Over the last few weeks I’ve been adding a few new components to my boat, one of which was a VHF marine radio. I didn’t realise that there was such a large selection of marine radios to choose from: AM/FM, VHF, HF; hand held, dash mount, in-dash… and after much umming and ahhing about which was which, and what did what, I purchased a VHF unit that could be mounted rather than a hand held unit. With this I also purchased the optional in-dash kit so that the unit could be mounted neatly in the console.
It’s been a few years now, but in a previous life I did do a number of boat fit-outs which was quite a handy bit of knowledge. With this in mind, I thought I’d share some important watchpoints when installing an in-dash unit.
1. Check the area you want to install the unit making sure it will fit in the area and that there is ample room behind the panel for cutting and wiring. Most units come with a template with all the measurements required to fit the unit. Using this template helps with ensuring your installation is straight and positioned exactly where you want it.
Note: It’s a good idea at this point to make sure you have plenty of access for your cutting tool (ie: your jigsaw or airsaw) to make the necessary cuts.
2. Masking tape is a great tool for marking out and cutting the hole in your dash. Firstly, you can make measurements and markings of where your unit will fit, if you get it wrong you can remove it and start again. Secondly, it protects the finish of your dash from being scratched or damaged by your cutting tool during the installation. Finally, although it doesn’t prevent gelcoat from chipping when cutting, I believe it does assist in stopping the chipping from being as bad as it could be.
3. Once you have cut out the dash, assemble and trial fit your radio before drilling the screw holes. This will allow you to make any small adjustments ensuring the unit is square and you are happy with the positioning. Once it is in the desired position, you can then mark and drill exactly where the screw holes need to be.
Here is a time-lapse I made of my installation. Hopefully these few tips might help you out if you need to do an in-dash installation in the future.