Cour­tesy Pa­cific Yacht Sys­tems

Suncruiser West Coast - - Contents -

Most boaters have ex­pe­ri­enced the dis­ap­point­ment of plan­ning a trip only to have it cut short by a sys­tem fail­ure. It can be es­pe­cially frus­trat­ing if it is some­thing that could have been pre­vented with a lit­tle main­te­nance. Over the years, our techs have put to­gether a check list of the most com­mon prob­lems they see when trou­ble-shoot­ing.

Be­fore you get ready to head out, there are a num­ber of things to look at. In­spect the shore­power cord, are there signs of wear? Next, take a look at the bat­ter­ies, are the lugs on the bat­tery post tight, make sure the bat­tery ca­ble can­not wig­gle. Is there cor­ro­sion on the bat­tery posts? Is there liq­uid on the top of the bat­ter­ies? Many times this is as­sumed to be wa­ter but it is actually elec­trolyte seep­ing from the top of the bat­tery and it is highly cor­ro­sive and an in­di­ca­tor that the bat­ter­ies are over-heat­ing be­cause of over-charg­ing. An­other good thing to do be­fore you leave the dock

is to start the gen­er­a­tor and/or the in­verter and test a few ap­pli­ances and out­lets.

We highly rec­om­mend that you put to­gether a com­plete fuse kit in­clud­ing both glass and blade fuses. Spend the time to go over your boat and make a list of the fuses you are us­ing. Quite of­ten we zap strap or tape an ex­tra fuse in the lo­ca­tion of the ac­tual fuse so you don’t have to go hunt­ing for them. It’s much eas­ier to pick up fuses at your favourite marine store than an­chored in a des­o­late bay.

In­vest in a good tool kit that in­cludes a qual­ity crimper such as the FTZ Con­trolled Cy­cle crimp tool. Many elec­tri­cal prob­lems start with the con­nec­tors, the wires are in a damp en­vi­ron­ment and are sub­ject to on-go­ing vi­bra­tion. The se­cret to a good crimp tool is that it does not pierce the in­su­la­tion on the wire.

If you don’t have a bat­tery mon­i­tor, get one. They are in­ex­pen­sive and rel­a­tively easy to in­stall. Some boaters use an amp me­ter but they are very dif­fer­ent from a bat­tery mon­i­tor. Amps are a value like speed (i.e. km/h) but don’t pro­vide you with the dis­tance trav­elled. As with a car, your speed varies as you drive through a city. Amps only tell you the speed you are go­ing at that mo­ment. The bat­tery mon­i­tor tells you the amount of bat­tery ca­pac­ity you have left.


Watch the per­cent­age dis­charge in­di­ca­tor.

For lead-acid bat­ter­ies, charge the bat­ter­ies when they are half empty (50 per­cent) to add years to the bat­tery life. Watch the cur­rent (amps) in­di­ca­tor for how quickly the bat­ter­ies are drain­ing. Turn off some equip­ment if you will run out of power be­fore you want to recharge the bat­ter­ies. You can also use the cur­rent in­di­ca­tor to learn which ap­pli­ances use the most power as you turn them on.

Check the en­ergy (Amp-hour) me­ter at least daily, or more of­ten if pos­si­ble.

Over time you will learn how much en­ergy you use in a day and can give your­self a daily en­ergy bud­get. This will al­low you to plan trips based on equip­ment you want to use and how of­ten you are run­ning a bat­tery charger or your en­gine.

It is im­por­tant that you syn­chro­nize the bat­ter­ies with the bat­tery mon­i­tor. This will keep the mon­i­tor ac­cu­rate. Some mon­i­tors will do this au­to­mat­i­cally, but def­i­nitely check your man­ual for how to do this.

En­sure your mon­i­tor is prop­erly set up. The bat­tery bank size in amp-hours will need to be pro­grammed, and on some mon­i­tors, so will the low bat­tery level alarm. The man­ual will out­line how to pro­gram these set­tings.

When you are us­ing your boat more of­ten, and es­pe­cially when you are cy­cling the bat­ter­ies, you should check the wa­ter level in your flooded deep-cy­cle bat­ter­ies more fre­quently than in the off sea­son. You should not need to add dis­tilled wa­ter more than once a month and you should never al­low the wa­ter level to go at or below the plates.

To make the most of the en­ergy go­ing into your bat­ter­ies, we rec­om­mend a 3-phase smart charger. Lead acid bat­ter­ies (in­clud­ing Gels and AGMS) fol­low the bulk, ab­sorp­tion and float charge curve. In or­der to max­i­mize the ef­fi­ciency of your charg­ing while off the dock, it is ad­vis­able to stay within the bulk charge. Which means, you don’t need to charge past 80 to 85 per­cent un­less you have AC shore­power or are un­der­way. These charg­ers are safe, easy to use and will not over­charge your bat­ter­ies.

One of the most com­mon ser­vice calls we re­ceive dur­ing the cruis­ing sea­son is from boaters who are mo­tor­ing from one des­ti­na­tion to an­other but the bat­ter­ies are not be­ing charged. How do you know if the al­ter­na­tor is charg­ing the house and starter bat­ter­ies? The first thing is to look at is volt­age on the en­gine gauge, which should show an in­crease of volts after the en­gine is started. As­sum­ing the bat­ter­ies are not too dis­charged and you have a good size al­ter­na­tor for your bat­tery bank, you should see a volt­age of 13.5 or higher. As with siz­ing the charger for your bat­ter­ies, it is also im­por­tant to match the al­ter­na­tor

to your bat­tery bank size. We see many boaters whose al­ter­na­tors barely keep up with the loads while on­board. In some cases the loads on the bat­ter­ies ex­ceed the charg­ing ca­pac­ity of the al­ter­na­tors. Over time the bat­ter­ies will drain even if the mo­tors are run­ning.

Stephen King has a saying that “There is no harm in hop­ing for the best as long as you are pre­pared for the worst”. There is no sub­sti­tute for reg­u­lar main­te­nance to en­sure that your cruis­ing sea­son is worry-free.

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