When you talk about heavy vehicles like boats and RVs, electrical protection is one of the most critical elements to enhance their lifetime. Unlike other vehicles like cars and bikes, boats and RVs consume more power. Therefore, they need heavy-duty equipment to power their systems.
The heavy-duty equipment comes at a cost. Unless you are willing to invest a handsome budget in safety and protection, it is better not to take this road at all. Otherwise, you may encounter some serious dangers.
Battery disconnect switches are therefore critical to the cause. By installing one such device, you can prevent numerous ‘accidents’ such as heavy surge currents, leakages, accidental motor starts, etc.
So, this article is all about these switches and how you can install them to make your boat more secure.
Battery Disconnect Switches
Also known as battery switches or selector switches, these devices give you full control over your boat’s power consumption. With just a click or twist, you can conveniently turn ON and OFF the power to all the loads connected to your boat.
Why are Disconnect Switches Important
Since the switch operation is so simple, it proves handy in emergencies. They are small, compact, and very easy to install. In terms of cost, they are relatively cheap, considering the purpose that they serve. So, they are a must-have device on your boat.
Moreover, if you keep a backup battery, you can easily switch over to it if your primary battery runs out.
How Switches Can Save the Day
As I just mentioned, these switches can rescue your boat in case of any accidents. For instance, if your ship has fuel leaks, you will need to shut down the motors to prevent any chances of fire. So, it effectively saves fuel costs.
Similarly, if you experience shorts in the boat, it can reduce the electrical risks. When the switch turns off, it eliminates the chances of short circuits.
Boat switches also provide security to your boat. Many of these models come with locks, eliminating any theft chances while you leave your boat unattended.
Understanding the Battery Switch
Firstly, it is essential to understand the switch mechanism. There can be two- and three-terminal switches. If you-re using two batteries, you will need the three-terminal switch. Otherwise, two terminals are enough.
In three-terminal switches, there is a common terminal also known as the Output. This terminal connects to the boat starter. The other two terminals are for battery inlets.
On the other hand, it’s relatively straightforward to connect wires in a two-terminal switch.
Generally, there are two mechanisms to operate the switch:
The key operation lets you turn ON/OFF the switch by twisting, rotating, and selecting the terminal. It usually produces a click to indicate the selection.
If you’re using a heavy-duty switch, it will probably have a lever-operated selector. It’s a more extended handle and may be suited for high-power applications.
Installing a Battery Disconnect Switch on your Boat
Even though the disconnect switches serve an essential purpose, yet they are straightforward to install. It’s not more than a DIY job to get your switch up and running. Now, it’s time to look at the installation procedure of a battery disconnect switch.
Identify the Right Spot
Firstly, choose a spot for your switch. Ideally, the switch should be closer to your batteries to prevent current losses. Most importantly, it should be at an easy-access location for the boat operator.
Use a Battery Box
Boats have a battery box for the primary battery. However, if you’re using a backup battery, you will need an extra battery box. The box is essential because it keeps the battery stable. So, there are no jerks and possible current leakages.
You can also customize your battery box to store both the batteries together.
Remove the Battery Ground
The negative terminal of your battery connects to the boat’s body. It serves as the return path for the current. So, remove the cable connecting the battery to the body of the boat. It can prevent any accidental shorts while you install the switch.
Remove the Solenoid Connection
If you don’t have a previously installed switch, you will need to bypass the boat starter’s connection via the battery switch. Therefore, first, remove the connection between the battery and the starter solenoid.
Measure the distance between your main battery and the switch. Cut a cable of the same length. Similarly, if you’re putting an extra battery, cut a cable of the right size.
Also, cut a cable for connecting the ground to your secondary battery. If you placed the batteries together, it makes it easier to manage your cables.
So, choose the appropriate DC cables for the connections. If you compromise on wire quality, it doesn’t prove economical in the longer run.
Connect Positive Terminals
Let’s assume that you’re using a three-terminal switch. Connect the positive terminals of each battery to the two inlets of your switch. It is a crucial step because you must not connect any battery cables to the switch’s output terminal.
Make the Solenoid Connections
Now, connect the switch output terminal to the solenoid. Remember to keep the switch in the OFF position to avoid any accidents.
Connect the Grounds
Connect the negative terminals of each battery to the ground terminal or the body of the boat. Because you are effectively rewiring the boat, install a ground terminal on your boat if it wasn’t there before.
You’re Ready to Go
Once you make the connections, your battery disconnect switch will be ready for testing. Check the switch operation by selecting each battery and turning ON the boat. Look closely at all the switch and battery terminals and check for any sparks and current leakages.
If everything is fine, your boat will be all set for a ride.
Buying a Battery Disconnect Switch
Battery disconnect switches are heavy-duty devices. So, make sure of the following if you want to buy the right product:
- Switch amperage must be more than that of the battery
- The rated voltage must be at least 12 Volts because that’s the standard battery voltage for boats
- Brass and stainless-steel terminals give the best performance
- Go for IP65 rated switches because they can withstand harsh environmental conditions.
Disconnect switches are small but vital devices. Because they are so easy to install, it’s high time you upgrade your boat’s safety and security.
As per your convenience, you can go for key or lever operation switches. Whatever your preference might be, don’t deprive your boat of such an essential safety feature.