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Old 22-03-2014, 22:10   #1
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Boat: Navigator Pilothouse Classic 42'
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problem with Lewmar thruster joystick controller

I have Lewmar TT electric bow and stern thrusters, with twin joystick panel controllers (Lewmar 589004) in both the lower helm and the flybridge. I can use the thrusters fine from the controller in the lower helm, but not the upper helm. The controller in the upper helm turns on (so the port and starboard LED lights come on), but as soon as I move either joystick to one side to start a thruster, the panel powers off. This controller on the upper panel used to work, until recently. Actually, the port LED on the bow thruster joystick on this upper controller has always been dead, but that never affected operation.

The control cables run from each thruster up to the controller on the lower helm, where there is a Y-connector on each cable splitting it off to the upper controller. I checked the connections here and up near the upper controller, and everything seemed fine. I did notice there is a black wire with a female spade connector for each joystick (so two on each twin controller) which are not connected to anything (on either the flybridge controller or the lower helm controller that is working fine), and for some reason are not mentioned in the TT thruster owner's manual. I'm assuming they're for extra grounding perhaps.

Fried controller? Looks like $330 is the cheapest I can get a new one online... thoughts on anything I could try before that?
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Old 24-09-2014, 02:31   #2
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Re: problem with Lewmar thruster joystick controller

Hello GatorDontPlay. I have a similar problem with a dual Lewmar joystick. How did you solve your problem? Thanks beforehand for the reply.
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Old 28-09-2014, 14:08   #3
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Re: problem with Lewmar thruster joystick controller

I emailed Lewmar, have corresponded a bit with Josh McAnany there (jmcanany@lewmar.com). He said the extra unused black wire they call the "fifth wire" and is supposed to be unused unless you're using the thruster in conjunction with an automatic battery switch.

I tried swapping the dual thruster controller on the flybridge with the one in the lower helm, and strangely they both seemed to work for some period of time. Then the one in the lower helm (which had been malfunctioning previously in the flybridge) started malfunctioning in a much more disturbing way: when I turned the controller on with the power button, the bow thruster would drive to one side, and stay on until I touched a joystick, at which point the whole controller would turn off completely. I told Josh about this problem and he asked what happens when I swap them back -- haven't had time to try it yet. I mainly use the thrusters from the flybridge, so once I got the working one up there, wasn't as motivated to mess with it, but as a result I don't have any controller installed in the lower helm at the moment.

When I bought the boat a couple years ago, we had a mechanic servicing some issues found in the inspection, and he said while he was down working on the engine, one of the thrusters just suddenly turned itself on full blast until he got to the battery switch and turned it off. We had an electrician look at it, and could never reproduce the failure, so I just turn off the battery switches whenever I'm at the dock just to be sure they don't come on by themselves. Would obviously be dangerous for that to happen anytime that you're not tied up and bumpered to a dock.

What I think is happening is that the electronics inside of the controller are starting to gradually degrade, showing these intermittent symptoms. However, the controller electronics are potted in epoxy so I can't get in there and debug further or replace a failing transistor or IC.

Can you describe what you're seeing a bit more? Do you know how old your controller is? Mine has a code "0511" in the upper right of the sticker which if it's a date code would mean May 2011, which would make sense as that was around when the previous owner was doing a lot of upgrades. Attaching a photo of the sticker.
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Old 29-09-2014, 02:32   #4
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Re: problem with Lewmar thruster joystick controller

Thanks for your promt reply.
My problem started a week ago when taking off from the home dock: The red on led in the joystick conroller was on even if I had not pressed the on switch. When trying to operate the thrusters the controller went off every time when I moved the joystick. The bow thruster gave a short running sound before switching off but the stern thruster did not make any sound at all before the controller switched off. I swiched the the main switches of the thrusters off and on but the problem continued.
In the marina I tried to operate the thrusters when the main engine was not running. The thruster batteries were fully loaded. Same problem with the controller. I checked the cable connections and fuses of the thrusters and noticed that they were OK. Then I started the main engine and heureka the thrusters worked! After a couple of trials the stern thruster stopped working but the bow thruster worked as it should. Same thing when switching off the main engine. At this stage I stopped my trials and contacted the vendor of the boat. I have not got any reply from the vendor yet.
My boat is a guite new one - built on October 2012. It has one dual joystick controller (589004) similar to yours. I can check the manufacturing date from the sticker later on. The two year warranty of the boat is still in place. I also noticed from the Owners manual that Lewmar gives three year warranty for their thruster products.
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Old 29-09-2014, 08:19   #5
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Re: problem with Lewmar thruster joystick controller

Date on the sticker of the controller is 0412. The "fifth wires" of the controller are not connected. Once again I tried to operate the thrusters without starting the main engine. In the beginning they worked well but after a while now the bow thruster stopped to work. The battery voltage of both thrusters were 12.7 V when not operated and well above 12.5 V when operated. I switched the main switches off and on and the thrusters worked again (sigh!).
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Old 27-06-2016, 06:27   #6
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Re: problem with Lewmar thruster joystick controller

this is great
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