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  #1  
Old 11-25-2007
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More 12v Troubles and ?'s

I am currently working on my '83 Mac 25's wiring system. I have never really understood what I was looking at till I purchased The 12 Volt Bible for Boats by Miner Brotherton revised by Ed Sherman (second edition), which really helped me understand the electrics on my small boat.

The running lights have never worked since I have had the boat and currently dont still after fiddling with them today. My FM/CD player was hooked up straight to the battery so I rewired it to my control panel(this was the first thing that I have done correctly in my vast trials with electricity).

My wiring system (I think) is not normal. The + and - coming off of the battery run directly to an approximatly 4x12 peice of thick plexiglass with 2 narrow copper sheets running parrell down it lengthwise (one is for + and one for -). This has about 4 seperate + and - studs on it for various items. From one of them is wire leading to my control panel. Also off of it are wires leading to my bilge switch and bilge, and my VHF radio. I dont think this is a good thing but I am not sure. Do my bilge and radio need to be ran to my control panel? If anyhting what is so bad about my switch and fusesless plexiglass control panel?

The main panel works and I wired my FM/CD to it today and it works well. I have a total of four ummmm... switches? to wire different applications too. BUT there is only a place for ONE ground????? I dont get it, shouldnt it have 4 different places to ground things?????? A freind and home electrician told me to splice wires together and ground all the applications on the one ground. Is this correct?

On my control panel, the ground is a copper strip with a ground wire attached that runs to the - point on my battery. I guess that being so then everything that I ground (on the panel and the plexiglass panel) is then grounded to my battery. Is this alright? Should I make a ground that is on my swing keel winch or something?

Do I need a master battery switch for only one battery? My assumption is that the master switch is only there to eliminate anything that may use the battery even when it is not turned on. For example, a VCR still draws a little power when switched off for the clock. Is this needed?


I have a good freind who is an home electrician by trade and good at what he does but I am not sure what he knows about boats. (he is the one that wired up my FM/CD to the battery) I knew that wasnt good but it worked at the time.

Sorry its long but I worte down these questions today as I was working. Thanks for all replies!!!!!!
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Old 11-25-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perithead View Post
I am currently working on my '83 Mac 25's wiring system. I have never really understood what I was looking at till I purchased The 12 Volt Bible for Boats by Miner Brotherton revised by Ed Sherman (second edition), which really helped me understand the electrics on my small boat.

The running lights have never worked since I have had the boat and currently dont still after fiddling with them today. My FM/CD player was hooked up straight to the battery so I rewired it to my control panel(this was the first thing that I have done correctly in my vast trials with electricity).
That's a start.
Quote:
My wiring system (I think) is not normal. The + and - coming off of the battery run directly to an approximatly 4x12 peice of thick plexiglass with 2 narrow copper sheets running parrell down it lengthwise (one is for + and one for -). This has about 4 seperate + and - studs on it for various items. From one of them is wire leading to my control panel. Also off of it are wires leading to my bilge switch and bilge, and my VHF radio. I dont think this is a good thing but I am not sure. Do my bilge and radio need to be ran to my control panel? If anyhting what is so bad about my switch and fusesless plexiglass control panel?
The two copper sheets really should be replaced with proper marine buss bars, that are made of tinned copper. Untinned copper just corrodes to damn easily, leading to increased resistance, and then eventually fires.. IMHO, you probably should have a big fuse between the battery and the positive bus bar if the run is of any significant length.

As for the bilge pump, having that hard wired isn't necessarily a bad thing... but I don't see why you'd have the VHF wired directly to the battery.

As for the switch, are you talking about the big rotary battery switch? Also, can you post a photo of the plexiglass control panel, since that could describe a lot of different things. BTW, the photo posting on sailnet basically blows chunks. Get yourself a photobucket account and post the photos to that, and then link to them using the icon.
Quote:
The main panel works and I wired my FM/CD to it today and it works well. I have a total of four ummmm... switches? to wire different applications too. BUT there is only a place for ONE ground????? I dont get it, shouldnt it have 4 different places to ground things?????? A freind and home electrician told me to splice wires together and ground all the applications on the one ground. Is this correct?

On my control panel, the ground is a copper strip with a ground wire attached that runs to the - point on my battery. I guess that being so then everything that I ground (on the panel and the plexiglass panel) is then grounded to my battery. Is this alright? Should I make a ground that is on my swing keel winch or something?
Are these switches or circuit breakers?? If they're just switches, you really need to replace them with either a fused panel or circuit breakers IMHO. The grounds should connect to that copper strip.. but again, if it is plain copper, you need to replace it with a marine-grade panel. One other question—is the wire your working with stranded and tinned, stranded but plain copper or solid? Marine grade wiring should be stranded and tinned. Solid wiring has no place on a boat, and neither does untinned wire. Both are serious hazards—the solid wire can fatigue with the vibration of the boat movement and then work harden and break... the untinned wire corrodes and then can cause a fire... also the strands in marine-grade wire a bit finer, so they're less prone to work hardening and fatiguing.
Quote:
Do I need a master battery switch for only one battery? My assumption is that the master switch is only there to eliminate anything that may use the battery even when it is not turned on. For example, a VCR still draws a little power when switched off for the clock. Is this needed?
Yes, you really should have a master battery switch, and it should be mounted in an easily accessible location.
Quote:
I have a good freind who is an home electrician by trade and good at what he does but I am not sure what he knows about boats. (he is the one that wired up my FM/CD to the battery) I knew that wasnt good but it worked at the time.
The main difference between wiring a home and wiring a boat are:

1) You have to use marine-grade tinned stranded wire
2) All connections should be made using marine-grade tinned crimp connectors
3) Any terminal connections should be captive type terminals—preferably ring terminals
4) Solid wire and wire nuts have no place on a boat
5) All circuits, with the possible exception of a bilge pump must be on a breaker, and the breaker should be of smaller current rating that the wiring attached to it
6) The wiring should be supported every 18" at a minimum, if it is not running inside a conduit to prevent work hardening of the wiring
7) Most of the marine 12 VDC wiring is much heavier in gauge than the 110 VAC home wiring due to higher amperage requirements

If you don't have two batteries aboard, it might be wise to get a Blue Sea Dual Circuit Plus Battery Switch with ACR and a second battery to use as a dedicated starting bank.

If you need a circuit breaker panel, you could get this, or get a fused switch panel, like this.

Hope this helps.
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Old 11-25-2007
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Thanks SD for the great and lengthy reply.

Quote:
As for the switch, are you talking about the big rotary battery switch? Also, can you post a photo of the plexiglass control panel, since that could describe a lot of different things.
Yes, the big rotary battery switch. I will try to post a picture up of the plexiglass panel as soon as possible (if it is possible it will be done today)

Quote:
Are these switches or circuit breakers??
It is a fuse panel, sorry I should have clearified myself.

No, the wire I am using is standard outdoor wire, I have asked ferinds about marine wire and they have never heard of such a thing. Where would I go about finding some? It is stranded though.

Quote:
If you don't have two batteries aboard, it might be wise to get a Blue Sea Dual Circuit Plus Battery Switch with ACR and a second battery to use as a dedicated starting bank
Well I only have one battery now and I dont need a starting battery because my outboard is pullstart only. But another would be smart, but I am intinding on selling my boat in hopefully a week because I will get purchasing and Hunter 260 as soon as a house sales which should be withing 2 weeks.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perithead View Post
The running lights have never worked since I have had the boat and currently dont still after fiddling with them today.
Could they just be burned out? If it's just the lights on the mast: There will probably be a connector in the wiring to allow for mast removal. That could be defective. If it's all of them, perhaps the switch controlling them is defective? You can determine all these things with a multimeter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Perithead View Post
My FM/CD player was hooked up straight to the battery so I rewired it to my control panel(this was the first thing that I have done correctly in my vast trials with electricity).
Yeah, the PO of our boat did that, too. There actually is a reason for doing that. Many of the newer "car radios" retain their settings only while connected to a 12VDC source. Some of them, like the one in my car, lose all their settings and/or lock up in a security mode, if the 12VDC is taken away. (Anti-theft provision.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Perithead View Post
My wiring system (I think) is not normal. The + and - coming off of the battery run directly to an approximatly 4x12 peice of thick plexiglass with 2 narrow copper sheets running parrell down it lengthwise (one is for + and one for -). This has about 4 seperate + and - studs on it for various items. From one of them is wire leading to my control panel. Also off of it are wires leading to my bilge switch and bilge, and my VHF radio. I dont think this is a good thing but I am not sure. Do my bilge and radio need to be ran to my control panel? If anyhting what is so bad about my switch and fusesless plexiglass control panel?
Working in reverse: What do you mean by "fuseless plexiglass control panel?" As to whether the VHF should be run to your control panel: There are two schools of thought on that. One of them is that the VHF radio should be on a switch, others apply the same thinking to it is to the bilge pump(s). Our PO had the VHF connected directly to one of the batteries. My feeling is when I turn the master switch "OFF," "OFF" is what I mean. Our VHF doesn't go through a switch on the control panel, but it is on the load side of the battery switch, now. As for the bilge pump: Do you ever want to turn that off? I'm thinking not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Perithead View Post
The main panel works and I wired my FM/CD to it today and it works well. I have a total of four ummmm... switches? to wire different applications too. BUT there is only a place for ONE ground????? I dont get it, shouldnt it have 4 different places to ground things?????? A freind and home electrician told me to splice wires together and ground all the applications on the one ground. Is this correct?
Why do you need four separate screws? It would be convenient, but it's not necessary. Ground is ground is ground. Use good ring terminals, properly crimped, and put 'em all on the same ground point. I wouldn't splice unless I had to. (Careful of the advice of home electricians. Home wiring and marine wiring have different requirements.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Perithead View Post
On my control panel, the ground is a copper strip with a ground wire attached that runs to the - point on my battery. I guess that being so then everything that I ground (on the panel and the plexiglass panel) is then grounded to my battery. Is this alright?
Sounds about right. I'm surprised that, in a marine application, those busses aren't plated, tho.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Perithead View Post
Should I make a ground that is on my swing keel winch or something?
I don't know as that's going to do anything for you. It is generally regarded as a sign of superior construction and attention to detail when all the metal bits on a sailboat are bonded together, tho.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Perithead View Post
Do I need a master battery switch for only one battery? My assumption is that the master switch is only there to eliminate anything that may use the battery even when it is not turned on. For example, a VCR still draws a little power when switched off for the clock. Is this needed?
I would have a minimum of two group 24 batteries and an off-1-both-2 switch, even for just day-sailing or short races. More/bigger batteries for cruising. You're going to want a proper intelligent charger that operates off of shore power, too.

Have plenty of battery and take care of them. Running out of battery out in the middle of the water is not fun. Particularly if it's nighttime.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Perithead View Post
I have a good freind who is an home electrician by trade and good at what he does but I am not sure what he knows about boats.
He probably doesn't.

Jim
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All of these are good answers. Regarding the pump and radio... if you're talking about an entertainment radio, it should be switched too, with the exception of the memory connection as has been mentioned. In either case, direct connect or not, you MUST have overcurrent protection (fuse or cb) on anything connecting to the battery. A lot of people connect their bilge pump to the batteries directly..sometimes to both batteries through diodes so as not to cause one battery to discharge the other..somewhat like the charging 'isolator'. The pump must be fused however you do it. Interestingly, the only thing that doesn't have to have overcurrent protection is the starter motor itself.
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Old 11-25-2007
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Ok, this is my "fuse panel" with the copper strips for the hot and ground wires to be attached too. I am not sure but it may be plated of covered with something else.



This is my "plesiglass panel" as you can see. The two on the right are coming from my battery and the others go to my fuse/ bilge pump/ VHF.

The wiring in the boat may be the original wiring for all I know but is it some sort of "lampcord" looking wire. With the earth and hot wires connected together with the rubber coating.

Originally posted by SEMIJim: (not sure how to do that correctly)
Quote:
Why do you need four separate screws? It would be convenient, but it's not necessary. Ground is ground is ground. Use good ring terminals, properly crimped, and put 'em all on the same ground point. I wouldn't splice unless I had to.
Could you more explain what you mean by this. Its not totally clear to me how I am suposed to ground more than one thing to my control panel.

Thanks Yall, what great help!
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Old 11-26-2007
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Most stereos that require a memory or clock maintenance lead, will have a separate lead with a very small, usually 1 amp, fuse for it. This should be connected directly to the battery for the reasons stated above... but the radio's power lead, with a much larger fuse, should be switched and overload protected in some way.

As for bonding... bonding them to each other can be a good sign, but it often isn't necessary or wise to do so. Galvanically isolated metal throughhulls may not benefit from bonding. It really depends on the specific boat setup.

BTW, the copper on those bars looks like it is starting to corrode. I am willing to bet if you were to put the leads off an ohmmeter on them, it would register some resistance, rather than pure short due to the oxidation on the surface.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perithead View Post
Ok, this is my "fuse panel" with the copper strips for the hot and ground wires to be attached too.
I can see what whomever designed/fabricated that was up to. Ideas are okay. Execution leaves something to be desired.

Quote:
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I am not sure but it may be plated of covered with something else.
Doesn't look that way. That's not necessarily a problem, as long as the solder joints are well-made and the mechanical connections are gas-tight. Still: Plated is more better .

The bigger problem is some of those lousy termination crimps and some of the wire.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Perithead View Post
IThis is my "plesiglass panel" as you can see. The two on the right are coming from my battery and the others go to my fuse/ bilge pump/ VHF.
Same issues as above.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Perithead View Post
IThe wiring in the boat may be the original wiring for all I know but is it some sort of "lampcord" looking wire. With the earth and hot wires connected together with the rubber coating.
That's what's known as "zip cord." I can't imagine that's original equipment. I can't imagine it's suitable for marine power applications.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Perithead View Post
IOriginally posted by SEMIJim: (not sure how to do that correctly)


Could you more explain what you mean by this. Its not totally clear to me how I am suposed to ground more than one thing to my control panel.
Sorry, wasn't aware the single ground connection point to which you referred was a spade-lug. I figured on a screw terminal of some kind. I quite honestly don't know what I'd do in your situation. I think somebody with more experience in marine wiring is going to have to field this one.

Jim
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