Registered users don't see ads

Why Boats Have Battery Switches....

Discussion in 'Ask All Sailors' started by Maine Sail, Feb 12, 2018. Add this thread to a FAQ

  1. Maine Sail

    Maine Sail Moderator

    Joined Feb 6, 1998
    10,487 posts, 387 likes
    Canadian Sailcraft 36T
    US Casco Bay, ME
    This past weekend a good friend came up to camp so we could do some snowmobiling. We've not ridden together in about 12 years. It was good to be back on the trails again..

    In the fall his 16 year old 18k mile Nippondenso stater would not start his machine without making lots of noise. I told him I could rebuild it for next to nothing but he declined and bought a "brand new" starter off Amazon after I flat out told him not to.. The factory SkiDoo starter is something like $390.00.. He paid $65.00 so he thought he got a good deal. He probably made 60 starts with since it was installed and it worked, but like many of these cheap knock-off components, not for long.....

    On Saturday, his good deal, Chinese starter, turned into a very bad deal. About 45 miles from camp and 12 miles from the nearest road, we stopped to see if we could get some Canada Jay's to eat out of our hands, and they did. The North woods of Maine are great for this...

    When we got back on the machines he fired his up first and it sounded awful. I waived to him to shut it down. He turned the key off and the motor kept cranking.... Oh $hit..... He kept trying the key and nothing would disengage the starter. We cycled the key over 100 times, tried the kill switch, the tether and every other possible scenario. The starter still remained engaged.

    Unlike boats, the batteries on snowmobiles do not have any fuses or switches. They are simply direct wired to the starter motor. His battery is so buried that it was not even feasible or safe to unbolt the positive or negative with the motor running.

    After a few minutes the starter motor began smoking and the starter cable too. At that point I pulled out my Leatherman and we decided to cut the starter excite wire, a 50/50 chance at killing the starter. It was too dangerous to get a screw-driver in there to un-bolt it. I cut the excite wire, and then...... it kept right on cranking. D'oh....

    The solenoid was not letting go no matter what we tried.. He could not ride the machine this way, we had no wire cutter big enough to cut the 6GA wire, and there was nowhere safe enough to do it without directly shorting something.

    The decision was made and he hit the kill switch and let it destroy his new AGM battery.. Unfortunately, by the time the battery died the starter was smoking so bad we thought the machine may catch fire. Once it cooled off we were able to get at the battery and disconnect it from the starter as it died still engaged. We then had to pull off the starter, and with minimal tools this, took nearly 1.5 hours. Can you say cooooold fingers.....?

    Once the starter was out we tried to pull start the machine but it was a no go because it was so flooded. We pulled the plugs, pulled it over a few times with the plugs out, then replaced them. Still too flooded. I pulled out my spare plugs and they fit. After nearly breaking our backs attempting to pull start this beast it fired up but then backfired so hard, exhaust was full of fuel, it literally blew the exhaust springs right off the manifold. Ok, now we're screwed, both springs were toast and the donut that goes between the pipe and manifold was gone perhaps lost in 3.5' of snow....

    At this point it was getting dark so I pulled out the tow strap and towed his machine the 12 miles back to the nearest road. Then two middle aged fat guys rode nearly 35 miles back to camp stuffing our kidneys into our throats with every bump. We then hopped in his pickup truck to drive 65 road miles to collect his machine. About two thirds of the way into the ride to fetch his machine he looked over and said "I promise I'll buy the factory starter this time.". "I looked at him and said "It's gonna cost you a bit more than that, I drink Don Julio."...

    His "big savings" cost him:

    Flywheel destroyed $$$$$$
    Battery cables melted $$$
    AGM Battery $$$$
    Exhaust repair $$
    & he owes me a $90.00 belt which got toasted towing him out...

    He will be installing an accessible switch in his engine compartment as will I, quality Nippondenso starter or not.......

    If this had been a boat the simple flip of a switch would have de-powered the starter motor. This is but one reason why battery switches are smart & safe ideas!!

    P.S. The worst part of this is that he threw away a $400.00 Nippondenso starter I can rebuild for about $45.00 in parts... Ouch....
     


  2. capta

    capta

    Joined Jun 4, 2009
    2,180 posts, 447 likes
    Pearson 530
    XX Sailing in the Windward or Leeward Islands where ever we are anchored
    You seem to have the most interesting adventures! lol
    And that's why I call it electrickery.
     


  3. nat55

    nat55

    Joined Feb 11, 2017
    51 posts, 30 likes
    Gulfstar 1979 Gulfstar 37
    Un Belfast Maine BELFAST
    Ugh......thanks for sharing.
     


  4. rgranger

    rgranger

    Joined Jan 19, 2010
    4,334 posts, 515 likes
    Hunter 26
    US Smith Mountain Lake
    Thanks
     


  5. jssailem

    jssailem

    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    4,136 posts, 1,076 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    A riviting story that had me on the edge of my seat... We all do dumb things. For me One of them has not been to ignore the offerings of a known qualified mechanic while contemplating going in the woods during the winter. Thankfully.
    Thanks MaineSail.
     


  6. dlochner

    dlochner

    Joined Jan 11, 2014
    1,448 posts, 389 likes
    Sabre 362
    US Fair Haven, NY
    Reading MS's adventures with sinking boats and ailing snow mobiles reminds me of a certain commercial:

    "he knows a lot because he's seen a lot"

    And thanks for giving me another reason to avoid those infernal machines. :biggrin:
     


  7. TomY

    TomY Alden Forum Moderator

    Joined Jun 22, 2004
    953 posts, 377 likes
    Alden 38' Challenger yawl
    US Rockport Harbor
    If there is an antithesis to sailing, it is snowmobiling. :)
     


  8. Maine Sail

    Maine Sail Moderator

    Joined Feb 6, 1998
    10,487 posts, 387 likes
    Canadian Sailcraft 36T
    US Casco Bay, ME
    I sail, powerboat, alpine ski & tele, back country ski, climb, snowshoe, cross-country ski, hunt, fish and snowmobile. They all involve the great out doors. Snowmobiling is the only one of those winter sports that can put me deep into the amazingly beautiful winter wonderland and let me really get out there, far, far off the beaten path....

    Most folks have no clue how large, vast and well supported the trail network is in Northern NH, VT, Maine and Canada nor how beautiful it can be out there. We also winter camp by sled and it is really amazing to see the stars touching the horizon and not even fading off.

    Like any sport there are yahoo's out there that give it a bad name. I gave up riding for a few years during the finance everything craze, where 18 year old kids would finance the sled, trailer and tow vehicle but not know how to drive any of them..Most riders are really great though. A Canadian couple stopped to see if they could help us the other day. They had ridden all the way from Canada, were on a 12 day loop, and barely spoke a word of English. We were in Erol NH at the time and I can only assume they rode here from deep Quebecois..

    As a kid my brother father and two friends left our camp in Pittsburg, NH and did the entire Gaspe' / St. Lawrence loop. I was lucky enough to do this trip twice, about 5 years apart. It is still one of the most stunningly beautiful winter trips I've ever done. It would certainly hook any non-sledder.

    Zipping back & forth across a lake is NOT what I consider snowmobiling but touring the great North, by machine, can be an amazing experience just like sailing.
     


    capta and TomY like this.
  9. JimInPB

    JimInPB

    Joined Aug 22, 2017
    346 posts, 79 likes
    Hunter 212 & 170
    us Florida West Palm Beach
    A stuck bendix. I had that happen on a shovelhead Harley once. Fortunately, I was able to get to the battery on that one before things got to the point of catastrophe.

    I'm now considering keeping a small wrench handy in my truck, in case I ever need to disconnect that battery quickly for some reason.

    As usual, your posts foster further thought.
     


  10. weinie

    weinie

    Joined Sep 6, 2010
    1,130 posts, 171 likes
    Jeanneau 349
    US port washington, ny
    Why would the hitting the kill switch screw up the battery? I don't remember having any problem like that with any of my motorcycles (back in my yute).
     


  11. Scott T-Bird

    Scott T-Bird

    Joined Oct 26, 2008
    3,148 posts, 313 likes
    Starwind 27
    US Allamuchy Barnegat, NJ
    That and bar-hopping is a bad combination and gives snowmobiling a bad rep. The 2 most recent deaths on Lake Hopatcong involved drinking and skimming across open water several years ago and just a few weeks ago, hitting an exposed rock poking through the ice at about 100 mph at 1 am. Buddies at the local pub went out to find him and couldn't find the body anywhere near the destroyed sled. They found him on the other side of a stand of trees on the nearby island. He went sailing thru the trees from being ejected.

    I would say that snowmobiles leave no trace (or very little) on the trails they follow. Their compacted "soil" simply melts!
     


  12. capta

    capta

    Joined Jun 4, 2009
    2,180 posts, 447 likes
    Pearson 530
    XX Sailing in the Windward or Leeward Islands where ever we are anchored
    A hog with an electric starter? Don't like flying over the handlebars trying to start your hog, after a night of heavy drinking? Looking the fool in front of that chick? What, are you a wimp? lol
     


  13. dlochner

    dlochner

    Joined Jan 11, 2014
    1,448 posts, 389 likes
    Sabre 362
    US Fair Haven, NY
    Spoken like someone from Maine.

    As in any activity there are always those who give the activity a bad name. When I lived on a lake summer afternoons were spent listening to the whine of jet skis doing circles in front of my house, while the throaty roar of cigarette boats screamed down the middle of the lake. Winters found snowmobilers doing circles in front of the house at 2:00 AM after the bars closed. Spring and fall were good, no ice and the water too cold for jet skis.
     


  14. thinwater

    thinwater

    Joined Mar 26, 2011
    1,703 posts, 227 likes
    Corsair F-24 MK I
    US Deale, MD
    I've experienced run-away starters as well, although your choice of circumstances deserves a salute. In my two experiences, tools and terminals were accessible and damage was more limited, though one of the flywheels was toast (the other failed to engage).

    In my refinery experience we installed a LOT of remote isolation devices, for both power and flow. They were nearly always handy for safe maintenance too. The same thinking should apply to fuel systems, cam cleats, clutches, sea cocks, bulkheads, and anchors. Can you quickly and easily stabilize the situation?
     


  15. JimInPB

    JimInPB

    Joined Aug 22, 2017
    346 posts, 79 likes
    Hunter 212 & 170
    us Florida West Palm Beach
    What makes you think that I drink? What makes you think that the bike was mine? What constructive information or perspective do you provide with this comment?
     


  16. Ron20324

    Ron20324

    Joined Jan 22, 2008
    5,917 posts, 466 likes
    Beneteau 323
    US Annapolis MD
    Lighten up, Jim. We read him as kidding.
     


    capta likes this.
  17. capta

    capta

    Joined Jun 4, 2009
    2,180 posts, 447 likes
    Pearson 530
    XX Sailing in the Windward or Leeward Islands where ever we are anchored
    charlie-brown-good-grief.jpg
     


  18. JimInPB

    JimInPB

    Joined Aug 22, 2017
    346 posts, 79 likes
    Hunter 212 & 170
    us Florida West Palm Beach
    I see that has become one of your favorite posts. One would think that a "professional captain" might have more valuable information to add to the discussion.
     


  19. capta

    capta

    Joined Jun 4, 2009
    2,180 posts, 447 likes
    Pearson 530
    XX Sailing in the Windward or Leeward Islands where ever we are anchored
    I have used it exactly twice. It seemed pretty apropos.
    And what makes you think a "professional captain" need have anything especially valuable to contribute to a discussion about motorcycles?
    It was just a joke buddy, get over it or sulk the rest of your life. I certainly couldn't care less either way.
     


  20. JimInPB

    JimInPB

    Joined Aug 22, 2017
    346 posts, 79 likes
    Hunter 212 & 170
    us Florida West Palm Beach
    The discussion was about battery switches & their value in situations involving unusually high current draws, such as when a bendix engages & gets stuck. I'll assume that you have seen battery switches aboard boats before. I might even dare to hope that you would know where to find a bendix on a boat if you had a sudden need to look for it.
     



Leaky Lewmar ports?
Start by replacing lens gaskets in stock now
Ready-made sheets and halyards
Now faster than ever, our calculator tells you what sizes you need.
Mainsail covers
Pre-patterned mainsail covers to fit your boat
NEW rigid hatch covers
Hatch protection like never before. Tough, secure, installs in seconds.