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Old 28-09-2013, 00:49   #1
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Maybe some of the electrical savants on here can help me diagnose and solve a problem. It's a big one for me now because I can't rely on my windlass, but I think I have ruled out any major mechanical problems with the windlass. Here are the "clues" and steps taken so far.

I have a vertical (Ideal brand) windlass. Recently I went to push the foot pedal and I heard a click in the solenoid but the windlass wouldn't work - the motor wouldn't run. I disconnected the solenoid and the foot switch and powered it directly to the positive and negative and the motor was still intermittent....it worked, but then it didn't work. So then I bought a new solenoid.

i replaced the solenoid and also verified that the foot switch wasn't the problem. I reattached the wiring to the solenoid and everything worked. I checked it multiple times. Then a few days later (in 70 feet of water with 275 feet of line and chain out, but that's another story) I pushed the foot switch, and I could hear the solenoid engage or click, but the windlass wouldn't work. So I was concerned that maybe the positive power post in the motor itself might have a short of some time, which would be a real hassle because I would have to drain the oil from the gearbox and have someone fix the power connection inside the motor.

But then other clues emerged.

Key information:

* I tried another time and while I was on deck pushing the foot pedal while holding my hand on the wire lifeline I noticed a shock. I thought, what's that all about?

* The next morning there was dew on the deck - it was very damp. When I pushed the foot pedal there were sparks at the bottom of the wildcat (bronze) on the deck of the boat and the windlass started running.

So this indicates to me that there is a short somewhere. The motor is fine and when the windlass is working it is great. My question is how to go about finding the short.

Anybody that can help me figure this out will be named an honorary hero!



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Old 28-09-2013, 01:01   #2
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Do you have a deck switch for up anchor and a deck switch for down anchor? If yes there may be another solenoid or 2 that may be failing.
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Old 28-09-2013, 01:40   #3
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[QUOTE="

I have a vertical (Ideal brand) windlass. Recently I went to push the foot pedal and I heard a click in the solenoid but the windlass wouldn't work - the motor wouldn't run. I disconnected the solenoid and the foot switch and powered it directly to the positive and negative and the motor was still intermittent....it worked, but then it didn't work. So then I bought a new solenoid.

[/QUOTE]

Just to clarify, when you connected directly to the motor without a solenoid, it ran intermittently?

Why then install another solenoid?

The simplest and most common issue is sticking or worn brushes on the motor.
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Old 28-09-2013, 02:04   #4
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Re: How to find & fix a short in windlass

Solenoids are the most common problem. Sometimes they will click and still make poor contact.
However if I understand you correctly you have bypassed the solenoid and the windlass did not run correctly. This means a problem with the solenoid can be eliminated.

The most common remaining problems are:
Poor connection somewhere (check the voltage at the windlass with it running)
Defective circuit breaker
Worn, or sticking brushes
Worn commutator
Mechanical problem with the winch.

Measure the voltage at the windlass. I would eliminate the CB by bypassing it with a ANL fuse or another CB. If this makes no difference remove the motor check the brushes (or take it to automotive electrician)

The shock you got is of concern. 12v should not give you a shock. That means something that generates high voltage is causing problems. The inverter or wind generator (or shore power)
This needs fixing ASAP.
Turn off all high voltage inputs and devices untill this fixed.
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Old 28-09-2013, 02:44   #5
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Re: How to find & fix a short in windlass

the voltage may be fine but if not enough amperage is making it's way through then the solenoid will click but not enough amps will cause the symptoms you spoke of. Running the windlass with low amps couls also damage the motor I think. So, i would say to check all negative connections as well going right back to the source of the power (do you have a dedicated battery up forward?). I spent/wasted 6 hours this summer troubleshooting what I thought was a voltage issue on a big hydraulic bow thruster on a nord hav'n only to find, by chance, it was a 2 minute fix by cleaning up the negative side to get the proper amps flowing...sounds like a simple problem you have and I am sure you will do well. Please let me know the result so I can put it in my ever expanding book called "Boat Gremlins".....
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Old 28-09-2013, 05:11   #6
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Thanks All for the replies...keep coming and I promise to report back.

It's not an up down switch...just an up, so there is just 1 solenoid.

As far as not being able to be schocked by 12 volt power - I don't think that's true, is it? It won't electrocute you, but you can get shocked. So I hoping this has nothing to do with the inverter


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean Cowbuoy View Post
. I spent/wasted 6 hours this summer troubleshooting what I thought was a voltage issue on a big hydraulic bow thruster on a nord hav'n only to find, by chance, it was a 2 minute fix by cleaning up the negative side to get the proper amps flowing...sounds like a simple problem you have and I am sure you will do well. Please let me know the result so I can put it in my ever expanding book called "Boat Gremlins".....
That's a good story and exactly what I am hoping for. I have cleaned the post to the ground on the bolt of the windlass gearbox, but on the motor the ground wire is in an awkward spot behind everything in a chain locker. Maybe that's where it has a problem, although that doesn't really explain the sparks or the shock....
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Old 28-09-2013, 06:30   #7
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Re: How to find & fix a short in windlass

The fact that it ran that day when conditions were damp may be the best indicator of what you and I are discussing as the water/dew would have perhaps been the conductor to allow sufficient amperage to flow to operate the heavy motor (the amps needed to make the solenoid click are obviously very minimal in comparison). The hand shock from the wire lifeline means that your stanchions are obviously bonded into your boats common ground. I'm not a lightning strike expert so i'd like to hear what others think about the rationale for bonding in the stanchions that are (only in abnormal conditions) not part of the electrolysis "gremlins" issues. I get absorbed in these mysteries on my boats and when I work on other boats so please keep me posted as I find it very intriguing and very satisfying when a fix is completed.
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Old 28-09-2013, 07:37   #8
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Re: How to find & fix a short in windlass

+ 1 on the ground connection. You have a "open" not "short" problem most likely. The sparks are the current trying to complete the circuit because the normal path is "open".
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Old 28-09-2013, 07:50   #9
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Originally Posted by PamlicoTraveler View Post

* I tried another time and while I was on deck pushing the foot pedal while holding my hand on the wire lifeline I noticed a shock. I thought, what's that all about?

The shock you felt can be attributed to the collapsing magnetic field when the DC circuit opens while current is flowing.

Ignition coils on gas engines work on that principle. Not likely dangerous but you may have a snubbing circuit not connected.
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Old 28-09-2013, 11:12   #10
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Your description sounds like the ground connection is loose or corroded. Find the ground return wire at the windlass. It may be corroded. If not, find the other end of the ground return wire and check there.

If there is no ground return wire at all then you have an installation problem. High current devices need a heavy wire ground back to the battery. Wire should be the same size as the plus wire.
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Old 28-09-2013, 12:20   #11
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I'll be at work on this in the AM and will report back and ask for additional guidance. I don't know why or if the lifelines are in some way bonded...that doesn't sound right... But the idea of a loose or corroded ground connection somewhere along the line makes sense and so I will follow it all the way back to the battery. It seems like somehow I became the ground...
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Old 28-09-2013, 12:32   #12
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Re: How to find & fix a short in windlass

As Dan said. If it made sparks or gave shocks, the electricity was going to ground through you, or the wet deck, instead of through a good ground connection.

I've never felt a shock from 12vdc, but as Eric said, higher voltages will spike when an electrical field collapses. that doesn't mean 12VDC is "safe" of course, it can still burn right through you at enough amperage.
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Old 28-09-2013, 14:27   #13
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Re: How to find & fix a short in windlass

Put a voltmeter on the two solenoid terminals with the heavy wires. Connect the voltmeter directly to the wire terminals. Engage windlass with some load on it, maybe the anchor, and note voltage. Should be about .5 volts and 1 volt would indicate a real problem. The exception would be a shorted motor and in that case; the wiring distant from any terminal would be warm. The terminals could be hot enough to burn you because the excessive current makes for heat with a shorted motor. If you get a voltage greater than .5, then further investigate by putting the voltmeter from one of the wire terminals to the post that wire terminal connects to on the solenoid. Ideally should be less than .2 volts for each side, which is for each terminal and post. There should be about .2 volts from post to post for internal voltage drop in the solenoid itself. If the voltages check, run a wire from the solenoid back to the positive side of the battery (the larger of the two posts on the battery). This can be a wire that is not very heavy. You could even use an extension cord if you can figure out how to access the ends of the cord to make a connection. A drop of more than 1 volt would be excessive and .5 volts would be good. If the voltage is high, check fuse or circuit breaker terminals. There may be a terminal box in there somewhere with grounds and circuit breakers. If this all checks out, then do voltage drop measurements from motor terminal to wire terminal at the solenoid and from the other motor terminal to the ground. On a fiberglass or wood boat you will have to run a wire from the motor terminal back to the negative terminal on the battery as the ground circuits would have just as much wiring as the positive side.
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Old 29-09-2013, 12:30   #14
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Worked for hours to figure this out and haven't been able to. I think our next step is to remove the motor from the gearbox and go from there.
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Old 29-09-2013, 13:08   #15
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Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
As Dan said. If it made sparks or gave shocks, the electricity was going to ground through you, or the wet deck, instead of through a good ground connection.

I've never felt a shock from 12vdc, but as Eric said, higher voltages will spike when an electrical field collapses. that doesn't mean 12VDC is "safe" of course, it can still burn right through you at enough amperage.
You could take all the 12 volt batteries from the readers of cruisers forum and wire them together in parallel and I wouldn't hesitate to grab the positive and negative terminals. The available amperage is a limiting factor but not a determining factor of how much current will flow. With 12 volts, the amperage is determined by the resistance, until the power runs low, the 12 volts drops, any the amperage drops accordingly. The resistance of the human body is high enough That unless you're putting your tongue on it you shouldn't feel a shock from 12 volts, regardless of the available amperage.

The first place that I would inspect would be the precise location that the sparks were coming from. I would suspect a poor ground there.
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