How to Install a Boat Switch Panel

Written by steve hayward
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How to Install a Boat Switch Panel
A switch panel can consolidate controls for your boat. (boat steering wheel image by EW CHEE GUAN from

Switch panels can consolidate many of the controls for equipment and accessories on your boat. They can include from one to a dozen or more individual switch assemblies. These switches are all mounted on one convenient panel, accessible from the helm or other central location. Installation can be accomplished in an afternoon.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Switch panel
  • Sabre saw
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Mounting hardware
  • Wire
  • Ring terminals
  • Inline fuse
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire cutters
  • Wire stripper

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  1. 1

    Identify a convenient location for the panel that is free from obstructions. Make certain there is clear space behind the panel for making connections.

  2. 2

    Mark the area of the mounting surface to be cut and removed. Leave adequate space around the area for mounting the faceplate.

  3. 3

    Remove material from the mounting surface with the sabre saw. Cut so the panel can be accessed from behind.

  4. 4

    Mark and drill the pilot holes for the screws. These will be used to attach the faceplate to the mounting surface.

  5. 5

    Install the switch panel using the faceplate screws and mounting hardware.

  1. 1

    Obtain a 12-volt power source; the battery or a power distribution block are good choices. Choose a ground location. The battery or a grounding block will suffice.

  2. 2

    Measure the distance from the switch panel to the power source. Measure the distance from the panel to the grounding block. Determine the appropriate wire size and cut to length.

  3. 3

    Route the wires to their end locations. Install the wires with mounting clips or hangers.

  4. 4

    Strip the insulation from the ends of the wires. Attach ring terminals and connect the positive lead -- the wire that will carry the current from the power source to the switch panel -- to one side of the panel and to the power source. If the power source is not fused, connect an in-line fuse between the power source and the wire lead.

  5. 5

    Connect the return wire between the negative side of the panel and the grounding block.

Tips and warnings

  • Use marine-grade stranded wire for all connections.
  • Marine applications should use at least 12-gauge wire for switch panels supporting light loads. Use 10-gauge wire for heavier loads and longer runs.
  • Do not substitute lighter gauge wire due to the danger of overheating and fire.

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