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Waterproofing your electrics

Poor connetionSalt water and electrical components make poor bedfellows, so proper waterproofing of your boat’s electrics can save a lot of time and frustration looking for faults caused by who by as little as a single damaged connection.

If you find that you are starting to get intermittent electrical faults, then the chances are that you have a damaged connection somewhere. Getting to the source of the problem will require an ammeter (we like the Fluke brand, although there are many others), patience and a bit of ingenuity.

Once you have found the source of the problem, as we did with this rather sorry looking switch, then  you need to make a proper repair. You’d also be well advised to search other connections and components in similar locations on the boat, for similar problems.

Here are a few tips when planning your repair:

  1. Choose proper marine grade electronic components. Avoiding Halfords as a source of parts is a start, but be wary of even of what you find in your local chandlery. Look for components marked IP67, which are properly sealed against water ingress, especially if they are to be used anywhere on deck.
  2. Properly tin and solder all your connections. Crimps and other quick connect devices will cause problems. Avoid ‘choc blocks’ like the plague, unless contained inside an IP67 rated connection box.
  3. Use IP67 rated junction boxes to act as local junction boxes, where you need to make multiple cable connections.
  4. Coat all connections with an electrically non conducting water repellent product such as Q Oil’s Q30.
  5. Apply heat shrink tube to the fitting or connection.
  6. Ensure that cables are properly supported at regular intervals with insulated cable grips. Avoid using cable ties onto pipework.
  7. When fitting switches, dials or other recessed components into external weatherdeck surfaces (cockpit electrics, winch foot switches etc), always install with a thin bead of waterproof marine elastic sealant around the edge, such as Sikaflex 291i or 3M’s equivalent. Avoid using bathrom type sealant as it will not be UV resistant.
  8. If you need to run a cable through the deck, always use a proper waterproof plug connectors such as those offered by Aqua Signal. Through deck cable glands never seem to work as well when it comes to remaining waterproof, and plugs make it much easier and quicker when it comes to removing the rig.



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