueWaterPirate has in another separate thread on this forum about Perko 4 way switches.

Actually, the 50A breaker and 2OA fuse are in the back of the boat, starboard aft quarter, not far from the Perko 4 way, 2 batteries. It appears only things down range are the Rule bilge pump and float switch in the sump area.

Boat is a 2000 Conquest 21, hence the distance bet. batteries and helm instrumentation is quite lengthy. BlueWaterPirates photos make me think he has an Outrage CC.

Think JimH is correct on the overprotection, perhaps why some 8 ga wiring and 50A. They are all red positive wires running from this "black box" to the Perko 4 way. You have to be a contortionist to trace the wires from this area back to the 2 stern batteries mounted under the rear seating.

jimh posted 04-24-2006 12:11 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
You may be able to get a wiring diagram for that boat. The factory now has detailed wiring diagrams for most boats, as the electrical system is now more complex than in the past. Some of these drawings are available online from

See if your boat is listed.

Mambo Minnow posted 04-24-2006 08:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for Mambo Minnow    
Bought digital voltmeter tonight and measured at 2A circuit breaker and 50A circuit breaker tied in to the bilge cut off switch. Both tested on meter in DC voltage higher than "0". This is upstream from where I replaced the corroded off butt connector wiring in the bilge float switch to the house wiring. Since I fixed that, I surmise I must have up to two bad circuit breakers that failed when the bilge system shorted.

Sound reasonable? Is it possible for circuit breakers to intermittently allow voltage to house electrics? Now power to accessories now, but it comes and goes on it's own will...very frustrating due to lack of my knowledge, but I am quickly learning!

oroseiwhaler posted 04-25-2006 01:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for oroseiwhaler    
Mambo Minnow,

on my '98 Outrage 23 i have the identical setup in under the door beneath the Tuna door.
My factory new outrage was shiped with a heat-shrinked butt connector but some year ago the connection faild as yours due to corrosion. The routing for the bilge pump cables by Boston Whaler is not done very intelligent and so the cables and connectors will suffer from water and moisture.

I have 2 motors, so my setup ma be different, but the bilge pump question remains the same.

The connection is as follows:

The cable coming from the 20A fuse goes to the post on the perko where your auxilary battery is connected.
This cable is used only for the bilge pumps on the stern and in your cabin and it has always power even with the switch in off position to feed always the bilge pump.

The thicker cable coming from the 50A E-T-A fuse goes to the COM-post on the perko.
This cable goes to the cabin to power all electronics, lights, pumps etc.
This cable is only under power if you switch the perko to 1/2/all position, in off position is has to cut off power.

The 2 switches on the dashboard bilge pump and sump pump are factory installed and are to activate the pumps manualy.

There is no need for a additional panel for the bilge pumps!

Try tu pull up the head of the rule 1000 bilgepump, it will came off the strainer cage, then cut again the wires and try it on a car battery.
If it won't turn then the bilge pump is stuck and will blow the fuse. If the bilge pump turns the the problem will be in the cabin or mostly in the owner added bilge pump switch.
Try as well if the cabin power turns normal with the pump unmounted.
Try also to eliminate this owner added bilge pump switch, i guess that the problem is somewhere there.....

Check also if you dont messed up the 2 positive and the negative wires when you repaired the butt connector.
The first positive has to go to the rule float switch and from there to the perko N° 1 or N°2 post (there where the cable from your auxilary battery arrives),the other positive goes to the switch labeled bilge pump on the dashboard and the black wire is the negative and has to go to the negative bar on the right side of the bilge under where the battery is.

Best regards

P.S. here you will find the wiring diagram from perko:

Chuck Tribolet posted 04-25-2006 02:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Mambo, you've probably got a bad connection somewhere. If
things work some of the time, poke and prod the connections
until you can poke it and make it change. Very scientific ;-)

The bad connection MIGHT be inside a breaker, but more likely
it's outside (maybe where the breaker is connected).

How much higher than zero was the voltage? And this was
measured across the two connections to the breaker, right?


Mambo Minnow posted 04-25-2006 05:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for Mambo Minnow    
Orsei whaler, thanks for the detailed feedback! If you could, tell me how your 50A reset button works...specifically does it "pop" and stay down plunger position or is it "springy" and return to position from whence it push pushed in?

I definitely concur whaler did bad job locating this wiring. It's very low stapped in the bilge. I have 16-14 butt connectors with zero heat shrink wrapping to protect from moisture contact/damage. You have to be a contortionist to reach it! I think the bilge pump is fully operable because I can here it run when I hand twist the manual actuator on the Rule float switch. So, I know my butt connection took and it's getting juice.

However, I am not convinced the 50A DC Main breaker has tripped. I googled the E-T-A website and discovered that there is supposed to be a white band to visually indicate the breaker has tripped. If it exists, I do not see it. At this point I have ordered the 50A OEM breaker and will replace to see if it makes a difference in juice to the helm instrumentation.

These E-T-A breakers are OEM according to Chuck Bennett at Whaler but very hard to get. I checked with distributor and wholesale network and found the Florida retail network very slim to non-existent. West Marine, Boaters World and several local retailers had nothing like this breaker and limited selection of 50A at all, and then only with a flip switch which will not fit my housing. E-T-A is German and expensive...the Marine Max dealer locally can get it but set me back $79 plus shipping! Apparently, on later post Classic Whalers, they have gone to a 20A breaker only.

Chuck, I was only looking for "0" or "something reading", so do not remember exactly. I definitely put the red and black voltmeter probes to each of the screw posts to take a reading. Still suspect this got damaged when bilge red wire got free and loose in the bilge water.

oroseiwhaler posted 04-26-2006 03:45 AM ET (US)     Profile for oroseiwhaler    
Hi Mambo Minnow,

i never had something shorted, so i don't know what happens if the breaker cut off.
Anyway i have to gow to the shipyard to continue rebuilding the electrical system due to 2 new motors and there i will check the 50A breaker and if the manual bilge pump override switches on the dasboard are operated by the 50A fuse or by the 20A fuse.

As your pump runs, the problem is not located there.

Can you please provide some more information about the "owner istalled switch" that you mentioned. Maybe there is something wrong with it.
Also, is your boat in the water or out of it and had you ever signs of mice on board? (I check/rebuild my electrical system new because mice and rats had some fun with my cables... a common problem here)

I agree with Chuck that there could be a loose connection somewhere and his "scientific" trial and error investigations do work quite well.


Mambo Minnow posted 04-26-2006 05:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for Mambo Minnow    
I had a friend who is "electrically inclined" run the whole nine yards with a multimeter from stem to stern.

Turns out breakers are all good and there is confirmed juice all the way up to the helm instrument panel.

It appears that there is resistance like JimH said on some of the electrical connectors. Our guess is that the spray that is applied to electrical components as preventative maintenance interfered with a good connection on either the power in or power out connectors to the instrument panel rocker switches.

Eliminated many possibilities, including problems aft, but I still don't have a lot of confidence problem will not return. At least I know if I play with the connectors, I can get power back working to instrument panel.

This should close the thread. Thanks to all...I really became a more "educated consumer" on things electrical from this discussion!

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