New Problems - Near Electrical Fire

Vikingstaff

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Warned: Long Read. Likely a Rant. Just reaching out to vent to my Bennington friends.

For those that know, our 2020 at the cottage was rough (not counting Covid and all): drunk snowmobiler crashed into it and caught the front on fire leading to major repairs and insurance/court issues, storm ruined part of roof and had to be replaced via insurance, next door renters not securing a rental pontoon that slide into our boat and dock causing cosmetic damage and another challenge, and a leaky port pontoon that had to be warranty weld repaired…twice in August!

Honestly, I felt we had just fast forwarded worth a lifetime of cottage crap, and were due for some smooth sailing in the summer of 2021. Well I was wrong, and here’s the story:

Get boat from dealership and in the water 2 weeks ago. Dealership does ALL work/upkeep/storage/etc. for our boat. Gets put in at boat lunch be dealesrhip, and I drive it 4 miles to our dock. Boat is operating great. Dockside I don’t have enough battery power to put the Sea Legs down. Volts on both batteries in high 11’s and too low to operate Sea Legs. What? This cannot be…

Call dealerhip, question their pre-season inspection because, well, my batteries obviously are not holding their charge (4 years old, so I get it…but seems it should have been caught by them). They wave dock fee, send someone out with 2 new batterIt’s and install them. Pricey batteries “tailored” for the Merc. Verado with Supercharger they say…. Volts look good, and we put the boat up on its Sea Legs.

Boat sits these past 2 weeks unused, but with Perko switch OFF. Go to boat today for the first time since the battery install and Sea Legs wont lower: both batteries too low of volts to operate: bat. 1 at 11.8 volts and bat. 2 at 12.1 volts (Sea Legs has a minimum voltage to work to insure enough amps to crank start the motor…something like 12.2 or 12.4….). Again…what? Dealership closed, so I figure I will follow up the next day. In the meantime, I figure I will put it on the battery tenter/charger.

Put bat 1 on tender/charger, and plug it in. Approx. 3 hours later bat. 1 at 13.3 volts. Unplug tender. Enough to operate Sea Legs so I know I’ll be good. Hook tended up to bat. 2. Plug in tender. Almost immediate smoke coming from almost all wires in the battery harness/Perko switch area (see Youtube video link below).

I immediately unplug tender. Some wires burnt through. One main wire harness melted a seam into it. I am certain I narrowly averted a fire. I even grabbed the inboard fire extinguisher and waited out about 10-20 minutes waving away smoke just in case. Smoke even came from vents going into the interior of the boat at the Swingback area, so I am thinking wires going from harness towards helm inside the boat may have melted too. Also, front half of the boat had the mooring cover over it, and it started to fill with smoke too, so….? No way to know the extent right now. Notice burned plastic odder from that vent and interior of boat though.

Afterwards I inspict all wires and the batteries. Hook up looks right from when the dealership put in the 2 batteries. However, I notice under close inspection liquid beneath bat. 2 in the tray. Cause? Source? Crack in new battery/acid? Not sure why its there, but it should have been bone dry. Boat was covered, and it had not been raining up here. Entire boat is otherwise totally dry…

I am flipping out and furious tonight. Just trying to keep my sanity together until I can get into the dealership when it opens tomorrow morning with my pictures and videos. Some pictures of the aftermath below. Also the video link to initial smoke and near fire. I am wondering how the extent of this can even be ascertained short of pulling and examining wires running into and under the boat given the smoke and smell coming from the swingback vent.

Smoke Video Link:

Near Electrical Fire

Pictures after it settled down:

2103DAE9-1D33-4343-8E54-0D5226A10FDE.jpegD8C2513B-C90B-497A-ADF4-92416F353266.jpegDB789576-54B2-476E-8B45-B3AACC1B16AA.jpegA698FAD5-9D9F-4F57-9788-4FD68526CD9F.jpeg54942D05-93C7-481E-9C96-8AB01A0578C1.jpeg44CCA5A8-3078-4574-B004-03A38AE28037.jpeg
 

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jhill

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Warned: Long Read. Likely a Rant. Just reaching out to vent to my Bennington friends.

For those that know, our 2020 at the cottage was rough (not counting Covid and all): drunk snowmobiler crashed into it and caught the front on fire leading to major repairs and insurance/court issues, storm ruined part of roof and had to be replaced via insurance, next door renters not securing a rental pontoon that slide into our boat and dock causing cosmetic damage and another challenge, and a leaky port pontoon that had to be warranty weld repaired…twice in August!

Honestly, I felt we had just fast forwarded worth a lifetime of cottage crap, and were due for some smooth sailing in the summer of 2021. Well I was wrong, and here’s the story:

Get boat from dealership and in the water 2 weeks ago. Dealership does ALL work/upkeep/storage/etc. for our boat. Gets put in at boat lunch be dealesrhip, and I drive it 4 miles to our dock. Boat is operating great. Dockside I don’t have enough battery power to put the Sea Legs down. Volts on both batteries in high 11’s and too low to operate Sea Legs. What? This cannot be…

Call dealerhip, question their pre-season inspection because, well, my batteries obviously are not holding their charge (4 years old, so I get it…but seems it should have been caught by them). They wave dock fee, send someone out with 2 new batterIt’s and install them. Pricey batteries “tailored” for the Merc. Verado with Supercharger they say…. Volts look good, and we put the boat up on its Sea Legs.

Boat sits these past 2 weeks unused, but with Perko switch OFF. Go to boat today for the first time since the battery install and Sea Legs wont lower: both batteries too low of volts to operate: bat. 1 at 11.8 volts and bat. 2 at 12.1 volts (Sea Legs has a minimum voltage to work to insure enough amps to crank start the motor…something like 12.2 or 12.4….). Again…what? Dealership closed, so I figure I will follow up the next day. In the meantime, I figure I will put it on the battery tenter/charger.

Put bat 1 on tender/charger, and plug it in. Approx. 3 hours later bat. 1 at 13.3 volts. Unplug tender. Enough to operate Sea Legs so I know I’ll be good. Hook tended up to bat. 2. Plug in tender. Almost immediate smoke coming from almost all wires in the battery harness/Perko switch area (see Youtube video link below).

I immediately unplug tender. Some wires burnt through. One main wire harness melted a seam into it. I am certain I narrowly averted a fire. I even grabbed the inboard fire extinguisher and waited out about 10-20 minutes waving away smoke just in case. Smoke even came from vents going into the interior of the boat at the Swingback area, so I am thinking wires going from harness towards helm inside the boat may have melted too. Also, front half of the boat had the mooring cover over it, and it started to fill with smoke too, so….? No way to know the extent right now. Notice burned plastic odder from that vent and interior of boat though.

Afterwards I inspict all wires and the batteries. Hook up looks right from when the dealership put in the 2 batteries. However, I notice under close inspection liquid beneath bat. 2 in the tray. Cause? Source? Crack in new battery/acid? Not sure why its there, but it should have been bone dry. Boat was covered, and it had not been raining up here. Entire boat is otherwise totally dry…

I am flipping out and furious tonight. Just trying to keep my sanity together until I can get into the dealership when it opens tomorrow morning with my pictures and videos. Some pictures of the aftermath below. Also the video link to initial smoke and near fire. I am wondering how the extent of this can even be ascertained short of pulling and examining wires running into and under the boat given the smoke and smell coming from the swingback vent.

Smoke Video Link:

Near Electrical Fire

Pictures after it settled down:

View attachment 30035View attachment 30037View attachment 30038View attachment 30039View attachment 30040View attachment 30041
You have definitely had a horrible run of bad luck! The one good thing is that the dealership handled the battery replacement so that can't be twisted around to be your fault. Being the warranty that Benningtons have, perhaps they should string an all new wiring harness between batteries, engine, and helm. If areas aren't easy to properly inspect, than replace all the harness. I would also thoroughly inspect all wiring to sea legs, etc. Maybe animals chewed on underside wiring???? Cheaper than a totalled boat. Fingers crossed your luck improves.
 

Link

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Sorry to hear. Hoping your dealer comes through for you
 

BigKahuna

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Holy crap!!! Hope everything gets fixed soon and covered by your dealer. Not fun watching wires burn right in front of you. Did you ever find out what the "liquid" was?!?
 

Vikingstaff

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Holy crap!!! Hope everything gets fixed soon and covered by your dealer. Not fun watching wires burn right in front of you. Did you ever find out what the "liquid" was?!?
No idea on the liquid. Have just left it alone overnight. I will be going into the dealership and will be waiting when their doors open at 9 a.m. today.

I suspect something is up with that new second battery, and perhaps the liquid is battery acid? It really should be dry and no liquid. It has been rather dry conditions. Boat was up on Sea Legs. That battery was covered with mooring cover, swingback rear lounge seat, and its own battery cover/lid. That battery base spot should be liquid free, as is the rest of the boat and the bat 1 base holder.

This whole things is 100% discouraging. Currently going on 6 a.m., Didn’t sleep a wink last night. Not even sure how I’ll get boat to boat launch. Probably tow it? I don’t want to dare turn on Perko switch even to bat 1 to try to power motor or anything. Totally worried about a fire at this point…
 
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SEMPERFI8387

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Wow, I’ve smoked wires in my time but that’s a doozy. Good thing is you caught it in time. Maybe smoked the harness but that can be replaced. Thankfully boat didn’t burn up or worse off, out with family and friends and this happen. Hopefully you can get it squared away fairly quick.
I think you need to go buy some lottery tickets cause as bad as your luck is, you still seem to come out on the better side of the worst outcome.
You’d probably hit 5 numbers instead of 6. :oops:
 

BigKahuna

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No idea on the liquid. Have just left it alone overnight. I will be going into the dealership and will be waiting when their doors open at 9 a.m. today.

I suspect something is up with that new second battery, and perhaps the liquid is battery acid? It really should be dry and no liquid. It has been rather dry conditions. Boat was up on Sea Legs. That battery was covered with mooring cover, swingback rear lounge seat, and its own battery cover/lid. That battery base spot should be liquid free, as is the rest of the boat and the bat 1 base holder.

This whole things is 100% discouraging. Currently going on 6 a.m., Didn’t sleep a wink last night. Not even sure how I’ll get boat to boat launch. Probably tow it? I don’t want to dare turn on Perko switch even to bat 1 to try to power motor or anything. Totally worried about a fire at this point…
Any chance of the dealership coming to you? Or have a neighbor tow it to the launch? When our boat was out of commission Carl and his wife towed our boat with my wife in it and I met them at the launch with the trailer ......
 

Vikingstaff

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Any chance of the dealership coming to you? Or have a neighbor tow it to the launch? When our boat was out of commission Carl and his wife towed our boat with my wife in it and I met them at the launch with the trailer ......
Funny you ask. I have wonderful neighbors (minus the VRBO next door). The neighbor on my other side is a close friend to us now.

He was actually out connecting up to charge his boat battery in his garage when we walked the dog at 7 a.m. He hasn’t set up his dock or lift for the season yet, but stores his own boat and has it on his own trailer.

Once I can get a “pick up” time from the dealership, my neighbor said he’ll tow me to the boat launch. Very nice of him to just get set to help out. Lucky to have good friends like that.
 

lakeliving

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If it wasn’t for your bad luck you’d have no luck. Sorry to hear this. Quick question, was that cottage built on a Native American burial ground?
 

claustralia

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So sorry to hear all this, hopefully the dealer will get it resolved and you can forget the whole thing ever happened. Definitely not a great way to start the summer but it can only go up from here, right?
 

Vikingstaff

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Update: Was waiting at door when dealership opened, and had already emailed my service rep with detailed description pictures and video clips. He came right out to me with it all printed off. Apologetic, assuring me they’ll get right on it. Asking questions. Saying they want to start any necessary paperwork or claims immediately Monday. :)

They said if I can get a tow to one of the boat launches they’d make sure they arrange to pick it up so its out of the water and in their hands so they can get started on it. I was able to coordinate with a couple friends up here who towed me in about 2 p.m. They biggest concern is they are thinking it’ll need all electrical harnesses pulled and replaced, along with other wiring, etc…. With some of the components, they are very unsure how it will play out time wise, and said they will do their best to get me back on the water before summer is over. Since we are in Michigan, it will probably end next week, so I think they are wildly optimistic. :D In all seriousness, they are concerned with some electronic parts issues if they can get it to me before the end of summer, but they promised to do their best…:oops:

Boats in their hands, and the good graces of the powers that be. Nothing I can do now but go through the process. :rolleyes:
 

lakeliving

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Their insurance policy or yours? I’d tell them it will need to be theirs. Your insurer will subrogate against them if they were at fault so they will pay in the end anyway.
 

BulldogsCadillac

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Wow. Nothing more to say but, Wow. I can only imagine how livid you are. I would be beside myself. Sounds like for some reason it was just throwing a ton of amperage and caused some wires that were undersized for that kind of load , or had a lot of resistance to heat up and melt the insulation.

Just a question, what position was the perko switch in? If it was in "off" then I'm curious as to how the current made it past that point. To be clear, I'm not saying you did something, I just enjoy electrical and am intrigued that it somehow crossed through it if in off.
 

BulldogsCadillac

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Do you have a separate battery voltage monitor wired in? Also, are there any other wires connected to the number 2 battery, or only main + and - cable?
 

TomS

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Sorry to see this but glad it wasn't worse in terms of damage or human casualties. You were fortunate to have caught it right there and somehow had the presence of mind to document it live.

I'd be curious to know the root cause when they figure it out. I've spent many hours working on the battery and charging systems in our boat, which has 6 batteries(!), so I know a lot can go wrong. My eyeballs tell me that was a dead short somewhere, like a pinched hot wire to the frame ground or something like that. The only other big current draws are going to be the power steering pump, sea legs, or maybe if you had a mondo stereo. The first principle of ABYC wiring standards is that each wire coming from any battery MUST be fused as close to the battery as possible (~2' or less), with the correct size fuse to protect that wire gauge. It has little to do with what is connected, rather to protect the wire itself from heating as happened here. This looks like that protection failed or was somehow shorted over. I'd look very closely at the SeaLegs electrical installation myself since it was aftermarket - wire size, location of fuse/breaker, etc.
 

PartyBarge

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Wow, there are a dozen possible scenarios. Do try to let us know what happened. The fluid in the battery tray likely is acid as the battery either boiled and, maybe, cracked the case. No doubt the mechanic is looking for chaffed/cut wires, mis-wiring or a failed/welded relay/limit switch (for the sea legs or some other high draw item). The current leakage prior to the dead short is likely related, but not necessarily.

Was there any damage to the battery charger or did the major event seem to be related to a particular setting of the battery switch?
 

Vikingstaff

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Was there any damage to the battery charger or did the major event seem to be related to a particular setting of the battery switch?
Good questions. I’ve been racking my brain every since Friday over this, and will be following up today with the dealership finding out what they are seeing (if they’ve had a chance yet) and sharing my various thoughts.

First, the battery charger appears fine. That part seems odd to me, but it does. I am wondering about finding a way to test it out somehow, as I wouldn’t want to use it on something else if it is somehow damaged too.

Other than the liquid beneath battery 2, both bat 1 and 2 their connected wires seem fine. Everything from the Perko Switch box to each battery is fine, normal, etc… except the liquid in bat 2’s tray.

Wires to and from Sea Legs seem fine. The ONLY electrical item used after the event was a brief few minutes of turning on bat 1 at the Perko switch to then operate the Sea Legs, before the Perko Switch was turned off again. No smoke, signs of overheating, etc could be seen during their very brief operation.

All the damaged wires seem to be between the Perko Switch and the rest of the boat. As can be seen a little bit in the video link, initial smoke is all from the connection box on the Perko Switch and immediate wire clusters coming off of that and going into the flooring of the boat to other destinations, as well as one of the main wire harness clusters coming out of the flooring and connecting into the Perko Switch box. That wire harness cluster had significant smoke and the protect curated plastic harness was melted through along a few inch stretch leading into the flooring of the boat.

Secondary spots where smoke could be seen rising, were swingback seat vent, and within front innner area of boat seating were smoke accumulated between mooring cover and floor, but I could not see where that smoke was coming from by the time I noticed it and removed the rest of the mooring cover to air it out. All of those are on the other side of any electrical connections with the Perko Switch/box.

Not being electrically savvy, it all perplexes me. My Perko Switch was off, so I don’t totally understand how items on the other side of it are getting fried if it is turned off, but then things don‘t seem to be getting fried on the battery connection side?

I agree that something with the draw down that led to me charging them may be at the root of it (of frankly led to the installation of two new batteries 18 days prior), but that baffles me too? Could my real problem have been a faulty Perko Switch or the Perko Switch failed for some reason - thus the slow draw down even when turned off and potential pass through electrical damage to wiring? Why not the same apparent wiring electrical damage between batteries and Perko Switch vs. what I do have which is all of being on the “other side” of the Perko Switch wiring…?

Our worry, a HUGE worry is that there seem to be pervasive wire damage, and overheating & near fire damage in may spots, some coming from “within” the boat. I am totally paronoid now over the safety of the boat post repairs (whatever those might be). How well can we know they got all compromised wires, circuits, electrical items of any nature after such an electrical system event?

My wife and I wonder what if they “think“ they got it all, and then we are out and there is some wire, connection or relay of some sort they miss, it shorts out, and starts a fire at some future point. So many concerns floating through our heads.

And right there with it all, is what we assume is a liklihood that this is not something they’ll be able to address or fix soon. Between backlogs and supply chain issues, and the possible need to basically inspect and examine everything electrically, it’s hard imagining getting the boat back before August.

Can you get at all the wiring without disassembling much of the boat (either the Sea Legs and underskinning to come from below, or seating and flooring to get at some of it from above)?

Since we will not have very much boating time after the end of July this year due to daughters senior year schedule & activities, and a business trip for my wife, I am thinking there is a very likely chance of no boating at all this season. And beyond this season, having concerns about the integrity and safety of boat after we have it repaired.

:(
 

Vikingstaff

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Their insurance policy or yours? I’d tell them it will need to be theirs. Your insurer will subrogate against them if they were at fault so they will pay in the end anyway.
My thoughts exactly. I’ve never laid hands on the maintenance of the boat. 100% them, including recently battery change over. I am hoping to have answers in this regard today…or at least by the end of the week.
 

Vikingstaff

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Do you have a separate battery voltage monitor wired in? Also, are there any other wires connected to the number 2 battery, or only main + and - cable?

Just a question, what position was the perko switch in? If it was in "off" then I'm curious as to how the current made it past that point. To be clear, I'm not saying you did something, I just enjoy electrical and am intrigued that it somehow crossed through it if in off.
All good quetions! Perko switch was off during the charging. Prior to it, I tried it on each battery and combined trying to originally operate the Sea Legs. It was only turned on briefly again after the incident. At that time, it was briefly turned to bat 1 position (which had already been partially charged without incident) and the Sea Legs were lowered. It was turned off immediately afterwards. At that time, the Sea Legs operated without further incident, and no other issues began to “flar up” in the few minutes it took to retract the legs.

The only voltage monitor I have as part of the boat is my helm gauge cluster. I got initial voltage readings from it when initially trying to operate Sea Legs before this incident. Then, secondarily, I got voltage readings from my battery charger display that were the same as what my gauge cluster had told me. I initially hooked up the battery charger to each battery to just get the voltage level and confirm what the helm gauges indicated. When verified that way, I then hooked it up to bat 1, did the few hours worth of charging, and then hooked up to bat 2 to charge, but immediately had the incident.

From what I can tell, Most everything comes off battery 1, and that is also the battery the Sea Legs are directly connected to. Bat 2 seems to be the add on extension battery type of connection to the system and the Perko Switch. I will include a few pictures below, but not sure how well they indicate connections. I was shaken up by the time I was trying to document everything as closely as possible post-incident.

97450205-5909-4A09-BB53-706F80F0F469.jpegBEC20F14-25E5-460E-A4E3-BFE596F1F282.jpeg8DD1E530-4D99-4AF4-B4F3-28CA4EF4DAFF.jpeg86511191-40DE-4CF0-B40F-164478D6FB87.jpeg41B48AC0-91CD-4622-9CA7-55B9FD70806E.jpeg585943A3-886E-4F7F-B60E-29C0B0A7B50A.jpeg
 

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