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Old 10-29-2020, 12:03 AM   #1
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A/C Breaker Panel

I almost had a disaster this evening.
While dozing off I smelled electrical insulation burning.
The TV was on and I had turned the heater on 10 minutes earlier. I thought possibly the return on the heat exchange might have been plugged and the motor was cooking so I started to pull the cover off of that but before I got it open I heard the TV sputter off and I had already turned off the heater.
I turned off all the ac and dc breakers (should have done that first)and started searching for the source of the burn. I opened the panel that my breakers panels are mounted on and the top double throw breaker for the rest of AC panel had one lead completely burned through, wire and all.
It wasnít overloaded in anyway so Iím not sure where to start. I donít know why the breaker didnít trip.
I checked continuity on both sets of contacts on the breaker and the switch worked just fine.
Heater?
Bad connection
Very old breakers and panel.
Anyway Iím going to sleep with the power unplugged at the dock. Fortunately only going down to 40 degrees tonight.
Any thoughts?
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Old 10-29-2020, 12:14 AM   #2
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It may have been a loose or dirty connection. What wire was burned off? The supply or the wire going to the individual circuit? I would see which wire it was. If it was the supply from the inlet on the side of the boat, I would start there and check for burned or melted plastic on the inlet. Then follow the wires into the boat and check for loose or dirty connections. Maybe a photo would help narrow it down.
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Old 10-29-2020, 06:15 AM   #3
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Post some pictures. It's easier to make suggestions with a clear understanding of what was damaged.

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Old 10-29-2020, 06:25 AM   #4
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Frequently its the terminal ends that get corroded inside and get hot.

Decades ago it was common to use auto crimp ends and an auto crimping tool..

If this is the case perhaps a real crimping tool and marine terminal ends will let you sleep better?
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Old 10-29-2020, 08:14 AM   #5
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Frequently its the terminal ends that get corroded inside and get hot.
This. Breakers protect against over current. Increased resistance in wires due to bad connections/corrosion generates heat.
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Old 10-29-2020, 09:09 AM   #6
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Best recommendation: Get a marine electrician out to your boat to trouble shoot and correct the problem.
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Old 10-29-2020, 09:25 AM   #7
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I'd be replacing all of the breakers and cutting and re-doing all of the connections in the panel. They're all (or at least MOST) were all installed at roughly the same time, using the same manufacturer and model parts, installed by the same person, the same way.

In my mind the entire panel is now suspect. The cost of the job is more time/labor than actual expense.
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Old 10-29-2020, 09:27 AM   #8
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They're all (or at least MOST) were all installed at roughly the same time, using the same manufacturer and model parts, installed by the same person, the same way.

In my mind the entire panel is now suspect.
And, oh ya.......unless the panel was done once already, then everything in that panel is 43 years old.
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Old 10-29-2020, 09:29 AM   #9
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A loose connection causes arcing. Often not visible, as it gets hotter it gets worse. Think arc welding.

If the connection was on the input to the breaker, then the breaker would not trip, it is downstream.

If on the load side, then it should have tripped eventually, if all working as intended.

You can not test a breaker except for continuity, does it open and close.

I would reterminate the wire, and then gradually increase the load, with the heater being last.

Watch the panel and feel for hot wires and burning plastic.

If the breaker is the same size as your shore power breaker, it should have tripped also.
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Old 10-29-2020, 11:01 AM   #10
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I’m guessing it is on the incoming side. Ten gauge wire which is coming from the 10/2 position on the Ship/Off/Shore switch. It is only about a 5 inch wire coming from the switch to the breaker. You can see where it burned away from the breaker and the end of the wire sticking up in the first picture.
The burnt wire terminated on the switch and wire location is the big yellow lug on lower left of the switch picture 2
There is also a heavy gauge white wire coming off the bottom opposite side of the same switch which shows heat distress the first inch, 3rd picture.
I haven’t looked to see where it goes yet.
Yes, pretty old stuff! Airpax breakers
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Old 10-29-2020, 11:08 AM   #11
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I'm not a licensed boat electrician, nor have I played one on TV, but IMO, you were very lucky. That whole system needs some serious attention.

Ted
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Old 10-29-2020, 11:28 AM   #12
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Thanks

I agree
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Old 10-29-2020, 12:04 PM   #13
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The verdigris is the smoking gun.... (pun intended). You need to remove stuff until you get to fresh shiny copper, and replace with fresh shiny tinned of the appropriate gauge. You may be replacing a lot.

And since you are going to spend a lot of quality time messing with this you may consider re-doing it all with 21st century stuff. It'll feel good when you're done. Except in your wallet, but hey.... it's a boat.
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Old 10-29-2020, 12:26 PM   #14
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Have you checked your inlet for any signs of heating? Both the outside where the shore power cord plugs in and also the back of the inlet. I would carefully inspect the inlet and maybe replace it just in case. Then I would replace all the inlet feed wire from the inlet to the switch inside and then from the switch to the main breaker on the panel. Also look at replacing the main breaker in the panel and the shore power switch. Then you will have entirely new wire and connectors from the shore power inlet to the panel. While you are at it start looking at all the wire connections in the panel and the individual circuit breakers. If you are not certain you can do this work properly then get a certified marine electrician to help.
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Old 10-29-2020, 02:00 PM   #15
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Unfortunately, moisture eventually wicks through the wire causing corrosion, often measured in tens of feet from the termination. Iíd strongly suggest replacing the entire wire run, not just cutting back. Triage the highest current circuits and do them first. For hard to get to wire runs, do them as a group. Good quality wire with high quality insulation, tinned copper and heat shrink sealed terminals all cost quite a bit more, but in my opinion, completely worth it. Do it once or do it again. I get at least a decade, if not three, out of well constructed circuits, so after learning the hard way many years ago, I never use cheap stuff anymore for anything.

But good news, nothing complicated here, just a bit of work.
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Old 10-29-2020, 02:01 PM   #16
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Quote:
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Best recommendation: Get a marine electrician out to your boat to trouble shoot and correct the problem.
Quote:
Originally Posted by O C Diver View Post
I'm not a licensed boat electrician, nor have I played one on TV, but IMO, you were very lucky. That whole system needs some serious attention.

Ted
I agree with the above unless you are a marine electrician. Based on my experience, this is going to be an expensive repair and only should be done by a marine sparky.....
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Old 10-29-2020, 06:42 PM   #17
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I agree with the above unless you are a marine electrician. Based on my experience, this is going to be an expensive repair and only should be done by a marine sparky.....
I respectfully disagree. I am not a "Professional Marine Electrician" but I know enough to do it properly, and have done so for years. Surveyors like my work. It is not rocket surgery. Now, if you're not confident, then by all means hire a pro.
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Old 10-29-2020, 08:50 PM   #18
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I respectfully disagree. I am not a "Professional Marine Electrician" but I know enough to do it properly, and have done so for years. Surveyors like my work. It is not rocket surgery. Now, if you're not confident, then by all means hire a pro.
Good deal. Keep us updated on your work with pic of course
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Old 10-29-2020, 09:04 PM   #19
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Good deal. Keep us updated on your work with pic of course
It ain't his boat!
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Old 10-29-2020, 09:25 PM   #20
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And the take away is - breakers will not protect you from over heating corroded high resistance connections. In older boats - an IR scan of wiring from time to time is not a bad idea. A very good Fluke or FLIR IR scanner can be rented by the day and could save your bacon. Was more than likely the cause of the Scottsboro Marina fire.




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