Boat Switch Panels & Dash Panels
The layout of your boat dash — especially your switches — is critically important to safety and usability. Having all of your electronics and the switches for your electrical systems and equipment within easy reach while maintaining a clean look should be the goal of every captain. Fortunately, today’s materials and manufacturing methods make it easy to make custom-designed switch panels and dash panels for virtually any boat. » Read More
Boat Switch Panels
Boat switch panels consolidate the switches for a majority of your boating electrical systems in one easy-to-operate panel. On larger boats, there might be more than one panel, but on most boats, there’s one on the operating console or dash.
This one switch panel is the epicenter of the boat’s electrical systems, electronics, and controls. Because of this, your switch panel must be laid out to your liking. Since there are so many options in modern boat electronics, customization might be required
Not all boat switches are the same. Toggle switches are small switches that require a bit of force to move. Rocker switches are wider and operate almost as a push-on, push-off switch. Push button switches offer a clean, contemporary appearance, take up less space and some offer integral surge protection.
Some of your electronics might not be simple on-and-off appliances. They might need multiple stage switches. An example of this would be navigation lights. The switch for navigation lights should have three positions; off, anchor, and navigation.
For most boat owners, a lot of your time will be spent behind your console running your boat. Since you’re going to spend so much time looking at your dash, make sure it’s laid out specifically for you and your electronics.
Why Install a New Switch Panel or Dash Panel on Your Boat?
As boats age, so do their electronics. What was brand new five years ago has since been surpassed by the newest version. As the electronics get better, their displays change as well. While radar, GPS, fish finder, AIS, and weather used to require different machines, some new systems offer all of this information on one display.
Not only can new displays show all of this information, but they can also now tie into your motors. Systems like VesselView allow compatible displays to show motor performance data like speed, fuel economy, rpm, and trim. As all of this data gets consolidated into one system, your once cluttered dash could need an update.
Likewise, the consolidation of functions into fewer displays can leave unused holes and cutouts in your dash. These can be covered up with plates of various kinds, or patched with new fiberglass to start over from scratch. Instead of re-glassing your whole dash panel, adding a new custom panel can be a less expensive, faster, and better-looking way to re-start your dash or switch the layout off with a clean slate.
Boat switch panels change over time too. Maybe you’ve added circuits for new electrical equipment — like a windlass for example, or underwater lights — and need a larger panel capable of holding more switches. Or maybe you’ve removed or consolidated equipment or want to move a switch somewhere besides the panel for ease of access or visibility. Or maybe you want to change to a different style of switch — like a push button instead of a rocker — and need a new switch panel to accommodate the different switch footprint.
Whatever the reason, Boat Outfitters offers completely customized dash panels and switch panels made specifically for your console, your accessories, and to your specifications.
Acrylic vs Starboard for Switch Panels & Dash Panels
There are a few things to consider when choosing what you want for your console. The first is what you want your boat’s dash panel to be made out of. The main material recommended by Boat Outfitters is acrylic, also commonly referred to as Plexiglas. Marine acrylic panels have an attractive high-gloss finish and work very well for engraving but are somewhat difficult to work with for the DIYer.
For example, drilling and cutting to make your own cutouts requires special tools and techniques. Acrylic is also a relatively costly option and is somewhat susceptible to UV damage. Black acrylic panels are the most popular, but some boat owners also choose white or off-white.
King Starboard, a marine-specific high-density polyethylene, is another option for panel material. Starboard has a lightly textured matte finish that’s easy to keep clean and impervious to UV. The matte finish may not be as attractive to most tastes as glossy acrylic, but, on the other hand, it’s a much lower glare, which can be important for a dash panel. It’s also much easier to work with at home than acrylic and significantly less expensive.
On the other hand, most boat owners consider it a less aesthetically appealing choice. Starboard is available in a variety of whites and off-whites, plus gray, black, and tan.
Dash Panel Electronics Mounting Styles: Face Mounting vs. Flush Mounting
The next decision to make is how you want your electronics mounted. There are two options from Boat Outfitters: face mounting and flush mounting. Face mounting involves mounting your displays directly to your dash. This will make your electronics sit raised above the dash surface about a quarter inch. Flush mounting involves mounting your electronics to the actual fiberglass of your console, and mounting the dash panel over them.
This results in a perfectly flush mount, but it is not without its drawbacks. The face mount makes it much easier to service and maintain any electronics mounted to it and is much easier to install. The flush mount does provide what many consider a “cleaner look,” but the installation and maintenance of your electronics can be much more difficult.
The installation of flush-mounted electronics also involves having no holes in your console and making sure any drill holes line up perfectly with the template provided by Boat Outfitters. Another factor to consider in deciding between flush mount and face mounting is that flush mounting will not allow you to use the electronics covers that came with your electronics.
Mounting Your Dash or Switch Panel: Standard or Hidden Fasteners
The last thing to consider on your custom dash panel is how you plan on fastening it to your console. As with any marine project, stainless or powder-coated hardware should be used. One way to mount your dash is with screws or bolts that can be provided by Boat Outfitters. This will leave your hardware visible.
For an even cleaner, more seamless look, you can also hide your fasteners, assuming you have access behind your dash. This requires studs on the panel that allow you to fasten your panel from the inside.
Everyone has their own organization method, and luckily your boat can reflect that. Some people like to lay out their switches in a certain order in a certain way, while others want their custom dash to be perfectly flush mounted with as little “clutter” as possible. Regardless of what your organization method is, or how you want your boat customized, Boat Outfitters has all of your boating needs covered.
Need More Help Deciding? Give us a call!
For the last 40+ years, we’ve perfected the art of upgrading boats and helping boaters better enjoy their time on the water. If you have a question about a product or project give us a call! Our team of experts is here to help!