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post #1 of 14 Old 04-23-2011 Thread Starter
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Cool sealing mast electrical connectors

Hi. New here. I have searched but not found quite this answer.

My wind instruments aren't working, but have been factory-checked, and I've checked each segment of the wiring with a digital multi-meter using its ohm-meter function. So I'm narrowing it down to probably the connectors.

My VHF radio works fine, and the nav lights work, but not the wind instruments.

I understand about using dielectric grease around the actual contacts (it's a resistor but the metal-to-metal contacts physically break through to each other if tight enough).

That leaves two things:
1/ how to seal the actual "seam" where two halves of a connector join, e.g. the male and female ends of a 4-prong connector. (I have used standard black electric tape. And there is a rubber sleeve which slides over that join, but whether that's enough to count on as waterproof I do not know.)
2/ How to seal the ends where the wires enter. I have tried "liquid electric tape", and physically it looks good, but is there some standard, known, better way to do that? If there's any little leak there, then the water would be trapped inside, and that would be bad.

The configuration is that the wind instruments have a connector which sits in the open breeze up atop the mast. That four-wire bundle travels down the mast and ends in another connector at the bottom of the mast. From there, another wire travels through a calked hole in the deck-step and on to the instruments, some distance away.

The inside of the mast of course gets wet.

So, I'll recheck all of the wiring this Spring, but how do I seal those connectors?

Thank you.

Charles
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post #2 of 14 Old 04-23-2011
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Charles, the silicon grease on the contacts is the right first step. You need to use it sparingly, so it does not get on the outside of the connector. Then, you overwrap the entire connector body, including the wires, with a product called "Coax Seal" (from electronics stores) or butyl tape (from the big box hardware stores) or silicone tape (in WalGreens or from TV ads or marine stores as "amazing repair tape" and other names). All of these products actually fuse to themselves after being stretched out and wrapped, forming a watertight one-piece coating that can easily be cut free at maintenance time. The butyl tape is traditional, used by telcos to seal underground cables. The silicon tape may be the best product, the coax seal obvisouly purposely built for antenna and similar wiring aloft.
Used per the instructions (how much to stretch and overwrap) and generously on the wire itself, they all will do a good job of waterproofing it. You also want to use "drip loops" where appropriate, i.e. put a u-shaped bend in the wire to encourage water to run down and drip from the bottom of a loop, instead of following the wire all the way into a connector.
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post #3 of 14 Old 04-24-2011 Thread Starter
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Thanks, very much, HS. Perfect. I have used one of those high-tech tapes before, supplied to me in fact on the spot by an electrical engineer - but he just did the "seam", not the entire connector including the "other" ends where the wires go in.

The whole assembly - I don't have a photo - ends up being quite irregularly shaped, and has to be done as a bunch of friends are fidgeting, waiting, to drop the mast that last six inches ... I'll work that out. I could pre-wrap part of it, probably ...

And drip-loop, yes.

Thanks again! Off to the shops!

Charles
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post #4 of 14 Old 04-24-2011
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Charles-
If you really want to do it right...
There's right and there's RIGHT and really doing it right means the wires need to be terminated in a waterproof bulkhead connector, which plugs into a mating connector in the deck (or in a riser, etc.) that is internally protected by o-rings or gaskets. Of course those cost money, and they're damned hard to find, and it takes more labor to rewire things so they are properly wired into them.
Bulgin Components: EXPlora - Zone 2 Hazardous Area Connector ATEX approved
Bulgin is one company that makes many types of "robust" connectors. If you decide you're keeping the boat long term and want a winter project...
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post #5 of 14 Old 04-29-2011 Thread Starter
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Thanks again, HS.

For this season - and having bought these from a reputable marina with advice from "expert" staff - I'm stuck with these:




So: how to seal up the four wires entering the boot is my dilemma. Liquid electrical tape wasn't bad but has eventually broken. Caulking?

And this is the connector with the "boot" off:



Thank you again.

Charles
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post #6 of 14 Old 04-29-2011
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I suspect the internal connections are fairly corroded by now, if that is the actual problem. Be sure to test the continuity of the wires themselves. I would replace the connectors entirely. It appears that you essentially have two wires in and two wires out? How do these look:

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ct, if they've already got corrosion forming in them...time to lop 'em off and replace em unless you really can clean it all out, bright and shiny.

Then I'd use silicon grease inside (sparingly) and yes, probably a polysulfide caulk like LifeCaulk or BoatLife to fill the outside gap, followed by a butyl wrap extending down a few inches. They're just not the right connector, they have no intrinsic way of making the wires watertight.

Of course, at nearly $50 per each half per two wires...You can understand why the marina doesn't carry a $200 solution in stock. For four wires, a "trailer" light connector, with some grease, butyl, and waterproof splices, does the job for a lot of people. Not elegant, but cost effective.
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post #8 of 14 Old 05-03-2011 Thread Starter
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sealing mast electrical connectors Reply to Thread

Thank you Minnewaska and hellosailor.

Very helpful.

One of the in-mast connectors was a trailer connector initially, but it had failed and I replaced it "as advised" by a marina. I can see how flawed that advice was. Strange that this must be a common issue but two chandleries I've been to sold similar (unsuitable) products.

I'll do better next time.

Thanks again.

Charles
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Not so strange, really. Folks want something better than trailer wiring (which the auto stores can sell so much cheaper) and the real Right Stuff is so damned expensive.

I suppose there's some kind of niche market opportunity there..."AS SEEN ON TV! Wireless Masthead Lights!" (VBG)

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post #10 of 14 Old 05-21-2011
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Hi, I'm new to site. I have an electrical line leading from the mast through a metal connector with flange through the hull.It broke the wire connection but I can't seem to follow the wire down through the hull. The wires werent long enough to pull up through the hull. Any suggestions?
thanks, sis (citykid)
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