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Eratic guages

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I just bought an '05 malibu vlx I took it out for the first time today and noticed (and heard) my gauges go erratic (back and forth quickly). My perfect pass would not light up and I think was beeping again and again. The red light on the right side of drivers seat was lit. My depth finder was reading BAD but I was not in shallow water. I just got the boat back from the dealer yesterday they supposedly water tested it and charged my batteries and everything was fine???? Does anyone know what the causes might be?

Thanks for any and all help.


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When you first turn your ignition to the ON position your PP will reset itself. BAD will flash across your PP display. Your gauges will also reset themselves. This is normal.

The red light you're refering to is the oil pressure light, IIRC. This light will always come on until you engage your engine. It should then go off. This is normal.

How'd the engine run?

Edited by chathamsolutions
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The BAD came up on the center screen where the rpms are not the Perfect Pass?

The gauges did reset themselves when initaially turned on then off again but it also happened a couple times while just idling or driving slow?

I think the red light was on the entire time the engine was on.

The engine ran great till about over 50mph. It then began to sputter as if there was a rev limiter or something, the rpms were only at about 3000. Very strange. Any thoughts?

Thanks again

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There'll be many here to help out. It's the weekend though, so responses might be a little slow.

A couple things sound like are happening.

You're boat won't go 50MPH. It'll probably get up at 45+ but it sounds like your MPH gauge is just off. You need to get out with a GPS and calibrate it. This will make sure your PP and MPH gauges are exact. If you don't have a GPS find a friend who has one. Or go buy one, they're cool. :)

Your boat does have a rev limiter. I've never hit mine, so can't describe what happens when you hit it. That shouldn't have happened at 3K rpms. Wacky.

The red light should go off. Get that checked. What did your oil pressure, temp, etc. gauges read while you were out? Normal?

Sounds like you need to get a mechanic out on the water with you. Or a knowlidgable Malibu guy at least.

But really, don't worry. Your boat is running :) And you'll get all these issues settled during the winter so you'll be having a BLAST soon. They're put together by hand, and typically have some break in issues.

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If you have the factory depth finder, the BAD will flash across the center display not the PP display. It should only do this when you first turn the key to the ON position & then get the correct depth reading after a few seconds.

It does sound like you're hitting the rev limiter on the top, but those RPMs are way off if that's true. Something isn't right in the equation. Hitting the rev limiter is hard to describe - it sounds sort of like an engine that's running rough, but you'd never run an engine rough wide open like that (or you probably shouldn't). Anyway, between that & the rest, I'd keep hassling the dealer about it until they figure it out. It sounds like it could be a ground problem, but with electrical it could be so many things.

Just for kicks, can you give us more information? Like what prop is on the boat (it would say right on the lip around the shaft)? Can you get a feel for if there are particular circumstances under which the problems with the gauges happen?

Edited by WakeGirl
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Thanks for the info. I took the boat out again, actually the rpm's were at about 5200 and i think the speed was around 40. I talked to the original owner and he said it was normal because he had gotten the prop tuned and that it was a safety feature??? I'll have to check to see what prop is on there. What should my top speed be approximately and at what rpm should that be at?

As for the gauges, they seemed to work fine now, I made sure to not crank the boat right away after turning the key once to the right. I allowed the gauges time to set themselves.

I think my electrical problem has something to do with a factory installed VSR (voltage sensitive relay) hooked up to my 2 batteries. One of my batteries may be bad and it's causing power loss or causing the relay the turn on and off? I'm not really sure.

Thanks again


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The speed sounds about right if you've been propped down (which it sounds like you have). Check on the prop size to see what you've got. Do you have the bow ballast in that boat?

As for the electrical, not really my area of expertise, so I can't say if a low battery in that situation would cause those symptoms or not. The gauges shouldn't be affected by immediately cranking the motor, but that doesn't mean that they wouldn't if there is a problem somewhere in the system. To troubleshoot it, if you can unhook the relay & hook both your engine & accessory reds & blacks to one battery without it, see how it runs that way. If you don't get the same problems then your answer lies somewhere within that VSR setup.

Edited by WakeGirl
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I am with Wakegirl on this one:

Remove your House battery and isolator from the equation...Find a way to connect the house circuit up to the start battery. You can usually bolt the main wire from fuse panel directly to the battery or the battery terminal connector will have a stud that you can use.

Take a real good look at your house ground system. There should be a hefty ground wire that leads from the battery negative terminal to a common ground lug under the dash where all the lights and instruments find their ground. If not add this wire it will most likely solve your problem.

If the boat runs on the start battery then swap the house battery with the start battery and see if things work well. If they do then all things point to the VSR switch.

Edited by MoonDawg
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  • 3 weeks later...

I probably know exactly what it is. Mine is doing the same.

Mine is a bad connection from the safety lanyard on the kill switch.

If it is making no connection, the ignition will not turn.

If it is making a slight connection, the engine will turn over, but won't start.

If it is making a one sided connection, it will start, but guages will not work.

If you can't figure it out, replace the safety switch...

THATS ON A 2005...

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