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 Your boat requires electrical system maintenance

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
D. Andrews Posted - Apr 15 2008 : 20:34:04
With the 2008 boating season about to get into full swing, everyone is thinking about oil changes, tune upís, stocking the fridge, the wine and beer coolers, but what about your electrical system? Have you given any thought to the maintenance or preventative maintenance of your boats electrical system? If not you should, and you should prior to your first launch.

Corrosion affects all boats, but those in salt water are more susceptible, and should be checked more frequently. The size of the boat does not matter either, if it has any type electrical system. A fire can be caused from a bad connection on a trolling motor.

Your shore power cord is the first part to address. Check both ends, look for corrosion on the prongs. If you are able to disassemble the cord ends, take those apart, check for corrosion, check for loose connections, and give the screws a check with a screwdriver to make sure they are tight. Check the back side of the plug on your boat for the same things. If you see something that just does not look right, either replace it, or have a qualified electrician check it out for you.

If you have a generator, check the cords or connections to it for the same things. Make sure all connections are tight and clean. Make sure the ground wire is clean and free of corrosion, and has a good tight fit on both ends, the ground could be your lifeline in the event of a malfunction.

If you have an inverter, the same procedures apply, but, pay close attention to your 12vdc side. There is a tremendous amount of current draw on the 12vdc side, and anything that is preventing a good, clean, tight connection is asking for a fire.

From there, occasionally, it is good to remove your boats breaker panel cover, and check there as well. Make sure all screws to the breakers and the buss bars are still tight. They WILL loosen over time due to the heating and cooling. Also look for signs of corrosion or heat. Any place you find some is the potential for a fire. If you do not feel comfortable doing this type of work, consult a qualified electrician to repair it for you.

Your boats 12vdc system is also important, you boat can run with out 110 or 220vac, but canít with out 12vdc ( most boats ). Battery connections should be clean and free from corrosion. There are several products and methods available to prevent corrosion build up on battery terminals, and will greatly extend the life of your cables. Connections from the batteries to the 12vdc systems on your boat should be checked. The same things apply there as do the 110vac systems. Check alternator and starter connections as well.


Just a few words on safety. Electrical systems are dangerous. Serious injury or death can occur, and occur very quickly. When you service your system, make sure all sources of power are disconnected, and placed in a state that they can not be accidentally turned on while you are doing the work, you should ALWAYS test for voltage before touching anything, even if you know it is off, check it anyway. You donít need to have a 500.00 meter for this, you just need something that works.

Another point is the 12vdc side. Most people donít realize that the low voltage side of your system can kill also. Did you know that when a starter is engaged, there can literally be hundreds of amps being drawn from the batteries? It takes only milliamps to kill, the voltage does not matter, it is the amps. Some inverters draw massive amounts of amps while they are running, touch the wrong thing, and it could be the last thing you touch. Use caution and common sense when ever you work with any kind of voltage or power supply system.

Again, if you donít feel comfortable, or are not sure, ask a qualified electrician for advice or to do the work for you. The small amount of money this will cost you pales in comparison to an injury or death, or to an on board fire caused by a preventable issue with your electrical system.

Have fun, and enjoy the season!!!!!........D....

19   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
ddurand Posted - Aug 09 2015 : 14:32:14
A course I took in order to work in an IBM computer room said its always best to touch a tool your going to use for the first time that day with the back of your hand. If the case is hot you can easily pull away. Grip it normally with your hand and you might not be able to loosen your grip if its hot.
Radioactive Posted - Nov 06 2013 : 18:29:44
--> Tom

In my experience, any wiring diagram supplied by the boat mfgr seems to be a "generic" harness chart. It might resemble the one on your particular boat, or it may not. It depends on the mfgr, your particular model and of course rarely includes previous owner "modifications. What this means is that (n in my experience ) the only accurate wiring diagram is one the I personally have created by tracing all of those wires. ( In a small boat this may simply be an aggravation, but not difficult. In a larger vessel it is a major issue ) The diagram you make of your boat will be accurate, and if kept updated, a very useful tool. The "generic diagrams" can be useful, though you should not trust them to reflect reality without personally tracing those wires involved in your project.

Good luck with your project!

( Note: in theory, the mfgr might have a specific chart or generic chart available for your particular boat. IT is possible that they will share it with you for free or, perhaps, a fee )
D. Andrews Posted - Nov 06 2013 : 18:15:05
Need the specifics on the boat, year, make, model, engine, etc................D...........
tom91 Posted - Nov 06 2013 : 08:07:03
I am a new boater,and new to this sight.i have a 18 console jon boat.the boat runs,but wiring needs to be redone.any ideas on where I might be able to find a wiring diagram.thankss tom
gcolton Posted - Oct 23 2009 : 16:10:25
I quit wearing any jewelry (rings) on my fingers. I once caught my high school ring on a nail on a diving board when I was doing hand stands and then hanging onto the board to drop into the water. Luckly my ring was too small when I got it and it had been sized and consequently had a weak spot. It broke before pulling my finger out.

Some years later I was wearing a wedding ring. I was holding to the top of the windshield in a boat. I started to sit down and my ring caught in the top of the windshield. I could not stop sitting quickly and consequently got a good sized cut in the bottom of my finger. That was the last time I ever wore a ring.

Sloboater Posted - Oct 23 2009 : 11:11:46
Deep tissue burns are a definate threat when working with high amp batteries. My boss shorted his wedding band on a wrench and battery in a Honda Prius. He had bone deep burns and almost lost the finger. It did require skin graft. Based on that experience, I never wear any jewelry below deck.
RWS Posted - Apr 19 2009 : 07:02:03
Originally posted by dvinell

Almost an excellent post.

Although it is theoretically possible to suffer a lethal shock from a 12v system, I'm not aware of anyone that has actually died this way. And the "hundreds of amps being drawn" is simply not relevant, unless you were planning on sticking 12v wires deep into your flesh either side of your rib cage, or sucking a spanner that was across the battery terminals...


When I was 22 years old I caught my college ring between a six volt battery starter wire and a ground.

Nearly cooked my finger off and destroyed that ring.

Keep this in mind when working on OR AROUND electrical

ddurand Posted - Apr 18 2009 : 20:33:38
If in doubt, touch whatever is in question with the back of your hand, not grabbing it with your fingers and thumb. If the item is hot and you get shocked your hand will bounce away from it. If its hot and you grab it with your fingers and thumb you will continue to hold it tight and keep getting shocked and worse.

This was part of a short electrical course I had to take from my employer (IBM) before I could walk in the raised floor areas.
divedaddy Posted - Apr 22 2008 : 16:22:37
Excellent post! Good idea Mike!
Silverton_34 Posted - Apr 22 2008 : 16:08:57
Excellent idea. That way it won't get buried.
Jensen Posted - Apr 21 2008 : 22:24:10
don't mind says me.
Msibley Posted - Apr 21 2008 : 21:45:20
Nice post. Anybody here mind if I remove the responses to leave a clean sticky?

dvinell Posted - Apr 21 2008 : 19:41:19

Almost an excellent post.

Although it is theoretically possible to suffer a lethal shock from a 12v system, I'm not aware of anyone that has actually died this way. And the "hundreds of amps being drawn" is simply not relevant, unless you were planning on sticking 12v wires deep into your flesh either side of your rib cage, or sucking a spanner that was across the battery terminals...

Ken W Posted - Apr 17 2008 : 19:08:08
Excellent post!
Silverton_34 Posted - Apr 17 2008 : 18:37:18
I had a boatside 30amp receptacle melt down due to corrosion. When I checked the other recept it wasn't to far behind. I had to replace both recepts, both shore power cords and splitter, wire from recpt to power panel, and all the wiring for the a/c breakers. All wires mentioned were fried or showed signs of overheating. Could have been a disaster. I now check various components more often than I thought it should be. I also use LOTs of corrosion protection spray on entire back of electrical panal and all other shore power connections.
Mike V Posted - Apr 16 2008 : 15:12:38
In your opinion: What are the best name brand products to clean electrical connections and help prevent corrosion build up?
hrand Posted - Apr 16 2008 : 11:38:36
Very good advice. One year as I was checking, I decided to remove the battery [1,2,,both,off] switch and found that mud dauber wasps had completely surrounded the connections with the mud nests they build.
Jensen Posted - Apr 15 2008 : 22:17:55
This is such good advice. I personally helped to salvage a friend's boat which was burned to the waterline because of what the adjuster called "Electrical Disregard" Fortunately everyone escaped the boat, but the two guys had some semi-serious burns on the backs of their bodies from standing on the platform, reluctant to leave it. The coast guard had to come rescue them from a SHIPPING CANAL and their boat was a total loss. It was likely that it was a poor connection that caused the whole thing. IMO, maintainence of ALL systems is the difference between a boater and a danger to the rest of us. : (
navman Posted - Apr 15 2008 : 21:12:18
Good Advice, I have done much mechanically so far starting in march to get ready for the season. I never thought about checking around the inverter lugs or the main panel.

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