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Chapter 5

Galvanic and Stray Current Corrosion

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Overview
Galvanic Corrosion
Understanding Galvanic Corrosion Controlling Galvanic Corrosion

Stray Current Corrosion


Understanding Stray Current Corrosion Preventing Stray Current Corrosion Testing for Stray Current

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Galvanic Corrosion
Understanding Galvanic Corrosion
Causes Results Galvanic Series of Metals Additional Notes

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Causes
Requires
Two different metals (electrodes) Immersed in current-carrying solution (electrolyte) Interconnected by a current-carrying conductor

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Results of Galvanic Corrosion

New Zinc (for 1 diameter shaft)

Old Zinc after 8 months (for 1 diameter shaft)


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Galvanic Scale of Metals


What is the voltage difference between Zinc (Zn) and Copper (Cu)? An. 0.67v

What is more noble than Stainless Steel (Passive)?

An. Graphite
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Additional Notes
Expect corrosion with 0.25 V difference
Most negative electrodes will decompose
Magnesium @ - 1.50 V for freshwater Zinc @ - 1.03 V for saltwater Aluminum @ - 0.75 V will decompose if neither magnesium or zinc are present

Zinc (or magnesium) will protect


Stainless steel shaft Bronze propeller Aluminum outdrive
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Signs of Galvanic Corrosion


Blistering of paint
1st Warning Sign

Formation of powdery substance


2nd Warning Sign

Pitting of metal
Too late Severe Galvanic Corrosion

Dont treat the symptom, fix the problem


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Galvanic Corrosion
Controlling Galvanic Corrosion
Types of Metal Area of Metals Self-Destroying Metals Use of Sacrificial Anodes Indirect Cathodic Protection Resistance of an Electrical Path Between boats
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Types of Metal
Copper, bronze and copper-nickel are compatible
Avoid bronze propeller on plain steel shaft Stainless steel shaft with bronze prop may be used
Need zinc washer and/or zinc prop nut Avoid graphite grease

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Area of Metal
Good applying a less noble metal to a large area
Bronze through-hull on steel hull

Bad applying a more noble metal to a larger area


Steel screws / bolts on large bronze or monel plate

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Self-Destroying Metals
Brass (an alloy of copper and zinc)
Zinc will corrode away in sea water, leaving a copper sponge

Stainless steel hose clamps with different metal take-up screws


Stainless steel should be non-magnetic
If magnetic, it will corrode

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Use of Sacrificial Anodes


Made from active metals
Magnesium, zinc or aluminum

Corrosive action occurs on the expendable metal anode Bolted to the metal they are to protect Never painted Replaced when half-corroded or annually

Shaft

Prop Nut

Rudder

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Powerboat Zincs

Trim Tab 6 Zincs


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Indirect Cathodic Protection


Used when direct contact not possible
Zinc bolted to outside of hull Inside boat connect with insulated AWG#8 to
Rudder Post Shaft (requires shaft brush)

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Resistance of Electrical Path


Fresh water is less conductive than salt water
Less galvanic current Use magnesium sacrificial anodes

Salt water is more conductive than fresh water


More galvanic current Use zinc sacrificial anodes
Magnesium sacrificial anodes will not last

Graphite grease is an excellent conductor, but is a cathode


Do NOT use in stuffing boxes Do NOT use on shaft bearings
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Between Boats
Two different metals
Aluminum vs steel (or other metal) Immersed in current-carrying solution
Sea water

Interconnected by current-carrying conductor


AC ground (green) wire

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Galvanic Isolator
or Isolation Transformer
Stops DC current in AC ground wire

Galvanic Isolator

Isolation Transformer
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Stray Current Corrosion


Understanding Stray Current Corrosion
Causes Results Additional Notes

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Stray Current Corrosion


Requires
External source of electricity From wetted metal surface (electrodes) To return circuit of lower potential (electrolyte)

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Stray vs Galvanic Current


Stray current corrosion is more destructive
Hundreds of times stronger Galvanic potential difference 0.25 to 1.5 volts Stray current from 12 volt battery

Sources of stray current


Internal from boats 12 volt battery and defective wiring External to boat from another source of DC

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Results
of Stray Current Corrosion

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Additional Notes
Stronger than Galvanic current
100 times more destructive

Metals can be similar or dissimilar


Current flow from positive through electrolyte Positive DC terminal will corrode Both AC terminals will corrode

Electrolyte is any moist surface


Bilge water Wet wood Wet or moist surface
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Stray Current Corrosion


Preventing Stray Current
Wiring Bonding Battery charger Galvanic isolators Isolation transformers

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Wiring
Defective wiring is the most common cause
Deteriorated insulation on hot wire Always use marine grade wires

Run wires above water line

Moist or wetted surfaces conduct current Moisture in loose connections will cause corrosion
Waterproof terminals and butt spices Heat shrink tubing is 2nd choice Liquid electrical tape is also an option Electrical tape is inadequate
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Wires in bilge

Bonding
Maintain adequate bonding system
All metallic bodies and surfaces at DC negative Chapter 2 (Wiring) covered bonding

Propeller shaft bonding


Recommend by some authorities Will also reduce propeller hash (Chapter 7) Requires a shaft brush

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AC Ground Isolation
If your boat has the better ground and a nearby boat has stray current
Your boat will be damaged, unless Stop DC current in AC ground wire
Galvanic Isolators & Isolation Transformers

but

Stray current may flow through your boat


In one underwater fitting Through bonding system Out another underwater fitting
(remember corroded prop and shaft pictures)
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Corrosion Facts
Not all corrosion is electrical
Seawater deteriorates all metals Cavitation also erodes props

Stray current corrosion can be eliminated


Galvanic corrosion can be reduced and controlled DC current is 100 times worse than AC current
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Testing for Stray Current


Measuring Stray Current Corrosion Source and Mitigation

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Measuring Stray Current


Normally AC ground and DC negative connected To measure current, insert ammeter in series
AC Gnd DC Neg

To Shore Power Bus Bar

ABYC Req A Temporary break wire to insert Ammeter


Bus Bar

To Battery Negative

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AC Stray Current Testing


AC main circuit breaker On
All branch circuit breakers Off

Set multimeter to read AC current


Current should be less than 1 milliampere

Then selectively turn on each AC circuit


If AC current exceeds 1 mA
You have stray current in that circuit

After testing
Reconnect AC ground & DC negative bus bars
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DC Stray Current Testing


DC main circuit breaker On
All branch circuit breakers Off

Set multimeter to read DC current


Current should be less than 0.01 milliampere

Then selectively turn on each DC circuit


If DC current exceeds 0.01 mA
You have stray current in that circuit

After testing
Reconnect AC ground and DC negative bus bars
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Testing with Mitigation


Galvanic Isolators & Isolation Transformers
Stop DC current

To check for stray current with isolator


Place ammeter between DC negative bus and green shore power wire to isolator

To check for stray current with transformer


Place ammeter between DC negative bus and green shore power wire to transformer

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Internal DC Current Testing


Turn off DC main and all branch breakers Insert ammeter in battery negative cable Hold down bilge pump float switch
So pump will not turn on

Turn on DC main and bilge pump breaker Measure stray current, if any
Defective wiring or pump switch

Test other wiring with DC devices turned off


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Summary 1
Types of electronic corrosion
Galvanic caused by dissimilar metals Stray current requires external current

Galvanic current
Requires
Different metals Immersed in current carrying solution Connect together by current carrying conductor

Brass will disintegrate in sea water Zincs are used to protect other metal components
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Summary 2
Stray current
Requires an external source of current Normally is caused by defective wiring
Especially in / through bilge
Make sure any connections are waterproof

DC is 100 times more destructive than AC


Over 1 mA AC Over 0.01 mA DC

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