How to wire a boat switch panel

Written by steve hayward
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How to wire a boat switch panel
Adding a switch panel to your boat can simplify operation. (ponte di comando image by laura.zampardi from Fotolia.com)

Your boat is equipped with many components controlled by switches. You can simplify their operation by installing a centrally located switch panel, and using that to control components located in various areas of the boat. Panels are available that include from a few to many switches, and may be equipped with a variety of switch styles to suit your method of operation. You can install a switch panel yourself in just a few hours of work.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • 12-gauge wire
  • 14-gauge wire
  • Ring terminals
  • In-line fuse
  • Wire ties or brackets
  • Wire cutters
  • Wire stripper
  • Crimping pliers

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Locate the battery that provides house power or a fused positive terminal block connected to the battery.

  2. 2

    Locate a ground point, either the negative battery terminal or a negative terminal block connected to the battery.

  3. 3

    Cut one length of 12-gauge wire to make the run from the positive power source to the positive terminal of the switch panel, and one length to make the run from the negative terminal of the panel to the ground location.

  4. 4

    Strip the insulation from each end of the wires, and crimp on the ring terminals.

  5. 5

    Attach the ring terminals to the panel terminals, positive battery terminal or terminal block, and the ground point, using wire ties or brackets to support the wires. If using battery terminals, connect an in-line fuse to the positive terminal, and connect the positive lead to that.

  1. 1

    Choose a component to be controlled by a switch in the panel.

  2. 2

    Cut one length of 14-gauge wire to make the run from the positive connection of the switch to the positive terminal of the component.

  3. 3

    Cut one length of wire to make the run from the negative side of the component to the negative side of the switch or a ground connection on the panel.

  4. 4

    Strip the insulation from each end of the wires, and attach ring terminals.

  5. 5

    Connect the wire leads to the switch and the component.

  6. 6

    Repeat the above steps for additional switches and components.

Tips and warnings

  • Use a wire gauge that is rated for the load it must carry; use a larger wire gauge if necessary.
  • Use stranded wire (not solid) that is marine-rated.
  • Support the wires adequately to avoid damage or excessive wear caused by vibration or chafing.
  • To avoid electrolysis issues, do not connect ground wires to the engine or hull of the boat; connect directly to a ground strip or the battery.

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