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Thread: Any electrical geniuses out there? grounded/charged hull issue...

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    Member Swissy's Avatar
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    Default Any electrical geniuses out there? grounded/charged hull issue...

    Help!
    During the shrimp opener, I found I was having some minor electrical issues... namely my low voltage alarm would sound if I was running too many things at once - never had that before. No problems starting, battery was always charged in the morning when started, but gauge showed 12.8-13.6 while running and it dropped to as low as 9.8 a couple of times using the puller while the motor was running.

    fast forward to this week, I finally got some time to look into it, batteries checked out OK with a shops load tester, and when I decide to swap all my anodes, I found light corrosion spots on the transom, and further investigation showed the entire hull has some. A neighbor who works for NOAA running boats came over and looked and confirmed what the internet search showed me... he thinks my hull is charged and at the very least grounded. I spent the day digging thru the battery compartment/bilge area, and nothing stood out. I'm not the best at electric stuff so if anyone has any pointers, or better yet some time in Anchorage, dinner/beer/Homer halibut spots are on me! Or, is there a shop that is recommended if I cannot find anything glaring? The transducer cable is good, bilge pump wires seem to be good, washdown pump as well... I'm off again on Wednesday and plan to check all connections, replace them with new heat shrink connectors after making sure the wires internally are not corroded, and just generally pulling my hair out trying to track it down. I don't want to miss too much shrimping time!
    '04 Hewescraft 24' Searunner
    200hp Honda 4stroke
    + multiple other 'toys'...

  2. #2
    Sponsor potbuilder's Avatar
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    Bad ground or wire grounding itself out on the hull ??

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    Member akshootnscoot's Avatar
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    When you replace all your connections, cut back the wire a bit anyways. Even if it looks ok. Better safe than sorry, and you're already doing the work, so why not?

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    Member cormit's Avatar
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    Bad news if your aluminum hull is carrying stray electrical current. It's necessary for all electrical to have a dedicated ground path back to the battery .... not using the hull. Like pot builder said ..... any electrical components not getting a good ground will find a ground path back to the battery (or earth) through the hull. When your boat is in the water ...... particularly salt water ...... the need for a grounding source will make it's way to the water as a ground. The best and last conductor as current passes from your hull into the water is your zincs. Noticing that they are disappearing too quickly is a pretty strong clue. When aluminum sitting in salt water has current flowing through it ..... bad things happen .... as your hull will begin to dissolve like the plates in a battery. You probably don't want to put off fixing this. We've had boats in our shop for repair from electrolysis that couldn't be saved. You should start at your batteries ground posts and start cleaning all connections. Go to the ground cable connection on each outboard motor and wire brush and make sure each point is making a good connection. Follow the ground to your electric panel and any grounding buss bars that might be used. Your line hauler is a good suspect for a poor ground ..... especially if your zincs have been going away suddenly. A line hauler draws a lot of amps .... and a poor ground could send a lot of current into the water. Also ..... don't allow zincs to deteriorate much as they don't work as well once the they start to dissolve ....... then more current will start to flow out of your hull .... and you don't want that. Check out the ground connection for every electrical device in your boat. Good luck.

  5. #5
    Moderator bkmail's Avatar
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    Because your charging system is fluctuating, I would strongly recommend installing new connectors on your alternator, especially the hot wire that feeds back to your battery.
    Had this happen to my previous ocean boat and the mechanic found I had corrosing inside the wire an inch or so even though the wire looked good at the connection and was covered properly with a rubber boot.
    BK

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    In a perfect world there will be only one ground going from your battery system to your boat. There is no perfect world when it come to boats and all there electronics. Having several grounds are not necessarily a problem if done right. I can think of several problems that would cause your symptom and they are not caused by your boat. Unless we are talking about the puller.

    To start out with you have two problems one with the puller and the other may not be a problem with your boat. The problem with the puller can be found in anchorage with a dvom. It still may be your batteries just because you had the batteries tested does not mean there good.


    I would not start replacing connectors there no need to and if you don't have the proper tools and know what your doing you can cause more problems. A dvom and a lot of common sense is all you need to fix it.

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    Moderator bkmail's Avatar
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    Whats a DVOM?
    I would like to learn more.
    BK

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    Member cormit's Avatar
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    About those crimp connectors. Very popular because they're so quick and easy to use but, they are not adequate for use in a marine environment .... without some extra steps. I'm sure plenty will disagree with me ...... but crimping and heat shrinking does not always result in a long lasting connection. Many new boats come this way ... saving money on labor I guess. Over time the outer surfaces of the wire strands and/or connector parts may oxidize and actually begin to lose contact .... sometimes one strand at a time. Eventually there may be only a few of the wire strands left carrying the whole load. These connections will indicate good continuity and full voltage with a tester .... but when a load is passed through them ... they are incapable of the demand. Trouble shooting one of these bad connections can be a total nightmare. The compromised connection in the positive side can deliver low voltage to the electrical device. A compromised connection on the ground side ...... and the full current will try to travel through any conductive source available to return to the battery. This might include other small wires in the grounding circuits ...... many too small to carry the load ....... and of course a metal hull as well.

    If you disconnected the ground cable on your outboard motor ....... and then tried to start the motor ..... the starter would probably not engage ... but the full amps of the starting battery could spread out through all available ground circuit wiring (wire harness) trying to find a return path to the battery and a wiring melt down could occur. I've actually done this ... bad thing.

    Here's what I learned to do with crimp connectors. Most crimp connectors and crimp terminal ends come with a plastic shield over a metal sleeve ..... obviously intended for a specific wire size. I cut off the plastic shield. This is not as easy as you would think ..... you can loose blood doing this .... especially using a razor knife. Don't use a razor knife. The metal sleeve is what you're after. I do the same thing with a terminal end connector. If the wire you are about join or put a terminal end on has had salt water exposure ..... you might not be able to save it. How do you tell? See if it will take solder. You might get away with cutting it back to good wire ..... but sometimes that won't work either. It must take solder to be good. If the wire has become too oxidized ..... and solder will not stick ..... it must be replaced. Bummer, but that's how it is.

    Next slide a piece of good quality heat shrink on to the wire .... and don't be chintzy ..... make it longer than shorter. Marine heat shrink can't be just a vinyl sleeve like sometimes comes at the hardware store. Get the black marine rated stuff that has a heat activated adhesive inside.

    Cut the insulation back on the wire ..... just enough to insert into the metal sleeve with a small gap between the end of the sleeve and the wire insulation. Now you have to crimp the sleeve carefully to make sure the wire is tightly pinned in the crimp. I don't like to use the half round crimp feature that just smashes the sleeve ... because sometimes you can pull them apart. Some crimpers have a half round on the female side and an opposite corresponding bump on the male side ..... like a "U'. My experience is .... the "U" shape makes the strongest crimp.

    Next with a mini torch ..... heat the sleeve and feed small diameter electrical solder into the sleeve at both ends .. until you're sure the connection has pretty much filled with solder. Make sure your piece of heat shrink is slid back away from the solder site ..... so it doesn't get hot prematurely and shrink in the wrong spot.

    Now slide the heat shrink over the newly soldered sleeve and heat it carefully .... you can use the same torch you used to solder or a heat gun ..... but there's no need to over heat the stuff ...... but watch for the adhesive to form and ooze out at the ends of the heat shrink to insure the joint is sealed.

    This anal method of wire joining and terminating is a time consuming ...... tedious ...... pain in the butt. But, connections made this way will last indefinitely.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swissy View Post
    and when I decide to swap all my anodes, I found light corrosion spots on the transom, and further investigation showed the entire hull has some. A neighbor who works for NOAA running boats came over and looked and confirmed what the internet search showed me... he thinks my hull is charged and at the very least grounded. I spent the day digging thru the battery compartment/bilge area, and nothing stood out. I'm not the best at electric stuff so if anyone has any pointers, or better yet some time in Anchorage, dinner/beer/Homer halibut spots are on me! Or, is there a shop that is recommended if I cannot find anything glaring? The transducer cable is good, bilge pump wires seem to be good, washdown pump as well... I'm off again on Wednesday and plan to check all connections, replace them with new heat shrink connectors after making sure the wires internally are not corroded, and just generally pulling my hair out trying to track it down. I don't want to miss too much shrimping time!
    Back to the problem you think you have with corrosion on your boat. Unless your anodes are all gone there was no need to replace them and if they looked good all you needed was to test them is a dvom to find out if they were installed correctly and some common sense.

    So your boat has a charge. It is not possible for an Aluminum boat to not have a charge with or with out a ground if the boat is in salt water. If you don't believe me take an aluminum plate and some copper, silver, S.S., zinc, iron, etc and put them in salt water and measure the voltage. What you need to be concern about is how much voltage and it polarity. If you do have a problem it may be that you have too few or too many anodes.

    There are ways you can measure a boats stray voltage to find out if your boat has a problem OR if the problem is else ware.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bkmail View Post
    Whats a DVOM?
    I would like to learn more.
    BK
    Digital Volt-Ohm Meter

  11. #11
    Member Swissy's Avatar
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    IMG_0960.jpgIMG_0961.jpg
    Nothing was there last fall when I put the boat away. Ran the Winter King derby in March, noticed a little volt variance, then the week on the water in PWS and really had the issues.

    Regarding the pot puller, it is not just the puller... if I use the trim tabs, windshield washer, puller, everything drops the volts low, but the puller drops it to alarm level as it pulls more obviously.

    I have a meter, and will be seeing what I can find on my days off. If it starts getting too involved my level of incompetence, then it's off to find a shop to talk to. Never have been good at electrical crap... but I do have the black marine shrink tubing and whatnot. Just not sure how deep I should go before I really screw something up more.

    The anodes are all in the same locations, nothing more/less than there have been for the last 7 years I've had the boat. They were still intact, altho definitely not shiny as new. Easy fix tho, like testing the batteries with a load tester at the shop for my work.
    '04 Hewescraft 24' Searunner
    200hp Honda 4stroke
    + multiple other 'toys'...

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    I'd throw a wild guess out that it has to do with the engine(s) ground or charging circuit.... How do the zincs on the motor look? Check to see if your charging curcuit is working correctly. Batterys should read 12.SOMETHING with the engine(s) off and 13.2 0r 13.3 with engines on.... Or check the ground on the engine block like mentioned before.

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    If I had a boat with your problem I would not take it out until it was fix you could loose all of your electrical system and be dead in the water.
    If all you do is use the dvom to find your problem I don't see how you could cause more problems.
    Before you get time to work on the boat I suggest you brush on to use a dvom when looking for a problem like yours. Also get a schematics/wiring diagram of your boat.

  14. #14
    Member bobmikk's Avatar
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    Some useful info and description of corrosion and causes...and suggestons for testing state of anodes.

    http://www.boatus.com/boattech/artic...-corrosion.asp

    OP indicated his anodes were dark in color or matte...if the Zn is heavily oxidized they will be rendered inactive. May be useful to clean the anodes.

  15. #15
    Member cormit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swissy View Post
    Help!
    During the shrimp opener, I found I was having some minor electrical issues... namely my low voltage alarm would sound if I was running too many things at once - never had that before.
    No problems starting, battery was always charged in the morning when started, but gauge showed 12.8-13.6 while running and it dropped to as low as 9.8 a couple of times using the puller while the motor was running.
    fast forward to this week, I finally got some time to look into it, batteries checked out OK with a shops load tester, and when I decide to swap all my anodes, I found light corrosion spots on the transom, and further investigation showed the entire hull has some. A neighbor who works for NOAA running boats came over and looked and confirmed what the internet search showed me... he thinks my hull is charged and at the very least grounded. I spent the day digging thru the battery compartment/bilge area, and nothing stood out. I'm not the best at electric stuff so if anyone has any pointers, or better yet some time in Anchorage, dinner/beer/Homer halibut spots are on me! Or, is there a shop that is recommended if I cannot find anything glaring? The transducer cable is good, bilge pump wires seem to be good, washdown pump as well... I'm off again on Wednesday and plan to check all connections, replace them with new heat shrink connectors after making sure the wires internally are not corroded, and just generally pulling my hair out trying to track it down. I don't want to miss too much shrimping time!
    More clues from your original post: You said your batteries didn't run down and your motor started in the morning without a problem. Charging circuit is likely working ok. Ground from the engine to the battery is probably ok too. If they were your problem .. the batteries should have run down. Any electrical devices that you have added since you got the boat required you to tie in to a power source and a ground source. You likely have a DC panel of some kind. A DC panel usually has a heavy gage wire (red) from the battery (battery switch accessories circuit) and a heavy ground wire (black) from the battery to the DC panel grounding bar. It is common to come off that panel for 12v power for new electrical things you add. And also common to ground the new things there as well. If the one wire (black) that grounds your panels ground bar back to the battery had a poor connection where it attaches to the panel ... or at the ether end where it connects to the battery ground post ...... all accessories connected to the panel from radios and GPS's to your line hauler would have a grounding issue when turned on that would result in huge stray grounding ...... much of which would use the aluminum hull where ever it could. That kind of current flow through your hull ... while sitting in salt water with any electrical devices turned ..... would explain the serious pitting that you are getting. You can track down those main ground connections yourself .. and you might be surprised what you find. Again ... good luck.

  16. #16
    Member Swissy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacGyver View Post
    If I had a boat with your problem I would not take it out until it was fix you could loose all of your electrical system and be dead in the water.
    If all you do is use the dvom to find your problem I don't see how you could cause more problems.
    Before you get time to work on the boat I suggest you brush on to use a dvom when looking for a problem like yours. Also get a schematics/wiring diagram of your boat.
    Oh yeah, no way the boat is hitting the water till this is fixed. Already cancelled my 5 day Paulson Bay Forest service cabin rental starting tomorrow (). Sitting here at work looking at numerous sits about testing and so on... so much so I have to quit as my head is spinning. Can't do anything until tomorrow anyways.
    And thankfully, it's not pitted, it's just surface for now. Anything that is more than surface is along a scratch or ding that was there previously. After it's fixed, the next fun thing will be buffing and polishing the bottom to get rid of it all...

    I'll start with the DVOM, see if I can find anything, and go from there. The anodes all looked fine, to me, and I still have them. They were most certainly affected, but they were full sized, not crumbling just corroded white with pitting.

    And thanks for all the ideas of things to check... my list is getting pretty long.
    '04 Hewescraft 24' Searunner
    200hp Honda 4stroke
    + multiple other 'toys'...

  17. #17
    Member Swissy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cormit View Post
    ... You can track down those main ground connections yourself .. and you might be surprised what you find. Again ... good luck.
    The fuse blocks are my first thing to check - all battery terminals were seriously cleaned on the water last week, and that did not help. the only things wired directly to the battery was the washdown pump, which I removed as it never works when I need it (HOPE that was my issue but won't know until I test it), the stereo in the cabin which I disconnected as I never listen to it, and the float switch bilge pump, which is all new as of 2 years ago and I did the marine shrink tubing connections and made sure the wiring was out of the bilge as much as possible. And the pot puller (Electradyne)- had polar wire make some serious cabling to connect it directly to the batteries, and no issues for the 4 years I've had it.

    Otherwise everything runs thru the fuse panels under the helm. I added a new radio, GPS and Depthfinder last spring, so I'll double check those installations, but they have been working with no issues for a year now. Altho I had none of the low votage issues last year at all, it's probably just enough time to get the corrosion going good! (trying to keep my humor... LOL)

    Seems I know what I'll be spending my weekend doing...
    '04 Hewescraft 24' Searunner
    200hp Honda 4stroke
    + multiple other 'toys'...

  18. #18
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    make sure the metal of the boat is nice and shiney where the zincs get bolted on, use a stainless brush to clean it up good. I've heard of aluminum gillnetters that had problems with the leadline laying on the decks. You got to have a leaking ground somwhere, maybe something with the motor bracket or the trim pump wires.

    Alaska Shrimp Pots

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  19. #19
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    A few last things think about. Having repaired my share of metal boats with serious hull pitting ....... the pitting doesn't necessarily show up most on the hull exterior ....... sometimes the conditions are even worse on the inside of the hull and sometimes it shows up in the aluminum fuel tanks as well. Too many boats come with urethane foam sprayed into the framing .. around aluminum fuel tanks ..... and just about everywhere below deck. This foam almost always gets water saturated over time ..... and this water saturated foam keeps the inside of the hull constantly wetted ...... which is a perfect environment for electrical activity.

    I would check the easiest thing first. Crawl under your dash a locate the main accessory ground wire to the electric panel. Examine it's connection to the panel and the terminal eye used to connect it ...... your problem might be solved right there.

  20. #20

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    I had a similar issue. Long and short of it i ran the ground from my motor directly to the ground on the battery. Looped to the other battery ground then to hull. I missed almost all of last year fishing and this spring had it fixed in 20 min. Worth a shot.

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