How to Wire Boat Lights to a Switch (6-Step Guide)

By the end of this guide, you should know how to wire boat lights to a switch quickly as easily.

A general light switch on your boat will not allow you to turn the navigational lights off/on conveniently. You need another switch that will help you to operate the lights accordingly – a toggle switch is the best choice. I have installed and fixed many boat light issues and if you are a fisherman or a boat owner who wants to sail at night; this guide will make sure you are safe.

In general, to wire navigational boat lights to a toggle switch.

  • First, use a drill to make a hole on the dash and then install the toggle switch on the dashboard.
  • Connect the positive wire to the longer prong on the switch.
  • Bridge the ground and the shorter prong on the toggle switch with a green wire.
  • Wire the in-line fuse holder to the boat lights and then connect the positive wire to the power supply.
  • Install the fuse in the fuse holder

Read the following sections for more details.

Tools and Materials Required

  • Drill
  • Toggle switch
  • Red cable
  • Green cable
  • Fuse
  • In-line fuse holder
  • Liquid vinyl – electrical sealant

Wiring Diagram

wiring diagram for boat lights to a switch

Step 1: Drill a Hole to Mount the Toggle Switch

drilling a hole to mount the toggle switch

Drill a nice hole in the dashboard to install the toggle switch. To avoid any collateral damage, ensure you know what lies behind the dash. Proceed carefully.

Step 2: Mount the Toggle Switch on The Dash

Before you install the toggle switch in the dash, turn it counter-clockwise. Unscrew it to get rid of the mounting ring on the threaded collar.

Then, insert the toggle switch in the opening you just drilled in the dash. Screw back the mounting ring on the threaded collar of the toggle switch.

Step 3: Connect the Wires – Green and Red Wire

connecting the green and red wires
Video | Mealey Marine

I recommend stripping about one inch of the insulation coating of the wires before twisting them.

That guarantees a proper connection. Then, use wire nuts to encapsulate the twisted terminals for safety. Otherwise, the cables may touch other critical elements in the boat and cause issues. You may use duct tape to cover the spliced ends if you cannot find wire nuts. (1)

Now, attach the positive cable to the longer prong on the toggle switch. Then, bridge the common ground bus and the shorter prong (on the toggle switch) with the green cable.

bridging the cables

Step 4: Connect the In-Line Fuse Holder to The Lights

To the middle post of your toggle switch, connect one wire of the in-line fuse holder. Then, attach the wire coming from the lights to the remaining cables on the in-line fuse holder.

Step 5: Connect the Positive Wire to The Power Supply

You can now attach the red/positive wire to the circuit breaker panel in the boat.

To do that, use a screwdriver to open the circuit breaker. Then, slide the bare terminal of the red or hot wire between the plates below the breaker screw. Next, screw the hot wire by tightening the two plates.

Step 6: Connect the Fuse

connecting the fuse

Gently, open the in-line fuse holder and place the fuse. Close the fuse holder. (use a compatible fuse.)

The fuse should have the correct amperage and size. Otherwise, the fuse will not blow as required. Your circuit and lights may get fried in the event of an electrical fault. Fetch the fuse with the correct amps from a shop – it will depend on the nature of your boat.

Warnings

Wiring boat lights involves the handling of electrical wires and other components. So, always proceed carefully to avoid injuries or damage to the boat.

You need to protect your eyes and hands. Have on your safety goggles and gloves (made of insulated fabric). That way, you cannot incur eye injuries from any possible cause or electrical shock (insulated gloves will protect your hands). (2)

Tips

Before you insert the fuse:

Seal the connections to the toggle switch and the connection between the fuse holder and the light cables with a liquid vinyl electrical sealant.

Take a look at some of our related articles below.




References
(1) boat – https://www.britannica.com/technology/boa
(2) insulated fabric – https://www.ehow.com/info_7799118_fabrics-materials-provide-insulation.html

Video Reference

About Sam Orlovsky

b1d87d2ee85af3e51479df87928bdc88?s=90&d=mm&r=gI realized early on carpentry was a huge passion for me and I’ve stayed in the industry for over 20 years now. This gives me a unique ability to really be able to tell you what the best tools and recommendations are. I’m not only a carpenter but I also like machinery and anything to do with electrics. One of my career paths starting off was as an apprentice electrician so I also have a lot of experience with electrical products and anything related.