Sunday, March 22, 2009

Where there's a spare wire, there's a way

Chris here... I love fixing things in exotic places. That is the definition of cruising, right? Actually, I love fixing things in exotic places when they are easy to fix. Hard to fix... not so much.

In this case, I didn't know if I had an easy or hard to fix problem. A couple of days ago after the power went out I noticed on our battery monitor that our start battery was only charging to 12.65v It should have been above 13v while on shore power. I put off looking until today. Who wants to work when you can explore?

I opened up our condo (not an easy feat... pull up the companionway stairs, move the toolkit, move the miscellaneous tool bags, move the broom, move the gaff, move the 22 other things we store behind the stairs, open the door to the condo, pull out the spare life jackets, pull out the large storage container, pull out the... I think you get the idea). Actually, getting access to the area is half the reason I put off work back there!

I put the multimeter on the start battery just to confirm that it was only at 12.65v. Houston, we have confirmation. By the way - a GOOD multimeter with a digital display, continuity tester, DC testing to 20v, AC testing of some sort and resistance testing is absolutely critical. There's a model that has clamps that you can touch to a cable and it will measure the current without disconnecting the wires, and the clamp can double to hold the unit steady when you need to get into a weird place (click here to see the unit). I wish I had one! I've seen a few people with them and they are soooo handy! I do have a good multimeter though, and I've used it a million times to track down electrical gremlins. I should have a spare.

Anyway, I took a look at the cables connecting to the battery. One cable to the generator. One cable to the engine. One cable to a battery selector. Ummmm... where's the cable to the charger? I do believe I found the issue. OK - the first step is figuring out what the problem is. The second step is figuring out how to fix it. I looked at the new charger - no wire coming out of the echo charger port (the echo charger is the smaller charger that is built in to the bigger unit specifically to charge a second, smaller battery bank such as a start battery). I seem to be on a roll! Now why isn't anything connected there? The old charger worked - we just transferred all the wires to the new one.

OK... no small wires connected to the top of the battery that may have lead to the old charger. There is a small wire on the battery selection switch. That must have been it. Let's pull MORE stuff out of the condo. Hmmm... what's this 10 gauge wire with tape on its end sitting on the floor? I seem to recall someone asking why there's a loose wire on the floor when we first installed the new charger. Once again, get out the multimeter. Put it to continuity mode. Touch the selection switch, touch the other end of the small wire. Beep! Beep! Beep!

From here, it was just a simple matter of screwing the spare wire onto the terminal on the new charger. I looked at the battery monitor, which is another critical item to have when cruising - our batteries are essential to ensure we have refrigeration for our 70lbs of meat, to power our SSB so we can get weather and make emergency calls, and to run pretty much every other piece of electrical equipment on the boat when we're not connected to shore power. Having a good battery monitor that shows you the voltage and active usage is critical. Anyway, the monitor was now showing 13.2v - perfect!

Anyway, the moral of the story? If you see a loose cable and you don't know where it goes, figure it out!

1 comment:

Jared said...

Hey guys! So glad you guys made it, it must be a dream come true! Just a quick question for Casey: If anytime I would want to call you, *persay*, on the bus at 730-740 in the morning? Would you answer that 305 #? This week I would like to do that so everyone on the bus could say a big hello to you guys. Or maybe in the afternoon on Tuesday or Thursday? Tell me what works. Thanks a bunch, enjoy your voyage.
Jared