How to install depth finders

Written by tami parrington
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A depth finder is an excellent way to improve safety on your boat. Most depth finders today include full-screen visibility with imaging of the ocean/lake/riverbed. Not only does that allow you to know if there is enough water to float your boat, it shows you where you hang up, run aground or hit floating objects. Models that are even more sophisticated have the ability to load nautical maps so you can mark way points, plan your route and see your exact location in regards to landmarks. As complex as modern depth finders are, they are not hard to install. A single person can install one in an afternoon.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • transducer
  • drill
  • screwdriver
  • marine sealant
  • castor oil (optional)
  • depth finder

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  1. 1

    Decide on the type of transducer that suits your needs best. Depth finders rarely come packaged with the outer unit that sends a signal from under, behind or in the bilge of the boat. A depth finder will work with any type of transducer, and you can choose which one you prefer. The three types are in-hull, through-hull and transom-mount. In-hulls are popular because they do not require drilling a hole through the bottom or the back of the boat. In-hull transducers are great for single-layer hulls but have difficulties with core hull structures. Transom-mounted transducers are the second most popular type and are mounted to the lower rear of the transom (back wall) of the boat. This area is easy to access from the outside, and from the engine compartment. It offers a great signal but is often limited in regards to forward imaging. Through-hull transducers are harder to access for installation. However, these types of transducers offer the widest scope and most accurate images of all three.

  2. 2

    Pick the best spot for your transducer. Place the hull transducers outside where they will not have interference from other operating equipment such as trim tabs or the engine directly underneath them. However, they must be in an area where they will be underwater when the boat is on plane. That is less of an issue for in-hull transducers.

  3. 3

    Install outside-the-hull transducers by marking the screw holes with a marker and drilling into the hull. Apply marine sealant to the drilled area and then place the transducer over the spot and screw it into the hull. Run the wiring up to an existing entry and feed it through to the inside of the hull. Secure the wire with screwed-in fasteners, also applying sealant in any screw area.

  4. 4

    Secure the transducer wire to the inner wall of the bilge to keep it out of the way, and run it along the sidewall of the boat to the helm.

  5. 5

    Mount an in-hull transducer by cutting a section of foam to fit the puck-style transducer in tightly. Glue the foam to the section of hull where you wish to place the unit. Fill the cutout halfway with a good acoustic fluid. Castor oil works well. Insert the transducer puck into the cutout section so that it floats in the fluid. Cover the remaining area with more fluid and cover that with the cutout plug. Glue it firmly into place and run the wire out the edge. Fasten the wire to the side of the bilge and run it up to the helm.

  6. 6

    Attach the depth finder mount to a spot on the helm that is easily visible while driving, but not in line of sight for clear forward view of the water. Mark the screw holes, remove the mount and drill into the helm. Screw the mount onto the helm.

  7. 7

    Attach transducer wires to the plug-in for the depth finder. Run power wire to the battery or circuit breaker box and attach it.

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