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I have to share a good question that came in over the weekend from Jay. I sounds like I had a better weekend than he did.

“I had excess water in my flats boat last week, (transom plug was not put in). All electrical went underwater, I flushed out the boat but still had corrosion issues, i changed out the battery switch as well as all relays.  The motor will not turn over, just clicks, it ran afterwards when I flushed the motor the night of the incident, any suggestions on what else could be wrong.  Also the trim will not work and the trim motor is located in the transom as well.”

Unfortunately there is no easy or standardized answer to this question. It comes up all the time. This is such a prevalent issue that the ABYC a few years ago actually was asked to do some research on the matter and make some recommendations. I’m not sure exactly what happened but I think it all came down to what I’m about to tell Jay.

This sort of thing needs to be handled on a case by case basis. The extent of the damage will depend upon a variety of factors such as water salinity, was the engine running at the time of the incident, how long the boat was underwater and precisely what equipment the boat has.

In Jay’s case and I’m sure he’s not feeling this was at the moment, he’s lucky becasue the typical flats boat has a comparatively simple electrical system. But that said, every single wire on the boat is going to need inspection. The components like motors (his trim motor) are going to have to be replaced if they went down. There just isn’t any practical way to deal with disassembling something like a motor and cleaning each and every internal part. Relays, yep, they’re toast. Light fixtures and such will need to be disassembled, contacts rinsed and perhaps wire brushed then sprayed with some WD-40 or the like.

As for the actual wiring, you may be able to simply remove and install new terminal ends but you will need to carefully inspect the copper wire as you strip back the insulation to install a new crimp connector. If the copper has turned black, that means that corrosion has begun already. You’ll need to strip back the insulation until you see nice clean shiny copper. Sometines this can mean moving several feet up the conductor if the wire has been underwater for a while. Usually though the water doesn’t migrate too far under the insulation so that trimming the ends and installing a new terminal will suffice.

Not clear from Jay’s note if his engine got submerged, but his no crank and clicking noise is indicative of low voltage from the battery(s) to the starter motor. If the batteries went under, he may or may not have an issue depending on the type of battery. If it was of the sealed variety he may be OK. In any event I’d get the cables off the batteries and totally rinsed and wire brushed and then reinstalled after I had the battery tested to determine that it’s still serviceable. I suspect his click is just being caused by excessive voltage drop due to a corroded connection.

Good luck Jay!

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