Alternator Short

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Well, our first Caribbean / Grenada boating day started out great but then presented new challenges. While warming up the engine at 0900, to check all systems, we noticed that the charging system was at 12.5 volts. That is odd. That means that the alternator is not putting out the normal power, which should be 14.4 to 13.3 volts. This is usually a very simple solution with Balmar gear. Usually 99% of the time, it is simple power to the Balmar 614 regulator is off. A wire came off, a fuse burned out, there is a short somewhere.  So, after running for 15 minutes, we concluded that the alternator was not working and we needed to look into this. We alerted IP38 DreamCatcher that we would remain in dock and solve this problem. Well…..from 0900 to 1500 we did. OMG.

We are ready to go

We had just spend 5 days in the boat yard preparing the boat for launch. We launched it yesterday and finished the sails and dinghy late last night. Today we were planning on departing and moving over to town where we could have access to groceries and marine supplies plus water and power on the dock. This dock is the service dock and water and power are not easily delivered. So we planned to launch the boat and move. Well, not today.

Island Spirit with IP38 DreamCatcher

We start with the Balmar 614

Like most alternator problems, it is the 12 volt power not getting to the regulator. So we first start there and check all the fuses with our volt meter. Sure enough we find a blown fuse on the red line powering the regulator. So, we replace this and POOF, it blows again along with smoke and sparks. NOT GOOD on a plastic boat. NOW it is serious, any time we have electrical problems, we take them very seriously because they can start a boat fire and that is not good. So, we now need to find out why the fuse keeps blowing and where the short is located.

Checking the 614 regulator wiring harness. All is good.

Balmar to the Rescue plus Google Fi phone

Balmar has always provided the best support over the many years we have used them. So, I called Washington State from Grenada and spoke with support. I explained the issue and they pointed me to testing the alternator for a short. I said, it was fine when I put it always, and now it was stored for 6 months and POOF, it is not working. Very odd.  I wanted to Full Field the alternator and jump it, but they explained that this could be a serious problem if there is a short. So they had me check the ohm reading on the blue field wire to the ground. If it was 7 – 8 ohms then that would be OK. If not, we have a short. Well the ohms were .007 which means going to ground, a serious short inside the alternator. So they directed me to pull it and replace it. 

OH, sure, this alternator cost about $650 dollars, I will just go get another one!

Balmar documents and help is always the best

Off with the old. which is new

So, we pulled the old, 3 year old $650 Balmar 100 amp alternator and we checked all the wiring. We could not see anything wrong with our ships wiring, so it had to be in the alternator.

Pull the old white Balmar
We always disconnect the red power feed from the alt back to the battery, as that wire is large and directly to the bank. It is serious if you short out that large wire, so we take it off the bank first, then drop the alt.

Pick an alternator, we have 3

We have full spare parts on Island Spirit just in case we need to make repairs at sea or in remote locations like this. So, In our bow locker under the bed we pull out two spare alternators and one spare Balmar 614 regulator.  So, we have the parts to fix this. The problem with alternators is that they all fit the saddle differently and their wiring connections are in different location. Add to this, their field wire and stater plugs are different. They all should be universal but they are not.

The oldest alt seemed to be my best fit. The saddle was right, and the field wire plug was the same as the Balmar, so it was plug and pray. 

My three alternators, Balmar 100 amp, Ample Power 120 amp, and Yanmar/Hitachi 55 amp. We use the smallest one,

Of course we do it twice

We always do things twice it seems with 12 volt power as this is our weakest skill set. Here I installed the alternator with positive, negative and temperature prob, leaving the field wire til after installed. Once fully set up and bet tension done, I go to the back to plug in the field wire and it is behind the heat exchanger, so I have to remove it all and start over. Round two, I connected all wires and THEN mounted and installed the alternator.  Rookie mechanic mistake.

Installed and running, all looks good.
Close up of my marking from when I last removed this. Positive, Field and Negative>s it is not the right bolt on top, but it was all I could make work.

We did it

A required selfie with our success. We are happy and all is back up and running. This has been the most challenging launch in 18 years. The heat, and humidity is high. The boat is in the worst shape in 18 years. We are having breakdowns on new systems that we put in to come down here. And to top it off we are rusty and not even close to up to speed. Toughest start ever and we think it is just the remoteness of the start.  It sure is 10 times easier in Stuart, Fl or Miami, Fl. WOW. 

Hayden and Radeen with an alternator repair need now in Grenada

Next up, hanging with the big boys

This is where we are gong, over to the main marina in town, Port Louis where we will hang out with the big players. Check out these buddy boats!

Oh yea, we hope to stop over and visit….NOT INVITED….i bet
Our first destination from Clarks Court Marina.

Our LIVE tracking MAP is here

We run the Garmin InReach and when the boat moves it places a pin on this map often. Please look at out map here, and if you want to see all our pins, click the VIEW ALL TRACKS and then zoom back.

https://share.garmin.com/islandspirit

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4 Replies to “Alternator Short”

  1. My heart is with you guys! I agree that problems in the Caribbean are always exponentially more difficult than home. This year, Sunkissed started our season with a year old autopilot not working, and a newly installed Magnum inverter/charger not working. Then, to do some electrical system testing we unhooked the solar panels. Of course, now they won’t come back on. Have I mentioned we’ve been in the water for three weeks??? Hang in there. It gets better! All the best!

  2. Damn…hard to understand how an alternator just sitting there could develop a short….weird….I assume you are going to have the alternator rewired (cheaper than buying new) and maybe then you can identify the cause…I’m amazed you have 2 alternators and a regulator as back up!

    I”m hoping all other electronic systems are working.

  3. Dang!!!! That is a tough nut to crack.I had to replace my one month old Balmor while in the Bahamas last spring.Sent it back to factory where testing indicated that it had seriously overheated.Repaired under warranty but the replacement purchased in Marsh Harbor is working quite well and The Balmor is stowed .Wish I were there to help you like you did for us with our battery issues last year.

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