Boat Wiring Help and Advice

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For your reference, we offer boat wiring information about everything from shorepower installation to wire gauge calculations to standard boat wiring colors. To find the info that you need, just use the search box.

Or, if you need more specific information about a project, we offer free boat wiring help from Kevin Hannula, one of the industry’s most respected marine electrical geeks nerds authorities.

If you aren’t able to find the information that you need, please send an email to info@boatwiring.org

Melting AC

Hi Kevin

I purchased an old 1989 cruiser, a Regal 280 Commodore, and tripped the 20 amp dockside breaker while using a hatch a/c unit and an electric kettle. I have 30 amp service in the boat.

I reset the breaker and then the AC electric system worked for a few minutes and then went dead. Neither the dockside breaker nor onboard breaker tripped, but we smelled a burning smell. I immediately unplugged the AC system and looked behind the AC panel.

At the main breaker switch where the shore power comes in, I found the white wires melted and melting damage to the black wires. I can fix all the wires, but there is also some sort of capacitor that was wired as a jumper between the green and white wires and it is not in the wiring diagram of the boat. It looks like it has been burned out. I want to know what to replace it with, and then if this overall problem is something that points to the result of another problem or if it may have been some old wires getting warm and then touching.

I can replace everything as it was once I know what to put between the black and green wires, but don’t want to do that and then plug it in if there may be other issues that need addressing.

Thanks for your help.

Hi,

The only connection in your panel between the neutral and ground would be a reverse polarity indicator. Instead of a light, some boats have an alarm. Some of the piezoelectric alarms look like capacitors.

Hope this helps

Kevin

Probably Polarity

Kevin,

I need your assistance with my boat wiring.

I have changed trolling motor batteries in my boat and since, I have burned 2 twist plugs. My cables aren’t marked so is it possible I may have crossed them or is that something that would cause my dilemma.

What could be causing me to burn the plug? It has a 4 wire Marinco outlet.

Thank you

Hi

On a 12/24 marine electrical system, wiring the batteries is critical. Use a meter (not a test light) to determine if the polarity is correct and the battery cables are correctly connected.

The circuit protection in the positive leads at the battery should trip before you burn up the plug. If you don’t have fuses or breakers at the battery, now is a great time to add them.

Kevin

Lingering Light

Boat Wiring Guys,

I put in new VHF radio into my sailboat. The installation seemed to be successful except...

Now when I turn off the marine electrical panel switch for the VHF, the green light from the breaker goes out but not right away, slowly turning off in about half a second.

Is there any problem with this? Did I screw something up?

Thanks

Hi,

It is not a problem.

The light in the switch gets power when the output side of the switch has power. The residual light is caused by a capacitive charge that is in the VHF radio. This capacitor in the radio helps with noise and voltage spikes but will give the appearance of voltage on the power wire which makes the light stay on.

Hope this helps

Accessory Assessment

Hey guys,

The guys at Manitou gave me your contact info last year for a boat wiring question. You solution worked out perfectly. Now I have another question that I'm hoping you can answer for me.

2005 Manitou pontoon boat

On my 2006 Manitou Aurora, I have a switch that is wired up and it says Acc on it.

My question is...

Is this switch basically just a spare switch that I can use or does it do something with the panel that I'm not aware of? I would like to wire up my depth sounder to it but I want to make sure I don't screw anything up first.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You.

Hi,

The options that the switch could control would be very obvious: livewell pump, courtesy lights, etc. It probably does nothing and is just a blank.

The easiest way to answer this question is to look at the back of the switch. There should be 3 terminals on it.

  • Top right - ground for light inside of switch
  • Middle left - power into switch
  • Lower left - power to item
If the lower left terminal is open or has a short wire that leads to an open connector, then you should be all set to connect your depth sounder here.

Hope this helps,

Kevin