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Author Topic:   Smoking battery and wires HELP
bethhint posted 06-13-2008 01:58 AM ET (US)   Profile for bethhint   Send Email to bethhint  
Hi I just got a lil 14ft boat with a Chrysler outboard motor (45hp).
The battery was dead when I bought it, so I replaced the battery and tried to start her.
The last owner had one of the wires for the battery labeled as positive so, it hooked it up accordingly.

The motor started to turn BUT the battery began to smoke , the wires became extremely hot, and some wires near the motor also started to smoke. It did not totally start, just started to turn over. The boat has not been started in a few years.

Could the owner have mislabeled, thus having the connections crossed, or is there something more going on here....

please help, this is my first boat.

jimh posted 06-13-2008 09:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
[P]lease help, this is my first boat.

Are you familiar with electrical circuitry? Do you have a multi-meter?

bethhint posted 06-13-2008 10:22 AM ET (US)     Profile for bethhint  Send Email to bethhint     
I am pretty familure with basic electrical knowledge, and mechanically inclined. I do not have a multi-meter
seabob4 posted 06-13-2008 11:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for seabob4  Send Email to seabob4     
You are quite lucky that battery didn't explode on you. There is a hot and ground wire touching somewhere on your motor, which in effect is the same as running a wire from the ground post to the positive post of your battery. This would explain the smoking and heat.

You can buy a cheap Multi-meter at Habor Freight, or even Sears, for that matter. Set the dial on the continuity function and put the leads on each of your battery cables. If there is a short, the meter will go to "000". Then it's a matter of tracing your wiring to find the culprit. If the "smoking" issue didn't occur until you tried to start the motor, there could be a shorting occurance in the starter motor.

Jerry Townsend posted 06-13-2008 01:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jerry Townsend  Send Email to Jerry Townsend     
Bethhint - As seabob mentioned - you have a short - and it has to be somewhere along the large/big cables between the battery and the starter solenoid.

But first - disconnect your battery - before using a multi-meter. And connect the multi-meter across the cables at the battery location. Then wiggle/move the cables until you loose continuity - that is the location of your problem.

Search/look for somewhat recent discussions regarding electrical problems - as there are some good ideas frequently posted.--------- Jerry/Idaho

towboater posted 06-13-2008 05:03 PM ET (US)     Profile for towboater  Send Email to towboater     
I think Jerry nailed it.

45 hp engine needs a battery to start. OK...there must be a start switch.
The batteries and cables are not reported to heat up when first connected.
The batteries are not reported to heat up when the switch is turned on.

Start switch ignites the starter solenoid and the engine cranks over, fires and you quit trying to start the return back to the on position and the bats smoke.

I agree with Jerry, likely the starter solinoid or relay or ign switch is froze closed.

Disconnect the pos bat cable. Disconnect the fuel line.
Remove the gas tank. Clean up any drips.

Spray electrical lube inside the ign switch, toggle back n forth. Tap the relay or solenoid with a screwdriver handle several times as hard as you can without denting the case.

This ign switch will have 3 poles...
pos in from the battery.
pos on.
starter or sometimes labeled ign pole.

Use the continuity tester leads.
Turn key on. Again...bats disconnected.
Use the Ohm setting, touch the bat pole with one lead, pos on with the other. The meter should peg.
NOW hold one lead on either pole you just tested and the other to the starter pole...
the ohm meter should not move. If it pegs, this confirms a short in the ign switch. Replace it.

If the meter does not peg,
Leave the leads where they are, turn the key to start the engine, the ohm meter should peg now.
The switch is ok.

The cleaning and tapping might have cured the solenoid problem temporarily.
Turn the key off, connect the bat ground.
Now just touch the edge of the pos cable to the top of the pos bat terminal...there should not be any spark.
If there is, you have a short.

Turn off all assys. Turn the key on, just slightly touch the cable to the bat again, there should not be ANY spark. If there is, you have confirmed a dead short.

If there is NO SPARK, ok, slide the pos cable end over the bat terminal loose. Dont tighten.
Turn the key on. Wait, double check for heat or smoke.
No heat, hit the start button very briefly and get ready to pull the pos cable quickly in case the solinoid sticks again.

I just got a call and I have to split, no time to clean this mess up and conclude...sorry Beth, take your time to decypher.
Maybe Jim or Jerry will grab the ball.

Better yet, most auto elect shops will diagnoss your problem very quickly and safe.

bethhint posted 06-14-2008 12:15 AM ET (US)     Profile for bethhint  Send Email to bethhint     
Thank YOu Guys so very much.

Excellent advice.

I will surely check it out.

I'll get back to all of you soon with the diagnosis.

TX again!!!


bethhint posted 06-14-2008 12:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for bethhint  Send Email to bethhint     
I only changed out dead battery for a working one. I did not touch any other wires.

The owner told me last time he used it was running.

Is there any other possibility besides what is mentioned?

(Like maybe simply an old set of wires...or something?)

It seems like I have a little investigating to do.

Either way I am still going to purchase a multimeter, and check out the ignition.

towboater posted 06-14-2008 03:21 AM ET (US)     Profile for towboater  Send Email to towboater     
Please remove the spark plugs before you start electrical testing using the method I have suggested. Spray some WD-40 in the cyls. Do your electrical testing.

Once your engine turns over nicely without plugs or elecrical issues, consider the following;

Installing NEW plugs is very important. Weve put a lot of time into this so far, dont let a old fouled plug become a issue. Tell the parts counter you need plugs for the year/brand/hp of your engine. Dont assume the ones you removed are the right/best ones, but, dont throw em away yet.

Remove fuel filter, replace, (buy a spare).
Dump the old gas, check the bottom of the fuel tank for gunk. Clean. Add new gas with appropriate mix.
With the exception the engine probably needs de-carbonized, you should be ready to start this puppy.
Expect it to run a little rough.


jimh posted 06-14-2008 09:34 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Beth--It is a very common situation that in small boats the primary battery wires are not clearly identified as to their polarity, and all too often the battery is connected in a manner which causes a great deal of damage due to poor identification.

There is no possible way in which we can have any understanding of how your boat is currently wired. You will have to investigate the wiring yourself. I suggest you develop a schematic or pictorial diagram. Then clearly label all of the wires so that the chance of a mistake in connecting them in the future is reduced. Using red electrical tape to mark the positive leads is suggested. Mark the negative leads with yellow tape. Also clearly mark the battery terminals with red and yellow tape.

The smoke and heating your reported is due to flow of excess current. As other have suggested, such excessive current flow is generally indicative of a direct short circuit across the battery terminals. You may find that the actual arrangement of wiring in your boat included more than one conductor that was intended to be connected to the battery positive, and you may have inadvertently connected this conductor to the battery negative, creating a short circuit.

It is difficult for me in envision a connection in which the short circuit would occur only during engine cranking. It is also difficult for me to understand from your narrative of events exactly what action produced the smoking wires.

If the wires began smoking only during engine cranking, you may have omitted an important wire, and in that process forced current to flow on smaller wires not intended to handle the high current of engine starting.

Also, connections which have high resistance will tend to heat when high current flows. So a loose connection could cause the results you describe.

I suggest you make a close visual inspection of the wiring and using your familiarity with electricity deduce the function and polarity of all the wiring. Then compare the connection you made with your new understanding of each wire's function. You may find you made an error in connecting the wires to the battery.

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