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Old 15-05-2013, 05:31   #1
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Electrical Problems

In the course of recommissioning my boat, three electrical problems appeared simultaneously:

1. The windlass stopped working
2. The secondary 24v alternator stopped charging
3. The winches and bow thruster stopped working.

The third thing was quickly traced to a failed battery isolator remote switch. I ordered a new one (at surprisingly large expense) and meanwhile jumped the failed connection. But that did not solve problems 1 & 2.

I rewired the control box to the windlass, which was needed anyway as the guy who installed the new control handset last year didn't do it very well, without any decent waterproofing of the connections. In the process I figured out that there is power to the windlass itself, but no power on the control circuit, which is switched in a way that it will work only when the engine is running.

I suspect that all this is somehow related, but can't quite figure out how. I have extensive wiring diagrams for my boat, but I have not been able to figure out the circuit which understands when the engine is running, and switches stuff on and off accordingly. I suspect this may be at the heart of the matter.

Anybody experience something like this? Any hints?
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Old 15-05-2013, 06:02   #2
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Re: Electrical Problems

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
In the course of recommissioning my boat, three electrical problems appeared simultaneously:

1. The windlass stopped working
2. The secondary 24v alternator stopped charging
3. The winches and bow thruster stopped working.

The third thing was quickly traced to a failed battery isolator remote switch. I ordered a new one (at surprisingly large expense) and meanwhile jumped the failed connection. But that did not solve problems 1 & 2.

I rewired the control box to the windlass, which was needed anyway as the guy who installed the new control handset last year didn't do it very well, without any decent waterproofing of the connections. In the process I figured out that there is power to the windlass itself, but no power on the control circuit, which is switched in a way that it will work only when the engine is running.

I suspect that all this is somehow related, but can't quite figure out how. I have extensive wiring diagrams for my boat, but I have not been able to figure out the circuit which understands when the engine is running, and switches stuff on and off accordingly. I suspect this may be at the heart of the matter.

Anybody experience something like this? Any hints?
I have the same issue with my windlass. Obviously, this is done so you don't run your battery down. Unfortunately, it also means you can't raise your anchor if your engine won't start (guess you just stay out there until you die?). I'm having a friend (marine electrician) install a bypass switch, so I will be able to raise the anchor, even with engine failure.

I'lll let you know how and where he does it.
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Old 15-05-2013, 06:18   #3
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Re: Electrical Problems

I'm with Carstenb on the windlass issue. My windlass it driven off my house banks so no risk in running down the start battery. Having the windlass disabled if the engine isn't running seems like a potential danger.

Regarding the other problems, hard for me to guess without seeing how they are wired up. The alternator could be several things from a bad connection, loose sense wire, bad regulator, blown diodes. BUT, since it appeared simultaneously with the other problems then is there some commonality?

Generally DC is not too difficult (in theory) to isolate the problem area. Just start at one end point either the working end or non-working end, and work the other way until the problem appears or disappears.
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Old 15-05-2013, 06:47   #4
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Re: Electrical Problems

Concerning switching of the windlass: If your windlass is wired the way mine is (Lewmar Ocean 3), then it's dead simple to rewire it so that it works with the engine off. I have a master windlass shutoff switch at my nav table. When I switch this on, there is power to the main windlass connection.

But you can't switch it on unless you also have power in the control circuit. This power comes from a mysterious source which I have not been able to trace. I am guessing that there is a relay somewhere, activated by power coming from the alternator which tells the system that the engine is running. This relay powers a bus which gives power to those things which won't run without the engine running.

So if you want your windlass to work whether or not the engine is running, and if it's wired like mine, simply hot wire the the control circuit from the main windlass power. All of this is in one box in my system and dead simple. I am planning to do that, and that would solve my Problem 1, but I wanted to understand the root cause of all these problems myself.

And you guys didn't address that question -- how do those circuits work? The ones which sense somehow whether the engine is running?

I strongly suspect that it has something to do with my alternator. I have had problems in the past with one wire or another getting kicked loose when someone has been working in the engine compartment (which sometimes necessitates crawling over the alternator). Which is why the very first thing I did was check all those connection (actually, I remade them, now that I have an excellent Swedish crimper and a supply of excellent Molex heat seal crimp connectors).

I am guessing that either the alternator has failed, and is not giving the signal needed to switch on the windlass, or there is some other fault which prevents both alternator and windlass from working. I will be very grateful for any hints from anyone more knowledgeable than I about boat electrics (which means most CF-ers )
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Old 15-05-2013, 07:00   #5
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Re: Electrical Problems

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
....
And you guys didn't address that question -- how do those circuits work? The ones which sense somehow whether the engine is running?
...
Usually the engine doesn't have to be running - just switch the ignition on and power will go to the windlass controller and the alternator, and anything else that needs power like the engine instruments.
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Old 15-05-2013, 07:26   #6
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Re: Electrical Problems

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
Concerning switching of the windlass: If your windlass is wired the way mine is (Lewmar Ocean 3), then it's dead simple to rewire it so that it works with the engine off. I have a master windlass shutoff switch at my nav table. When I switch this on, there is power to the main windlass connection.

But you can't switch it on unless you also have power in the control circuit. This power comes from a mysterious source which I have not been able to trace. I am guessing that there is a relay somewhere, activated by power coming from the alternator which tells the system that the engine is running. This relay powers a bus which gives power to those things which won't run without the engine running.

So if you want your windlass to work whether or not the engine is running, and if it's wired like mine, simply hot wire the the control circuit from the main windlass power. All of this is in one box in my system and dead simple. I am planning to do that, and that would solve my Problem 1, but I wanted to understand the root cause of all these problems myself.

And you guys didn't address that question -- how do those circuits work? The ones which sense somehow whether the engine is running?

I strongly suspect that it has something to do with my alternator. I have had problems in the past with one wire or another getting kicked loose when someone has been working in the engine compartment (which sometimes necessitates crawling over the alternator). Which is why the very first thing I did was check all those connection (actually, I remade them, now that I have an excellent Swedish crimper and a supply of excellent Molex heat seal crimp connectors).

I am guessing that either the alternator has failed, and is not giving the signal needed to switch on the windlass, or there is some other fault which prevents both alternator and windlass from working. I will be very grateful for any hints from anyone more knowledgeable than I about boat electrics (which means most CF-ers )
This is the most likely scenario. Probably a solenoid type switch that is activated by the power out from the alternator that then connects the windlass to the DC system. So no power from the alternator to energize the solenoid then no power to the windlass.

I'm guessing your system is wired using a battery combiner type device, maybe similar to this Combiner 160 Sheet which are usually used to connect one charging source (like an alternator) to a second battery system that is otherwise isolated from the rest of the DC system (like start battery isolated from house batteries) but with sufficient capacity, would also work to power the windlass when the alternator is working.

I believe at least some of these combiners allow an adjustment of the voltage level that energizes the solenoid so you might be able to adjust your system to power the windlass at a lower voltage than the alternator charging voltage.
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Old 15-05-2013, 09:16   #7
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Re: Electrical Problems

Most of the alternator setups that I've seen have two 12V (or 24V if that's your system voltage) outputs. One is the main output for charging the batteries, and the other is just to indicate that it's working and to turn off the warning light.

A reasonable guess would be that it's this warning light output that also controls your relay. Or as previously suggested, simply turning on the ignition or run switch is all it takes to activate the relay. The former arrangement would a little more sophisticated.
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Old 15-05-2013, 19:54   #8
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Re: Electrical Problems

I just installed a Quick windlass (12v 1000W) on a Hunter e33, and the installation info with the windlass simply shows two circuits:
- a main circuit with an 80A breaker for the motor
- a control circuit with a 4A fuse/breaker to the footswitches and then to the control relay.

No mention of an ignition interlock. So we opted to feed the windlass from just after the battery switch. Obviously the owner will need to decide when the batteries need recharging.
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Old 16-05-2013, 03:45   #9
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Re: Electrical Problems

Quote:
But you can't switch it on unless you also have power in the control circuit. This power comes from a mysterious source which I have not been able to trace. I am guessing that there is a relay somewhere, activated by power coming from the alternator which tells the system that the engine is running. This relay powers a bus which gives power to those things which won't run without the engine running.
Well when you find it , remove everything from it, outside of a alternator 'ON ' light, Never have anything reliant on starting the engine, its an fool proof solution that only works for fools.

PS: many alternators dont have a conbetional ignition idiot light , but use a simple relay that closes on alternator power. Check around the engine bay , thats usually where it is.

Dave
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Old 16-05-2013, 05:45   #10
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Re: Electrical Problems

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Originally Posted by carstenb View Post
I have the same issue with my windlass. Obviously, this is done so you don't run your battery down. Unfortunately, it also means you can't raise your anchor if your engine won't start (guess you just stay out there until you die?). I'm having a friend (marine electrician) install a bypass switch, so I will be able to raise the anchor, even with engine failure.

I'lll let you know how and where he does it.
If your friend, the marine electrician is actually a marine electrician, he will figure out that it is much simpler to power the control circuit from an "always on" source than to install some sort of bypass switch.

This could be a simple as moving the control circuit power wire from one terminal of the ignition switch to another (yea it's not really an "ignition" switch on a diesel but we think of it as such).
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Old 16-05-2013, 05:47   #11
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Re: Electrical Problems

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Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
.............. Generally DC is not too difficult (in theory) to isolate the problem area. Just start at one end point either the working end or non-working end, and work the other way until the problem appears or disappears.
Often you can start in the middle. This cuts the troubleshooting in half.
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Old 16-05-2013, 05:49   #12
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Re: Electrical Problems

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Often you can start in the middle. This cuts the troubleshooting in half.
I find starting in the pub, removes it altogether !

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Old 16-05-2013, 05:55   #13
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Re: Electrical Problems

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Usually the engine doesn't have to be running - just switch the ignition on and power will go to the windlass controller and the alternator, and anything else that needs power like the engine instruments.
That's what I was talking about in my earlier post. There is an "always hot" wire feeding the switch. Another terminal on the switch becomes hot when you activate the switch so the instruments will work. If the windlass is wired so it won't work unless the switch is on, there's a good chance that the control circuit gets power from that same terminal. Move the wire to the "always hot" terminal and you're done, the windlass will work as long as you have battery power. Or if your engine is dead, you can still turn the switch on and the windlass will work without rewiring anything.

There are many good reasons to have the engine running before pulling the anchor up, but I can see where you might need to pull it up with a dead engine (you are about to be towed).
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Old 16-05-2013, 06:06   #14
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Re: Electrical Problems

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There are many good reasons to have the engine running before pulling the anchor up, but I can see where you might need to pull it up with a dead engine (you are about to be towed).
To adjust scope!

Ive seen several systems wired where the instrument power feed is not used, but a relay is fitted to the alternator output that closes on it running , this is used to power other circuits.

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Old 16-05-2013, 06:12   #15
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Re: Electrical Problems

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To adjust scope!

Ive seen several systems wired where the instrument power feed is not used, but a relay is fitted to the alternator output that closes on it running , this is used to power other circuits.

Dave
You bet! Or to anchor or unanchor with a non-functional engine. If your engine carps out on you, you might need to do some emergency anchoring, and pronto. You can lower the anchor without the windlass working -- just release the clutch, but you better have a winch handle handy. But anchoring sometimes requires fiddling with the scope, and taking in chain as well as letting it out. I did figure out how to hot wire the control circuit by taking power from the main windlass power supply, so that the control circuit has power whenever the main windlass switch is on. I'm going to do that.

But still need to figure out what's going on with my alternator
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