In general, Barefoot Gal‘s 12-volt wiring uses red for the positive and black for the negative. But as we’ve been doing work on various components of the electrical system, we’ve also come across white (both positive and negative), green, yellow, gray and even found one place where black was used on the positive side. On a few occasions, a single wiring run would change colors several times.
NOTE: All these colors do have particular meanings in a 12 volt system. Jamestown Distributors has a good list of color conventions. What I’m talking about is incorrect use of these colors.
Apparently, some people working on the boat had simply used whatever piece of wire they could lay their hands on that was the right size. YIKES! It certainly has made tracing wires, well, interesting. Future troubleshooting might be even more problematic.
One option would have been to rewire the strangely colored circuits. But that would have been expensive and time-consuming. Plus, things worked well the way they were wired (one of Dave’s favorite sayings is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”).
So we opted for the simpler — much simpler — solution: a few rolls of red and black electrical tape. Whenever we trace a circuit and find a funny color, we wrap the wire in the correct color (leaving the connectors un-taped so we can see any problems developing).
We use a lot of cheap black electrical tape on the boat for non-electrical temporary things. But for this purpose, we bought “good” electrical color-coding tape, pictured at right.
While you can get it at West Marine and other specialty stores, it’s a lot cheaper to buy at home improvement stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot. Here in the Florida Keys, it was almost exactly half the price at Home Depot as the exact same tape was at West Marine.