Windlass electrical problem

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SeaDogAK

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 9, 2021
Messages
355
Vessel Name
Sea Dog
Vessel Make
1991 DeFever 49 RPH
I have an electrical problem with our windlass and I’m hoping someone has some ideas. We have a 1992 Defever 49 RPH, with what I believe is an original Maxwell 2200. There is a breaker at the main electrical panel, and a dedicated Maxwell isolator/breaker unit in the pilothouse, which has a switch and a reset button.


For a while now, it has seemed to get slow with extended use. If we’re halibut fishing with 200’ of chain out, and we have to move a time or two, it runs slower and slower to where I’ve had to wait a while (with engines running) to get the voltage back up. I figured it was the battery - we have a single 8D forward which I believed powered the bow thruster and windlass - which was at least 10 years old, and the thruster didn’t seem to be delivering its usual power either. So I replaced that battery, only to discover that it doesn’t drive the windlass - the windlass apparently is connected to the start bank, which doesn’t seem ideal. There seems to be plenty of power for starting the engines.

Yesterday we were anchored in 150’ of water fishing, and on pulling up the anchor the windlass seemed to be slowing down again. I checked the voltage on the start bank and it was down to 11.4 V. With a few breaks it came back up some, but after a while the windlass quit entirely.

The breaker wasn’t tripped, but the indicator light on the isolator/breaker unit wasn’t lit. Resetting the two breakers did nothing, and the reset button did nothing. The windlass motor was very hot.


I couldn’t figure out any way to restore power. Because we were unable to manually bring up the anchor (a 110’ Bruce with 200’ of chain weighs a lot), I eventually cut it loose.

I suppose the low voltage could have caused the motor to overheat and fry something, but that wouldn’t explain either (1) why we had low voltage in the first place, or (2) why there is now no power at the panel.

I suppose there could be another breaker or fuse that tripped somewhere else that I don’t know about. When we return home I could start tracing wires back with a voltmeter. But I wonder if anyone knows where there might be another breaker or fuse to check. Or any ideas about the original low voltage issue.
 
I suspect the motor burned out or there's a thermal breaker in it that tripped. The low voltage makes perfect sense to me, starting batteries aren't meant to feed medium current (100+ amps, I'd guess), sustained loads like that. I recommend that you connect the windlass to the house bank instead of the start bank and make sure it's charged before you start using the windlass, or at least leave the genset running while you use the windlass, assuming you have plenty of charge current available.
 
I’ve hoisted an anchor hundreds of times with a 2200 on a DF. We too found the best retrievals occurred with the genset running as the alternators were not always sufficient. What is your onboard charging setup and capacity?

Have you checked the voltage drop at the windlass over time while lifting the anchor? Do you have a house bank? If so, check to see if it is powering your windlass.

Doubtful the Maxwell solenoid is the culprit. But pristine large cable wiring is essential. Another issue can be the windlass itself whether gearing or the motor. When was the last time your windlass was serviced? The Maxwell book will walk you through it. Corroded wiring, old batteries, old tired motor and an unserviced windlass are all potential weak spots especially if this is a new issue

Lastly, do you have a spare windlass motor in your onboard parts store? Vital IMHO.
 
Are those voltages from your handheld meter or a dash gauge? Either way, if you making sure you are getting the right voltage at the terminals on the windlass motor will tell you a lot. I am in a similar situation.

On the subject or poor connections, don't forget that as resistance rises, so do amps to the point that volts start dropping. That creates heat at worst, and rapid battery drain at best. Wire brush those terminals and reassemble.
 
What motor is on the winch?
If it's as old as the boat that's 32 years on what could be a Lucas 12v starter motor. Probably time for a freshen up at a motor shop, new brushes at the least. I have had several rebuilt with good results.
 
Thank you for the thoughts. A few answers. I believe the motor is original from 1992 (at least it looks that old). No idea of it has a thermal cutout; the manual says nothing about one. My voltage readings are from the gauge at the dash. Unfortunately, my handheld voltmeter on the boat chose this trip to fail as well. We’re just back today and I haven’t gotten back to the boat with another voltmeter yet.

The windlass had a full commercial service 2 years ago, and I took it apart this summer to install a new chainwheel, and greased everything in the process.

There are indicator lights on both breakers in the pilot house, which normally come on with the breakers but which are now dead. It seems to me that a burned out motor or solenoid wouldn’t explain that.

My working theory at this point is that the low voltage caused the motor to overheat which caused the large breaker in the pilot house to trip, at which point the breaker malfunctioned and now it won’t reset. That’s the only theory I can think of that explains why I’m not getting power to the indicator lights at the breakers in the pilot house.

As far as the low voltage that caused this, I’m guessing my start batteries are getting old. They’re 8 years old. Although the engines start strong every time, I checked the start bank voltage while starting this morning and it got down to 10.7.

I’ll get to the boat with a voltmeter tomorrow and see if there is power coming into the breaker. If so, I think the first step would be to replace that breaker.

Followed by replacing the start batteries, the anchor, and some new anchor chain. It’s only money.
 
Definitely start with that meter. It’ll make the rest of the job a lot less expensive! No lights on the panel plus the recent service on the motor make that panel look like the right place to start. 12 VDC there then on and on till you don’t find 12 VDC. Good luck.
 
From your description, it sounds like you may have the Maxwell automatic overload protector. (Pictured below). It will reset itself but it will take a bit of time.
 

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I think I’ve identified the problem. The breaker/isolator at the pilot house (pictured) has a large On-Off switch, an indicator light, and a resettable breaker.
IMG_0078.jpeg

Voltmeter shows current going into the on-off switch, coming out when it is on, going into the red reset breaker, but nothing coming out of that breaker no matter how many times I push the button. So it appears that breaker failed when it tripped. I’ve ordered a new breaker (Klixon SDLM-150) and with luck that will solve the immediate problem.

The underlying low voltage problem seems to be a worn out battery bank, which should be easy to solve with new batteries.

Thanks to everyone for the advice!
 
Check the wiring between the batteries and the windlass.

Corroded connections , poor crimps of fittings , CLEAN connections , loose connections, inadequate wire size can all contribute to low voltage getting to the windlass in spite of the batteries being OK. The windlass MUST have proper voltage to operate properly or it can fail to do the expected job AND damage itself.

Use a dielectric grease or a product like NoAlox to coat the wire connections against corrosion buildup. Just a light coat is needed to hold corrosion at bay for years.

Have you checked ALL of the connections on both the positive lead AND the negative lead? They are a circuit, not just one wire or the other.

Redo any that look the least bit dicey or questionable. Also be sure the wire size is adequate for the length of the run between the battery and the windlass.

Just another comment about which battery set the windlass is run from , it should be from the house set in my opinion or you run the risk of not being able to start the engine one day.

Good luck and happy wiring.
 
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Check the wiring between the batteries and the windlass.

Corroded connections , poor crimps of fittings , CLEAN connections , loose connections, inadequate wire size can all contribute to low voltage getting to the windlass in spite of the batteries being OK. The windlass MUST have proper voltage to operate properly or it can fail to do the expected job AND damage itself.

Use a dielectric grease or a product like NoAlox to coat the wire connections against corrosion buildup.

Have you checked ALL of the connections on both the positive lead AND the negative lead? They are a circuit, not just one wire or the other.

Redo any that look the least bit dicey or questionable. Also be sure the wire size is adequate for the length of the run between the battery and the windlass.

Just another comment about which battery set the windlass is run from , it should be from the house set in my opinion or you run the risk of not being able to start the engine one day.

Good luck and happy wiring.

I cannot seem to delete this duplicate post. It is not needed.
 
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