Technical Article: #010

Title: Hustler Rewire Part 2 – The Tools, Rewire and Battery installation

Date Added: 19th October 2012
Article Author: Andy
Boat:
Hustler 30 – Hariette B
 
Rewiring a boat is no task to undertake lightly. It can be a very complex task and many different things need to be taken into account. This article is intended to share my experience. Hopefully it’ll help other Hustler owners when considering rewiring or even just adding a new electrical component to their boats. To cover this in one article isn’t practical so I’ll be splitting my experience over a number of articles namely:

Rewire Part 1 – Considerations and Planning

Rewire Part 2 – The Tools, Rewire and Battery installation

Rewire Part 3 – Installing a Sterling Pro Split-R

Rewire Part 4 – Installing a Solar Charger

Rewire Part 5 – Installing a new Stereo

Rewire Part 2 – The Tools, Rewire and Battery installation

The Tools

Having now got a clear idea of what we want to do with our wiring project the next step is getting the right tools and the right products for the job in hand.

Toolkit
Having realised the scale of the job for Hariette B it was imperative I had the right tools. Attempting this with a penknife, electrical tape and some Halfords scotch lock connectors is NOT the right approach. The marine environment has no mercy on exposed wiring or deficient materials. Cutting corners to save a pound or two will result in failure just when you need it most. This is why it’s best to always try and buy the best you possibly can in tools and products. Tools because it’ll make the job easier and products because of the longevity of the fix. So here’s my toolkit for the rewire, I’ve included links to what I’ve bought to give you an idea of what you should be looking for:

A word about Ratchet crimpers… Only use Ratchet crimpers. The universal crimper/stripper tools that you squeeze together available via cheapo Halfords auto sets are crap. They will not be suitable and they will create a rubbish crimp. You do not want to be in rough seas, the crimp doesn’t hold, the wire slips out of the terminal and the instrument you rely on suddenly fails!

Products Used
For my particular needs I used a website called The Wiring Project (http://www.thewiringproject.co.uk). This was one of the few places that actually had everything I needed especially the all important Tinned wire. Why Tinned wire? Tinned copper wire lasts up to 10 times longer than non-tinned wire. It also resists water corrosion and provides enhanced conductivity. It’s why it’s the only choice for marine installations. Do bear in mind tinned is more expensive. However, as I found the previous installation didn’t use tinned wire and rust was rampant through around 40% of my wiring.

This is what I bought for Hariette B (All from The Wiring Project):

  • Tinned Single Cable 2.5mm Black x 7 metres
  • Tinned Single Cable 2.5mm Red x 7 metres
  • Tinned Single Cable 4.0mm Black x 7 metres
  • Tinned Single Cable 4.0mm Red x 7 metres
  • Tinned Battery/Welding Cable 25mm Black x 3 metres
  • Tinned Battery/Welding Cable 25mm Red x 3 metres
  • Heat shrink Sleeving 6mm-2mm adhesive lined x 3 metres
  • Battery Isolator with removable knob x 2
  • 2 way Joint Box Connector – Qty 1
  • 3 way Joint Box Connector – Qty 1
  • 100 amp Bus Bar x 4
  • Mega Fuses x 4
  • MEGA Fuse Holder x 4
  • P Clips – Qty 25
  • Heat shrink Sleeving 25.4mm x 2 metres
  • Heat shrink Sleeving 25.4mm x 2 metres
  • 25mm Copper Tube Terminals – Qty 50 x 1
  • Zip ties… lots of zip ties!

You will notice that I’ve bought Battery cable, crimps and connectors. I did this due to not knowing exactly the length of cable I’d need and due to the high cost of chandlers offering to do the service! I’m glad I did, as I know the crimps are solid, the connectors are tinned and the heat shrink is great.

The joint box connectors are for the battery earths. I only needed one (the 3 way) as I thought I’d need two (one for live switches) but whilst I was doing the install I realised my original diagram was incorrect. I didn’t order any terminals as the Draper Ratchet kit had all the Terminals I needed for my rewire.

The Rewire

Before starting it’s worth remembering that you need your wiring diagram to hand as prepared in part one planning and that this is a job that cannot be rushed. It’s not a job to be done in a single weekend. It takes time and thought about what you are about to do. Be prepared to spend more than a few weekends at the boat in the winter/spring. For me I found the whole experience great as it was quiet on board, I have a stove for a brew every now and again (If you are really lucky a pub to take a break for an hour for a nice lunch to warm up and think about the job in hand, but that’s our secret right?! :-)).

Our Hustler’s are all from the 70’s the oldest being 43 years old the youngest around 33 years old. Some were home finished by hobbyists some were fitted out by Landamores or Tylers professionally. Of everything that is changed on a boat the wiring isn’t usually touched it just sits there dutifully doing it’s job never bothering anybody. However, the proliferation of electronics has grown and as a result our electrical consumption has increased way above what was imagined in the 70’s. We really need to check our wiring if we haven’t done so already.

One thing to bear in mind with a rewire is there is already a lot of wire that’s pre-installed. Some of it will be visible but some of it is also hidden away in very difficult places. This especially applies to wires that are up the mast and tucked away behind very hard to get to bulkheads.

Being totally honest, are you really going to rip all that hard to replace wire? How do you know whether it’s still sound? This is where the multimeter comes into it’s own.

Rather then me witter on about multimeter testing this great little article tells you everything you need to know for our purposes. I prefer to use a digital multimeter rather than an analog needle type.

The approach I took for Hariette B to check the existing wiring was as follows:

  1. First of all I test the resistance of the wire. If this checks out as ok I make a note.
  2. Next I snip a little off the wire off from both ends and strip back the plastic sleeve to look at it. Is it shiny? Dull? Rusty?!
  3. Next I feel how stiff the wire is. Is it still supple or very stiff?
  4. If it looks ok, the resistance checks out and it feels ok then I’ll leave it BUT it’s on my watch list.
  5. If the wired doesn’t pass my criteria I replace it.

The amount of broken and rusty (yes rusty!) wire I found had to be seen to be believed. All the battery cables were completely rusted up all the way through as they had never been properly heat shrunk or protected from the elements. The battery cable going into the manual battery switch was the worst. I was shocked at just how bad this was and even more shocked when I realised I motored all the way from Ipswich to Mersea when I first bought her with the wire in that condition.

oldwiring-example

An example of the rubbish, rusted connections I found in Hariette B

As I rummaged around tracing the wires I found lots of old wire that was just going nowhere there were metres of it. Beware of snipping wires. There were a few times where I lost patience and was about to snip the wires to release the tangle. I paused I then traced some of the wires to important devices such as the echo sounder!
Like any 70’s boat she had a real snakes nest of wires to sort through. This took two full days to sort through.

Crimp the old and offer up the new

Now I had ascertained what was being retained, I set about ensuring sound connections by preparing my old (what I believed to be sound) wire with new crimped ends.

How to crimp

  1. Cut the wire to the appropriate length using your wire cutters (If using a new wire)
  2. Strip back around 8-10mm’s of plastic sleeve to expose the wire using the wire strippers
  3. Cut around 30mm’s of heat shrink tubing and slide onto the wire
  4. Select the crimp terminal of choice and place over the exposed wire
  5. Get your Ratchet crimper, place the terminal and wire in the crimper and squeeze the handle till it clicks and releases
    You should now have quite a strong crimp (Pull on it to test). If it slips off easily then you’ve used the wrong size terminal for the gauge of wire. Select a smaller terminal and repeat the crimp.
  6. Now you are happy with the crimp slide the heat shrink tube over the new crimp and the wire and apply heat from the heat gun until it shrinks and seals the new connection.
  7. Let it cool for a few minutes and you will now have a very strong, waterproof seal for your wires… easy!

Here’s a cheesy YouTube video that shows how to do this (with the exception of the heat shrink).

heatshrink-example

My always live Bus bar – Note the battery crimp at the bottom and how snug the heat shrink is to the terminal

You will need to do these steps for every connector as you can see from the picture above I’ve used ring terminals for the connections to the BUS bar. I used spade connectors for my new switch panel.
However, I didn’t replace the original switch panel in the boat, as I love the tactile feel and the retro look. Therefore it uses the old terminal block approach (bare wire screws into plastic block). I don’t like this as it leaves it open to corrosion. However, things looked ok when I tested the wires so this goes into the “it’s something I have my eye on” category.

The final step for the old wiring was to arrange it all ready for the new wiring. This also helped me size weather the existing arrangements for the wire routing were suitable.

On with the new
Now, we’ve ascertained where the old is we are ready for the new. For this I placed the wire roughly where it should go. This included BUS bar placement and instrument placement. I worked my way from the batteries, to the BUS bars, to the switch panels then to the instruments/sockets/lights.
Doing it this way around ensured I had enough wire measured and cut and it also showed me where the BUS bars could be placed practically so it was inline with the old retained wiring and the new.

What I had in mind changed as soon as I went through this exercise as I realised that in some places the wire placement just wasn’t practical. This was true in particular of the Sterling Pro-Split R as the original location had it above the fuel filter. I didn’t fancy an electrical short (Yes I know it was an extremely remote chance) sparking and arcing off the filter. By taking the batteries > Bus Bar > Switch Panel > component approach it also gave me the sequence of wiring installation. Namely; Battery to Battery, Battery to Bus bar, Bus bar to switch panel and finally switch panel to components.

midway-through-install

Work in progress on Hariette B

There’s no prescribed route to wire in Hustlers as every Hustler is unique and any wiring run is going to be personal to that particular boat. I’ve tried to follow where the original run is and improved the routing a bit by tidying the wires as I go. To tidy the wires I used flexible plastic cable tubes and plenty of zip ties to keep the wiring together so it wasn’t all over the place. If I add more wires then I can thread them through the zip ties.
Which brings us nicely to the battery installation.

The Batteries

As is evident from the photo below the existing battery environment failed on many counts:

  • The batteries were not secured; they were resting on the moulded water tanks
  • The batteries were not fit for what I needed power wise
  • The batteries were pretty old and I was unsure as to whether they had been charged efficiently or how old they were

In short (no pun intended) these batteries pretty much had to go.

old-battery-close-up-of-terminals

As you can see on the live Terminal rust! No straps just sat on the water tank!!

This introduced a new challenge all of it’s own. My target was to sail for a few days without running the engine to charge the batteries. I didn’t want a wind vane as I thought it would ruin the graceful lines of the Hustler. So larger capacity batteries was what I needed.

The problem was that larger capacity meant larger size and I didn’t have that much space to install the batteries. I sized where the original battery installation was (next to the companion way steps on the starboard side) and that was too small and frankly looked a bit of a pain to get to. Eventually I settled on a compromise of the current location and selected 1 x starter battery (100amp) and 2 x House batteries (88amps each). I know a 100amp starter battery is a bit much but like everything with my approach to the electrics I’d rather be a bit over than under. The physical size of the batteries was also an important factor as I had to be sure they could fit it into the current small space. I did consider moving the starter battery to another part of the boat in a dedicated box. However, I wanted to ensure I had as short a distance as possible to ensure there was little to no voltage drop.

I’ve used GEL maintenance free marine batteries in Hariette B for one simple reason. I don’t trust traditional wet cell batteries. I will never forget how one tipped over in my car by accident. The smoke filled the car and the acid burned quickly through the carpet and was attacking the metal, leaving a nice hole. Should that happen on a boat it doesn’t bear thinking about. In addition, as the batteries are installed in an enclosed space I’d rather replace them every few years rather than mess around with distilled water and all that.

I looked at battery boxes for Hariette B, they are bulky. Seeing as I use maintenance free batteries I was looking more for a way of clamping them down. That’s when I discovered these Battery Holders from Bainbridge marine.
battery-holder-bainbridge

Bainbridge Marine Battery Holder Kit


I know it sounds extreme but I think about inversion when I think of the batteries. If the boat is at extreme angles the last thing I need to worry about is batteries flying around and acid spilling. I created a shelf in the existing compartment and bolted it down. I then bolted three of the Bainbridge holders down onto the shelf. The batteries sit in the holder and are clamped into place. I can assure you nothing budges these holders!

batteries-mounted

All Batteries securely installed and connected (Note the Solar Regulator at the back)

For connecting the cables to the batteries I used wing nuts. Why wing nuts? This is to enable quick release of the battery terminals in addition; I didn’t like the thought of using a spanner of socket set to unscrew the nuts and then inadvertently connecting the positive and negative terminals with the spanner! Sounds extreme I know but knowing my luck that’s the sort of thing that happens to me :-)

finished-batteries

Everything put back together, door back on and seat back ready to be returned

The battery cables
As I mentioned earlier I made all my own battery cables. It’s exactly the same as doing a terminal crimp except I use a hydraulic crimper instead of the Ratchet crimper to ensure a rock solid connection. As you can see from the photos there’s a number of cables and it would cost a fortune for a chandler to make these up at lengths that may not be suitable.
Again I used tinned cable all with heat shrunk ends. I wanted to ensure I didn’t have any rust creeping in just like the previous old installation.

Charging the Batteries

The batteries are in place and now I need a reliable charging and monitoring mechanism. This will be covered in Part 3 and Part 4.

Summary

Hopefully this provides a good overview of my experience with Hariette B, the tools and products I’ve used. Finally the challenges I faced and how I overcame them.
As I’ve mentioned before all our Hustlers are different and all have their unique wiring requirements.
I cannot state enough the importance of quality tools, good component products and most important of all time. This is not a quick job, this is a job that is steady and methodical in approach.

Before and After

The end result. It’s not 100% but’s it’s a thousand times better than what was there

Having run for a season with my new installation it’s been worry free and absolutely brilliant. I’m certain what I’ve done will last another 20 plus years.

Next is part 3 – Installing a Sterling Pro Split-R



HOA NOTE:
The article above is related to works that the author has carried out to their own boat at their own risk. This article is intended to share the authors experience with other readers only. It is not intended to be a comprehensive step by step instruction guide. Anyone choosing to do any work as a result of reading this article do so at their own risk. If there is any doubt about whether to conduct work on your own boat call a professional to assist.