By Ben Ellison
Every time I start my engine, all my electronics “burp,” shutting down or resetting. What can I do? S. Plainfield, NJ
Well, that’s rude. Actually, yours is not an uncommon problem, and lots of skippers simply wait until they’ve fired up the engines before turning on their machines. Some electronics manufacturers even recommend that procedure in their manuals. But the technique seems rather crude, even annoying, if, say, you anchor overnight during an offshore fishing trip and want to start up at dawn without losing your electronic plot.
There are a couple of possible solutions. One is to install a separate electronics battery which shares only a ground and a switched charging circuit with your boat’s main power system. NMEA recommends this setup as the kindest way to feed your power-sensitive devices. After all, the problem you are experiencing is that your electronics are trying to protect themselves from a power surge precipitated by the big draw your starter motor imposes on the system.
Another possible fix is to install surge protection. I recently discovered that marine-specific protectors exist, and I’m told that they have successfully cured other “burping” boats. The manufacturer is YachtGard, information available at www.yachtgard.com, (888) 200-7460. The beauty of the YachtGard products, which are designed for whole D.C. and A.C. distribution panels, is that they also safeguard your electronics from lightning in a way that’s separate from and additional to the proper bonding system discussed in previous columns. —B.E.
Got a marine electronics question? Write to Electronics Q&A, Power & Motoryacht, 260 Madison Ave., 8th Fl., New York, NY 10016. Fax: (917) 256-2282. e-mail: PMYElectronics@primediamags.com. No phone calls please.
This article originally appeared in the August 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.