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Old 07-27-2014, 10:41 AM   #1
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Wiring gripes

Just have to gripe a little bit and get it off my chest. Feel free to ignore.

Had to try and figure out some wiring yesterday. My boat is 41 years old and has had several previous owners. Not sure just how many, but several. At least one of these owners seems to have blatantly disregarded wiring conventions, which makes for a royal PITA! Example: a red battery cable going to a negative battery post. Example: same type of cable (black-white wires) used for both AC and DC wiring. Black hot on AC but negative on DC. Example: dead wires just left in place instead of being removed.

Sorry . . . it is hot and humid this time of year in Florida, and being contorted down in the bilge with screwed up wiring is aggravating. So just had to vent a little. :-)
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Old 07-27-2014, 11:38 AM   #2
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I feel your pain. I've got a lot of dead wire also. Makes it a PIA to much troubleshooting. I have dreams, nightmares really, of tearing it all out and starting over, then I wake up.
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Old 07-27-2014, 12:17 PM   #3
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First, fire up the A/C to the max!!!
Its not just the POs. Its the marina "help" that come in and wire new stuff directly to the battery. Most times without fuses. Some installs are truly bizarre. The only requirement for them seems to be is that the install functions. My boat is full of that crap which will be resolved this fall.
Make a plan. Buy the correct sized tinned marine cables, connectors and tools. Systematically replace the bad stuff, one area at a time.

Here is an example:
The saltwater washdown pump is 10 ft away from the seacock and batteries and also >10 ft away from the transom spigot. Its wired directly to the 8D bat with no fuse! You have to climb into the ER to turn it on or off. I disconnected all of these non-essential add-ons just to feel safe.
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Old 07-27-2014, 01:53 PM   #4
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These kinds of threads are useful for prospective newby boat buyers. This is the type of thing you can scope out in the buying process. I bought an extremely "clean" and well labeled boat, yet still had a fair share of (thankfully very easy) remediation to do as I went along. Makes a big difference in safety and enjoyment; the issues caused by this stuff inevitably rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune times. A good surveyor should be able to catalog most of these things, but you can eliminate the bad boats before you get that far. A lot of people either ignore this issue or significantly underestimate it.
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Old 07-27-2014, 02:05 PM   #5
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Im the 3rd owner of a 1984. someone in the past had been wiring lights and whatnot with 12 awg speaker wire, LOL!!.. I love following a wire and having it change color 3 times before is gets to the source

I have been slowly replacing/ re routing all of my wiring
Sometimes its better to just start fresh
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Old 07-27-2014, 06:00 PM   #6
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Tracking down dead wires sure is time-consuming! Only got one today. It ran into a storage area in the aft cabin, not connected to anything there. Checked it with a meter and no juice. Started tracking it through the bilge, and discovered that it had been spliced to another cable, just using two butt joints. No heat shrink, no nothing. Just two butt joints crimped. Corrosion on both and one had come apart, which is why no voltage. Cable was live (12 volts) on the other side. Red-black cable spliced to white-black cable.

I think that I am going to slowly replace/reroute all my wiring also. May take a while, but when my son inherits the boat it won't be such a mess.

You are right, George, that this is certainly something which inexperienced newbies should look for in used boats.
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Old 07-27-2014, 07:21 PM   #7
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In another thread we were talking about insurance-required surveys, and some of the silly things they flag. But this thread has some good examples of things that an insurer and owner would be well served to know about, and fix. These are not things that were considered acceptable in new boat builds 20 years ago, but are instead the real hazards that you pay people to come aboard and create after you own your boat. What would be do without incompetent marine trades people? Boating would be so boring.
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Old 07-27-2014, 07:38 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jwnall View Post
J..... Black hot on AC but negative on DC.
That's the norm on older boats. Same the DC wiring on cars and trucks. A while back the ABYC suggested yellow for DC negative. That's a little hard for the oldtimers to grasp.
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Old 07-27-2014, 07:45 PM   #9
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That's the norm on older boats..
I sure am glad that you told me that, Ron, because as I was doing all this I was thinking to myself "This sure looks like the original wiring. Did Gulfstar do this???" So yeah, now I think they did. Good thing to know.
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Old 07-27-2014, 07:45 PM   #10
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Up until recently Furuno electronic power cables for 12V were white/black...drives me nuts too...seems a lot of 80's vintage boat wiring had duplex wiring with a gray cover that had black/white wires in it. Not boat manufacturer wiring..more add on stuff.
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Old 07-27-2014, 08:15 PM   #11
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I sure am glad that you told me that, Ron, because as I was doing all this I was thinking to myself "This sure looks like the original wiring. Did Gulfstar do this???" So yeah, now I think they did. Good thing to know.
There's a pretty complex color code guide now but basically, just like on older cars, trucks, etc., for DC wiring, red is positive and black is negative. It's something I grew up with. Electronics is basically the same. White for DC positive would be unusual.

Rather than ripping out perfectly good wiring (or more expensive cables), you can use colored tape at each connection to identify the wires/cables.

Another thing - 120 volt AC wiring should be enclosed in boxes wherever there is a connection or device, just like in your house.
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Old 07-27-2014, 09:42 PM   #12
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I knew of some wiring compromises after installing a few things, routing some new wiring, etc., and I imagined that slowly, methodically, I'd be able to pick out the issues and deal with them one at a time. Surprise.....my boat was struck by lightning (or maybe a near strike) that pretty much burned everything 12V, and at least tried to burn some things 110, but apparently got inside the generator and decided to come out wherever it could. During the year long (so far) work to get things back in order, I pulled the genset windings and found a hole about an inch in diameter where a very big charge wanted to get out. I still don't understand what really happened, where it struck, and where it came out. I had just finished the bottom and running gear when it hit and haven't had the boat out since. The diver says everything looks OK, but I won't really know till I haul the boat next month. I'm still finding things almost every day I'm on the boat. I was actually on the boat talking to my Admiral on the phone when it happened. The water around the boat looked like it had a million fish jumping at once. I had just installed a new dinghy crane with a solid 2.5" aluminum bar standpipe, and had a big zinc fish hanging over the side with the connecting cable wrapped several times around the standpipe, which was also bonded to the system. All the plastic covering on the cable was melted, so maybe the bulk of the charge went through there. Out of four bilge pumps, there was one that wasn't working at the time of the strike, and after, it was the only one working. I'm finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel just now.
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Old 07-27-2014, 09:47 PM   #13
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Larry I feel for you...my plan is to have about a 90% rewire job done by next spring...some of the stuff I'll just bypass the old route and methods (clip out what I can)...but all in all it will be a grueling, too tight to fit all to often, frustrating (but totally rewarding when done) job.

You had it forced on you and at least I can do one circuit at a time hopefully.
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Old 07-27-2014, 09:59 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rwidman View Post
That's the norm on older boats. Same the DC wiring on cars and trucks. A while back the ABYC suggested yellow for DC negative. That's a little hard for the oldtimers to grasp.
Especially since yellow is used as positive in ignition circuits.
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Old 07-29-2014, 09:26 AM   #15
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I wasn't too sure of the yellow/negative at first. All of my large diameter 12v negative wiring is black welding cable, common for the era. I've been in the process of replacing it using yellow. It now gives me a quick reference between old and new.
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Old 07-29-2014, 10:00 AM   #16
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I like the yellow DC negative too. It's nice to have AC and DC wiring completely distinct in color. Black/white/green for AC, and red/yellow for DC.

Control circuits will always use a wide variety of colors and inevitably overlap with the primary AC and DC power colors, but that seems a small price to pay for clarity in the majority of a boat's wiring.
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Old 07-29-2014, 11:11 AM   #17
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Electrical tape comes in many colors , use a code others would understand.

The local electric supply for pros will sell you a book of stick on numbers you can use to ID any wires you do trace.

Keep a list ans ID them 2x at both ends .

Here is an online example,

http://www.seton.com/porta-pack-wire...020.html#7670B
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Old 07-29-2014, 12:00 PM   #18
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Not a bad idea, FF. Thanks for the link.
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Old 07-29-2014, 01:25 PM   #19
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i also feel your pain. I have been slowly correcting it myself... but alas... I am afraid who ever ends up with my boat int he future will likely say the same about me...
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Old 07-29-2014, 07:25 PM   #20
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I just use a Brother labeler (a boating MVT) with the purpose spelled out, but whatever you do be consistent! Also, tag it in as many places as you can, not just start and finish.
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