Questions about replacing those trailer plugs

Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
Hi,
I have owned our E30+ for 13 years, and noted early on that the starting circuit has been rewired to shorten the long wire runs and increase wire thickness as has often been discussed on this site. But the trailer plugs had not been replaced in the engine compartment and in the engine panel area. I have regularly taken the plugs apart to ensure they were clean and added some dielectric grease to keep them functional. But I now have an occasional episode where when I activate the start button, nothing happens, especially after anchoring out. It never happens when the boat is on shore power and fully charged. The batteries have been thoroughly tested, wiring cleaned and tested in the engine panel and at the solenoid and starter. So that leaves only the trailer plugs as a possible source of resistance and low voltage, I think. So I'm planning to replace them with bus bars.
So, my questions: The fix seems to be to cut off the plugs, clean the wires, crimp on ring terminals and attach to the bus bar. In our boat the wiring seems pretty tight and I'm concerned I may not have enough slack to reattach the wires - - have any of you encountered that? Secondly, I will need two bus bars, and that may be ok, but would it be much better to simply run new wires from each connection on the engine to the engine panel without the added complexity of two bus bars?
I know just replacing the trailer plugs with bus bars would be easier than rewiring, and the bus bars provide an open, accessible connection to check voltage or resistance in the future.
Any thoughts or advice from those of you who have done this?
Thanks,
Frank
 
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Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
Well, maybe the trailer connectors are an issue. But if they look like new--who knows?

I have never understood the need for a bus bar when removing the trailer connectors. Why not just butt-slice the wires?
 

Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
Thanks, Christian. Yes, I could just butt splice, which would be easier than connecting to a bus bar. However, I would lose the ability to check voltage or resistance in the circuit as readily as with the additional bus bar connections. Maybe that's not so important...
Frank
 

markvone

Sustaining Member
Hi Frank,

My trailer plugs were in great shape when I finally cut them out a few years ago. My wires did not have a lot of slack at either end. I only added a bus bar at the engine control panel end since I had the panel out for refurbishment. I butt spliced the engine end of the wires. I never had any issues with any of the circuits in the past so I never thought about the advantage of diagnostic access with the engine end bus bar. Now that the engine control panel is redone I doubt I'll need the bus bar at that end very much in the future. I would just butt splice both ends of the wires where the trailer plugs are if I were doing it again. Any future diagnostics (hopefully minimal) can be done at the engine and panel ends. NOTE: The back of the engine control panel on the E36RH is easily accessible behind an interior access at the foot of the quarter berth. If the E30+ back panel access is poor, adding a bus bar at that end (using the existing wires) and then extending each of the wires to the panel (with new wires) would allow you to pull the panel in the cockpit to access the back.

For your starting issue, I would check 1) the starter button first (since the problem is intermittent), 2) the connection of the wire at the starter (since this is easy) and 3) then consider taking the starter/solenoid for a checkup at a rebuild shop.

Mark
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Those Darned "trailer plugs'

For a nice example of engine re-wiring "done right" check out Bob's (aka Supersailor) pix on this site.
Interesting comment about harness length, as ours had five or six feet of excess cabling coiled up back near the panel. Original Universal wiring likely came with few options for the intervening harness, between the panel the and the plug in the engine compartment, is my observation.
EY usually had to choose from a couple of options for a longer center section that had some excess to coil up. Perhaps on your model they actually had "just enough" to go the distance, with no wire left over.

I did not replace our engine just to have a new panel and harness..... but..... that was certainly a great outcome of the repower project. :rolleyes:
 

Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
Thanks, guys. That's very helpful information. I'm hoping that replacing the trailer plugs resolves the intermittent starting problem. I'm hoping to avoid having to remove the starter motor and solenoid which are hard to reach without dismantling other parts, and those bolts have never been touched, so are probably pretty stuck in there.
I'm now leaning towards butt splice connection rather than bus bar, based on your comments.
Frank
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
>>>when I activate the start button, nothing happens, especially after anchoring out.

I'm curious how/when the engine eventually starts when this happens.
 

Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
Hi Christian,

This intermittent start problem happens without warning, and the engine can be either warm (from having run earlier that day) or cold (even with 20 secs. glow plug). Normally the engine will start within a couple of seconds, but when the problem occurs, I push the start button and nothing happens--no cranking, no solenoid clicking. At first, when I thought it might be my older house batteries starting to fail, I switched to the "all/both" setting and with the extra power from the starting battery, it would start right away.

I have since then replaced the house battery bank, and now routinely use the house battery to start the engine, reserving the start battery for exceptional or emergency use. But the intermittent start problem was not solved by replacing the batteries (though they were due for replacement after 14 years!), and when the problem occurs, I have lately tried waiting a few moments for the battery to recover after using the glow plug when cold, thinking that maybe it hasn't bounced back to higher voltage yet--I'm undecided if this makes any difference in the problem. I have also tried pushing the start button several times in a row (rather than switching to "all/both") and it has started after the second or third try. That got me thinking it was a loose connection, or start button, so I replaced the start button, cleaned/tightened all the starting circuit connections and ground wires to minimize resistance, but that has not solved the problem. The trailer plugs still look good inside--no corrosion evident and they fit together tightly--but replacing them is probably a good idea anyway, and is easier than removing the solenoid and start motor. If replacing the trailer plugs doesn't solve it, then I guess I'll have to remove the solenoid and start motor. Given that I don't hear the solenoid clicking, and the start motor always sounds fine, it could be a questionable solenoid, but it's attached to the starter, so both would have to come out. They are both original to the 1984 boat.

It's interesting to me that the starting problem rarely if ever occurs when the boat has been plugged into shore power. I seem to experience it more often (though still infrequently) after anchoring out. But it occurred recently after anchoring out for the night (though with very limited power/battery use) and then I ran the engine for a good hour or more, stopped for refuelling and it happened when I went to restart the engine--so the battery had been recharging for an hour or more after limited discharge and the engine was at operating temp. It should have started immediately but took two or three push attempts on the start button to get it going!!

I'd welcome any further suggestions!

Frank
 
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Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
Thanks, Al. I thought the same thing, so I replaced the button and that didn't solve it. I have recently also tested the button for resistance using my multimeter, thinking maybe I had bought a faulty button, but it checked out fine. I think the problem has to be either increased resistance in the trailer plugs or resistance/poor connections in the solenoid, given that the solenoid doesn't even click when the problem occurs. But then it will all start fine as usual with a couple more pushes on the start button--I don't understand that.
Frank
 

Tin Kicker

Member III
The starter button should be just one circuit. You might start by taking a single (long) strand of wire from the button to the other end of the circuit, in parallel with the one going through the trailer connector. It'll probably be ugly but it's temporary. If the problem goes away, you know what you need to do before chopping into the harness.

Good luck with it and let us know how it turns out.
 

debonAir

Member III
Hmm, I have the *exact* same symptoms with my start button. I did replace the starter with a new unit and it definitely got better, but not 100%. Note, the only way I got the bolts off the old starter was by using special "extractor" sockets from Harbor Freight. They are both really short (which is needed to get into the recess the bolt heads are in) and they have one-way sharp teeth inside that really clamp down on the bolt head when torquing out. Highly recommended.

I too am at a loss for the reason for the occasional no-start. The one time its happened since replacing the starter I got it started by using both batteries, but I think it might have been just the wait period?

My start button is still in series with the glow button, so both have to make good contact. When I replace the start button I will also replace the glow button at the same time and *maybe* wire them separately so I can start without glow current if needed. In either case, they're really old and perhaps the contacts aren't reliable? They could read fine with a multi-meter but sending a bunch of amps through might spark corrosion or something that prevents the starter until the corrosion is sparked back off?

Looking forward to hearing if you find a solution!
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
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Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
Thanks for the additional suggestions. The glow plug and start buttons are wired separately on my boat and the glow plugs work consistently, so I don't think I have an issue there.
I could run a separate wire from the start button to the solenoid to bypass the trailer plugs. There is a spade connector at the solenoid, so I'd have to disconnect that and run a new wire with new spade connector there, and a ring connector at the start button, but that may be a good way to see if the trailer plugs are causing the intermittent problem. Mmmm.
Frank
 

Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
Thanks, Christian. I have thoroughly cleaned all the connections, so I don't think it's a ground connection.
But keep the suggestions coming!
Frank
 

debonAir

Member III
You've probably seen this thread, but when Merrimist had this problem it turned out to be the ground.

the batt to engine neg terminal had not been cleaned. ...Indeed after more work that was not really required, it was found and cleaned and was indeed the cause of the problem

http://www.ericsonyachts.org/infoexchange/showthread.php?14228-Universal-M40-32-HP-intermittent-starter-prob

R&R of the starter on a 32-3 is awkward but doable. I wonder if anyone has done it on a 30+?
Thanks Christian. As part of starter R&R I had removed the alternator and gave all the metal-to-metal contacts between the alternator and engine, and between the engine and batt. ground wire a thorough wire brushing till all shiny.
 

Keith Parcells

Sustaining Member
The spade connector on the back of the solenoid is a suspect in this mystery. Clean the metal of the spade and squeeze the connector tighter to improve the connection if that is the problem. It was for me.
 

Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
Thanks, Keith. I did clean that spade on the solenoid, and squeezed the open part with needle nose pliers and reattached. However, it goes on in such a cramped space behind the alternator that I wonder if I got the spade between the metal connector, or perhaps its between the outside of the connector and the plastic which would make a worse connection. I tried to be very careful, and have tugged on it a bit and it seems tight, so I hope that's not the problem. If it were it should be a constant starting problem, not intermittent, so I think that's not the cause.
Still trying to figure it out.
Frank
 

supersailor

Contributing Partner
The solenoid is very old and is the likely cause of the problem. It happens on all vehicles. The magnetic contact "burns" slightly each time the magnetic contact slams closed. Eventually, it looks terrible. This would be a good wintertime project.

Before I rewired the boat and after, I have had problems with the glow, starter and ignition switches. Pumping a huge amperage through all of them guarantees problems even when so many are high amperage marine switches. Electricity and salt water make very poor companions. The only secure connections are solid ones. Spade connectors allow moisture in and corrode. The best control is to use a little dielectric grease at each connector and use only shrink fit terminals. Also, tinned wire is a smart choice.

The engine wiring used by Ericson and most other manufacturers would be generously called iffy. It was easy and quick and guess who gets to live with it. After 30 years of cussing at trailer connectors on real trailers, I have no use for them. They have no place in a system crucial to the safety of the vessel.

I did use a relay for the glow plugs and the voltage at the plugs went up from 9.6 volts to 11.3 volts at the plug. It was like supercharging the plugs. I had an immediate start after 10 seconds on the plugs at 28 degrees F. It took about 1 1/2 minutes at that temperature before. Of course, shortening the high amperage run from more than 26' to 2 1/2' and not running it through three switches tends to make a difference.

Everyone has their comfort level. Three engine failures in one year was enough for me. I have had zero failures in the years following the redo.P1000796.jpg
 

Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
Thanks for your lengthy and helpful post, Bob. My engine compartment looks pretty good, but not nearly as good as yours! Well done!!
I was hoping to avoid pulling the solenoid and starter motor, but I think you're right that I probably need to do that. I will likely also replace the trailor plugs as well in case they're contributing to the problem.
Someone mentioned a special wrench to get at the starter motor bolts. Any other advice on removing and reinstalling the solenoid and starter?
Frank
 
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