Time to Complete: >2 Hours
Tools and Supplies:
*LED red and green nav lights
*Power drill, bits and countersink
*Marine crimp-on butt connectors
*Acetone ($7.48/qt., lowes.com)
LEDs (light emitting diodes) now illuminate our lives, including our boats. LEDs are bright, cool, efficient and long-lived. What’s not to like? For one, the price. LED navigation lights can cost three times as much as conventional lights. Electromagnetic interference also poses a concern (see Quick Tip). Still, they’re all the rage. Here’s how to replace combination or individual sidelights with LEDs.
1. Match the Old Lights
LED navigation light brands include Attwood (attwoodmarine.com), Perko (perko.com), Sea-Dog (sea-dog.com) and SeaSense (seasense.com). Try to find a direct size match for your old incandescent light fixture, saving a patch job or exposing uneven fading of the boat finish. If you can’t find a match, pick a slightly larger footprint. Red/green nav lights must meet the U.S. Coast Guard-required illumination pattern sweeping from dead ahead to 22.5 degrees abaft the beam, visible at a distance of one nautical mile.
2. Remove the Old Lights
Remove the old fixtures; pull the positive and negative wires out through the hole and cut them. Inspect the remaining wire for corrosion, chafing or other damage. If suspect, replace with marine-grade wire for the entire run. Scrape away any old sealant or gasket residue on the mounting surface, but be careful not to gouge the finish. You can sharpen a putty knife to a keen edge and round the corners to avoid gouges. Patch any holes you can’t reuse and clean up the mounting surface with an acetone-soaked rag.
3. Wire in the Fixture
The electrical wires for nav lights often run in hard-to-reach recesses in the bow, so it’s critical to seal wire connections against moisture and corrosion. Coat the stripped end of each wire with dielectric grease. Then splice the pigtails of the LED lights to the power leads using crimp-on butt connectors with heat-shrink collars. If the LED wires are thinner than the power leads, double over the stripped ends to fit snuggly in the butt connector. Cover the connection with heat-shrink tubing, and use a heat gun to seal it tight.