View Full Version : Re-Wireing your boat?

03-03-2005, 08:50 AM
Has anyone ever had to rewire your boat because you had loose connections that drained your battery? I'm talking about the battery cables and the alternator. If I charge my batteries all night and take the boat out, it will crank at the ramp. But I can't turn the boat off all day because it won't crank without a jump. And when I have to jump it, it's so dead you have to connect the jumper straight to the starter! I'm not sure if it's just an alternator problem even through I just replaced it thinking it would solve the problem but it didn't. I ran a second positive cable straight from the battery to the starter but that didn't do much. Then last week it got to the point that with the boat running it only 11 amps which made the boat run like crap because of the electric ignitation. (It was so bad it sounded like it wasn't running on all cylinders) The boat has a 454 so you could even tell that it didn't sound as loud. Does anyone have any ideas before I start pulling all the wires? Thanks

03-03-2005, 08:54 AM
Could this be a regulator problem? There is an external regulator on this system. Don't know where it is though. Anyone else know? I would change the regulator first before you start rewiring.

03-03-2005, 09:07 AM
I've got an 88 TriStar with the 351. I had a problem last summer with virtually the same symptoms. I though it was the alternator or battery (low voltage - around 11 or so) or maybe the solenoid was not getting the juice to the starter. Turned out to be the starter.

I would suggest you pull both the starter and alternator and take them to an auto parts store and have them tested - this is usually free and they are not that hard to take off the engine. Once my starter was put on the bench it was obvious that it was the problem.

I ended up getting a new MARINE starter from Discount Inboard Marine. Easy to put in (though the wiring is a little different!) and it solved my problems.

Good Luck!

03-03-2005, 09:16 AM
have you tested the battery? thats what it sounds like to me.

03-03-2005, 09:17 AM
your altenator will not charge a bad battery

03-03-2005, 09:37 AM
I'd agree with the replies so far. Before rewiring, I'd try to find out what component is the culprit.

I had a similar problem, and tried a number of things including running a temporary + connection direct to the battery. In my case, the + battery cable was loose in the molded lead battery clamp that hooks to the post on the battery. Replaced it with a $2 clamp and problem solved. I had checked alternator output, replaced the battery, etc. before accidently coming upon the issue.

Good luck.


03-03-2005, 09:38 AM
I'm certainly not a mechanic, but it doesn't sound like a wiring problem to me. The alternator would have been my guess for losing battery charge during use (shorted diode), but you eliminated that possibility. While your battery could be failing the fact that you could charge it to start the boat means it should have some life left in it. Even if the battery was bad it shouldn't affect the engine once it starts. It wouldn't surprise me if you weren't chasing a couple issues (battery, regulator, control module, or possibly wiring).

east tx skier
03-03-2005, 10:39 AM
First question should be how old is the battery? Even if the alternator isn't charging it, a good battery ought to have more than one start in it after being charged all night.

lakes Rick
03-03-2005, 10:44 AM
I am real believer in checking the simple things first... Replacing parts chasing a problem without diagnosing items will always be expensive and its the wrong way to do it..

1. CHECK the BATTERY.. I have seen batteries do some weird things. BRAND NEW batteries I have purchased have had bad cells. ( I chased that one for a while) Had to check each cell seperately with a hydrometer to find it.. Charge up your battery overnight and in the morning take it to a shop that can test it... Bad batteries will take a charge, but lose it or give the wrong voltage.. My Merkur was running poorly due to a bad battery... Never overlook your battery cables. They can corrode and become a problem.. If they look shot, replace them....

2. As said above if this doesnt do it, take off your alternator and your starter and have them tested at a reputable shop.. Try to find a good rebuilder or independent ( yellow pages). You can get some pretty poorly trained morons at the Autozone or like it..

3. While off clean all of the cables and mounting points and REMOVE all the ground wires and clean them with some sandpaper or wire brush. Wipe a little Dialectric grease on them and reinstall..

4. I THINK, where the bottom of the distributor mounts into the motor is a connection or ground, so you might want to remove it and clean the metal contact areas....

Do all of these seperately, and start with the battery, so you can localize the problem without spending money or time chasing good parts or a no problem area....

Now get that battery checked and check your battery cables...

03-03-2005, 10:54 AM
I'm with Rick. I've had poor starting over the years with my 454. It takes a lot of juice to get that puppy turning! Followed his steps in about that order and it got all sorted out. Ended up with new cables and then a new battery. Alt seems okay and the starter was rebuilt a few years back.

I agree with the Autozone comment too. I took my battery in twice to have it tested and it came back okay each time. New battery solved the last bit of my problems.

03-03-2005, 12:01 PM
sfitzgerald351 - It does take alot of juice to turn her over! I just had the starter rebuilt like two months ago so it better be ok! The alternator I have is fairly new but it could be bad! I'm not sure exactly how to check the alternator but i will ask around! I'm going to get a new battery even though the one I have is pretty new! And then start on the cables because they are kind of crappy! The negitive cable looks great but the positive cable looks like death! Thanks for everyones help!

east tx skier
03-03-2005, 12:06 PM
I went through 6 batteries on my 84 Jeep GW before I finally got a good one (and I had the electrical system investigated by an independent mechanic with no problems apparent). I was running a new alternator. The only draw when it wasn't running was the digital clock. Purchased the first battery at Sam's. 3 year warranty was put to good use (and I got 5 new batteries on it about 1 every 9 months). Eventually, they switched the type of battery they were selling. With that one, I never bought another one.

For marine, I've been very satisfied with my Delco Marine Battery (on its 3rd season).

03-03-2005, 02:19 PM
Hey All,

I too am blessed with a 454. These motors are notoriously hard on starters....

I think you should replace the battery first thing, then start thinking about a rebuild on the starter and alt. Make sure ALL connections are good and tight - the alternator must be bolted HARD to it's mounts as that's where it gets it's ground....(painted surfaces don't conduct well) look at your starter's mounting situation as well, clean all the mating surfaces....


03-03-2005, 02:28 PM
Good point. Clean all the connections with a wire brush! Especially the negative ground to the engine block. I was amazed the difference I got by just cleaning the negative ground the first year I bought the boat.

03-04-2005, 12:00 AM
a while back, I had a '76 GMC with 454 and an '88 K-5 Blazer with 350...

a battery that would not crank the 454 could be taken out and installed on the 350......it would crank 4 ever!!!

03-04-2005, 09:03 AM
I was just reading the new thread on the gel batterys and thinking about them.. It's so nice to have the power but it sure in a pain in the ***!

east tx skier
03-04-2005, 11:08 AM
What kind of maintenance do the gel cells require?

03-04-2005, 11:21 AM
None! their sealed and you can't hurt them with a discharge!Every body who has a jeep with winch uses them.

east tx skier
03-04-2005, 11:28 AM
Gotcha. Sold me jeep. Never had a winch. How long are they supposed to last?

lakes Rick
03-04-2005, 11:31 AM
I switched to the "optima" type batteries about 6 years ago.. All my battery problems went away... ONLY way to go...

03-04-2005, 11:34 AM
Gotcha. Sold me jeep. Never had a winch. How long are the supposed to last?

I can't help you there Doug,don't know anyone who has had to replace one yet.

east tx skier
03-04-2005, 11:35 AM
Well that's a good feature. We'll see how long I can make my current battery last first.