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View Full Version : Total Electrical Failure?! Uh Oh...



Sandarm
07-10-2007, 09:43 PM
Hi all,

I'm the new kid on the block when it comes to everything about boats, so maybe someone can help me start to figure out this new "exciting" problem. My poor baby is sick!

I had a friends son sitting with me on the bow and asked my wife to demonstrate the horn for him. She only just touched the button, there was a faint momentary horn sound, and then nothing.

At the same time our GPS unit went off. We went on to check and found that not one electrical device worked. No navigation lights, no interior lights, no wipers or horn, not even the blower worked. Thank God the engines started. We checked the fuse panel and the fuses all seemed to be fine.

It sounds like a major short circuit somewhere - the kind of thing you can only find by serious investigation, and sadly the mecanical/electrical aspect of boats is not my forte. Does anyone have any suggestions as to where I should start looking?

Thanks for your support!

Stiletto
07-10-2007, 10:20 PM
Check your battery terminals and cables for looseness or corrosion.

I'm sure others will be along soon with more ideas.

good luck!

Dale Genther
07-10-2007, 10:29 PM
Get yourself a voltmeter. Start at the battery and move out from there, checking for where the power ends. That will be where the problem is.

Paul Girouard
07-10-2007, 10:46 PM
Humm did the motor need to be pull started?? You haven't provided enought info to trouble shoot with really.

So if the motor started off the same battery as the other stuff was running off and a key was turned to start it, you may have bad / corroded wiring behind instrument panel , well if there is one . Maybe you where lucky that the start swt. and the battery cable / starter where the only non - corroded wires , unlikely .

My bet / guess is corrosion on a C/B pnl. or weak / corroded gnd. wire terminal / post.

So more info = more ideas .

Paul Girouard
07-10-2007, 10:52 PM
Get yourself a voltmeter. Start at the battery and move out from there, checking for where the power ends. That will be where the problem is.


Use a test light a meter has no load and will read 12 V unless it is a open. Take it from a former Aviation Electrician (AE-1) 8 years fixing sea going USN EA-6B's ,

http://www.vaq136.com/ea6bphotos/ea6b-093b.jpg



a meter is not as good as a cheap test light.

mike hanyi
07-10-2007, 11:00 PM
all boats nowadays have factory prewired panels for the engine.
volvo engine means volvo panel,startswitch and gauges.-thats why it works and works well.

the boatbuilder has wired from the same or another battery all the house functions on his own panel.

you may have a master fuseable link between the batt and the master switch,-unlikely but good idea

sounds like you had an airhorn that had water shoved in it and down the tube into the compressor-rusted the thing, she hit the switch which triggers a relay which caused a short and blew the fuse.
idiot builder may have everything on the same fuse.

check fuses first and throw the stupid airhorn in the trash.

what kind of boat, how old the electrics,how does the wiring look,etc
????


95% of all low production boats(glass and especially wood) have ammeteur wiring jobs that are barely functional, whoever is not doing something is made into the electrician and told to wire up the thing.

wiring a boat,or anything, properly requires proper wire,terminals, a few special handtools,heatshrink, and labeling. all cost time and money to aquire, the carparts store is just down the street and a quick and dirty will get this boat delivered.(cheap colored crimp on connectors pull off)

I have professionally wired several boats and have invested in the tools to do it right, My clients are mostly new woodenboats or ones with total wiring failure due to idiots.

wiring properly takes time
34 ft new wooden sailboat with custom panel,reefer,heating,and the norm took 170 hours.
26 ft 1907 launch with hidaway custom panel, cloth covered cabin wiring and reefer took 111 hours.
25 ft lifeboat conversion to yachtclub launch with simple no frills wiring took 30 hours.

a butcher can wire a 38 ft sailboat in 8 hours.

Im not selling my services to you just showing you what the truth is about most electrical jobs.
mike

Paul Girouard
07-10-2007, 11:06 PM
wiring a boat OR AIRCRAFT properly requires proper wire,terminals, a few special handtools,heatshrink, and labeling.



More than likely all developed for NAVAIR/ Naval Aviation;)

Nick C
07-10-2007, 11:19 PM
Start with the easiest thing. See if battery is charged and clean battery posts. Work your way forward from there, make sure battery cable has continuity to fuse holders, both cables pos and neg.

Bob Adams
07-11-2007, 07:08 AM
If you lost all those systems, and they are all individually fused, the common point would be the negitive side. Check the ground (neg) busses.

outofthenorm
07-11-2007, 09:01 AM
Good advice here. I'd add that if you were able to start the engine normally, but nothing else works, then I would suspect one of 3 things first,

1) There is a physical break (bad or broken wire, loose connection, filth) in the circuit between the battery and the main switch panel .. or ..
2) more likely, there is a blown master fuse somewhere between the battery and the main switch/distribution panel. Having such a fuse is a good idea in general, but only if it's accessible. Follow the wires from source (a battery) to the panel to find it.
3) It's rare, but you could have 2 completely separate systems for house and engine. If you have 2 batteries, see if they are connected together and how. Check them both, check their wiring (should be clean, dry and tight) and check for hidden fuses. If they are not connected together at the positive posts, you've started to isolate the problem. If they are, then likely the problem is one of the things already posted.

Also, until you sort this out, make sure when you leave the boat to switch EVERYTHING electric off and select OFF at the master switch. An electrical fire can ruin your whole day.

Probably the best advice is to recruit someone who knows how to follow a circuit and use a test lamp. Good luck!

- Norm

Tom Robb
07-11-2007, 12:23 PM
And with no bilge blower do NOT start the engine again.

Paul Girouard
07-11-2007, 08:31 PM
Good advice here.

Probably the best advice is to recruit someone who knows how to follow a circuit and use a test lamp. Good luck!

- Norm


Your right Norm;)

Ron Joslin
07-12-2007, 06:37 AM
Hi all,

Thank God the engines started. We checked the fuse panel and the fuses all seemed to be fine.


This happened to me once. All fuses in the fuse box where fine. I found a bad inline fuse in a red wire going to the fuse box. This inline fuse was located about 3 feet away. Start at one end and check all the way to the other. Good Luck!

Ron Joslin
07-12-2007, 06:37 AM
Hi all,

Thank God the engines started. We checked the fuse panel and the fuses all seemed to be fine.


This happened to me once. All fuses in the fuse box where fine. I found a bad inline fuse in a red wire going to the fuse box. This inline fuse was located about 3 feet away. Start at one end and check all the way to the other. Good Luck!

Sandarm
07-13-2007, 02:56 PM
Hi and THANKS to you all for your sage advice. I'm sorry for not giving you more information about the boat, but I posted my plea for help as soon as I got home off the boat. I did follow up on some of your, like not running the boat without a functioning blower. Here's the info that I didn't post and the solution to the problem, as uncovered by our local master boat builder, Gill Bibby.

Missing Info:

1. The boat is a 1957 C.C. Constellation, 30 foot
2. Two days before the failure I attempted to lift the instrument panel to check out the wiring underneath - simply a "get to know my boat better" exercise. The failure occured the first time the horn was used after that.
3. The electrical system is 12 volt.
4. Both engines started without problem (the engines hadn't been off long and I smelled no gas smell when I did a sniff check - not a replacement for a blower - I know).

The problem:

On Chris Craft's of my boat's vintage, the guages are lit by bulbs screwed into brass sockets that are LIVE. Three of the bulb/sockets were not attached to the guage housing and one or more of them shorted out. Was this the result of my lifting the top panel off it's perch? Probably, but we'll never know for sure. The bulbs are all now back in place, but I think I'll play it safe and put some black tape around the sockets in the very near future.

THANKS AGAIN

Sandy

Paul Girouard
07-13-2007, 04:37 PM
The problem:

On Chris Craft's of my boat's vintage, the guages are lit by bulbs screwed into brass sockets that are LIVE. Three of the bulb/sockets were not attached to the guage housing and one or more of them shorted out. Was this the result of my lifting the top panel off it's perch? Probably, but we'll never know for sure. The bulbs are all now back in place, but I think I'll play it safe and put some black tape around the sockets in the very near future.



Classic dead short to gnd, wire problem. If they fell out that easy they could just as well fall out in a choppy sea, the tapes a good idea;)