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Author Topic: Strange starting/electrical problem WIRING HARNESS FIRE HAZARD  (Read 28437 times)

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Stu Jackson

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Re: Strange starting/electrical problem
« Reply #15 on: June 12, 2009, 08:31:51 PM »

For those of you who think we've been joking all these years and if you STILL have the old harness (yes, they are out there!!!), try this:

http://forums.catalina.sailboatowners.com/showthread.php?p=633998#post633998

I started the engine normally today. The engine turned over normally and ran. After about 45 seconds of running at 500 rpms, I increased the throttle to 1000 rpms. Everything sounded normal. I then noticed that the Tachometer reading simply dropped to nothing and the needle passed zero and went to the 6oclock position on the tach. I kept the engine running and went below to see if the alternator had seized or otherwise stopped turning and thus did not send a tachometer reading. I observed that the engine appeared to be running satisfactory and the alternator was spinning and the belt was not slipping at all.

I then looked back into the cockpit from inside the cabin and noticed large amounts of smoke billowing from the vicinity of the ignition/instrument panel aft in the cockpit on the port side. I immediately dashed to the panel pulled the engine stop lever and turned the electrical key to the off position. I then secured a fire extinguisher from the cabin and switched the main battery/power switch to the off position. The smoke continued to emanate from the vicinity of the ignition/instrument panel. It smelled like an electrical fire. The total time from lighting the glow plugs to turning the engine off was approximately 4 or 5 minutes.

I quickly unscrewed the instrument panel and the back of it was burning. The wires were burning and melting and smoking. I was able to extinguish the burning without discharging the extinguisher. Most of the wires on the back of the instrument panel were burned and charred and the fiberglass on the hull above the panel was hot and sticky. I went to the engine area once I was certain there was no fire at the instrument panel. I noticed the other end of the wiring harness at the engine was also hot and seemingly melting. It did not seem to catch fire at the engine.

My theory is that there was a short behind the instrument panel that caused the fire/burn. What doesn't make sense to me is why the harness at the engine side was hot, and seemingly melting. Wonder if anyone else has had something similar happen. She is a 1990. Universal M-25xp
« Last Edit: June 12, 2009, 08:33:11 PM by Stu Jackson »
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Stu Jackson, C34 IA Secretary, #224 1986, "Aquavite"  Cowichan Bay, BC  Maple Bay Marina  SR/FK, M25, Rocna 10 (22#) (NZ model)

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Ron Hill

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Re: Strange starting/electrical problem WIRING HARNESS FIRE HAZARD
« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2009, 08:34:24 AM »

Guys : What Stu and I have been saying for years and years is really serious!!  You are sitting on a bomb and will eventually go off - if you don't get that wiring harness upgrade. 

As I wrote in the Mainsheet over 12 years ago : 
"A C34 owner took the dog ashore and left the first mate on his anchored boat.  The engine started all by itself!!  1st Mate, scratches her head, and pulls the engine off handle.  She goes below and thinks it was strange but.  Moments later the engine started itself again!!  She panics and jumps off "that crazy boat" into the water.  Captain with dog arrives and finds wife in water with the boats engine running!!
Funny story, but this wiring harness is serious stuff.
 
I had the kit upgrade for about a year, but had installed a hi output alternator which I wired direct to the batteries.  I thought that with that alternator rewire I did I was OK for the time being.  One day I finally got around to installing that harness upgrade kit.  WOW, to my surprise the trailer connector at the engine disintegrated in my hand when I took off the black tape.  A real fire hazard. 



t

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Stu Jackson

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Re: Strange starting/electrical problem WIRING HARNESS FIRE HAZARD
« Reply #17 on: July 11, 2009, 11:07:48 PM »

I suppose you could say that the boat's been working since 1986 with this piece of crap inside it and didn't catch fire

YET

photo courtesy Joe Torszok, #77, Dreamcatcher
« Last Edit: July 12, 2009, 06:40:32 AM by Stu Jackson »
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Stu Jackson, C34 IA Secretary, #224 1986, "Aquavite"  Cowichan Bay, BC  Maple Bay Marina  SR/FK, M25, Rocna 10 (22#) (NZ model)

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mtullier

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Re: Strange starting/electrical problem WIRING HARNESS FIRE HAZARD
« Reply #18 on: August 20, 2009, 06:10:35 PM »

HI,

Has anyone purchased the wiring hardness upgrade from Seaward Products lately?  Noticed on the Wiki page that the upgrade kit was $50.00.  Just ordered the kit and was charged $150.00 with shipping!??  Its a must, but a 300% price increase?
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Ron Hill

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Re: Strange starting/electrical problem WIRING HARNESS FIRE HAZARD
« Reply #19 on: August 20, 2009, 06:42:10 PM »

Guys : For those of you that have not read my recent Mainsheet article on "Removing your engine", I stated that you'd be better off HARD wiring all of the wires (forget the connectors).  So unless you need a Voltmeter to replace the Ampmeter(1986/87 & some 1988 production years) the cost of replacing the faulty "trailer connectors" is almost ZERO !!!!  You'll need some heat shrink, solder/butt connectors and a short piece of #4 wire/connectors.

The reason is when you ever have to remove the engine it's easier to remove all of the connections at the engine
I'd recommend those that do not subscribe to the Mainsheet (join our C34IA & you get a Mainsheet subscription) you might just learn something about your boat!!  A few thoughts
« Last Edit: August 21, 2009, 08:05:30 AM by Ron Hill »
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MarkT

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Re: Strange starting/electrical problem WIRING HARNESS FIRE HAZARD
« Reply #20 on: August 21, 2009, 10:05:17 AM »

The additional cost is most likely for a voltmeter to replace the amp meter you have now.

I just did this upgrade and found that I had to chase down several wires and figure out what they were. Well worth the effort. I do agree with Ron that removing the trailer connector and just hard wiring from end to end would do the job for less but seeing as I needed/wanted the voltmeter and Seaward provided a complete package which makes for an easier project. For a boat that is over 20 years old it sure is nice that we have manufacturers that continue to support and upgrade their products.
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Stu Jackson

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Re: Strange starting/electrical problem WIRING HARNESS FIRE HAZARD
« Reply #21 on: September 08, 2009, 02:48:13 PM »

Mark, I'm not so sure they're "standing by their products."  It's more like they're covering up a design issue which occurred because people actually started putting electrical gizmos on their boats.  I wrote this for the co.com guys during a discussion about Yanmar harnesses.

*********************************
Quote from: Steve Dion;656416
Neil: Do not be so sure about the Catalina owners. They had a problem with the entire wire harness going bad on some of the C'34's. I do not know if it was a Catalina 34 issue or different models.

Steve, I'm surprised at you. Ain't true, never happened. :D :D :D

The engines ALWAYS started. Just not always when you wanted them to, 'cuz they'd start by themselves!

The REASON the wiring harness on Catalinas was a problem was because they ran ALL of the power from the batteries up to the cockpit panel and the ammeter that used to be there, and then back to the engine. In #10 wire!!!

The wiring was fine and didn't have the reported Yanmar multiple butt connectors.

Associated with the harness replacement was the fact that the connectors used in the older design were trailer connector wire plugs that had this odd tendency to MELT and then connect two wires together that should NOT have ever been touching. See: http://c34.org/bbs/index.php/topic,4546.0.html Read both pages. [That's this thread - don't bother clicking!]

Inherently, as many of you know (and all of you should), an ammeter is a shunt which requires ALL of the current to flow THOROUGH it. The "FIX", as discussed in the wiring harness article linked many times, see below, was to replace the ammeter with a voltmeter, which can be placed anywhere in a circuit across the (+) and (-) and to change the wiring so that it goes directly to the engine.

The wiring harness consisted of two parts, the voltmeter and the new wiring and connectors.

The link to the wiring harness, which no one at Seaward or Catalina would ever admit was faulty (those twerps! - enhancement my foot!) is here: http://www.c34.org/projects/projects-harness-upgrade.html

So; It was a basic design issue, and the harness wiring didn't go bad, the connectors did. This happened on all diesel engine boats produced by Catalina, including the 30, 34, 36, and I'll bet some of the early 28s, but I don't know that for sure.

They only fixed it when they ran outta the big batch of old harnesses Frank had layin' around the factory. It's $ and cents, fellas, their $s and our problems.

What they claimed was "it wasn't so bad when it was 1957 and people didn't have much electrical stuff on their boats. It's only a problem now because those nasty boaters actually want to add electrical stuff to their boats!" Jerks!

Oh, BTW, some folks haven't changed their harness, yet, either. I just can't wait for their boats to start all by themselves or catch fire.

You don't have to have a Catalina - if you have an ammeter in the cockpit panel of your boat, be very suspicious.

[search link: harness history]
« Last Edit: September 09, 2009, 06:52:03 AM by Stu Jackson »
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SPembleton

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Re: Strange starting/electrical problem WIRING HARNESS FIRE HAZARD
« Reply #22 on: June 14, 2014, 06:42:23 AM »

I know that this is a very old thread, but it is new to me.  I just bought a 1986 Cat34. This is the first boat I have owned and am a novice to boat maintenance. I am working my way through the critical upgrades list.  How can I tell if the wiring harness was already upgraded by a PO? If this is already somewhere else on this board, sorry, I was not able to find it.
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Steve Pembleton
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Stu Jackson

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Re: Strange starting/electrical problem WIRING HARNESS FIRE HAZARD
« Reply #23 on: June 14, 2014, 07:31:27 AM »

Steve, Welcome.

There are three "basic parts" to the wiring harness issue:  

1)  the wiring itself - which is usually not an issue and discussed in the Critical Upgrades topic

2) the ammeter in the cockpit and Even IF you have a voltmeter, you could still have the OLD stupid connectors.

3)  those pesky trailer connections.  Really, that's all.

If you have a voltmeter in the cockpit, then you still have to check for and eliminate the trailer connections.  It's really that simple and between the Critical Upgrades topic and this one, there's really nothing else.  

Except the tons of posts about this issue.  :D :D :D

PS - Steve, with hull #686, you most likely have a later boat than a 1986, probably a 1988.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2014, 07:42:10 AM by Stu Jackson »
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Stu Jackson, C34 IA Secretary, #224 1986, "Aquavite"  Cowichan Bay, BC  Maple Bay Marina  SR/FK, M25, Rocna 10 (22#) (NZ model)

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Ron Hill

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Re: Strange starting/electrical problem WIRING HARNESS FIRE HAZARD
« Reply #24 on: June 14, 2014, 09:17:30 AM »

Steve : The old trailer connectors are easy to check for:
1. Look down on the port side of the engine and look for a large wrapping of black electrical tape which covers the trailer plug.  Unwrap that tap and you'll see the plug held together with a lateral wire tie.
2. Pull the engine instrument panel and follow the wires . If they also come to a wad of black electrical tape, unwind the tape and you'll find the same trailer plug.

If you come to a connector that has a wire IN on one side and a wire OUT on the other side with the wires held in place by small screws - you have a "euro connector" and the wiring harness has been upgraded

Then look for the output from the alternator and see it if goes a short distance to the lug on the starter solenoid.  If that is inplace then the second part of the wiring harness upgrade has been done!! 

Hope this helps. 
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Noah

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Re: Strange starting/electrical problem WIRING HARNESS FIRE HAZARD
« Reply #25 on: June 14, 2014, 10:00:37 AM »

Did mine on my "new to me" 1990 a few months ago. Although it passed a pro survey when I bought it!  Was a eye opener when I dug into things. Just a matter of time before my boat was "Fire City". Changed harness, alternator wiring and engine panel. Next is main panel this week. Electical is/was not Catalina's strong suit.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2014, 10:02:22 AM by Noah »
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SPembleton

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Re: Strange starting/electrical problem WIRING HARNESS FIRE HAZARD
« Reply #26 on: June 15, 2014, 03:27:21 PM »

Thanks Stu, Ron and Noah.

My boat has an ammeter, so I guess I need to change that out.

The next time I am at the boat I will check for the trailer connections. If I cut off the trailer connections, will there be enough wire left? I noticed that Catalina Direct sells a new, longer, wiring harness. Is this something I should consider?I only day sail now and only use the motor for 20 minutes or so when I go out, so I am thinking this is something I can plan to do on a windless day, or am I being naive?
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Steve Pembleton
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Re: Strange starting/electrical problem WIRING HARNESS FIRE HAZARD
« Reply #27 on: June 15, 2014, 04:55:03 PM »

Stu (I don't want to get off track, but in response to your comment above)
My registration says: CTYP0130B686. That means hull #686, right?
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Steve Pembleton
Holland, MI
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"We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails."

Stu Jackson

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Re: Strange starting/electrical problem WIRING HARNESS FIRE HAZARD
« Reply #28 on: June 15, 2014, 05:00:37 PM »

Steve, I guess this is where we start to pull our own hair out on your behalf!  :cry4` :cry4` :cry4`  Sure, if it hasn't caused a fire on your boat in the past 27 years, why bother making the upgrade? Just kidding.  

We really think we've said about all we could on the matter by using the phrase: It could cause a FIRE on your boat.  Repeatedly.  And the links to Maine Sail's discussion of this issue mirrors our own:  How can people be unaware of this? "It amazes me how many boats are out there still using this unsafe set up."

Of course, this is more about your PO, certainly not you.  You should be applauded for recognizing the importance of fixing it.

I understand that you are new to all this, but please note that among the posts on this issue is the one that says it could start a fire on your boat even when you're not even there.

As always, your boat, your choice.  

One of the Critical Upgrades posts on this subject discusses the wiring, as a separate issue from the connectors themselves, as well as different ways to do so.  Nothing to add to that.  You can always add short lengths of wires to the ends of the existing.  Only YOU can tell how much wire is left on your own boat.  In general, we've see little reason to replace the entire length of wiring, but CD does sell it, and many skippers have done it, but certainly not all.  Also answered in #1) in Reply #23 above.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2014, 05:06:24 PM by Stu Jackson »
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Stu Jackson, C34 IA Secretary, #224 1986, "Aquavite"  Cowichan Bay, BC  Maple Bay Marina  SR/FK, M25, Rocna 10 (22#) (NZ model)

"There is no problem so great that it can't be solved."

Stu Jackson

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Re: Strange starting/electrical problem WIRING HARNESS FIRE HAZARD
« Reply #29 on: June 15, 2014, 05:02:37 PM »

Stu (I don't want to get off track, but in response to your comment above)
My registration says: CTYP0130B686. That means hull #686, right?

No, it's hull # 130.  See http://www.c34.org/faq-pages/faq-hin.html
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Stu Jackson, C34 IA Secretary, #224 1986, "Aquavite"  Cowichan Bay, BC  Maple Bay Marina  SR/FK, M25, Rocna 10 (22#) (NZ model)

"There is no problem so great that it can't be solved."
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