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ContinuousWave: Small Boat Electrical
Auxiliary Power Feed to Console Not Working
|Author||Topic: Auxiliary Power Feed to Console Not Working|
posted 05-29-2006 10:14 PM ET (US)
1988 Montauk, battery one year old. This was my weekend to get the boat ready. So after cleaning, waxing and generally making the boat look nice, I put the one year old (newly charged)battery back in the console and hooked everything back up. Gave the connections a light sand and applied electrical grease.
The running lights, VHF radio, bilge pump and GPS do not work.
I ran out of time and had family obligations so I didn't have too much time to investigate, but I was hoping that folks might have an idea about where I should start to look. I am a little out of my area of expertise here, so any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
posted 05-29-2006 10:32 PM ET (US)
It sounds like you either forgot to hook up a wire to the battery or you need to reset your circuit breaker.
posted 05-30-2006 12:31 AM ET (US)
Basic electrical troubleshooting procedures will help you find the problem.
Begin at the load where you anticipate having voltage. Measure the voltage. If there is no voltage, follow the conductor from the load back toward the source of the voltage. When you reach the next device, measure the voltage. At some point you will find the voltage. You have now found the point from which the problem is downstream. Begin to inspect all devices such as connections, splices, terminals, fuses, switches, circuit breakers, lugs, crimps, etc., looking for some device or connection which has failed. In this way you will locate the problem. When you locate the device causing the problem you can choose to repair or replace the device.
In circuits which operate at 12-volts DC it is very common that a slight bit of corrosion or insulation on a conductor will prevent conduction. With a low voltage circuit the Electromotive Force (EMF) or voltage will not be able to jump through the insulating layer and restore the circuit. In higher voltage circuits the EMF can jump through small amounts of insulating corrosion and self-restore the circuit. With 12-volts it takes but a very thin layer of insulation to prevent flow of current.
Because boats are operating in a wet environment, it is common for electrical connections to become corroded. If you have any bare copper conductors, they will form an oxide of copper which may not be conductive. Silver is much preferred because silver oxides are conductive. For this reason almost all wiring used in a marine application should be tinned and connections should be tinned or silver plated, not bare copper.
Switch contacts should not be cleaned with rough abrasives. Usually a switch contact can be restored by careful cleaning. If an abrasive is needed use 600-grit emery cloth. You can wet-sand with a cleaner like WD-40. The contacts should be very smooth, almost polished.
posted 05-30-2006 08:16 AM ET (US)
Thanks for the trouble shooting tips (and for clarifying the title of the thread).
Next stop, Radio Shack to buy a volt meter.
posted 05-30-2006 08:58 AM ET (US)
Try Joe's suggestion first. There is a main circuit breaker which supplies the 12-VDC to the console. Make sure this is closed. These are often a push-pull type switch arrangement. The push-pull button pops up if they circuit breaker has tripped. It is fairly common that these older circuit breakers fail. They tend to fail in the tripped position, that is, they fail into an open circuit.
On many models of Boston Whaler boats there is a master circuit breaker in the stern near the batteries that protects the distribution cable that leads forward to the console and supplies it with battery voltage.
Here is a good source for a vendor that stocks the part and has a decent price, DIGI-KEY. DIGI-KEY is an excellent vendor. They are stocking a Siemens/ETA/P&B/Tyco circuit breaker that looks like it would make an excellent replacement for the OEM device.
Their website is www.digikey.com
A pdf file showing catalogue page 1025 will let you see the available products. The W23 series circuit breaker appears to be a good match.
Download their pdf file:
The buttopn/plunger pops up when an overload trips the breaker, but you can also use the breaker as a switch by pulling the plunger button up manually.
I have not ordered one of these myself.
The price is reasonable, about $18-$25 depending on what rating is ordered.
If anyone orders one of these please report by posting a follow up comment in this thread and let us know how it worked.
A typical part number would be
The Digi-Key number would be
and the cost would be
The device mounts in a 3/8-inch hole.
If you love buying electrical devices via a marine dealer, here is an alternative source of a replacement. Note that they don't have the original part, either, but supply an alternative:
|Tom W Clark||
posted 05-30-2006 10:04 AM ET (US)
On a 1988 Montauk there may be a circuit breaker or their may simply be a fuse housed in the beige box in the stern. Check there first.
posted 06-02-2006 09:37 AM ET (US)
I finally had a chance to get back and look into this problem. I was convinced that it was a circuit breaker/ fuse in the stern box, so this is where I started. This is the first time that I have unscrewed the cover to take a look inside and I expected to see something that fit Jim's description of a main circuit breaker. But, no. There is a black "connection panel" (remember, I am out of my element, so my terminology is probably waaaay wrong)into which electrical connection gets screwed. Nothing that looks like a fuse or circuit breaker. These connection were oxidized, so I cleaned and greased those connections.
Now, I forgot to mention earlier that the battery has been relocated to inside the console and this was done by the previous owner. So, I went back to the battery because as Joe suggested I might have forgotten to hook up a wire. It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility. The good news is that I am not a complete moron and all the wires were connected. However, the connection to the positive wire was oxidized where the connector meets the wiring. I cut the oxidized wiring back and attached a new connector, grease it and retaped and everything now works fine!
So thanks for all the previous advice. Now, another question. If the main circuit breaker/ fuse was not in the stern box, where could or should it be? Because the battery was moved inside the console, would the circuit breaker/ fuse be moved as well? I guess that I should know this kind of information for the future.
posted 06-02-2006 10:07 AM ET (US)
With the battery in the console, there' probably isn't a
mail breaker. Since the run is short (< 18" IIRC), the ABYC
doesn't require the wire to the switch panel to be fused.
posted 06-02-2006 01:28 PM ET (US)
Jim great website! Traveling for work, graduate school in the evenings and weekends has put a definite damper on the amount of time I have spent on my boat (86' Outrage 18'), but now that school is done I will be on the water much more. I have kept up and read the posts on Continuous Wave weekly and sometimes daily, 3 or so years ago I even made a few posts under the Spartan1 username. I forgot my password, so now we are starting fresh.
I needthe community's help more than ever. Much like in many previous posts regarding the stern mounted circuit breaker, I have a few questions regarding a replacement breaker.
I have the original ETA made in Germany breaker. Per the previous posts on the subject I have "jumped" the breaker to test for short and gone through and checked all fuses. The push button will not stay set (pushed down), time to install a new circuit breaker. I called Digi-Key this morning talked to their people and believe their W23 part series to be the right fit. I as well as Digi-Key are just questioning --What Amp??? Like I said above, the boat is a 86' Outrage 18', the breaker controls the power to the console which has VHF, CD am/fm stereo, compass light, depth finder, etc....
On the original breaker it has:
Can anybody make sense of ETA's numbers???? What amp this original breaker for this boat is? As far as a replacement, any suggestion on what amp I should go with??
posted 06-03-2006 09:00 AM ET (US)
I can make some sense of all those numbers, but none of them seem to be a current rating. Often it was engraved on the plunger button.
The current rating for the circuit breaker should be appropriate for the size of the conductor carrying the current. In the original installation there was often a cable of 8-AWG size. You could use a circuit breaker of up to 50-amperes with that conductor. Many times on older Boston Whaler boats the electrical installation has been redone, so you need to look at the current wiring, and then select an appropriate circuit breaker.
There is no harm in using a breaker that is smaller than the maximum current capabilities of the conductor, either. But you want to be sure the breaker will not be tripping in normal operation. For example, if you have a search light that draws quite a few amperes (10-A) , and a 25-watt radio (6-A), and a couple of pumps (5-A each), the total current possible in normal operation might be higher than you think.
posted 06-03-2006 02:09 PM ET (US)
Thanks, On top of the the old push button breaker, I couldn't make our the number which represented the amp. Looking at it again, I can kinda make out the bottom half of a "5", so that would possibly relate to the original 50 amp breaker. Anyway, you are right, a VHF, CD player, navigation lights, anchor and compass light, and a Q-Beam could definitely draw the juice. I would guess, I need atleast a 30 amp, if not replace it with the original 50 amp to be sure, even though it may be a little over-kill. The orginal 50 amp handled the workload, so now it is just decision time and ordering it.
Thanks for you help,
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