There you are just finishing up installing that new stereo or fish finder on your boat and all you need to do is join those last couple of wires and then time to hit the water with your newly installed electronics but AHH you look around and there are no more butt connectors left in your tool tray. What to do? As you look around your garage for something else….Bingo you spot a box of wire nuts (twist on connectors) and think you’re all set. Think again.
Wire nuts on boats are prohibited by ABYC and are not to be used in marine applications.
As per ABYC E188.8.131.52 “twist on connectors, i.e., wire nuts, shall not be used”
Even though many electrical components may come with wire nuts for install just turn around and throw them away or save them for your household project. Wire nuts on boats are one of the most common issues we see when surveying vessels and quick to be flagged and documented.
There are a few issues with wire nuts and why they are not allowed on boats, even though they are standard use in many other applications.
-Wire nuts work great on single strand wire, that is what they are designed for. As you may have noticed all boat electrical wire is multi-strand. When the multi-strand wire is twisted together in the wire nut the strands tend to break off making the connection weaker.
-Wire nuts are a great place for water to accumulate. Although we love being in the water we want to keep as much of it away from our electrical components as possible. An upside down wire nut is a great place for water to accumulate.
As the saying goes ‘you are only as good as your weakest link´ and that weakest link being that wire nut. Nobody wants to be chasing around electrical issues on their boat when they should be out enjoying it on the water.
The best option is a butt connector and preferably a shrinkable one. You could use a regular style butt connector and put a piece of shrink over it if it’s going to be located in a higher moisture area (ie. Bilge). Not a good idea to solder them together either, that too goes against the ABYC Standard. When stripping the insulation makes sure to use the proper tool and that none of the wire strands are damaged. If so cut the wire and strip it again.
Now that you have that electrical unit properly wired up and installed it’s time to sit back and know that you will have trouble free boating in your future….at least where that component is concerned!