Getting Started with Wiring the Console
In order to get the boat console wiring done, the first thing I needed to do was map out a wiring path for the inside of the console. My solution is to usually stare it for a while until a plan starts to come together. Whatever wiring path I chose, it has to accommodate the switch box, terminal blocks, the starter switch I eventually used and the horn and it’s relay as well as a relay to power the entire console up.
Laying Out The Components and Wire Path
Installing the Components
So I stared at it for a while and visualized where all the components would go. What came next was the wire path to the components. I also had to pick a strategic location for the terminal blocks that would end up being a ground and power bus. I finally came up with a wire map which I think is good. At that point, I mapped it out in my head.
Next, I went ahead and attached all of the components I would be using. I was lucky enough to find this really skinny masking tape, most likely from some long forgotten project. I’ve got several rolls of it and can now put it to good use. I used the tape to lay out the wire path between all the components. You can see in this picture where most of the components have been placed as well as the “pinstriping laying out the wire path. PICTURE
One of the decision I had to make along the way was whether to energize the console from the engine control or use a push button switch. I opted for the push button switch. The key reason for this is that if I was anchored. I wanted to be able to run lights, fish finders and other items without energizing the engine. A push button switch allows me to do that. You can see in the last picture the hole in the upper right hand corner where the push button switch will be mounted.
Planning the Console Wiring
The next step was important to keep the boat console wiring as neat as possible. I initially installed cable tie mounts by screwing them in with stainless steel wood screws. The wire guides gave me a lot of flexibility while routing the wiring through them. By installing these with a loose loop, I could easily run wiring through them. If necessary, I can also remove the tie wrap and replace it should I need to make any drastic changes to my wiring plan. Later, I removed these and instead installed the wire guides that have a loop of plastic held together by the mounting screw. These gave me a lot more flexibility as well as how much wires I could get into a bundle.
Best Connectors for the Boat Console Wiring
Choosing the right connector type is critically important. This is especially true when it of a boat console wiring of a boat this size. Here are some of the key considerations when selecting the connector types.
Water Resistance, you want to make sure that the connectors you use are water resistant. To that end, if you are using crimp style connectors, use the ones that have heat shrink with internal glue. Those are the ones I used in this project. Additionally, there are connectors that are mechanically water resistant. An example of these are the Amphenol ATM Series IP67 connectors. I used this to connect the external lights wiring to the console as well. These connectors use internal glands and rubber seals and are IP67 rated. Other than these, I also used Spade Connectors, Ring Connectors and bullet connectors. All of these used the heat shrink with the glue inside.
An example of waterproof crimp style connectors on the left and Amphenol ATM IP67 Connectors on the right
Connector Retention, Using connectors that have a good capability to stay connected for your boat console wiring is critical as well. Nothing could be worse than hitting a wake and having your electronics quit on you. The crimp style connectors are fairly stable since they are either screwed into place or have a nut holding them down. The Amphenol connectors have a rugged click style stays in place once connected.
Where to use the Right Connectors
For most of the boat console wiring I used Spade and fork connectors. All of them used the self bonding heat shrink. The switch panel had male spade connectors, so all of my connections to them used female spade connectors. The relay and terminal block had screw type connection points, so on these I used fork type spade connectors.
Being able to electrically disconnect the console from the boat is important. I opted to use connectors that could be easily disconnected and reconnected. This way the console can be easily removed in the future for maintenance or refinishing. To power up the console, I used bullet connectors, female for the energized side coming from the battery and male for the console. I also used a bullet connector to retrieve the tachometer data from the Yamaha controller I had installed on this restoration. The last set of connectors that I used were the Amphenol IP67 connectors. I used the 4 pin connector for the running and anchor lights. I also used the two pin connector for the courtesy lights. Most of these connectors are unique so they can’t be accidentally confused.
Choosing the Right Boat Console Wiring
When it comes to wiring for marine applications, you need to be careful to choose the correct type of wire. This is especially important since most marine environments can be corrosive. Normal primary wire is not a good choice. Marine grade wire has several advantages that make id superior in maritime applications. First is the fact that it has more copper than a similarly rated automotive wire. As an example, a 6 AWG marine wire will have more copper than an automotive wire of the same size. This increases the current carrying capacity of marine grade wiring.
Second, each of the strands is individually tinned. This increases the corrosion resistance of the wire. Marine environments, particularly salt water, can be harsh on wiring. Tinning the wires provides a protective coating on each of the individual strands in a wire bundle. Wiring of any type is typically made of copper. A wire that is not tinned can corrode, turning green with oxidation. You may have seen this on exposed battery terminals. While mild oxidation may not impact the current carrying capacity of a wire, long term oxidation can degrade the wire, shortening it’s potential lifespan.
You’ll want to follow standard primary color guidance for the wire colors you use. As a general rule, all your negative wires should be black and all your positive (hot) wires should be red. There are alternate colors for the positive side of a wire. For example; courtesy light wires are blue. I’ll provide a link to a complete wire guide at the end of this section which covers the entire spectrum of boat wiring. For my application I stuck with the standard red and black primary wire scheme.
Other Considerations in Wiring Your Boat Console
There are several other factors that need to be considered when wiring your boat. Wire size is one of them. You’ll need to select the correct wire size depending on the load that the wire will service. As a general rule, it is ok to oversize the wire for the load but it is hazardous to undersize a wire. For my application I used 14 and 12 AWG wire. I used 12 AWG to power up the console. 12 AWG has a current capacity of 45 amps. which is more than sufficient to power this console. I used the 14 AWG for everything else, it was more wire than was necessary but I found it easier, and more economical to buy a single roll of 14 AWG than various rolls of different sizes.
One last item to consider is using the right connectors for the size wire you are connecting too. Crimp connectors have a universal code. an example of this is that a blue connector is for 14-16 gauge wire, a yellow connector is for 10-12 gauge wire and a red connector is for 18-22 gauge wire.
Here is a link to Boat US wiring guide which covers much of the above in greater detail. BoatUS Electrical Wiring on Boats
Finalizing the Wiring and Connectors
The final step in wiring the boat console is going to be adding the connectors and laying out the wire in the path we laid out earlier. It helps if you have a schematic to make sure you terminate the wires in the correct place. I made a schematic, really more of a wiring diagram that depicts the connection points. I followed this electrical diagram to make all me connections and tied everything in with the cable clamps and tie wraps.
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