Side power thruster troubleshooting

Side power thruster troubleshooting DEFAULT

Side-Power Thruster Trouble-Shooting Guide

Trouble-Shooting Guide for post Thrusters with IPC Control System

Recommended Tools For Trouble-Shooting

Metric Allen Wrenches, 4mm to 12 mm

• Metric wrenches or sockets

• Needle Nose Vise-Grips

(for holding jammed nuts when removing battery cables from motor)

• Phillips head screwdriver

Small jumper wire

(with male quick discontent terminals if available, (Fig. A)

12” jumper wire with alligator clips

Multi-meter (with alligator clips if available)

Identifying Thruster Parts&#;

If Control Panel Does Not Turn On&#;

1. Check battery power

The control panel is powered through the bow thruster. The thruster is usually on its own circuit, meaning the positive and negative battery cables run directly between the thruster and the battery. A fuse should be installed on the positive cable within 72” of the battery. Check that it is not blown. A battery switch is usually installed in close proximity to the fuse and battery. Check that the battery switch is turned on.

2. Check Voltage At The Thruster

You should read battery voltage at the thruster. If there is no voltage at the thruster, there is a problem with the power supply. Check the battery, fuse, switch, and cabling.

3. Check for Voltage on the Control Harness Pigtail

With multi-meter set to DC volts, check from red wire (positive) to black wire (negative) on motor wiring harness pigtail. If there is battery voltage at the thruster battery cables, but no voltage at the motor harness pigtail, than proceed to step 4.

If there is battery voltage on the motor control harness, repeat step 3 on control harness at the control panel to ensure there is no fault with the control harness run. If there is battery voltage at control panel then there is a problem with the control panel. Please contact your local Side-Power distributor for service support.

Check Control System Positive and Negative

• Check for voltage between the battery negative stud and red wire on motor harness pigtail.

• If no voltage is present, then check that all motor harness and control box plug connections are tight and in place. If the motor harness checks out, then there may be a problem with the control box. Please contact your local Side-Power distributor for service support.

If voltage is present, locate the control system negative lead and unplug it from the motor harness. With multi-meter set on ohm (O), check for continuity between the control system negative lead and the A1 battery negative stud. There should be continuity; ohms will go close to 0 (usually about OO).

If there is no continuity between the control system negative lead and battery negative stud, then please contact your local Side-Power distributor for service support.

If there is continuity between negative lead and battery negative stud, reconnect control system ground lead to motor harness, then check for continuity between the black wire on the motor harness pigtail and battery negative stud. Set the multi-meter on diode-test position, showing about VV. (A diode is fitted on the black wire).

NB: Be sure to have positive lead connected to motor pigtail and negative lead to control box plug

If there is no continuity between these two points than the motor harness has been damaged.

If Control Panel Does Not Turn On But Thruster Does Not Run, Or Thruster Runs In One Direction Only

NB: The preceding tests are to be performed while the boat is in the water. Please contact us for service support on

1. Bypass Control Panel and Check Thruster Control Box and Solenoid Operation

Remove control panel and unplug wiring harness or unplug control harness from motor harness pigtail, whichever is more convenient. On the four wire Amp connector (wiring harness if disconnected at control panel or motor pigtail if disconnected at motor), with short jumper wire, jump from red to blue for starboard run, and red to grey for port run.

NB: Be careful not to jump red to black as this will PERMANENTLY DAMAGE THE CONTROL BOX

If thruster runs in both directions when jumping red to blue and red to grey on the motor harness pigtail, repeat this test on the control panel&#;s harness at the control panel. If the thruster runs, then the control panel is likely damaged.

If the thruster does not run, or runs in only one direction, at the control panel, but runs in both directions at the motor harness pigtail, then the harness or terminals are damaged.

NB: Be sure that all control panels in the system are unplugged when doing this test

If thruster does NOT RUN &#; proceed to Step 2.

2. Bypass thruster control box and check thruster solenoid operation

Disconnect the white IPC Sensor wire on the A2 Terminal.

With long jumper wire, jump from negative battery stud to D1 coil grey signal wire for port run, and to D2 coil blue signal wire for starboard run.

If thruster runs properly, proceed to Step 3

If thruster does not run, proceed to Step 4

3. Checking The Thermo Switch

Locate the thermo switch lead and unplug it from the motor harness. With multi-meter set on ohm (O), check for continuity between the thermo switch lead and the battery negative stud. There should be continuity; ohms will go close to 0 (usually about O O).

If there is no continuity between thermo switch lead and A1 battery negative stud, then either the thermo switch needs to be replaced or the A1 battery negative stud has been damaged internally. Verify that the A1 Battery negative stud is OK by checking for continuity between A1 and A2. If there is continuity then the A1 battery negative stud is OK.

If there is continuity between thermo switch lead and battery negative stud then there is a problem with the control box or the motor wiring harness. Please contact your local Side-Power distributor for service support.

4. Check for solenoid output

With jumper wire still attached and IPC wiredetached from step 2, check for voltage on the A2 terminal.

If no voltage is present on A2 terminal then the solenoid pack may need to be replaced. Please contact your local Side-Power distributor for service support.

If voltage is present on A2 terminal then the motor may be damaged. Please contact Your local Side-Power distributor for service support.

5. Check the Operating Voltage

Once the thruster is operating properly, check the voltage between the battery positive post and the battery negative post while the thruster is running. The voltage will drop initially and then should level off after approximately seconds.

The voltage should be no lower than for a 12 volt thruster and 19 volts for a 24 volt thruster after the voltage has stabilized.

If the voltage does not stabilize and continues to drop below or stabilizes below for 12 volt thrusters (19 volts for 24 volt thrusters), then the battery source needs to be checked to ensure that the amp capacity is sufficient to run the thruster. The cable run also needs to be checked, for voltage drop.

Please contact your local Side-Power distributor for service support if you have low operating voltage.

Tags: Side-Power Thruster, Side-Power Thruster Maintenance


Thruster TLC

Maintaining your thruster is easy, if you know the process.

Computer-brained joystick control systems are the rage for close-quarters docking, but many skippers handle their boats just fine using throttles and a bow thruster, controlled by the computer in their skulls. Add a stern thruster and a skilled boat handler can rule the world. But, like all things mechanical, thrusters need occasional TLC. Usually it&#x;s little more than a wash and brush-up and a new anode for the upcoming season, but sometimes there&#x;s a bit more to do. Whatever work your thruster needs, now&#x;s the time to do it, whether you live way up north or way down south of the Mason-Dixon line.

If a picture is worth 1, words, how much is a video worth, given that it&#x;s viewed at 30 frames a second? In keeping with this new math, the folks at Vetus have created a series of four short videos (on explaining how to maintain an electric thruster. Bob Walker, an applications engineer at the company, is the host/teacher.

Maintain the Voltage

I called Vetus and connected with Walker, a personable guy unfazed by his growing internet stardom, to talk about what you need to know to keep your thrusters running. He emphasized that the most common problem with electric thrusters is bad batteries: A thruster motor demands lots of power, just like the starter motor in a car or a boat. In fact, a thruster is basically a starter motor. The first step in thruster maintenance is to check the voltage across the hot and negative terminals, where the heavy battery cables connect to the motor.

A fully charged volt battery should read volts at rest and volts, or a bit more, when charging. The important thing is how the voltage changes when the thruster is engaged: It should drop, of course, due to the power demands of the motor, but by no more than 10 percent, according to Walker. A voltage drop higher than that calls for troubleshooting, since low voltage will not only reduce thrust, but can damage the solenoids and the motor itself. In the worst case, explained Walker, the contacts in the solenoid will weld themselves shut, and the thruster will be either completely inoperable or, even worse, always on. That&#x;s why the thruster circuit should always have a convenient shut-off, in addition to a fuse.

Excess voltage drop can indicate a weak battery, dirty or loose connections, or even corrosion in the cables, under the insulation. Dirty connections are the easiest to fix, but shut off the power first. There&#x;s a lot of amperage on tap in a thruster circuit. Walker reminded me, and he&#x;ll remind you, too, on his videos, to use two wrenches to remove the cables from the motor terminals. There are two nuts on each terminal; hold the one under the cable end with a wrench to secure the terminal itself, and back off the other to release the cable. If you don&#x;t do this you can loosen the terminal from the motor. Vetus tags the terminals to warn of making this mistake, but it&#x;s not uncommon for the tags to disappear. Clean the crimped-on cable ends and the terminals on the motor with a wire brush or emery paper, and reconnect the cables, again using two wrenches. If the insulating boots on the cable ends are torn or worn, replace them. Make sure when replacing the cable that the flat side of the cable end goes against the motor. Check the voltage drop again; with luck, it&#x;ll be within the allowable 10 percent range.

If it&#x;s not, maybe the cables are shot. Over time, said Walker, battery cables can corrode and degrade even under the insulation, until eventually they need replacement. The heavy-gauge cables used to connect a thruster are costly, so before replacing them, consult with your marine electrician. Let him test them, test the battery under load, and decide where the problem is. The best cables, said Walker, are tinned for their entire length to resist corrosion, so if you have to replace yours, that&#x;s what you want. And batteries don&#x;t last forever, either.

While you&#x;re at it, check and clean all other connections on the motor and solenoids, and pop out and clean the small fuse on the solenoid. Don&#x;t turn the power back on yet.

Brush Up the Motor

Most DC electric motors use brushes to conduct power from the source to the rotor. Motors can have up to eight brushes, really small carbon slugs held in place against the commutator by springs. In use, the brushes wear away and produce dust which, Walker recommends, should be cleaned up annually. Otherwise, he said, it can turn into a gummy mess that can cause intermittent operation, or stop the motor completely. Remove the dust by blowing it out with compressed air; the boatyard mechanic would use an air hose, but canned air works fine, too. (Canned air isn&#x;t really air, but compressed gas&#x;usually something ending in ethane. It&#x;s not great for breathing. Read the label and use it with adequate ventilation.)

Walker didn&#x;t mention this, but having cleaned a lot of boats, I can tell you that, if you&#x;ve never blown the dust out of the motor, there will be a lot of it, and it&#x;ll make a mess in the thruster compartment. Take steps to minimize clean-up afterwards: Maybe wrap some newspaper around the motor, or do it inside a plastic garbage bag. Use your ingenuity. A mechanic would probably remove the motor completely and clean it in a shop.

After some length of time&#x;maybe many years if the thruster isn&#x;t used often, or a season or two if it is&#x;the brushes will be worn enough to need replacing. How do you know when? Pull the brushes out and measure them; the owner&#x;s manual will list the minimum permissible length. Since brushes are a maintenance item, they&#x;re easy to reach and replace: remove the end cover of the motor, which requires only backing out a few screws. Some thrusters, including some older Vetus models, have access plates on the side of the motor. Once the brushes are revealed, move the springs aside and they&#x;ll come right out. Disconnect the electrical lead&#x;there&#x;s one for each brush&#x;and install the new ones.

Walker&#x;s videos are based on Vetus thrusters, but there&#x;s a lot of overlap across manufacturers in the basics of thruster maintenance; his advice applies to SidePower, Lewmar and other brands, too. But some thrusters have particular maintenance needs. For example, while many thrusters have sealed, oil-filled tailpieces (the drive unit that&#x;s in the thruster tunnel; some people call it a gearleg) that never need topping-up, others require checks of the oil level, and occasional oil changes. This means draining the oil from the bottom of the tailpiece into a container, and refilling from above. Most use weight gear oil. Consult the manual for your thruster for specific maintenance procedures, since some tasks (e.g., changing the oil) require the boat to be hauled.

While the boat&#x;s out of the water, clean out the thruster tube, but be careful of the prop, said Walker. Some, including those on Vetus thrusters, are made of Delrin, a tough plastic that can take a lot of abuse, but will be damaged by acidic cleaners. If the tube needs serious cleaning, remove the prop first; this will make painting the tube easier, too. If your thruster prop is bronze, grease the shaft before replacing it; it&#x;ll be easier to remove next year. Use a PTFE marine grease; PTFE is Teflon. Mercury Marine C Marine Lube is a good choice, but there are many others.

Almost all thrusters have bronze tailpieces, protected from corrosion by anodes&#x;renew these annually, more often if necessary. Always use the anode recommended by the manufacturer, since the alloy is important. Some anodes simply attach to the hub of the propeller, while others live between the prop and the tailpiece, so you have to remove the prop to replace the anode. Changing the anode is easier with the boat hauled, but can be done in the water; if you have to remove the propeller in the water, don&#x;t lose the drive pin that, in many thrusters, is just behind it. I&#x;d invest in a few spares.

Finally, read your owner&#x;s manual carefully. Everything you need to know pertaining to maintaining your specific thruster is in there. If you&#x;ve lost the manual, you can usually get one on your thruster manufacturer&#x;s website. Watching videos is fun, but nothing beats the printed word, in my book, especially when you&#x;re miles from a fast broadband connection. 

21st-Century Thrusters

Many electric thrusters that are doing a perfectly good job on yachts everywhere are based on old technology: Their motors are simply on or off&#x;there&#x;s no in-between. And brushes that make dust and need replacement? That&#x;s equipment Henry Ford would recognize. Let&#x;s move into the 21st century with new thrusters using modern controls that allow proportional thrust, and without brushes to change.

SidePower introduced a proportional thruster a while back, with variable speed that permitted more precise control. Now other manufacturers are following suit, including Vetus: The company introduced the Pro Series thrusters at the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show last fall. The brushless Pro Series has electronic controls and adjustable speed. Move the joystick all the way to port or starboard for max thrust, or just nudge it for a little. Bob Walker said this makes the Pro Series thrusters a good match for integrated joystick-control systems that use the thruster as one component. (Proportional control is typical of hydraulic thrusters found aboard larger yachts.) The Pro Series thrusters are more efficient, don&#x;t get as hot and have a longer run time than traditional thrusters. And the lack of brushes and mechanical solenoids makes maintenance easier. Pro Series thrusters can be retrofitted to existing tunnels in a range of diameters, by the way.

If variable electronic control isn&#x;t enough for you, check out Vetus&#x;s new Rimdrive thruster. It&#x;s a completely different design from other electric thrusters, and is based on technology proven on commercial vessels. A rimdrive thruster doesn&#x;t have a tailpiece driven by a motor; instead the propeller and a surrounding housing together comprise the motor, the housing acting as the stator, the propeller as the rotor. There&#x;s no external motor. The magnetic field created by coils in the housing interacts with permanent magnets in the rim of the propeller to spin the prop. This kind of thruster is typically very quiet, since there&#x;s no gearbox and few moving parts, and it has proportional control, too.

So far, Vetus is building only two models of Rimdrive thruster, to fit in a millimeter (roughly inch) tunnel, appropriate for boats in the to foot range.

Walker pointed out that another advantage of the Pro Series and Rimdrive thrusters is that neither requires ignition-protected housings, so both, with proper ignition-protected fusing, are ideal for use as stern thrusters in an engine room, or in other spaces where explosive fumes may be present and/or in damp areas where corrosion is prevalent.

This article originally appeared in the March issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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Before seeking assistance at the help desk of your Sidepower dealer/distributor please perform these tests and make notes of all

measurements to ensure that they have as much information as possible to work on.

NB! All check points and solutions must be carried out after consulting the relevant information elsewhere in this manual to under-

stand how the system is intended to work. If you are unable to understand what to check, you must consult a professional.

The electromotor runs, but there is no thrust.


If the flexible coupling between the motor and driveshaft is

not fitted correct inside the boat.

Are the propellers in the tunnel fastened correctly on the

prop-shaft (key/drive pin present)

With the motor removed, turn the driveshaft from inside

the boat to feel if the gears are engaging and turning the


The thruster does not start at all or works only in one direction.


Check that the voltage of the electromotor is correct for

your installation by their labels.

Check the voltage at the thruster between main minus input

(A1 on motor) and main plus input point:

Check the voltage at the thruster while you are trying to

run it. Keep main engine(s) running to have continous

charge to the batteries.

If the main solenoids on the thruster are not even trying to

engage (clicking) they are probably not getting a "run" sig-

nal from the control system. Try to run the thruster without

the panel by directly connecting the red and the blue or the

red and the grey wires in the controlcable contact coming

from the thruster.

If the thruster does not run at all, or only in one direction in

the above tests, check the internal wiring on the thruster

motor, solenoids and electronic motor inter-face box to be

in accordance with the wiring diagram and ensure that all

connections are clean and tight.

The thruster has an unexpected low performance.


Check voltage at thruster when running.

Check that all the brush-springs sits correctly on the brus-

hes in the electromotor.

Check that the propeller, gearhouse and tunnel is free

from growth/barnacles etc.

The thruster runs for approximately 0,5 seconds every 4 seconds.


Solenoid flapping, most probable cause:

low voltage.

The thruster runs for approximately 0,5 seconds every 10 seconds.


Solenoid lock-in, auto stop of thruster, auto retry every 10




SE 30/ S - SE 40/ S - SE 60/ S

Trouble shooting

Check the flexible coupling/shear pin and the motor installation to ensure correct con-

nection of the flexible coupling before re-fitting the electromotor.

Re-fasten or replace the propeller and/or key/drive pin.

In case of a failure inside the gearhouse, we advice to get a replacement gear-house

instead of attempting to repear the internal gear and bearing system.

If wrong, contact your dealer or distributor to obtain parts with the correct voltage.

The no load voltage should be:

12V system =12,7V / 24V system = 25,4 V. If below 12,3V / 24,6V your batteries are

not in a good charge state or worn out and must be recharged or replaced before trying

to run the thruster.

If less than 8,5V at the thruster the voltage is to low for the thruster to operate correctly.

In a 24V boat the thruster will operate down to approx. 12V, but the performance will

be very bad. Find and correct the reason for this low voltage which will probably be

one or more of these points: main battery cable sizes and connections, battery size and

condition, fuse and main power switch performance.

If the thruster runs in both directions, try the same in the connector that goes into the

back of the control panel. If it also works in this position, check the contact and wires

on the back of the panel and try to engage this again by pushing both ON buttons

simultaneously. If the panel does not turn on (see control light), measure the voltage

between the Red and the Black in the contact going into the thruster. If the voltage is

good, chances are that the panel is not working.

If it works by the thruster, and not by the panel there is a bad contact or a broken lead

the control cables between these two test points.

Measure that you have the correct voltage between the Red (+) and all the other col-

ours in the contact. If you do not get a reading.

Between main minus (A1 on motor) and the blue and the grey wire connected to the

sides of the main solenoids you should have the same voltage as between

the main battery cables on the thruster. If not, check that the internal wiring on the so-

lenoid is ok and measure that there is contact through the magnetising spools of each

side of the solenoid (measure between the red and blue on one side, and red and grey

on the other side with an Ohm meter.). If there is no

contact between these, the solenoid is broken and needs replacing.

If less than 10,5 V / 21V the thruster will not perform at specified effect.

If one or more brushes are loose/has no tension from the brush-spring, the perfor-

mance will be low.

If there is growth in the tunnel, this will disturb/block the waterflow and especially bar-

nacles on the propeller will greatly reduce performance.

Re-charge battery(ies), if this is not sufficient, replace battery(ies).

Check for bad cable connections, if necessary tighten/re-adjust connections.

Check cable size in accordance to manual.

Shut off thruster main switch, tap slightly on the solenoid to see if it will release. Turn

on thruster main switch. If solenoid is still in lock-in mode, replace solenoid.


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