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Old 13-06-2019, 06:39   #1
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Bilge Pump Intermittent Operation

I've been experiencing intermittent bilge pump operation for a couple years now. The components and the circuit seem pretty basic. I have a small Rule pump, a level switch, some wiring, and a simple Auto-off-on control panel. There are no microprocessors or computers involved. Most of the time, everything works fine. But I've had two occasions where it didn't. The first was a year ago when the pump would not run by flipping the switch to manual or manually raising the level switch. Then, later in the day, it seemed to have fixed itself. Recently, I was in some very rough seas and I noticed that the panel light was on (and the pump was running). However, the bilge was dry. Exercising the float switch made no difference. I ended up turning the pump off. Later that day, at anchor, everything was working fine.
I don't believe in just replacing components without understanding what is causing the problem. But I'm not sure just what the problem is and this is a problem I'm no longer going to overlook. Has anyone reading this ever experienced this type of erratic operation? Do you have any light to shed or suggestions? Thanks much in advance.
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Old 13-06-2019, 09:49   #2
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Re: Bilge Pump Intermittent Operation

Welcome to the forum.

Follow normal diagnostic procedures.

A multimeter is a very handy tool for investigating / resolving the problem.

When I resolve a problem like this, I use a utility knife to remove the plastic insulation from the crimp connectors for the switch and for the pump.

Once the conductor is exposed, then it is possible to measure voltages, continuity and to manually bypass the float switch, all without disturbing the existing connections.

After the problems are identified and resolved, all the connectors that have been altered are replaced with properly-crimped intact parts.
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Old 14-06-2019, 03:14   #3
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Re: Bilge Pump Intermittent Operation

I have a multimeter and use it all the time. I must admit, one of my challenges has been getting access to the (watertight) electrical connections. I may try your suggestion for that - thanks. I talked to a friend yesterday and reviewed lots of very negative Amazon reviews on the model 35A float switch. They don't appear too reliable. I also called Rule and talked to a very nice tech guy who suggested I replace the switch. He said that's about all it could be but I have a feeling he knows about the reliability issue. My friend has a new switch he is going to give me but I'd really like to replace it with one that is more reliable than anything made by Rule. I like Rule but just wish they would improve their switch design. Thanks again.
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Old 14-06-2019, 04:35   #4
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Re: Bilge Pump Intermittent Operation

Glad to help.

The Rule 40A switches I use on my boat last over 3 years and the warranty is 2 years.

On my boat the access for testing, replacement and redundant backup is fine, so safety on a failed switch is not an issue. I know right away when I have an issue, that I then also resolve right away.

There are other manufacturers, like Ultra Safety Systems, that users of that product recommend.
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Old 14-06-2019, 08:17   #5
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Re: Bilge Pump Intermittent Operation

I find using t-pins with my multimeter can often let me check a wire or connection without significantly damaging the insulation. Just push it through the insulation until it contacts the wire and then touch the meter leads to the pin. The small hole the pin creates usually self seals.

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Old 14-06-2019, 09:57   #6
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Re: Bilge Pump Intermittent Operation

UaaargH. Float switches and bilge pumps. For me the are almost all scrap!
I took the most expensives and the cheapest - all were done within a year.
I opened one of the expensive ones and found that the contacts were burnt.

And no I did not exceed the given amperage, I used only have of the limit.


Next try now is a cheep swiming pool floatswitch and a relay to avoid amps on the switch.

Btw: there are bilge pumps out there that refuse to work wenn they get oil.
They decided it is better to send you to the ground then to spill oil out in the sea.


Oh brave new world.
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Old 14-06-2019, 15:31   #7
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Re: Bilge Pump Intermittent Operation

make sure that switch orientation is correct or pitching motion can cause the pump to cycle and when it does the pump continues to run foe 30 seconds or so after the switch tells it there is no more water. I use an air driven switch as they seem to be less likely to have problems- forum is full of stories about the issues of float switches.
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Old 15-06-2019, 22:15   #8
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Re: Bilge Pump Intermittent Operation

I have a rechargeable flashlight, which I can charge manually turning a handle, and, alternatively, it has a small solar cell to charge the battery.
It is waterproof, and sometimes I forget to remove it from the wheelhouse roof where I often leave it during the day sunbathing.
Just recently it started erratically to switch itself on/off or turning itself in transmitting SOS mode.
It turned out its wateporoofness deteriorated in time, so the water vapor even was visible inside. My wife disassembled it, and after a hot sunny day in the roof, water gone, it was assembled back, now works properly anew.
Looks very likely you have the same kind of problem with your pump.
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