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January 23, 2013

Handle With Care

15 Tips to Protect and Troubleshoot Your Marine Electronics

New electronics generally come with a manual, and manufacturers’ websites are filled with answers to frequently asked questions. But to cut through some of that research, I compiled these 15 tips, suggestions and advisories that can benefit any boating angler.

I queried the service specialists at Furuno, Garmin, Raymarine, Simrad, Lowrance, and Humminbird to tell me about common issues and common solutions. Here are some of the many thoughts they provided:



Back up waypoints to a memory card. (Courtesy Furuno USA)

1. Back up waypoints and settings on a memory card. Most units use SD cards now — a 2GB SD card from a company like SanDisk should work. Manuals offer instruction, though the process is fairly common. Note: Any time you have to do a master reset of your MFD, it wipes out all waypoints. So back up frequently.

2. To prevent fouling, paint your ­transducer with water-based paint made for transducers. Brands include MDR, Woolsey, Pettit and Sea Hawk. Never use spray paint or ketone-based paint.

3. Protect power and data cables from ­corrosion by covering connectors left exposed to the elements. Most companies include a protective weather cap for cables. If your cables have these covers, use them every time you unplug the connectors. If you don’t have such covers, find an area to store the connectors that’s completely dry and covered.

(Courtesy Furuno USA)

4. Just as home computers are ­susceptible to power surges, so are the electronics aboard your vessel. Take care to isolate electronics from surges. That may have been done during installation, but if you’re not sure, never start the vessel’s engine(s) with the electronics turned on. It can cause equipment lockup, loss of data, or damage the unit.

5. Never leave a fish finder in a closed car or trunk. Extremely high temperatures can harm the unit.

Easy Fixes/Shortcuts


(Courtesy Furuno USA)

6. If you’ve stored your boat, the ­autopilot might misbehave during spring commissioning. If the vessel indicator on the display starts crabbing or shows the wrong direction, try recalibrating the electronic compass (check your manual).

7. Use a labeling machine (like a Brother P-Touch) to identify cables, especially if the displays are coming off the boat for the season. It can also be useful to create a wiring diagram, and even list the NMEA 0183 and/or 2000 data messages being sent to and from data ports.