Sunday, January 6, 2013

Pump up the volume, maybe?

You never know what direction fixing things on a boat will steer you toward. Even the most trivial tasks, can quickly become odious in a heartbeat. "The radio doesn't work on my new boat, will you look at it?" "Sure, but this is a warranty issue, any repairs will have to be cleared with the dealer first. I'll look at it, and tender an opinion. What's going on with it?" "Well I'm not sure. There apparently was a problem with it, and the dealer said a new radio had been installed. They averred it was working when it left the yard, but it has never worked for me at all."

Typically I run through a quick set of empirical tests. So since the radio is purported to be new, I start with the amplifier. When the stereo is on, and you crank up the volume, you can only hear the sub woofer playing, sort of.

The quick way to test the amp is to give it another audio source. A  smart phone, or an Ipod work well. Turn the volume way down, and use a cable with an 1/8" mini jack on one end, and a couple of male RCA male jacks on the other end.

Turn the volume up slowly, it is a pre-amp input after all, and it would be bad thing to overload the box. Hear nothing, call the priest to perform the amp's last rites. Hear something, and the radio must be the miscreant culprit.

In this case nothing is heard, and the amp is consigned to the depths. I do an estimate to replace it, and email it to the owner. The owner forwards it to the dealer for approval, and gets it.

A few days later I show up with the new amp, wire it in, and turn on the stereo. No noise, squat, zip, dead as a door nail, but just like before, oddly you can just hear a bit of sound from the sub woofer. 

Just so I can talk out loud about the problem, I call Jensen just to see if I've overlooked something basic, or maybe there is a secret reset button someplace. While I'm taking with them, just for grins I pull the new stereo out of the coamings and whoa, whiskey tango foxtrot, what is going on here? This is a new radio? Was it installed with a jack hammer? A screw is missing, the side clips that holds the cover over the screws are busted. It looks like its been installed about a dozen times.

For reasons I will never know, someone had installed the metal back hanger strap on the radio, and bent it straight back. It serves no purpose so why is it there? There is no access behind the radio to attach it to anything, and the nut that holds it is rusty. It could be it came from a different boat that used the hanger methinks, in a elementary way.

But what's up with the red Scotch Lock connectors. Did this installer once work for the phone company? Or was he out of the cheesy crimp on automotive connectors. Again for reasons I will never comprehend, someone had cut the RCA connectors off the radio's pre-amp wiring harness, and then reattached them with the Scotch Lock connectors. I have mused upon this, and I can think of no possibly reason to have done that, in this dimension anyway.

I'm still not precisely sure exactly what has happened to bring us to odd place, but the owner is entitled to a new radio on his new boat that does not have Scotch Locks holding the RCA connectors onto a hacked apart factory cable.

Nuts, I'm going to stop, and think about what to do. I reach down and turn off the battery switch. What's that noise? The blower is on. I again look at the battery switch. It's still off. I go to the dash, and I must of bumped the blower switch because it's on.  I turn it off. I honk the horn, turn on the nav lights. Yep, when the battery switch is off, you can turn everything on.

I call the builder and ask the question I already know the answer to. "On your boat when the battery switch is off, should everything still run?" I get the answer I expect, "No." While I musing with the builder's support person, I also ask if there have been any warranty claims about the stereo, and there was one. It was something about trying another stereo in the boat, and someone maybe thought a screw might have been twisted into the radios harness somewhere.

Since the owner wants to have a second battery installed, I can quickly fix the the battery switch's improper wiring. I think the dealer owes the owner a new radio, and I will push for that. I'm going to jump straight to the new amp with another audio cable to see if anything changes, and ohm out the harness if necessary. And no Scotch locks! It's a good builder, a nice boat, and I think the story will turn out just fine.


  1. Hey, Just a note. I've seen the scotch locks and back strap in use like that in one other place: stereo display cabinets. I'm betting this was a discounted ex-display model.

  2. Haha, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot", I'm going to have to borrow that one.


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