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Old 02-05-2016, 09:27   #1
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I am an electrical dunce........HELP

I cannot believe I am such an idiot when it comes to electricity layout and diagnosing problems!!!!!!!!!!!!!:banghead :
I have a couple sources for trying to learn, but just can't seem to get the info to stick or be useful!!
Is there any source anybody else has found helpful :sm ile:.

The most recent problem reared its ugly head recently. My batteries have been loosing charge. I have several wires coming directly off my batteries. I know this is not good, and am trying to figure out where these wires run, and how to move them to the panel so they continue to function properly (whatever that function may be .

One I discovered went directly to the frig. I disconnected the ground and positive wires.

Then I noticed some corrosion on the + posts, and some also at a connector that was in another red wire coming directly off one battery. That wire was also a little warm. I cut both it and the grnd wire it seemed to run with.......I traced both back to the battery charger running off my shore power.

I read the owners manual for the battery charger and if I am understanding things correctly, there were several options to connect the red (+) wire I cut......one of which was "Direct to Positive post of battery being charged(single bank only)", and the ground (-) to "Alternator Ground Terminal".

There are three other options to connecting the red wire I cut: "Alternator positive battery output"; "common side of battery switch","isolator terminal supplying main battery bank".

My questions regarding the present problem are:
1. Were these two wires connected properly before.......and if so, why did the problem just arise?
2. Should I run the red wire (I previously cut and was going directly to one of the two batteries) to the "Alternator positive battery output", and the black wire (which I also cut) to the "Alternator ground terminal"?

Thanks so much for any help you can give this electrical dunce
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Old 02-05-2016, 13:33   #2
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Re: I am an electrical dunce........HELP

If you don't understand electricity, you should not be cutting wires on your boat or randomly connecting them to different places. You will not solve the existing problem and will create additional problems.


Nobody was born understanding electricity, it comes from education and experience. You have two choices:
1) Learn about electricity. Some can learn from books but many will have to take actual classes where they can ask the teacher when they don't understand.


2) Pay a pro to do your electrical work. Some folks just don't have the aptitude and will never understand even after years of schooling.
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Old 02-05-2016, 13:38   #3
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Re: I am an electrical dunce........HELP

You get an A+ for recognizing that you are "an electrical dunce".

Another A+ for proving just that in your posting: cutting wires, willy nilly, and general remarks re: your boat's electrical system.

However, what you really need to do....and I mean this most respectfully....is to STOP playing with your electrical system before you hurt yourself or burn down your boat or.....

You need to hire a professional MARINE electrician, not someone who does house wiring, and have him/her look at your boat with you and make recommendations. That will take 1-2 hours, and cost under $200.

In the end, it will save you big bucks and hours of spinning your wheels and worse.

FWIW,

Bill
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Old 03-05-2016, 17:56   #4
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Re: I am an electrical dunce........HELP

Quote:
Originally Posted by calhdl View Post
The most recent problem reared its ugly head recently. My batteries have been loosing charge.

...

My questions regarding the present problem are:
1. Were these two wires connected properly before.......and if so, why did the problem just arise?
2. Should I run the red wire (I previously cut and was going directly to one of the two batteries) to the "Alternator positive battery output", and the black wire (which I also cut) to the "Alternator ground terminal"?
the numbered questions first.

1) Just a guess - those charger wires were sort-of, maybe, connected ok, if they have or had successfully charged the batteries. Hard to be certain, we know so little about everything in your boat. btw, a permanently-attached connection to a DC charger should have a fuse in the charger positive wire, close to the battery, sized to protect the wire.

If this wire position worked before, it's not the problem.

2) No, don't. It won't do anything different or better.

"Losing charge" here's some possibilities:
  • Your batteries aren't being charged
  • You're sucking too much out of them
  • One or more of your batteries are shot
A good book, a knowledgeable friend, or a decent boat electrician can help you check all these points. From your description, it sounds like the boat wiring is in need of some attention.
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Old 03-05-2016, 19:14   #5
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Re: I am an electrical dunce........HELP

The pitting and gradually worse performance could both be related to two many stacked connections or bad conectiins micro arcing and burnig the connection.
Disconecting a failing circut is a good thing bu be sure what you are cutting. And that you cut the right ground.
Personally I like Nigel Caulders books. I find him readable, clear, acurate and he lives on boats so it is not pie in the sky unworkable **** only an engineer can dream up.
I took a seminar he was teaching at the boatshow, paid for my mechanic to attend with me we both learned a lot. Money well spent.
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Old 03-05-2016, 19:18   #6
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Re: I am an electrical dunce........HELP


It's a good start. Take your time and you will be able to clean your system up and understand it.
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Old 03-05-2016, 19:19   #7
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Re: I am an electrical dunce........HELP

This is my go to book. No that is not my mechanic napping by it.
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Old 03-05-2016, 20:08   #8
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Re: I am an electrical dunce........HELP

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This is my go to book.
You are clearly a group of fine sailors with good sense. That's my main boat book too.
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Old 03-05-2016, 20:24   #9
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Re: I am an electrical dunce........HELP

If you've had continual load on your batteries and a shore charger continuously recharging, your "loss" may be the result of low electrolyte level in your batteries' cells. Check the cells and add de-ionized water to fill each to the proper level, then charge the batteries fully.

If you know little about electricity, including your batteries and charging system, an investment in a SmartGuage would pay you dividends.
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Old 03-05-2016, 20:46   #10
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Re: I am an electrical dunce........HELP

Yes, Calder.

I also like Payne's Bible.

b.
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Old 03-05-2016, 22:17   #11
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Re: I am an electrical dunce........HELP

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Yes, Calder. I also like Payne's Bible.
b.
How many electrical bibles does one recommend reading, Barnakiel, before deciding to cut wire?

I'm good at physics, but marine electric scares me; knowing the potentially dire consequences of screwing up. In the end, I've predetermined that I will pick up an extra shift at work to pay for an experienced marine electrician.

Smart enough to know I'm not smart enough!
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Old 04-05-2016, 09:40   #12
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Re: I am an electrical dunce........HELP

I have used the Calder books, both editions, for years as a reference. I learned a lot from them. However, IMO, they are not good for someone who does not have the electrical gene in their DNA. I don't mean this disparaging but there seem to be some who just have a difficult time with it. I'm sort of medium this way. Others get it by osmosis quickly.

You would be better off starting with one of the easier primers on marine electrical basics. I can't remember off my faulty memory banks but they are the place to start. You may have the right DNA but if you start with a book that gets overly dense very quickly, like IMO Calder is, you may get overwhelmed and decide to bag it. This is likely to be a controversial statement but it is my experience.

Even if you decide to hire out much of your electrical work you need at least a basic understanding of electricity and marine electrical systems to even own and use a boat. Otherwise, make sure you have towing insurance and deep pockets to get even minor work done.

But you can figure it out. Start with the basics of electricity first - DC and AC and then on to basic circuits, like lighting, panels, bilge pump wiring, etc. You can learn a lot by troubleshooting but you need the basics to even start to learn that. Otherwise you don't have a clue what you are looking at.

I have several friends who are so good at rigging and sailing that I marvel at their wisdom and abilities. I am not good as they are for those subjects. But those same friends are continually mystified by electricity, even in its basic forms, much less the technically challenging parts like battery charging issues. You'll only sort those out when you can understand the basics.
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Old 04-05-2016, 10:38   #13
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Re: I am an electrical dunce........HELP

I started out years ago with buying and using (a lot) a multi meter, on top of reading and re-reading Payne, Calder, et als. One who is not electrically savvy would be surprised how many issues can be diagnosed with multi meter before "cutting" anything. And the correct diagnosis takes you at least half way toward solving the problem. Not to mention saving one big bucks fixing small fixable problems. Like fridge not working. I was almost ready to throw in the towel and order a new one when poking around with my trusty multi meter led me to find a loose negative connection at the control box. And many other fixes like that.

PS I would never putz around by myself with AC circuit though. That's where a mistake can be so costly health wise.
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Old 04-05-2016, 11:24   #14
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Re: I am an electrical dunce........HELP

Quote:
Originally Posted by rwidman View Post


Nobody was born understanding electricity, it comes from education and experience. You have two choices:
1) Learn about electricity. Some can learn from books but many will have to take actual classes where they can ask the teacher when they don't understand.


2) Pay a pro to do your electrical work. Some folks just don't have the aptitude and will never understand even after years of schooling.
Ron and I and many others have been saying this for years. Good to admit you're just starting out.

This might help, includes books and primers and LOTS of material, all in one place:

Electrical Systems 101 Electrical Systems 101
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Old 04-05-2016, 21:23   #15
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Re: I am an electrical dunce........HELP

Paying a pro is all well and good but finding a good competent marine electritian can be tough. I have talked to several people who sell marine electrical items, and repeatedly they have told me there is almost noboby in the area they trust to do wiring.
They tell me there is no reliable credentials it's mostly the expirience yard mechanic that also does some electric and some of that is clearly not done to abyc or any other marine standard.
I don't know first hand if they are right about the general state but I have seen "pro's" do some pretty bad work. That is why I go educated to do my own or at least know enough to recognize bad work.
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