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Thread: I wonder if a ground cable would help electrolysis?

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    Member Float Pilot's Avatar
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    Default I wonder if a ground cable would help electrolysis?

    Our local lake is pretty cruddy. It has sea water back up into it at high tides and road salts that wash down from the local culverts.

    It also has about 4 feet of rotting vegetation on the bottom, huge leaches and weird snails that stick to your floats.

    Plus two huge Powers lines that lay on the bottom of the lake.

    So I have a real problem with blood red algae which refuses to scrub off the floats. And lots of rough aluminum under the water line. SEE PICS

    But I did not have as much of a problem when I was running a non-electric Cub for 10 years.

    Plus my old Cub was light enough to partially beach every night.

    HOWEVER, now that I have a C-172 on PK-2300s, I have all sorts of problems. I suspect that under the water-line electrolysis has a lot to do with my problems.

    The Cub had no battery system to complete a circuit and the floats were often touching the ground out of the water.

    SO....... I wonder if hooking a ground cable to my plane at night would reduce ( or encourage) the effects of electrolysis on my poor floats ??????

    Detaching the battery cable every night is a big pain in the butt.

    Thoughts ???
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    Member Music Man's Avatar
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    I hope those snails are not an invasive species that you are spreading around to other lakes? Just a question to think about.
    Add zink to the floats like it was a boat.
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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Seems like sacrificial anodes might be a good option provided you could figure out the proper shape size and location. And is a battery disconnect switch a legal option?
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    Your problem may be more a chemical reactions than a battery problem. If you measure the battery current drain when everything is off it may help to determine if it's being cause by the batteries.

    Music Man suggestion may be a good idea what we don't know if it's salt or bracket water. Brackish water needs aluminum anodes not zinc. How you find out is to measure the hull potential using a silver haft cell. Not an ease thing to do correctly.


    Do you have clear closeup pictures of the floats?

    Did you paint the float yet? I would think that should help if nothing else reduce the aluminum foot print.

    Are other plane also having problems?

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    Battery drain? With an aircraft master switch?

    You're fighting Galvanic Corrosion, not electrolysis, right? Get some Corrosion X and spray your float rudder posts, strut attachments fittings, etc occasionally. That's where you're going to see dissimilar metal corrosion. Manage it as best you can. The HD Corrosion X is waxy and stays put better than the typical blue can stuff, by the way.

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    Are you pulling the aircraft out every night? The tilt type ramps they use in SE allow easy pullout and freshwater rinse with a hose at the end of the day.
    Sounds like that lake is a nasty environment.

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    I do not have battery drain. But as someone who grew up around and inside fishing boats, I know that having the negative ground always hooked up to your battery does something.

    More than a few planes on this lake have had little holes eaten along the sides of their floats right at or slightly below the water line. Over the last 15 years or so, the only planes to escape that fate were non-electric. So it gets a feller to thinking....

    I use Fluid Film on the rudder post and cable turnbuckles. It is a little more sticky than HD Corrosion X.

    Pulling the plane up every night on my snow-machine trailer is not an option due to my location on the lake , nor is a fresh water wash-down.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Float Pilot View Post

    SO....... I wonder if hooking a ground cable to my plane at night would reduce ( or encourage) the effects of electrolysis on my poor floats ??????

    Detaching the battery cable every night is a big pain in the butt.

    Thoughts ???

    Not knowing what is causing the problem, it's hard to say what adding a ground wire would do. I would think you want the floats to be insulated from the water not giving them a good connection.
    That said stranger thing do happen....... why don't you try it and let us know if it helps.


    Have you looked into Antifouling paint such as “e-Paint” there is a shop in Homer that puts it on the bottom of boats.
    As bad as that lake is, I don't know if it's would help and theirs the problem, if it would come off when you landed in the water?

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    I am still cleaning the various layers of old paint and silicone caulking. I have been at it for a few days now. Some yahoo smeared silicone caulk all over the bottoms about 3 paintings ago. Right over the top of barnacles.

    Hopfully I will be able to etch and prime in a day or so.

    I bought more zincs as well. I will mount a couple on the rudders as well as the keel. The rudders are both pitted under the waterline.
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    Maybe talking with the DeCrefts or anyone else who has kept float planes in Beluga Lake for a long time might shed some useful light on the corrosion problem

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    Bill has stopped by a few times and made suggestions, as have many others. Bill has his opinions on painting, which I am trying this year. They include using POR-15 fuel tank sealant instead of thinned 5200 for leak stopping. But the opinions on the corrosion problems on Beluga lake are many and vary widely.

    And we have all talked about it for years.

    There are even places on the lake where the corrosion seems to be more pronounced. Mostly near the two giant power lines that run along the lake bottom. ( At least it seems so to me.) Fairly new floats on a Husky developed a series of holes right along the water line.

    I am sure there is a Gov research grant buried in here someplace....
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    I am sure the underwater power lines are increasing the problem.
    Worst case there is damage to insulation on the lines and there is stray voltage into the lake from it.
    Best case you still have voltage bleed off, just not near as much.
    I wonder how old those lines are?
    I am no science major but you would think there would be a way to measure it.

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    What do you guys theorize these electric cables would do?

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    Your seeing aircraft with electrical systems corrode quicker because they have their own electrical system loop creating electrolysis.
    Throw in another power source (underwater lines), saltwater and brackish duck pond water and you have a pretty good cocktail for corrosion

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    My theory is 2 different power sources is twice as bad

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    I'm not fluent in airplane, but I know a little about electricity. I am also not an engineer, but I have seen some corrosion issues.

    I seriously doubt that the powerlines are leaking. That tends to cause immediate failure. There is an electromagnetic field around them tho. The closer you are to that the more effect you will see. The size and power of the field fluctuates as conditions change. This field can very well induce a voltage on nearby metal objects.

    In the line trade we see induced voltages far removed from the energized powerline. We do "ground to earth" metal objects to "kill" that induced voltage. There have been fatalities due to contact with a "dead" line, so it is capable of carrying current of sufficient amount.

    I don't know if grounding your plane would help or exacerbate your issues. I believe that it would help. I would drive a ground rod and attach a copper cable to it with a ground rod clamp. Before you connect it to the floats...and using a good volt meter, check to see if there is any voltage between your plane and the ground cable. I'd see if there was any current flow also.

    The connector you put on the end of the cable to attach it to your plane should be aluminum or brass. If you see an HEA crew, ask them for a "hot line clamp". It is used to connect copper leads to aluminum wire. It should fit on your spreader bar with no trouble. They probably have used ones laying around the truck.

    Interesting issue. If you do drive a ground rod I'd think about doing a control test. Using 2 similar pieces of aluminum. Ground one and toss it in the lake. Toss the ungrounded one 10'+ away. By the end of the summer look and see if there is a difference. Good luck!
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    Better yet...if you have a dock, hang the control pieces above the bottom. Suspended above the "ground" might be more similar to your floats in the lake.
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    Best thing would be to get as far away from those AC power cables as possible. The inducement field drops off (depending on power/size/distance between laid cables...) at 7 meters latterly, the worst scenario is to be directly overhead. Your airplane will conduct AC as a 60 Hertz antenna. Things get complicated when you try to calculate how to minimize induction in an AC field, same can be said for changing the length of your antenna (airplane on the water) so it is less likely to conduct the 60 hertz waveform. You can make it worse by adding lengths of conducting material to your airframe.

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    You guys sure have some interesting theories on how AC power can cause corrosion. There one problem there is no evidence AC power caused corrosion.

    In fact if you had a aluminum boat with the AC power connections reverse (hot wire going to grounding bus) it would not cause any corrosion. The bad news is if you went for a swim you could get electrocuted.

    Speaking of being electrocuted if the power lines were causing a problem with his plane he would not have any live leaches or snails on it.

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    I'd be more focused on the water salinity and/or ph level for waterline corrosion. Take some water samples to the water utility or cooperative extension and find out what you're dealing with.

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