Keep Current With Your Boat's Electrics

Shocking tips to help you overcome resistance.

Repairing/Replacing Running Lights

Photo of boat with running lights on

If possible, use the same style to replace the old units so no more holes will have to be drilled in the deck. Use through-bolts with backing plates where possible, especially the bow light; if it comes loose at speed, it could become a flying weapon to passengers. The connections are easy: positive and negative. Negative goes to the (-) side of the battery, positive goes to a dash-mounted switch that gets positive power from the battery. Make sure all connections are protected (using heat-shrink tubing) and not stretched.

Polarity Tester

Photo of a polarity tester

Around water, reversed AC polarity can be a matter of life or death. When hot and neutral are reversed — a depressingly common fault — equipment you believe to be safely OFF is actually still energized. You, or someone on your boat, can complete the circuit by inadvertent contact. Unless all of your 110-volt equipment is powered through an AC breaker panel with an integral reversed-polarity warning system, buy a plug-in polarity tester and use it everywhere to test the dock wiring before you plug in. And share it with your friends too.

Breaker Breaker

Most boats have various types of fuses that act as electrical breakers for everything from our main engine to the generator, water pump, thrusters, bilge pumps, and more. A fuse burns out, acting as a sacrificial lamb so that whatever is connected to it isn't damaged. The problem behind a blown fuse may have been because of moisture, too much load, or even corrosion. Correcting the cause of the failure is the first step before replacing the blown fuse. The important final step is to replace the blown fuse, but it won't do much good unless you have a stash of replacement fuses onboard. The reason for having a stockpile is that when you need a spare fuse, you'll most likely not be anywhere close to where you can get what you need, or if you are, they may not have the desired amperage or style of fuse in stock. Make it a practice to carry multiple spares of every type of fuse your boat uses. I think you'll be surprised at the variety, just on your own boat. Keep them in a Ziploc bag or closed container to keep them dry and fresh until the untimely event occurs. Never use a fuse rated higher than the one that blew. 

— Published: Fall 2014


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