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  #1  
Old 07-05-2007
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Major wiring nightmare...

Well, I spent the day aboard my new Catalina 27, trying to sort out the electrical system... it's a mess.

Here is what works, via the fuse panel:
-interior lights
- navigation lights
- AM/FM stereo
- main bilge pump (although the positive wire is running directly to the battery's positive terminal, via a jump-wire).

Here is what does not power on (all the important stuff it seems):
- VHF
- Knotmeter
- Wind gauge
- What appears to be either an electronic compass, or remote display for tiller-pilot.

My biggest concern is that I seem to be able to see all the negative wires feeding into the back of the fuse-panel, but I can't seem to find where the positive wires connect to.

I'm really tempted to just rip out all the current wiring and start from scratch, so I know what's what...

Any suggestions?
Thanks all
Phillip
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Old 07-05-2007
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You may be right in that, particularly if it's a common positive composed of a mess of solder and wire.

Start at the batteries and work out via separate buss bars or terminal blocks (with intermediate fuses of some capacity) for the various circuits. If you can trace the original runs, you might preserve them for the future (think "LEDs replace auto 12 VDC lights in cabin, so the 20 gauge isn't a partial resistor anymore!").

I found on my old '70s boat that I had a huge improvement in amp usage and sheer brightness when I went from 16 and 18 gauge in the mast to 12 and 14 gauge for the masthead/steaming/anchor/spreader lights. That was just to the terminal block in the head...I left untouched the original 20-22 gauge wiring to the panel. I also ran an 18 gauge wire directly to the stern light from the panel and again, BING! Bright and tight, as they say.

If you have the skills and can crimp and solder, this is tedious but rewarding work, particularly in a harsh environment where creeping corrosion can lower electrical flow (which just turns to heat). I am expanding my panel into a set of 12 VDC outlets and a decent 10 amp-capable line to a forepeak workshop...just because I want it. If I do the wiring now, I can provide the battery banks later to energize the lines on demand. Good luck with the reverse engineering.
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Old 07-05-2007
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Before you start ripping develop a plan for the re-wiring. Acquiring some colored tape and using it while tracing out the current set-up may reveal less work than originally expected. Developing the plan, I ran my wiring in conduit, took probably longer than the actual job itself. There are numerous threads existant on wiring and electrical issues here. Reading them, and becoming conversant in electrical matters is paramount before commencement of the project. A significant motivator should be the fact that improper wiring can result in fire, a seaman's worst fear.

It is not a hard project, mostly tedious. But it is a project that you will want to do only once, doing it right the first time. Good luck. We're here for the inevitable questions and mysteries.
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Old 07-05-2007
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go to your office supply store and buy a labelmaker.
Then label the wires as you trace them
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Old 07-05-2007
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Also, might want to check the wiring used currently. If it has turned black with corrosion or is very stiff and brittle, it is well worth ripping it all out and replacing with marine grade since that will help prevent the imminenty fire that the wiring is about to become. Corroded non-marine grade wiring is a good starter for boat fires.
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Old 07-05-2007
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Yep - after spending several weekends messing with the existing mess of wire on my Catalina and making little progress, I got pissed off, ripped it all out, and in a quarter of the time, had it re-wired to a spec I can now trust. If in doubt and you've got the time and ability, just rewire it.
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Old 07-05-2007
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BTW, fixing someone else's screwup, especially without documentation, often takes far longer than doing it properly from scratch. It can also be far more expensive in the long-run.
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Old 07-05-2007
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bilge pump

Hello,

IMHO the bilge pump SHOULD be wired directly to the battery. I like to have the float switch powered directly to the battery. This way, no matter how I (or anyone else) sets the switches, if the water rises high enough to trip the float, the pump will come on and do it's thing.

I also have a separate power line running through a switch on the panel to the bilge pump. This one I can turn on and off. It's helpful for draining more water than the float switch, and if the float switch fails I can still turn on the pump.

Regarding your question about re-wiring, it sounds like a lot of work to me. If your existing wiring is in poor condition, black, oxidized, or otherwise nasty, then you should bite the bullet and replace it. OTOH, if you just don't understand it, take some time and go through it. Perhaps you are just missing a switch or two.

Barry
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Old 07-05-2007
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Phillip, it could be that you are just missing one connection to an "instruments" connection. Could be a missing fuse or it could be that someone just "twisted and taped" an extra positive lead for them all, and that fell apart, as bad connections will.

Your best bet, if you want a RELIABLE electrical system in the future? Is to trace out every wire and lead, end to end, and check that they are proper tinned wire, properly connected up. Or to replace them as needed. Avoid the urge to "cheap out" because there's a big difference between things that will get you home, and things you can rely on for the next 10 years or longer.

On lablemakers from the office? Most either turn black, or fall off from engine heat and moisture, way before you need them. I prefer to use a permanent marker to label things, or to use "real" labels (plastic or metal) that you write on and tie on to things. Or permanent tape type. Haven't found any label maker labels that will last for two or three years on a boat.

Take notes, if a "schematic" is a foreign word to you, at least make a rought sketch that shows where your new wiring goes--end to end.
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Old 07-05-2007
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I'd take one of those not working items, the VHF, and trace it back. Check it's inline fuse first. If you trace both positive and negative back, one may lead you to where the problem is with the other instruments also. Use a voltmeter so you can figure out where you have power and where you are losing it. Good luck.
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