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Just jump your alternator to the starter post already.

Geoff W.

Makes Up For It With Enthusiasm
Blogs Author
Sometimes you get a project that's so blindingly, stupidly easy, yet has such a massive effect that it's hard to believe.

I've been dragging my feet on this one, mostly because I haven't wanted to deal with making a custom, low-gauge wire jumper and also because both the alt and the starter were intimidating to me. Replacing the latter removed any mystery from its operation, and two minutes looking at the alt wiring dispelled any clouds I had about what wire went where.

I'm on a social distancing cruise with my gf, committing to no docks, shore power, or small town visits for the duration. We're on day 4 or so, and a couple days ago I began to despair as my battery monitor showed the "usual" 1.5 to 3 amps flowing into the battery. It's been like this since I got it, but it's never been an impending emergency before. Can't run my fridge full of perishables, can't charge my laptop (I'm SUPPOSED to be working from home). I thought I might as well start running the engine 24hrs a day just to keep itself alive at this point.

I reprogrammed the regulator to AGM mode. No change. Multimeter test of the alt showed at least 13.5V at the positive terminal, but only 12.8V were making it to the batteries. So the problem must be transmission of power, right? Cleaned alternator contacts and re-terminated some dodgy wiring. This got me to 5 amps flowing in during bulk charging... it's progress, but I still can't run my fridge. And isn't this thing a 50A alternator?

I bet most of us on here have read the must-do Universal improvements, and know about the imminent Doom of the ammeter and trailer plugs in the engine wiring. That long run of 14GA orange wiring to the engine panel ammeter and back plagued my dreams last night or something, because this morning I cannibalized my unused battery switch cable and jerry rigged a jumper from the alt to the starter post.

Lo and behold, bulk charging is getting me 30+ amps. Hallelujah, I can run all the electronics in the house and still refill the banks with that!

Maybe I'm the last guy left in the house who hasn't tackled this simple project, but if anyone is left teetering on starting, get it done yesterday. Maine Sail's post about it is here:

I still have to replace the trailer plugs themselves and redo my engine panel, but what a difference this made. Definitely motivating to see what other simple improvements can be made just with some new / cleaned wiring.
 

Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
Hi Geoff,
Good work! I had delayed replacing the 2 trailer plugs because they looked clean inside, mechanic said they looked ok, and I don't like electrical work. But I had very occasional start problems where nothing happened when I pushed the start button. So after replacing the start button, cleaning all connections, I finally replaced the trailer plugs with a bus bar. It was much easier than I expected (especially with a ratcheting crimper), and I haven't had a start problem since. I would encourage you to replace them before long.
Frank
 

Tin Kicker

Sustaining Member
Moderator
The alternator output and glow plug mods are very worthwhile changes. Do pay heed to Mainesails' comment:

"Please note that I generally advise running the alternator output directly to the house bank, not to the starter as shown here. You can then install an automatic combining relay (ACR) or an Echo Charger between the banks to charge both simultaneously. Doing this will remove the potential for fried diodes via the flipping of the battery switch through the OFF position."

In the meantime or if not going to install the ACR, try to not rotate the battery switch while the engine is running. Each time you do hits those diodes with the alternator output and even though they were rated for it when new, they just aren't that new anymore.

I'd encourage doing the glow plug mod as well, because it is also running a high current 10 AWG circuit through those 35 year old (in my case) corroded trailer connectors. When replacing the trailer connectors with terminal strips, the one near the starter is easy to find and replace, but don't forget that there is a second trailer connector hiding beneath the cockpit control panel.

fwiw - I made up some combined schematics a while ago (example below) and have been finding that the diagrams they were based in differ from how the boat was wired. Most of what I'm seeing does appear to be the 1985 factory wiring so I can't blame previous owners for most of these and the message is to check yours before making electrical changes. When I finish the current fuel system replacement and can get in there with the schematics illustrationon the iPad I will update the electrical schematics and post them.

 
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Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
During our last season with the original Universal engine and harness, I bought an inexpensive laser-pointer temperature reader device. It showed that each (!) trailer plug was ten degrees over ambient. :eek:
Wrapping my hand around each, I could indeed feel some warmth.

That, along with other engine and trans concerns, brought us to the decision point of a total rebuild of the propulsion system.... or replacement. I went with a new engine. Blog entries on this site. Bob's pix here showing his terminal strip solution are eloquent.
Perhaps I am easily intimidated, but rebuilding our whole cockpit panel was going to be a major project all by itself.

BTW, one of the first symptoms of failing panel and plug wiring was when my lift pump stopped working part of the time -- my volt meter showed it was receiving two volts less than battery voltage. I bypassed that part of the harness with a #12 wire and instantly restored full voltage. More proof that the whole harness was dying.
 

1911tex

Sustaining Member
Sometimes you get a project that's so blindingly, stupidly easy, yet has such a massive effect that it's hard to believe.

I've been dragging my feet on this one, mostly because I haven't wanted to deal with making a custom, low-gauge wire jumper and also because both the alt and the starter were intimidating to me. Replacing the latter removed any mystery from its operation, and two minutes looking at the alt wiring dispelled any clouds I had about what wire went where.

I'm on a social distancing cruise with my gf, committing to no docks, shore power, or small town visits for the duration. We're on day 4 or so, and a couple days ago I began to despair as my battery monitor showed the "usual" 1.5 to 3 amps flowing into the battery. It's been like this since I got it, but it's never been an impending emergency before. Can't run my fridge full of perishables, can't charge my laptop (I'm SUPPOSED to be working from home). I thought I might as well start running the engine 24hrs a day just to keep itself alive at this point.

I reprogrammed the regulator to AGM mode. No change. Multimeter test of the alt showed at least 13.5V at the positive terminal, but only 12.8V were making it to the batteries. So the problem must be transmission of power, right? Cleaned alternator contacts and re-terminated some dodgy wiring. This got me to 5 amps flowing in during bulk charging... it's progress, but I still can't run my fridge. And isn't this thing a 50A alternator?

I bet most of us on here have read the must-do Universal improvements, and know about the imminent Doom of the ammeter and trailer plugs in the engine wiring. That long run of 14GA orange wiring to the engine panel ammeter and back plagued my dreams last night or something, because this morning I cannibalized my unused battery switch cable and jerry rigged a jumper from the alt to the starter post.

Lo and behold, bulk charging is getting me 30+ amps. Hallelujah, I can run all the electronics in the house and still refill the banks with that!

Maybe I'm the last guy left in the house who hasn't tackled this simple project, but if anyone is left teetering on starting, get it done yesterday. Maine Sail's post about it is here:

I still have to replace the trailer plugs themselves and redo my engine panel, but what a difference this made. Definitely motivating to see what other simple improvements can be made just with some new / cleaned wiring.
Geoff: Question #1: When you jumped the alternator to the starter positive post, according to the instructions, you should also run a same size black wire from the alternator ground terminal to the engine and battery ground connection point. Did you do this?

The mod instructions also state remove the Orange wire from both the ammeter and from the alternator output terminal...Question #2...is the Orange wire on the output terminal the same terminal you jumped from alternator to starter positive post? ....("I am trying to figure out where the Output terminal is on the alternator.")... I am contemplating the same mod.
 
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Geoff W.

Makes Up For It With Enthusiasm
Blogs Author
Geoff: When you jumped the alternator to the starter positive post, according to the instructions, you should also run a same size black wire from he alternator ground terminal to the engine and battery ground connection point. Did you do this? I am contemplating the same mod.

No, I did not do this. Thanks for pointing out that oversight. I'm guessing that as a result of skipping it, I'm overtaxing some poorly sized negative wire somewhere down the circuit?
 

Tin Kicker

Sustaining Member
Moderator
Without the ground wire the ground path is through the alternator mounting pivot and bracket. It's functional with a tight bracket but if the bracket becomes loose you can lose the charging (degraded ground path) or an intermittent rattle can cause spikes in the current, which again is extremely hard on the old diodes.
 

Geoff W.

Makes Up For It With Enthusiasm
Blogs Author
Without the ground wire the ground path is through the alternator mounting pivot and bracket. It's functional with a tight bracket but if the bracket becomes loose you can lose the charging (degraded ground path) or an intermittent rattle can cause spikes in the current, which again is extremely hard on the old diodes.

Thanks. I have the upgraded bracket and recently checked the nuts so I think it'll get me through this trip, but I'll make it an ASAP task when I get home.
 

Geoff W.

Makes Up For It With Enthusiasm
Blogs Author
The mod instructions also state remove the Orange wire from both the ammeter and from the alternator output terminal...Question #2...is the Orange wire on the output terminal the same terminal you jumped from alternator to starter positive post? ....("I am trying to figure out where the Output terminal is on the alternator.")... I am contemplating the same mod.

Saw your follow up question here - Yes, the Orange wire and the positive wire leading to my external regulator were on the same post. The diagram on the back of my alternator points to it as the "positive output" as well... that sticker may fade with time, though.

I disconnected the orange wire from the alternator output terminal and electrical taped it. It's still connected to the engine panel itself, and the ammeter still seems to be reading something.. perhaps current flowing through the panel itself?

For posterity, I will self-admit I did a hackjob to keep us going under way :)
 

debonAir

Member III
I also recently did the ammeter-to-starter post conversion, mostly prompted by getting a Balmar 70A alternator which would probably fry the orange wire. Installed the volt meter in the pane where the ammeter was and did that little re-wire job and it works nicely. I decided to go to the starter post from the alternator, not the house bank, for a few reasons:

1 - It was easier and shorter
2 - I reconfigured the battery system so that the house bank is on 1 and the reserve/emergency-start on 2, and 1 is *always* selected,
3 - I got an alternator-protector (from Maine Sail's site) that will re-direct any spikes through it which will save the diodes in the alternator. This way if anyone switches off the battery switch (or a wire falls off..) the diodes won't cook. battery-switch-paranoia finally gone..

To keep 2 charged I put an echo charger between 1 and 2. This way 2 is charged whenever 1 is above 13 volts. There is a solar panel and controller connected to the battery switch as well. With the switch always on 1 the solar panel charges both batteries (2 via the echo charger once 1 is up past 13V) and I never have to think about which battery should get the solar treatment when I leave, never have to think about which battery needs charging the most, etc.

4 - Now if I ever do get really really low on 1, or it fails, I just switch to 2 and that gets all the charge from the alternator and solar. Had I wired alternator and solar direct to the house battery I'd have to rewire all that to 2 should 1 ever fail, i.e swap really heavy batteries at sea. The switch just seemed like it'd be a lot easier in a pinch.

5 - If or some reason 2 got really really low, and 1 was OK, I could switch to 2 with the engine running and quick charge 2. The echo charger only gives out 15A at most, while the alternator will do 70 (in theory).

Also put in a battery monitor as part of all that rework. Its shunt is on 1, so I can tell its state closely. I got a "Renogy" brand which is a bunch cheaper than the "marine" ones, but I got it because it shows what you want to know all at once (A, V, Ah, SOC) instead of having to scroll or wait. And now its snug in its new cast-epoxy bracket

batmoninst.jpg
Hopefully I get to see how this all works soon!.
 
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Kenneth K

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
I still have to replace the trailer plugs themselves and redo my engine panel, but what a difference this made. Definitely motivating to see what other simple improvements can be made just with some new / cleaned wiring.

Everyone seems to know the benefits of eliminating the trailer plugs, but you don't have to do them all at once (two connectors X 8 wires each--that's a lot of crimp connections). It's only the high amperage wires that are a pressing hazard--the red power supply, orange charging circuit, and gray glow plugs.

The light-blue and tan wires are just the ground/signals for the temp gauge and oil pressure light (very low amperage). The purple wire is also very low amperage if it's only used for alternator excitation (mine was also powering the fuel pump--that adds 1.6A). Whether you are using the orange or yellow-red wire for the starter solenoid that is still only 2.3A (according to MaineSail). The black/ground wire is probably not carrying much power either--the glow plugs, and starter solenoid ground themselves to the engine. The black wire is mostly grounding the engine panels lights and gauges, however, if you have a blower installed, it's likely grounding that as well.

If you don't want to tackle them all at once, you can prioritize on the basis of safety. I finally removed the last of my low-amperage wires from the lower trailer plug last week, due to "isolation boredom."

Probably much more important than the low-amperage wires is to move the in-line fuse (in the Red "supply" trailer plug wire) to the engine compartment (i.e, within a few inches of where it picks up power from the starter post). Mine was fused only at the engine panel--that's 11 feet of "hot" wire that can chafe and short out at any point along its long path.
 
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Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
Ken,
While you are right that certain wires are much more important than others, I found that cutting off the trailer plug, then baring the wire ends a bit to add a ring terminal, and then screwing them into the bus bar--all eight wires times two (for each part of the trailer plug) took a little over an hour. The result looked neat, easily understood with all the wire colours attached across from each other on the buss bar. If one only does the high current wires, it will be piecemeal, unattractive and risks that the owner may never get back to doing the lower current wires. I would recommend biting the bullet and doing them all at once--it's one of the easier jobs on a boat, with positive impact on the start system.
Frank
 

Kenneth K

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
Frank, your logic is hard to argue with.

I guess maybe it just depends on what else you have going on with your particular boat at the time. I did the high -draw wires on the lower plug when I replaced the alternator bracket in 2016. I replaced all the wires on the upper plug when I did my engine panel last April. And, I just did the remaining wires last week.

Why get it all done in an hour when you can stretch it out over three years? :)
 

Soupy sails

Member I
Gentleman,

This is such a useful conversation. It may be covering old ground but there are a lot of things in this thread that are looked at from different perspectives then the former conversations that are so helpful. It's clearing up a lot of questions I had in my head. Now if I could just get to my boat and start wrenching.

Thank you all, and be safe,

Dan
 

1911tex

Sustaining Member
Sometimes you get a project that's so blindingly, stupidly easy, yet has such a massive effect that it's hard to believe.

I've been dragging my feet on this one, mostly because I haven't wanted to deal with making a custom, low-gauge wire jumper and also because both the alt and the starter were intimidating to me. Replacing the latter removed any mystery from its operation, and two minutes looking at the alt wiring dispelled any clouds I had about what wire went where.

I'm on a social distancing cruise with my gf, committing to no docks, shore power, or small town visits for the duration. We're on day 4 or so, and a couple days ago I began to despair as my battery monitor showed the "usual" 1.5 to 3 amps flowing into the battery. It's been like this since I got it, but it's never been an impending emergency before. Can't run my fridge full of perishables, can't charge my laptop (I'm SUPPOSED to be working from home). I thought I might as well start running the engine 24hrs a day just to keep itself alive at this point.

I reprogrammed the regulator to AGM mode. No change. Multimeter test of the alt showed at least 13.5V at the positive terminal, but only 12.8V were making it to the batteries. So the problem must be transmission of power, right? Cleaned alternator contacts and re-terminated some dodgy wiring. This got me to 5 amps flowing in during bulk charging... it's progress, but I still can't run my fridge. And isn't this thing a 50A alternator?

I bet most of us on here have read the must-do Universal improvements, and know about the imminent Doom of the ammeter and trailer plugs in the engine wiring. That long run of 14GA orange wiring to the engine panel ammeter and back plagued my dreams last night or something, because this morning I cannibalized my unused battery switch cable and jerry rigged a jumper from the alt to the starter post.

Lo and behold, bulk charging is getting me 30+ amps. Hallelujah, I can run all the electronics in the house and still refill the banks with that!

Maybe I'm the last guy left in the house who hasn't tackled this simple project, but if anyone is left teetering on starting, get it done yesterday. Maine Sail's post about it is here:

I still have to replace the trailer plugs themselves and redo my engine panel, but what a difference this made. Definitely motivating to see what other simple improvements can be made just with some new / cleaned wiring.
Just finished the update and I appreciate your kind assistance. Engine starts cold it seems in a single bump of the starter after 15 seconds glow plug heat. Restarted several times during the day without using glow plug button. Temp is nailed on 180 with the new 180 thermostat. I did do the recommended alt. to ground as well. The original fuse (yellow/red wire) was just like posted....fell apart in my hands when taking the old fuse out. The orange wire is history. It really is a simple project, but it does take time...if you are as anal as I am. Just amazed this Kubota diesel ran under these old worn out wiring conditions. Next I need replace the ammeter with a voltmeter. Please don't forget to remove and clean the crud off the battery to engine ground. That should be step one! Blows my mind it even made contact. If you have not done this mod....DO IT!
 

Kenneth K

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
Just on the remote chance that I haven’t already beat this horse long after its death, I did think of one more point about removing the trailer plugs that might be helpful to anyone who hasn’t done it yet.

Most of us follow MaineSail’s (Compass Marine) post about the subject and put in nice terminal bars with ring terminals to replace the trailer plugs. And why not; if you get results anything close to MaineSail’s, you can usually be pretty happy with yourself for doing so. That’s how I started. But, it wasn’t until nearly the end of the project that I realized that the terminal bars and ring terminals aren’t really adding much functionality—the real goal of the upgrade being to eliminate the poor conductivity/heat/fire hazard of the plugs. An easier way to accomplish this is just cut out the plug and butt-splice the wires back together.

Adding terminal bars and ring terminals near the engine doesn’t add much to the equation because every circuit on the lower end of the engine wiring harness (the opposite end of the trailer plug) already has its own ring terminal to connect it to its given component. I.E., if you replace your starter, you still have to disconnect the lower ring terminal at the starter, not the one at the terminal block you just installed. Same goes for glow plugs, charging and alternator excitation circuits, the oil pressure sender, and the water temp sender.

The strongest case for adding a terminal bar and more ring terminals is probably for the Red (panel power) and Black (ground) wires. Having these on a terminal block allows you to power (and ground) add-on devices from your terminal bar. If you’re going to add a glow-plug relay, then add the gray (glow plug) wire to the bar, too. If your Purple (alternator excitation) wire has multiple splices to power the Hobbs, and the fuel pump (like mine did), then this is also better handled on a terminal block than with splices. By now you’ve already moved 4 of the 8 wires to the terminal block. Do whatever you want with the rest, but at least you can choose “why” you are doing it.

You could make a similar argument for the other trailer plug up at the engine panel, but here, things are a little different because of the cramped space. Because of the inevitable rats-nest of wires-to/from-gauges, wires-to/from-lights, and wires-to/from-switches (all within maybe 120 sq inches) I would argue that a separate terminal bus adds more functionality in this area—it makes future work on the panel much simpler.

Rant over; horse dead……
 
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1911tex

Sustaining Member
Horse is NEVER dead...better/alternative ideas makes for greater functionality and a better all around sailboat. With all the $$ and too long hours we put in working on these boats...it also make a great argument to keep a running log on everything. Self satisfaction/accomplishment and greater sales appeal down the line.
 

Kenneth K

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
......better/alternative ideas makes for greater functionality and a better all around sailboat.

Yes. And, as one of my favorite paraphrases of someone else on this site: All these projects are great when you realize that setting fire to $20 bills isn't a fast enough way to get rid of them.....
 
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