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Old 23-09-2012, 12:49   #1
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Catalina 36 propane solenoid

Went on my first overnighter the other day, got to the anchorage and the stove did not light up. I then noticed the distinct lack of a 'click' when turning on the propane solenoid. Today I am crawling all over the boat but try as I might I can't trace the wiring.
There is power at the breaker panel, the wire then disappears into a white sheath and routes along the breaker panel cavity at the very front top which I can't follow any more and who knows where else it is going.
On the other end in the port lazarette there is a small box of some kind, high up, with a terminal strip on the top. Not being a snake, there is no way I can get myself in there (transom shower and Espar heater make it kinda tight) to check things out.
I am wondering if
a) anybody know what's in the box - I suppose it could be just a fancy way of mounting the terminal strip ????
b) anybody know if the solenoid wiring goes to that terminal strip?
c) what are the chances that this is a factory install and the wires go to standard terminals ???? (yeah, chances are minimal but I got to ask) .... which terminals?
d) How does one service stuff like that - hire a midget or what ?
I suppose I can try and cut the zap straps that hold everything semi tidy but there is no way in hell that I can replace the straps up in there. With everything seperated I could trace the wires coming from the solenoid but again, it would remain a mess because I just can't get my hands up in there. I even tried from below through the access hole in the back stateroom but I don't reach. I was thinking of peeling a section of the solenoid wire insulation to put a meter on it but I am sure this would come and haunt me.

I was doing some wiring (pulling antenna cable in the starboard lazarette), it worked before, doesn't any more so chances are I screwed it up someplace but I don't know where the wires run to properly check.

Last resort would be to pull the propane tank enclosure, I think I saw some screws there .... I shudder to think that this would be required to get at the magic box ...

Oh, I didn't find a fuse anywhere either .....

Any help/pointers would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 23-09-2012, 14:31   #2
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Re: Catalina 36 propane solenoid

check to see if you have 12v at the solenoid.
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Old 23-09-2012, 15:19   #3
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Re: Catalina 36 propane solenoid

You should try joining the Catalina 36 Association and posting on the forum at There is a wealth of information on your boat there, you are almost certain to get your answer.

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Old 23-09-2012, 16:18   #4
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Re: Catalina 36 propane solenoid

Welcome to the wonderful world of boat maintenance! Nearly impossible to access spaces are not unique to the Catalina, but of course Catalina owners might be able to help with Catalina specifics. Propane systems across all makes of boats are basically the same, so some general propane trouble shooting suggestions below.

My first guess would be a failed solenoid (or that you pulled some wiring loose as you mentioned), but you will need to test to confirm. The solenoid should be mounted inside the propane locker as close as possible downstream from the tank. Following the propane hose from the tank you should locate it quite easily (much easier than tracing the wires from the panel). The solenoid opening and closing is the "click" you hear when turning the gas on/off.

You are looking for something that looks similar to this:

Start from the tank and work you way towards the appliance. Check obvious stuff first, like is there propane in the tank, is the tank valve open? Then, track the hose down to the solenoid. Have someone throw the switch in the galley for you and listen for the click. No, click? Then most likely either the solenoid is bad or current is not getting to the solenoid. Turn off the propane tank valve, vent the locker, and then check voltage at the solenoid. Note: polarity does not matter for most solenoids so you may find that the two wires (normally two for a simple propane solenoid, but could be 3) leading into the solenoid are the same color because polarity does not matter. If the wires lead to a bus bar(s) then that makes testing easier because you can test at the bar. If not, just make a small incision in the insulation and test there (be sure and re-seal this incision when done with something like "liquid electrical tape" or similar).

If you are getting voltage to the solenoid when the switch is "on" in the galley then the solenoid is bad (not uncommon). If no voltage at the solenoid, then something is preventing juice from getting there like:the switch in the galley, a breaker, an in-line fuse, or a broken wire....more quality time in impossible positions to track some of these down -- I've come to call this activity the "Cruising Kama Sutra".
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Old 23-09-2012, 17:10   #5
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Re: Catalina 36 propane solenoid

+1 on checking the solenoid first. i had one get stuck in the closed position once and that may be your problem as well.
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Old 23-09-2012, 19:52   #6
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Re: Catalina 36 propane solenoid

Thanks for the pointers guys. Some answers to the questions raised: yes there is propane in the tank, the gauge reads well, gas hisses if I loosen the connector to the tank. I have located the solenoid - it is right in with the propane tank, in the same locker. I attempted to measure voltage at the solenoid but did not want to nick the wire insulation in order to hook the probes to the wire. This is why I was trying to establish if the solenoid wiring goes to the terminal block where I can measure (if I contort myself far enough) without having to nick the wire insulation.
Under normal circumstances I would suspect the solenoid but with my crawling around in close spaces in the boat it could have easily happened that I damaged a wire and I was trying to eliminate that first. Looks like there is no easy way around this though and I will have to nick the wire insulation in order to measure voltage at the solenoid.
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