Find the Accidental Ground

QuestionI have a 28-foot center console with twin DF 250 Suzuki outboards. It started and ran fine for winterization last year. This year I chose — wisely, I assumed — to replace both batteries before the season began. Unfortunately, the starboard engine cranked and started, but the port engine either went “click” or remained quiet when I turned the key. The voltmeter shows voltage. What’s going on?

Gary Y., Newport News, Va.

AnswerI think you’ll hate me for this. I assume the batteries are virtually inaccessible, right? Each battery must have (at the least) one heavy POS (RED) cable attached to it, running to the battery switch(es). Each battery must have at least one heavy NEG (BLACK) cable from each engine running to the negative post.

If you have two batteries and one switch, then properly, each engine should ground to its own battery. I think what’s happening is that the port engine’s ground cable lies somewhere in the bilge, and the dash gauge response is coming through an accidental ground, such as a tie bar between the two steering sections.

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