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post #1 of 15 Old 06-05-2012 Thread Starter
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Angry Battery/Electrical troubleshooting dilemma

I am having a real hair-puller. Somehow I am not getting enough juice to start the engine, a Westerbeke(Isuzu) 55C Four. Even though the battery charge state per Link 1000 indicates charged (probably out of calibration) the panel voltage meter shows 13.2 volts or better, as confirmed by my Fluke 73, the engine barely grunts. A few minutes on the Truecharge 40 will spin it right over, and she fires right up. Yet the charger has been on overnight, which, to check the charge state, I will disconnect before starting attempts.*
*I have three banks: house, (4 110 amp group 27) and separate engine banks, 110 amps each. All Banks can be switched to run in parallel to provide 660 amps.*
My Fluke clamp meter says I'm getting 20 amps or better on each output of the Truecharge. I have cleaned all terminals and added a film of dielectric grease to terminal surfaces. I have equalized several times. Engine charging seems to be healthy, having had the alternator (Balmar) checked out in an alt. shop. Engine batteries charged via Balmar digital duo-charge. All cable for starting/feed is *boat cable, gauge 1/0. terminals are soldered. Wiring throughout the boat is less than three years old. All cable runs are fused. (is meter shunt deteriation a possibility?) System worked fine upon original completion of job, but began to act unreliable about a year ago.
After engine has started and come up to temparature, will start easily as long as it is just a little warm.
I have load tested the engine starting battery over a weekend at a battery shop. Then built a new reinforced battery box, added disconnect switches, bought an additional battery, which became Bank 3. Little to no difference w/ bank 1, bank 2, bank 3, or anny combination or all three.
With just a few minutes charge time, the batteries are happy as a clam, engine starts with just a bump. As long as it is just a little warm it will continue to start easily.
The starter motor is completely inaccessible. I cannot even touch the the terminals, which are covered with protective rubber boots, with my fingertips. Removal of the starter motor without complete engine removal is out of the question. Open heart surgery would be more fun.
I am trying to avoid that until I checked and cleared all other suspects.
Have followed Nigel Calder's troubleshooting sequnce for ground leaks and shorts, and everything is okay. Except it's not.
Where do I go from here?
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post #2 of 15 Old 06-05-2012
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Re: Battery/Electrical troubleshooting dilemma

starter, and or solenoid? just what you don't want to do.. Like yesterday.. window motor in my van was bad for 8 yrs since I've owned it. Finally a friend helped me.. took an hour. couple yrs ago, fuel tank in my boat.. all the discussion took longer then the work. Good luck!
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post #3 of 15 Old 06-05-2012
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Re: Battery/Electrical troubleshooting dilemma

Dialectric grease is an INSULATOR. It should only be put on TOP of already cleaned and tightened connections.

Have you also checked and cleaned your main engine ground?

Sounds like time to find and check the starter and solenoid connections.

Many boats (should) have fuses between the start button/key and the starter solenoid. The fuseholders can deteriorate over time and make tpoor connections. Solution: replace and relocate, 'cuz they're usually right under the alternator - not a good place.

Stu Jackson, C34, 1986, M25 engine, Rocna 10 (22#)
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post #4 of 15 Old 06-05-2012
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Re: Battery/Electrical troubleshooting dilemma

If I read correctly, the engine will start after a few minutes on the charger, but not if the charger has been on overnight. This makes no sense at all.

Bristol 31.1, San Francisco Bay
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post #5 of 15 Old 06-05-2012
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Re: Battery/Electrical troubleshooting dilemma

The Balmar Duo Charge has a glitch / issue that if the banks can take/accept more than 30A they shut down and don't re-set.

Check the voltage of your start batteries to be sure you are getting charging current because your Duo may be overloading and shutting off..

Also 20A out of each leg of the charger does not indicate a battery anywhere near full. Batteries near full will be accepting less than 1.5% - 1% of the 20 hour Ah capacity.

I suspect you may have a phantom load going on that is sucking your banks down or bad connection..... The starter on that motor is very reliable and should do 1000's of starts before even considering a re-build. Of course if you've been starting on low banks that all changes as the starter works harder...

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post #6 of 15 Old 06-05-2012 Thread Starter
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Re: Battery/Electrical troubleshooting dilemma

I have installed an on/ off swich and an indicator lamp to show when the Duo Charge is doing its thing.....supposedly.
I agree with the phantom battery drain question... But the question is how to locate it? Nigel Calder's troubleshooting sequence hasn't uncovered anything....yet.
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post #7 of 15 Old 06-06-2012
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Re: Battery/Electrical troubleshooting dilemma

mickey-
Finding a phantom drain is pretty much always done the same way. Get an ammeter. A clamp-on that works with DC, if you can. A regular multimeter type if money's an obstacle. (Some of us aren't Rockefellers, or using them for business every day.) Then you turn everything off, and start looking at each circuit to see which one is still carrying power.
With the clamp meter, you start at the primary battery cable, see if it is carrying power. Move down to the next circuits, the breaker panel, the (typically) unfused alternator cable, any other charger cables, bilge pump.
If you have a regular multimeter, you remove each fuse from it's holder, and insert the two leads, one to each side of the fuse contacts. With breakers, you don't remove them, ust turn them OFF and check for current across the two terminals. Sooner of later, you will find a circuit that is carrying power when it shouldn't be.
With the alternator, you need to disconnect the battery positive for safety, then disconnect the alternator output cable. Insert ammeter wires at the alternator output and carefully reconnect the battery--because one "oops" on THAT circuit can literally blow your finger off. If you're not aware of it--be paranoid about anything that might directly short the battery, even a car battery can put 3000 amps into a simple dead short, and that tends to be a very bad thing. If you are wearing rings or a metal watch, take them off before you start.
Obviously the clamp type meter can make this kind of testing much faster if you've got lots of fuses.
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post #8 of 15 Old 06-07-2012 Thread Starter
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Re: Battery/Electrical troubleshooting dilemma

Since the house bank is completely separate seems like I should focus on the engine starting circuit. The only connections there are the starter (switched w/ disconnect sw.) and the digital duo- charge output, the controller (not the output) which is also switched.
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post #9 of 15 Old 06-07-2012
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Re: Battery/Electrical troubleshooting dilemma

Check your engine's ground connection from the battery - depending where you meter, a poor ground may not show up. Measure from the batter negative post to the engine block as close to the starter as possible while someone is cranking the starter. Should be as close to zero as possible, a volt or two (or more) of difference would explain your problem.

Also if you can, measure the voltage coming from the start switch at, or as close as you can to, the starter solenoid. Some boats/engines have multiple connectors in the wiring harness (in the case of my Jeanneau/Yanmar, six or seven!) , and too much voltage drop from engine to control panel and back can cause the solenoid to pull in partly, but not completely. In this latter case, the result is usually just a "click" with no cranking, so it doesn't quite sound like your problem, but I have seen it on a number of other boats.

Check the grounds, and try measuring across each connection between things that are *supposed* to be at the same voltage (whether that is 0, or 12).

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post #10 of 15 Old 06-07-2012
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Re: Battery/Electrical troubleshooting dilemma

Measuring the resistance between terminals of battery select switch (either, neither both) may show gummed up contacts internally These can carry smaller currents OK but baulk at big loads. same symptoms as poor ground.
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