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post #1 of 32 Old 05-12-2015 Thread Starter
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Engine Instruments Fail to Read - Help!

Hello All...

I've had this issue for the past two months, and have not been able to fix the issue, nor has a local marina. When I am in the slip with the engine running, all engine instruments - tachometer, volt meter, temp gauge, and fuel gauge all work fine. However, once I start motoring for about 15 minutes down river towards the coast, all of the engine instruments start acting screwy. First, they all start jumping around...and all of them. Not just one or a couple. This affects all four of these instruments at the same time. Then, after a few minutes of jumping around, all of the instruments just fail to read entirely...the gauge needles drop straight down (or read all of the way over to the right).

All of the electronics (wind, depth, GPS, and autopilot) are fine. Then, after sailing for a bit and drawing the batteries down, the engine starts and the engine gauges are fine for a few minutes...and then this repeats itself all over.

First thoughts were that this was a bad ground, but myself and the marina looked at this and didn't find an issue. Next, the marina tech thought there was an issue with our alternator...when the alternator was charging the batteries (i.e. after starting the engine), all was fine. Once the batteries were charged, there seemed to be an issue with the electrical current at that point which was causing an issue. They recommended replacing the regulator on the alternator which they thought would correct the issue. At this point we are way out of my area of expertise, so I had no issues with that. Regulator replaced and alternator reinstalled, and the issue is still there. Exactly the same. Tachometer, volt meter, fuel gauge, and temperature gauge all start jumping around after 10 minutes and then fail to read.

The batteries appear to be charging when the engine is running, even though the volt meter (or any other gauge) isn't reading...so, I have come here for any insight. I am having the marina look at it again later this week, but since they seem unable to correctly diagnose the issue, I was hoping anyone here could point us in the right direction. Any help/insight would be greatly appreciated...

Thanks!
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post #2 of 32 Old 05-12-2015
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Re: Engine Instruments Fail to Read - Help!

If it is exactly as you are explaining, a short circuit or open circuit is happening somewhere on your engine. Everything is working fine until the engine or the engine room or somewhere near the exhaust is hot enough to cause this to happen.
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post #3 of 32 Old 05-12-2015
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Re: Engine Instruments Fail to Read - Help!

This sounds like chafed wire insulation somewhere. Either the chafed wire is shorting to ground, or to +12V or something else. Heat / temperature may have something to do with it too... I would start looking at a new wiring harness, or rebuilding the old one wire at a time.


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Re: Engine Instruments Fail to Read - Help!

I was wondering if it was a chafed/broken wire or something. As for temperature potentially contributing to this issue as well...do you mean the normal operating temperature of the engine, or that the engine would need to be overheating to contribute to this? The engine is a Universal M25XP...
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Re: Engine Instruments Fail to Read - Help!

All of the above Plus check all of the connections and terminals on the control panel (pull on them the wire may just slide out) and there may be an instrument voltage regulator (drops 12 volts to some lower voltage) on the control panel itself, they rarely go bad but can cause those problems
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Re: Engine Instruments Fail to Read - Help!

Obviously the instruments don't all use the same sending unit (oil pressure, battery voltage, etc) from the engine, so you can rule that out. However, they probably are bundled together after a certain point, and they may share a common ground.

You're simply going to have to trace the wires the hard way, looking for chafe and verify that whatever they use for (-) ground is clean and solid.

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Re: Engine Instruments Fail to Read - Help!

Agree it sounds like a connection opening due to heat/vibration after a period of time.. the panel-wide behaviour of all the gauges sure points to a common issue, so it's gotta be the 12V to the panel or the ground...

Have your service people been investigating this issue when it's occurring? or after the fact when things are 'OK'? Nothing worse than attempting to find an intermittent wiring problem esp when it's not in play at the time.

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post #8 of 32 Old 05-12-2015
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Re: Engine Instruments Fail to Read - Help!

That your situation arises after the engine becomes 'warm', suggests that the primary wiring circuit of your engine control panel has significant corrosion in (probably most of) its electrical connectors. What usually happens is the corrosion when still 'wet' makes the electrical connection; but, when the engine warms and the corrosion dries out the connectors will have high resistance - thus voltage drop. This is quite common in boat control systems that were constructed with non-tinned 'automotive' wiring - quite common in Yanmar etc. and other manufacturers control panels made prior to 2000. If the primary control circuit has an in-line fuse / fuse holder, this and its in-feed line would be the first place to look for such corrosion. If corrosion is visually found, consider to remove the insulation from a long section of the twisted hook up wire ... once corrosion begins it will penetrate along the surface of the wire under the insulation .... electricity is carried primarily on the surface of wire and if the stranded wire surface is also corroded, then expect a voltage drop in the wire.

Rx: check all spade type connectors in the engine control panel for corrosion; and if so, replace the wiring and the connectors with tinned wiring components. Do a visual test and then repeat with an ohm/volt meter to look for the high resistance (after the engine becomes warm and 'dries out' the corrosion). For best results - All new connector connectors should be 'encapsulated' in shrink wrap tube and with a wee bit of dielectric grease inserted before applying heat to the heat shrink tubing over the connector.

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Re: Engine Instruments Fail to Read - Help!

The normal operating temperature of the engine can cause this. Specially the engine room heats up after 15 minutes. It doesnot take that long for the engine or the exhaust that long. Check the cables and the cable connections for the failing instruments. this pace can well be inside the instrument panel if it is also heated by some way by the engine or the exhaust.
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post #10 of 32 Old 05-12-2015
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Re: Engine Instruments Fail to Read - Help!

Um.... the gauges should have a power supply from the battery, the signal from the various sensors/senders are not the supply power.

I had a problem with the new gauges when I did the rewire of my engine panel

This may or may not help
Amega gauge
this may help also!

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