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Looking for ways to clean up all the connections to my battery

rkinrossrkinross Pittsburgh PAPosts: 56Member ✭✭
I have a small outboard and the wiring to the battery does not look very neat and tidy.  There are not many electronics on the boat : electric starter with combined key and push in choke, navigation lights on bow and stern, horn, radio, bilge pump.  All of the connections attach directly to the battery with two wing nut connectors.  There are four positive connections stacked on top of one another and two negative connections also stacked.  There are also two inline fuses very close to the battery.  I would like to change the wiring so that there is only one positive and one negative connection on the battery.  This would reduce the chance of connecting the leads to the wrong terminal.  I am also thinking it would be a good idea to disconnect the battery from the wiring when the boat is sitting on the trailer in dry dock storage.  In addition, the battery removal for charging at home would be easier since the dry dock I am renting does not have any power connections available.  Does anyone have any input on weather splicing all this together is a good idea?  I think a water proof switch panel might be the way to go.  Something like this|328|2290000|2290003&id=589764 might be a big improvement.        

Best Answers

  • howardramshowardrams Fairport Harbor, OHPosts: 217Member ✭✭✭
    Accepted Answer
    rkinross, so you're talking about wiring your simple boat more like a cruiser.  Short of going to all that work, I would recommend recrimping most of those ring terminals to make sure you have good connections, and label each wire (radio +), (radio - ), etc.  Then wire tie all the positives into one bundle, all the grounds into another neat bundle, and that should help prevent people from mixing up the pluses and the minuses.  maybe wrap some red electrical tape around the plus bundle and black tape around the minus bundle.  I'd still go with the individual ring terminals on the posts rather than just spicing them all into one.  Various electrical codes don't recommend crimping more than one lead into a ring terminal, or butt splicing, etc.

    Otherwise you go with your idea of a single ground buss mounted somewhere for the negatives, and a power distribution panel with individual breakers/switches for the accessories, wired through a main battery switch if you want to be able to turn off all power at one point.  But then you'd probably still want to leave those heavy starter motor cables going direct and just run the accessories through the switch panel.
  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaPosts: 2,726Member ✭✭✭✭✭
    Accepted Answer
    I am thinking of doing something similar.  I want to get a 4x4x2 PVC junction box ($5 at Home Depot) and mount a terminal strip inside it.  Multiple wires go in to the terminal strip, and two wires come out to the battery.  

    So you would have two wires at each battery terminal: the thick one to the load, and a smaller one to the junction box.

    Regardless of what you do, you should definitely re-wrap all of the positive wires with red electrical tape or shrink-wrap.  Black wires going to a positive terminal is confusing.


  • rkinrossrkinross Pittsburgh PAPosts: 56Member ✭✭
    Thanks @LaRea and @howardrams for giving a novice advice on how to clean this up. 
  • rkinrossrkinross Pittsburgh PAPosts: 56Member ✭✭
    @Willhound Thanks for the reply.  I like the idea the blade fuse box with six circuits.  It looks nice and neat and will not take up much space.  I think I will need the other terminal fuse block you recommended for the wires that are for the outboard starter.  Thanks again.
  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaPosts: 2,726Member ✭✭✭✭✭
    Man, that fuse block looks like a great solution.
  • rkinrossrkinross Pittsburgh PAPosts: 56Member ✭✭
    OK, I'm still having problems with this attempt to clean up the wiring on the boat.  I purchased the boat in January and had it checked out by a marine mechanic before the purchase.  It started right up and everything was fine.  I wanted to store the boat out of the weather so there are old limestone mines in the area that are converted to mine storage for boats and trailers - 55 degrees year round.  The problem is the boat storage people disconnected the battery without my knowledge after leaving the boat with them for the winter.  This spring I attempted to connect the battery to the ring leads and the boat would not crank.  I have check and charged the battery and it seems fine - Advance Auto put it on their battery tester and the report indicates it is ok.  The lights and radio on the boat work but it still will not crank when the key is turned.  I am now thinking one of the wires on the positive battery terminal should really go on the negative terminal but I have no idea which one it could be.  The wiring back by the battery is very confusing with no labels and not much concern for black being negative and red being positive.  In an attempt to document the wiring I came up with the following:
    2 heavy cables 1 black and 1 red - goes back to the outboard (no fuse)
    1 red/(really orange) back to bilge pump
    1 red with black tape on the loop connector - destination unknown
    1 red connected to 20amp fuse then spliced to another red and another                                            green - destination unknown
    1 red connector has 3 splices
       first splice goes to 20 amp fuse and continues to red wire
       second splice goes to another 20 amp fuse, then to a 2 inch brown wire and ends     with a blunt white connector holding a green wire that goes back to the            negative bundle  (i am really confused by this because it does not look like the blunt white connector connects the two wires it is holding.  Also I do not understand why the positive red wire would be going back to the negative terminal via the green wire.
       third splice is a green wire that goes back to the stern - destination unknown

    I have tried to follow the wires up to the ignition key but the colors change up at the connections to the key so that does not help.  The key also has a built in switch to engage the choke when the key is depressed.

    If you made it this far, here is the question.  How do I determine the proper placement of the connectors onto the battery?  I have a multimeter and know about continunity testing so I was considering placing the probes on each of the ring connectors while they are disconnected from the battery.  If I get a reading, the circuit is complete so the red probe must be positive and the black probe must be negative.  Am I on the right track here or should I do more research?              
  • rkinrossrkinross Pittsburgh PAPosts: 56Member ✭✭
    I wish the guy who did this birds nest wiring mess would have watched these videos:

  • rkinrossrkinross Pittsburgh PAPosts: 56Member ✭✭
    I took the advice of the forum and installed a buss bar for the accessory connections.  Now there are only 2 connections on each battery post and all of the fuses are on the buss bar.  Total cost was $40.  Here are a few pictures of the final project.  I know that gas bulb should not be so close to the wiring and it is usually more to the right when the boat is in operation.  There is not much space under there.  
  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaPosts: 2,726Member ✭✭✭✭✭
    Well done! What did you use for the grey panel?  
  • AlswaggAlswagg Posts: 2,258Member ✭✭✭✭✭
    FYI wing nuts are no longer Coast Gaurd approved and have not been for several years.  You can not properly torque a wing nut.    120 inch lb 
  • shawnmjrshawnmjr Detroit MIPosts: 1,052Member ✭✭✭
    Alswagg said:
    FYI wing nuts are no longer Coast Gaurd approved and have not been for several years.  You can not properly torque a wing nut.    120 inch lb 
    Good to know. I was not aware of that. I don't have them in my current boat but I have in previous boats. 
  • rkinrossrkinross Pittsburgh PAPosts: 56Member ✭✭
    @LaRea I made the grey panel out of solid wood I had in my basement.  I put two coats of grey Rustolem on it before I put ss screws in it to hold it together and then attached it to the floor with ss screws.  
  • rkinrossrkinross Pittsburgh PAPosts: 56Member ✭✭
    @Alswagg and @shawnmjr thanks for the information.  This battery came with the boat purchase and currently works just fine with the wing nuts.  The wing nuts also make it easy to disconnect when the boat is in dry dock storage (which is most of the time).  I guess they no longer sell them this way so I will change the set up when it is time to get a new battery.  Do you know what kinds of problems this causes?  Is there a fine to pay if the Coast Guard stops you out on the water and sees this set up? 
  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaPosts: 2,726Member ✭✭✭✭✭
    I did some work on mine this weekend.  One battery actually had eight connections:  charger, starter motor, two trim pumps, two engine computers, a throttle controller and a battery monitor.  I always thought it was a risk having to disconnect that many wires just to disconnect the battery.  Here's a "before" picture showing part of the mess.

    I got a pair of pre-made #4 battery cables and ran them from the battery to this Blue Sea Systems dual power post mounted on the transom near the battery: 

    Some of the accessories are attached directly to the posts.  The others are fed by this 4-circuit breaker panel:

    Here's a "90% done" photo.  The battery now has only three connections: charger, starter motor and accessory panel.  It's safer and less confusing.


  • rkinrossrkinross Pittsburgh PAPosts: 56Member ✭✭
    @LaRea Looks good.  I thought I had too many battery connections with 4.  8 seems way too many!!!  That fuse block that connects directly to the power post looks very clean and saves space.  I did not see that when I was shopping for something similar and went with the buss bar to clean up my connections.  Your set up requires way less space to achieve the same results. 
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