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Author Topic:   Nav lights stopped working
robsam posted 04-23-2014 09:37 PM ET (US)   Profile for robsam   Send Email to robsam  
I'm a rookie boat owner and have run into a small problem. On my 1980 13 Sport my nav lights (both bow and stern) have stopped working and there is no power to the fish finder that came with the boat. Lights were working back in the fall but now they are not.

However, the motor starts just fine and the battery is new. Also I've checked the two fuses I can find and they are fine. Don't know if it's the switch (which is original), or the wiring, or where to really look. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Tom W Clark posted 04-23-2014 09:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
Electrical power to the outboard motor and electrical power to the accessories, like the navigation lights and fish finder are two completely different circuits.

Start at the battery and make sure the connections are sound. The wiring of a 13' Whaler is extremely simple. The problem should become apparent before long.

jimh posted 04-24-2014 01:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
When any lighting circuit stops working, the first component to check is the incandescent lightbulb.
Jerry Townsend posted 04-24-2014 11:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jerry Townsend  Send Email to Jerry Townsend     
But, when all are not working, it is something common to all of the lights (in this case) - i.e., a switch, fuse, or bad connection between the battery and switch. --- Jerry/Idaho
jimh posted 04-25-2014 01:08 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
If something worked "in the fall", then it sits all Winter, and seems not to work in the Spring, there may be some environmental effects that caused the problem.

In 12-Volt electrical circuits the electro-motive force (EMF) is really very low, only 12-Volts, and the flow of current can be stopped very easily by a very thin insulator--really thin, like just a little film of insulating or non-conductive material.

If a boat sits all Winter, getting exposed to cold air, there could be a little bit of insulation that crept into many places in a 12-Volt electrical circuit that could stop the flow of current.

A good way to restore electrical circuits that have accumulated some insulating material, particularly moisture, is to spray the electrical connections with WD40.

rtk posted 04-25-2014 07:31 AM ET (US)     Profile for rtk  Send Email to rtk     
As said the wiring circuit for the 12 volt navigation lights is about as simple as it gets. Buy a simple 12 volt test light and learn how to use it to check the circuit for power and ground continuity. It's a very elementary troubleshooting exercise. It will give you the ability to troubleshoot any other simple 12 volt accessory problem in the future. I always have a 12 volt test light in my tool box. A basic multimeter will work also- the test light is just easier to use and understand if you're not experienced in electrical circuits and what the readings mean.


floater88 posted 04-25-2014 10:20 AM ET (US)     Profile for floater88  Send Email to floater88     
I had the same [electrical power problem] this Spring on my Revenge.The sump pump and VHF radio didn't work. Turns out [the cause of the problem] was a negative circuit connection at the old panel that had come loose. Cleaned it and re-tightened it, and all is back to normal.
jimh posted 04-25-2014 02:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Electricity is difficult to understand because you cannot directly see electrical current flowing. You have to make inferences about electrical current by taking measurements and interpreting the measurements.

Even circuits that seem simple can be confounding to diagnose for trouble.

Read this article in the REFERENCE Section:

Although the article is specifically about an engine starting circuit, the long list of elements in the circuit where a problem could occur should give you a good example of places to check in your circuit for problems. Also, read the the procedure described under the sub-heading Electrical Diagnostic Technique in order to learn how to use voltage measurement to make an inference about an electrical current flow path.

swist posted 04-25-2014 05:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for swist  Send Email to swist     
Jimh - your raise an interesting point, boat electrical systems would probably run better on higher voltage / lower current, like the systems in houses. Much more tolerance to resistance in connections, smaller wire gauges needed.

But I suppose the difficulty/expense of 110V batteries, coupled with increased shock hazards, make this impractical.

jimh posted 04-26-2014 12:16 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
There was a lot of talk about automobiles going to a 55-Volt system, particularly for cars with a combination of internal combustion engine and electric motor power. The Evinrude E-TEC runs its main power bus on 55-Volts.

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