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63 Sea Skiff Sportsman dead electrical system

Your old Chris-Craft electrical system can be a challenge. If it runs on "juice" pose your questions and offer your advice here.

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rjtipple
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63 Sea Skiff Sportsman dead electrical system

Post by rjtipple » Thu Jul 22, 2021 10:23 am

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I replaced the battery in my restored 63 Sea Skiff this spring since it wouldn't start. The new marine battery tests at 14~15 volts across the terminals. I checked all of the wire connections and made sure that the battery was re-connected correctly. The wiring is original to the boat as far as I know, and the system has a shunt in it which appears to be intact. I can't get anything to work in the boat (no lights, horn, bilge pump or blower) with the new ignition switch turned on or off. There is no battery switch installed in the boat. I can't figure out what is wrong since it ran when I put it in the garage in the fall of 2019. No boating last year. Any ideas will be appreciated.

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Bilge Rat
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Re: 63 Sea Skiff Sportsman dead electrical system

Post by Bilge Rat » Fri Jul 23, 2021 6:40 am

The shunt is a resistor that slightly "drops" voltage across it (battery in, accessories out). The ammeter is connected across the resistor to measure the small difference and then display this as amps on the meter. The more amps being drawn through the shunt by the accessories, the higher the voltage drop and the meter displays this accordingly. A resistor can and will fail, usually as an open circuit which would prevent any of the accessories from working. You can see that it bends as it heats (gets warmer as more amps are drawn) and the fabric material (probably asbestos) is there to keep from lighting the engine stringer on fire. Disconnect the battery and try removing all wires on the shunt and taking a resistance reading (ohms) across it with your meter. Use alligator meter lead clips and not your fingers to hold the probes to the shunt as your internal body resistance will mess with the reading. I am not sure what the value would be, but if you see no continuity through the resistor, that would be your problem.
1966 Lyman Cruisette 25 foot "Serenity Now!"
1953 Chris Craft Sportsman 22 foot "Summerwind"

rjtipple
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Re: 63 Sea Skiff Sportsman dead electrical system

Post by rjtipple » Fri Jul 23, 2021 4:00 pm

Thanks. I'll check it out tomorrow.

rjtipple
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Re: 63 Sea Skiff Sportsman dead electrical system

Post by rjtipple » Wed Jul 28, 2021 8:30 pm

BilgeRat,
Finally got back in the boat and took a reading as you described. It read 0.6 mili ohms both ways, but I'm not sure if that's good or bad. It's only the second time I've used a multimeter so I'm learning as I go.

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mbigpops
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Re: 63 Sea Skiff Sportsman dead electrical system

Post by mbigpops » Thu Jul 29, 2021 6:16 pm

0.6 milliohms is basically a short so the shunt is not open and not your issue.

You could have a bad ignition switch or a dead cell in your battery.

To test the switch you will have to connect the battery and measure the DC voltage before and after the switch (switch in ON position). You could also put a jumper wire across the switch terminal (short both sides) and then see if your accessories work. If they do then the switch is bad. If not then you could have a dead cell in your battery. Voltage alone is not a full battery test. Either buy a battery tester (not expensive) or have it tested. A dead cell battery will measure good voltage but not be able to supply current.

The only other option is a shorted accessories that is pulling your load side down or a bad ground. Check above first though.

Mark
1953 CC Rocket Runabout "Rocket Man"

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Bilge Rat
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Re: 63 Sea Skiff Sportsman dead electrical system

Post by Bilge Rat » Fri Jul 30, 2021 6:48 am

So to recap:

New battery

You didn't say if you can get the engine to start but you do say you have no accessories working.

Voltage at battery terminals is around 14 - 15 volts, which is very good.

Some further troubleshooting steps with the meter are in order:

Negative meter lead to a good clean spot on the engine block (like the battery connection on the block). Positive meter lead to the battery cable side of the shunt-voltage? Try starting and recheck the voltage there, does it remain good or drop to near zero. Continue along the positive heavy cable paths to verify there isn't a bad cable or corroded terminal measuring voltage with no loads, then some accessories on or trying to start. I feel you have a bad connection somewhere in the positive or negative heavy cables not allowing the amps to get through without dropping the voltage.

You say the wiring is original to the boat, but maybe someone installed a fuse or circuit breaker in the positive wire to the ignition or accessories that you just haven't found yet. More of the same voltage checking along the wire paths.

When I was restoring my Lyman I found a positive #10 gauge wire that fed all the accessories that had partially melted for about 8 inches. There was no fuse there originally. The copper had become quite brittle and it would not have been long before the conductor would no longer carry a load, or burst into flames! All wiring was replaced and proper fusing installed.
1966 Lyman Cruisette 25 foot "Serenity Now!"
1953 Chris Craft Sportsman 22 foot "Summerwind"

rjtipple
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Re: 63 Sea Skiff Sportsman dead electrical system

Post by rjtipple » Fri Jul 30, 2021 7:58 am

When I first tried to start the engine this spring, it wouldn't turn over so I figured that the battery was dead. The engine is a rebuilt 283 with less than an hour's run time on it. I had already replaced the ignition switch since the original was in pieces. The replacement battery is from Interstate which should be a good one, but I can buy a battery tester or take it back to them to test it. I'll continue troubleshooting based upon both of your recommendations. I appreciate the guidance.

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Bilge Rat
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Re: 63 Sea Skiff Sportsman dead electrical system

Post by Bilge Rat » Sat Jul 31, 2021 10:22 am

Best of luck chasing the electron gremlins!
1966 Lyman Cruisette 25 foot "Serenity Now!"
1953 Chris Craft Sportsman 22 foot "Summerwind"

rjtipple
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Re: 63 Sea Skiff Sportsman dead electrical system

Post by rjtipple » Mon Aug 02, 2021 4:31 pm

Took the new battery back to Interstate this afternoon. They tested it and found it was dead in all cells. They're going to charge it overnight to see if it will hold a charge. Is it possible that it could have discharged in a boat parked on a trailer with nothing turned on and rubber tires between the boat and the ground?

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mbigpops
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Re: 63 Sea Skiff Sportsman dead electrical system

Post by mbigpops » Mon Aug 02, 2021 6:15 pm

Absolutely. Any one of your accessories (loads) could draw a trickle charge. Very cold weather is not good either.

I have installed a marine cutoff switch in line between my battery and loads to avoid this and as a safety measure (no accidental overheating etc. of any loads). You could do this or remove the battery during any extended layovers with no use.

Glad you found the issue. I would be surprised if that battery held a charge.

Mark
1953 CC Rocket Runabout "Rocket Man"

rjtipple
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Re: 63 Sea Skiff Sportsman dead electrical system

Post by rjtipple » Wed Aug 04, 2021 7:15 am

Interstate couldn't get the battery to hold a charge and provided a new replacement. I will install a marine cutoff switch to help preserve the battery and boat. I still don't understand how a battery can run down with nothing on this boat drawing power. It's got lights, horn, bilge pump and bilge blower, all of which have to be manually turned on except for the bilge pump. No electronics whatsoever.

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mbigpops
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Re: 63 Sea Skiff Sportsman dead electrical system

Post by mbigpops » Wed Aug 04, 2021 10:59 am

Anything that is conductive and has resistance - including wire - that is connected to your battery will draw some small amount of current. That is the reason for the cutoff switch (amongst others).

Your battery needs to be maintained even if out of the boat. Keep it out of moist areas (like a concrete floor) and prevent from freezing if possible. Also, the battery manufacturer should have a minimum voltage level that has to be maintained. Mine is 12.6 VDC so over the winter I store on my workbench in the garage near a charger and check the voltage periodically and charge if it gets below 13 VDC. A trickle charger would be another option.

At that point you will just be worried about longevity and that has to do with cold cranking amps (CCA). Either get it tested after a couple years or get a cheap battery tester and check it and record the CCA as it ages and declines. That way you can decide to replace before it craps out on you at the worst time.

Mark
1953 CC Rocket Runabout "Rocket Man"

rjtipple
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Re: 63 Sea Skiff Sportsman dead electrical system

Post by rjtipple » Wed Aug 04, 2021 3:13 pm

Thanks for the insight. I have a lot to learn about electrical systems. Fortunately I have a heated garage where the boat spends the winters.

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