On-board chargers make life easy

Here’s a look at some more trophies that were dropped during the 2007-08 season.

Since first being introduced to the boating market several years ago, the on-board battery charger has become a must-have accessory for most boaters. This is especially true if your boat is equipped with a trolling motor. The trolling motor does not have an alternator and, therefore, cannot recharge its batteries like your outboard motor does. The trolling motor continually drains the batteries while it is being used, and it is up to you to hook up a charger and recharge the batteries when you return home.

Before the advent of the onboard charger, you would have to get out your portable charger, hook it up to the battery (one battery at a time), and plug it in to be recharged. You then had to remember to go back out to the boat the next day and unplug the first battery and plug in the second battery. If your boat has more than two batteries you would have to repeat the process for each additional battery.

An on-board chargers is actually one, two, three or four battery chargers built into a single housing. You simply purchase the charger that matches the number of batteries in your boat.

Install the charger in a convenient location so that you can see the indicator lights and monitor the charging process for each battery. There will be a set of wires (positive and negative) for each battery. Install one set of wires to each battery. Next you plug the extension cord into an appropriate electrical outlet, and the charger does the rest.

That may sound simple, but there are several things to be careful of when installing your new charger. For example, a recent e-mail that I received was from a boater who was simply replacing his on-board charger with a new one. The charger was located in the center console along with three trolling batteries. The outboard cranking battery was located in a separate compartment in the rear of the boat.

While disconnecting the old charger, the boat owner discovered that the wire leads for the cranking battery were connected to the master accessory switch on the rocker panel. He was asking if this was an acceptable method of wiring or should he have a separate set of wires running under the floor from the console to the rear battery.

As I mentioned earlier, an on-board charger is a multiple set of individual chargers that are hooked up independently to each battery in your boat. In this case, the boat owner would be installing a four-bank charger. If he were to wire one of the sets of charger leads to the master accessory switch as it was previously, he could possibly create a short circuit to one of the other sets of charger leads, which may damage the charger and/or the boat wiring system.

He would also have to turn the master switch to the on position whenever he wanted to charge the battery, and this could cause damage to other accessories in the boat.

It is always best to follow the instructions with the battery charger very carefully. These instructions will tell you how to hook up each of the wires and, if necessary, how to extend the wire length.

When you install your new charger, be sure to note the location of the in-line fuses for each of the wire leads. These in-line fuses are usually located only a few inches from the battery terminals.

After your installation is complete, you should plug the electrical cord from the charger into your extension cord. Now you can check to see that the charger is operating properly.

Your instruction manual will tell you what the indicator lights mean. Most chargers have a red, green and yellow indicator light for each battery.

If at any time you see a red light, this is a sign of a problem with the charger. Check your wire leads to see that they are on the proper battery post (red to positive and black to negative).

If all your contacts are correct then check the fuses. That red light may be indicating something as simple as a loose or blown fuse.

Once you have located and corrected the cause of the red light, you should then see the indicator lights turn yellow. This indicates that the battey is being charged. When the battery is fully charged, the light will turn to green.

If you would like to make using your on-board charger even more convenient, you might consider installing a recessed wall mount for your extension cord plug in. This plug in mounts to any convenient wall; the electrical wires are then hooked up to the recessed plug.

When you want to plug in your charger, you simply raise the cover over the plug and insert the end of your extension cord. This is a lot easier than fumbling around in your console or other compartment of your boat searching for the loose end of the electrical cord to hook to your extension.

Most on-board chargers will claim that it is OK to plug in the charger and leave it plugged in indefinitely. They state that the charger will sense when a battery is fully charged and reduce the output to a very low maintenance charge that will not hurt the battery.

This may be true, but if you are going to do this, then make it a habit to periodically check the water level in your battery. Charging a battery can cause some evaporation of the electrolyte in the battery, and it will need to be replenished when that happens.

If your boat is stored at home you may want to consider plugging in the charger as soon as you come home with the boat. Allow it to charge until all batteries are green-lighted, then unplug the charger. You can plug in the charger one or two days before your next fishing trip, and have the batteries fully charged for that day.

If you have any questions about your boat, motor or trailer, send me an e-mail at: theboatdr@yahoo.com. House calls via e-mail are free.

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