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Thread: Basic Marine Electronics Installation

  1. #1
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    Default Basic Marine Electronics Installation

    I was wondering if anyone could give advice or know where I can get good advice on doing some basic marine electronics installation. I've looked online and can't find a straight forward set of instructions for hooking up electronics on the boat. I'm interested in learning about the whole process from taking it out of the package to flipping the switch. (including installing switches, hooking up to battery, fuse boxes etc) I have very very little knowledge of electronics. I'm particularly interested in learning how to install bilge pumps, aerator pumps, nav lights, depth finder, gps, radio etc. Any help would be awesome.
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    Well...just about everyone knows more about electricity than I do so, this is just from the little experience I have had re wiring two boats that I have and doing some wiring here and there to add lights, aerator pump etc...
    On my bass boat, I have power coming from battery through two 8 gauge wires to my fuse block (with blade type fuses).
    The size of your fuse block (how many fuses you have) will depend on how many things you want to bring power to. The size of your fuses will depend on how much amperage these accessories will draw (i.e a bilge pump can draw 15 amps while running lights will draw 5).
    So, you have two 8 or 10 gauge wires (size of wire depends on how much power you need to run and the distance of the wire). You can find charts that have standards for different size wire ratings etc... online or library
    In this power from battery you will want to have a MAIN FUSE...usually 50 amps. This way, if you have a short at the fuse block, the main fuse will pop, saving a fire, your battery, accessories....
    From the battery to main fuse to fuse block. Fuse block on my bass boat is a 8 fuse block. When you buy a fuse block, it will have marked a positive post where you attached the main power from the battery...this will bring power to all the fuses in the block.
    When you get the fuse block, you will see where you place the fuses (whether you get the blade type fuse block or the type that takes the glass tube kind). You will also see where you attached the HOT leads (wires) going to whichever accessory.
    You still need to GROUND all of this otherwise you will not have a complete circuit.
    From the fuse block you will see where a NEGATIVE wire goes and this will eventually go back to the negative side of the battery. (or will join up with the big 8 or 10 gauge wire from the negative side of the battery...black wire).
    You can ground this in more than one way...just make sure you always have a good ground. A bad ground accounts for almost all of marine electrical problems.
    The way I recommend you ground this stuff is have a "grounding board". Not sure if thats the best, or official name for it. It is where you will ground each accessory from the fuse block. This can be done with jumper wires (individual wires for each accessory circuit). This way, each circuit has its own ground....giving everything a good ground and, if you ever have problems you can check your ground for each circuit at this one location.
    The negative 8 or 10 gauge wire from the battery will come to this "grounding board", therefore finally grounding everything, completing the circuit.
    THis part is confusing to explain and harder to understand. Ill post pictures of what I have in the bass boat
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    What kind of electronics are you looking to install? 204 did a pretty good job of explaining for someone who knows less about electricity than anyone else.
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    Ok so from what I understand the main flow of things will go:
    Battery ---> Main fuse------>fuse block ----> switch panel-----> accessories?

    I'm having trouble understanding the grounding part. What are you grounding the wires to?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neilslure View Post
    What kind of electronics are you looking to install? 204 did a pretty good job of explaining for someone who knows less about electricity than anyone else.
    Just very basic things like bilge pumps, aerators, depth finders etc.
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    In 12 volt wiring everything needs a positve and negitive (aka ground) connection to work. Think of it as a path, current leaves the positive terminal, travels to the accessory (resistance) and then back to the battery via the ground wire. Putting a switch between the battery and the accessory allows you to control the flow of current, the switch in the ON position creates a complete circuit and the accessory works, the switch in the OFF position eliminates either the positive or negative connection depending on which wire it is in line with, the accessory wont work without both positive and negative. The fuse block that 204 mentions is a way to organize all your wires and eliminate having to solder in a fuse to each accessory and avoid having 20 different ring terminals stacked up on one battery post. If I understand 204s post correctly he is hooking all is ground connections from his accessories to 1 cable that eventually leads back to the negitve post on the battery.

    Lets say you are installing a light. You would hook 1 wire to a positive and 1 wire to a negative. If you wanted this light to be controled by a switch, you would need to install the switch somewhere in the path whether along the positve wire or ground wire.
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    Neil and 204 are describing (Kudos) this basice wiring diagram. It's pretty symbolic but you get the idea... Red symbolizes a positive wire, black symbolizes a negative wire.

    Fuses might be a block of them or individual fuse holders... Doesn't matter as long as each accessory has it's own, wired between the battery and the switch. Ground strip is essentially a piece of metal with screws in it - ties all the black wires to the negative pole of the battery. Main fuse blows if something goes horribly wrong, should be virtually in the battery box.

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    The ground in an electrical circuit is a safety feature that provides a path to ground versus a path through a person to ground.

    Most 12 volt, DC systems don't have grounds and the negative serves basically the same purpose.

    In DC, as in any electric circuit, the electrons, the part that is effectively the current, travels from the negative to the positive. The potential energy, which is the voltage, is measured from the positive to the negative.

    Whether the fuses and circuit breakers are in the positive side or negative side really isnt an issue so much as that they are in the circuit. It's better to put them on the positive side because all the negatives eventually come together but the positives are linked to each individual circuit.

    Most of the time, in a DC circuit, the term ground is used interchangeably with the term negative and is where all circuits eventually meet.

    The positive side is where the electrons return through each individual component and each is protected by a fuse or circuit breaker.

    That's how the circuit protection device actually "knows" if there is a high current problem and why the protection device comes after the component as far as the electron (current) flow is concerned. If the component starts to draw too much current, the protection device reacts and opens to protect the circuit/device.

    I hope that helps a bit. If not, I can go a bit deeper when I'm in front of my computer rather than my phone. Easier to type than text...haha!
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    See, told you I didnt know hardly anything compared to these guys! Neil is right about the fuse block that I use. SInce I cannot trouble shoot electricity well at all... when I wire something, I do it as if I will have to trouble shoot an issue down the road. A fuse block puts everything in plain sight, the blade fuses light up when they blow (good for bass boat, would recommend glass tube fuses for ocean), wiring has standard colors so you can trace them through the boat if necessary.
    From reading these posts, you should understand a basic theory on electricity and circuitry.
    You are correct when you asked battery----(two wires, red/black (pos/neg))-----> 50 amp main fuse (in red wire)----->red wire to fuse block----->switches---- >accessorry----->ground from accessory---->ground strip/grounding board----->main ground (black wire) back to negative terminal on battery.
    Just a note...instead of using a fuse block and switches separate you can use a "fused panel" which I chose to install in my ocean boat so I could change fuses on the fly (scary to lose electronics for too long at night on ocean).
    I chose to use a fuse block and individual separate switches on the bass boat just because of the lay out of the boat and so I could seperate them due to space available.
    BW Guffey has a nice diagram drawn up there...whenever I have wired something up, I draw something exactly like that and follow it when I am wiring. Also, like Neil said, current is like a path it flows down...all you are doing is guiding where it goes and when it goes there. I had a college instructor say it is like plumbing...in a way, he is right but, electricity flows up hill too
    Ok, so do you understand the grounding part now? Just make sure it goes to negative, never bring positive back to positive you will create a weld
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    Click image for larger version. 

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    Ok, I couldnt get a good picture because I couldnt get down under the console in that bass boat but, here is that grounding board, or grounding strip I was talking about..in the back ground you can see the fuse block.
    Between the fuse block and grounding strip is the switch, then the accessory.
    I hope this doesnt raise more questions! I have to work on my photography
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    I use the very same strip 204 and wire it the same way with loops from terminal to terminal on one side. Found this nifty jumper piece to replace the loops if I ever get around to it (made for 8 circuit blocks, just snip the last two for 6 cicuit blocks like this one)



    The jumper piece is RadioShack P/N 274-0650 and the barrier strip (grounding block) is RadioShack P/N 274-0659. The stores usually stock both pieces.
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    Wow, guys I really appreciate all the help. I think I am beginning to get the big picture of how this stuff works out. I think now it may be a matter of doing some work and seeing it in action. Thank you all very much.
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    Ok, my phone finally sent this other picture I took at the same time as the other one! Earlier I said I had an 8 fuse block, you can see it is a 6 fuse.
    You see the thicker red wire (10 gauge) coming from battery it is on the post on the left side of the fuse block (in the picture, a blue wire is also there...dont worry about that little guy, I did something I shouldnt have done with that blue one).
    Like I said that red wire is from the battery, positive side and it brings power to the entire fuse block, therefore bringing power to potentially every accessory I choose to operate.
    I have lights on one, bilge, aerator, GPS, fishfinder and various interior lights. You can see all of my fuses are 5 amp, except for the one 20 amp fuse.
    The individual wires from the fuses are going to switches, then accessory...then, the ground for the accessory goes to that grounding strip and eventually to negative side of battery grounding the entire circuit.



    Click image for larger version. 

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    So after thinking about this a while I've been looking around on my boat and am familiar with the layout. Right now, my depth finder does not want to cut on. All the other accessories seem to be working fine however. Is a blown fuse in the fuse block the most likely culprit?
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    If it used to work and now doesn't, then yes, likely the fuse.

    If it never worked, then try to isolate the wiring to the unit and make sure it's there. Also make sure the positive and negative are attached to the right power plug leads of the device.
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