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January 23, 2013

Handle With Care

15 Tips to Protect and Troubleshoot Your Marine Electronics

(Courtesy Furuno USA)

8. When one device stops working, make sure that piece of equipment is receiving power from the battery. While most newer boats have gauges that display battery power, they can’t indicate a problem with a cable or connection. A handheld voltmeter (or multimeter) can be used to test a cable for proper voltage.

A voltmeter has two leads: red for positive, black for negative or power ground. Remove the power cable from the back of the nonfunctioning device. Attach the red lead to the positive connector and the black lead to the ground connector on the cable. The reading should closely match the reading from your battery gauge. If there’s a significant difference in voltage, the power-cable installation should be inspected. If the meter reads zero, check the in-line fuse on the power cable.

Periodic Checks

9. Ensure that all DC contacts on your boat’s main DC bus panel are clear of corrosion, and that all connections are tight.

10. Regularly inspect radio antennas for any cracks or crazing in the epoxy finish that could allow in ­moisture and cause failure.

11 The autopilot pump and its ­associated fittings and tubing should be regularly inspected for fluid leakage. Loss of fluid can lead to deteriorating performance or outright autopilot failure. A leaking fitting can allow air to enter the system, causing additional performance issues.

12. Common troubleshooting checks for fish finders:

• Set all features to auto or restore defaults.
• Check connections and pins (make sure they haven’t been bent, broken or pushed in). Broken pins can be straightened with needle-nose pliers, but that might also break the pin.
• Check cables for nicks and cuts. Repair nicks with electrical tape.
• Check accessories: Unplug all ­accessories except the power cable to the fish finder. If it operates properly, reconnect the transducer and accessories one by one till the problem returns.
• Check for proper voltage to your sounder at the connection to the battery or at the fuse panel. Check with all electrical equipment and main motor running. (Operating-voltage range is found in your manual.)
• Check for electrical interference by first operating your sounder with all electrical equipment and motors off. Turn on each additional piece of equipment one at a time until the problem recurs.


13. When washing your boat, keep hose streams away from the rotary joint of any open-array radar. This point of rotation is protected via seals and gaskets, but high pressure can force water into the radar, which can ­ultimately lead to the unit’s failure.

14. Keep your screen clean by using eyeglass cleaner and a cloth. Use only nonsolvent (no alcohol, no ammonia, etc.) cleaners. In most cases, clean water and a 3M microfiber cloth eliminate most smears and particles. Avoid using boat soaps on screens; use only microfiber cloths — no paper towels, boat rags, shirttails, etc.

15. If your boat remains in the water for a long period time, algae and other marine growth can reduce the effectiveness of a transducer. Periodically clean the face of the ­transducer with liquid detergent.