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Posted by on Aug 2, 2012 in Ask the Expert, Boat Equipment, How To, Maintenance, Marine Electronics, Powerboating, Sailing, UK, US |

Broken Radar? Maybe Not.

Here are two important issues to check before deciding that your radar needs a hardware fix.

Question: My new boat has been great, but I recently had a strange thing happen that has me a bit worried. I turned on my boat as usual and fired up the electronics to get underway. Suddenly the message shown in the attached  screen shot of my multi-function display appeared. This has actually happened to me several times recently,  but it does not happen every time I try to get underway. Is my brand new radar really broken?

A screen alert like this doesn't necessarily mean that your radar hardware is broken. More likely it's an electrical or software issue.

A screen alert like this doesn’t necessarily mean that your radar hardware is broken. More likely it’s an electrical or software issue.

Answer: It’s hard to answer this question definitively, but several possible causes come to mind. Here are some quick fixes that might give you answers, before you call in the boat dealer or electronics technician.

Electronic equipment is sensitive to voltage supply. Things are at their most vulnerable when you start your engine, because this rather heavy electrical load will sometimes cause a sag in the overall electrical system’s voltage that can wreak havoc with sensitive electronic equipment. It’s always best to make sure your engine(s) is running before you attempt to fire up your electronic equipment. Of course this also assumes that your boat’s batteries are in good condition. If they are suspect, that problem will of course need to be addressed first.

Another potential problem here is simply software-related. Electronic equipment manufacturers are always tweaking the firmware that makes their equipment function. Frankly, the algorithms have gotten so complex that glitches do happen. To troubleshoot, go to the screen that tells you the software version number you’re currently running. Next, go to your equipment vendor’s website and check out the area on their website that addresses support and possible downloads. See if there are any notices for firmware updates for your particular piece of equipment, then follow the prescribed steps to upgrade your gear to the latest version. Many times it’s possible to resolve glitches this way.

In my experience, problems like the one you describe that are intermittent in nature are almost always caused by one of the two things mentioned here, rather than a hardware problem. Your radar could be fine, but reacting to a sag in electrical current, or in need of a little software tweak.

- Ed Sherman