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Updating Dash Panels, Actuators, Gauges and Electronics

Discussion in 'Modifications/Customizations' started by Hey Ray, Oct 16, 2020.

  1. Hey Ray

    Hey Ray Member

    Jan 11, 2016
    San Rafael, CA
    1997 330 Express Cruiser
    Twin Horizon 8.1
    My boatyard is doing this project for me while the boat was hauled out for bottom painting. I ordered the panels and actuators from FP Marine, and also bought a new VHF and Simrad Cruise 9 (new entry level model) chartplotter. Sticking with the old radar for now. This is taking WAY LONGER than I expected, as the mechanic seemed to indicate he needed to disconnect the reconnect every single switch and gauge. He's been working on it for the better part of 2 weeks. Has anyone taken on this project themselves or had it done? What was your experience? Definitely looking forward to seeing the finished product! (Before pic attached)

    Attached Files:

  2. Lazy Daze

    Lazy Daze Well-Known Member TECHNICAL Contributor GOLD Sponsor

    Apr 21, 2009
    If he doesn't first disconnect everything, how would he then hook the wires back up to the new stuff? ;) Take a look behind your dash, sometime - you'll see why this is such tedious work. There are a ton of wires back there and if he rushes it, then things don't work correctly. Now, two full weeks of work is a long time - but most likely he's trying to do his best to accommodate multiple customers at the same time. If that's the case, as long as he's only billing you for the time on your boat, then it's all good.

    I'm sure it will be worth it in the end.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2020
    Chris-380 likes this.
  3. HawkX66

    HawkX66 Active Member

    Jul 27, 2020
    SE Virginia and Mass
    1997 Sea Ray Sundancer 290DA
    454 L29 Carb w/ Bravo III
    Lazy Daze is correct. Each gauge needs to be disconnected and reconnected to the new gauge. Even if you're just changing the dash, you need to disconnect all the gauges and remove them from the old dash. I haven't quite finished, but I'm doing this to my 97 290DA. Your dash is obviously a nicer design, but it's the same principal. I also added a chart plotter where there wasn't one before. Here's my before and after until now.

    IMG_20200713_175613.jpg IMG_20201006_135324.jpg
  4. RollerCoastr

    RollerCoastr Well-Known Member

    Nov 15, 2007
    Cedar Point, OH / Miami, FL / MacRay Harbor, MI
    1997 400DA
    340HP 7.4 Mercruiser Bluewaters
    Garmin 741, 742, 8212, 24HD, Intellian I2
    1999 280BR
    Twin 250HP Merc 350 Alpha Ones
    Yep - it's one helluva project! I did mine 2 weeks ago, at which point I'd actually owned the panels for a whole year.

    The 400DA has 21 switches in the row. The first switch is the cockpit hatch actuator. It has 6 terminals, but NINE wires are attached. Not fun, but a huge improvement. I'm finding myself just sitting at the helm with a drink admiring the new panels.
    HawkX66 likes this.
  5. Third Edition

    Third Edition Well-Known Member

    Apr 9, 2017
    NE Florida
    360 Sundancer 2002
    T-8.1L V-drives
    Patience. It is a big job as others have written.
  6. hughespat57

    hughespat57 Member

    Sep 25, 2016
    Rock Hill, SC
    300 Sundancer 1994, trailered tri-axle LoadRite roller
    Mercruiser 260HP Alpha One Gen II, twin
  7. D.B.

    D.B. New Member SILVER Sponsor

    Jun 19, 2018
    280 Sundancer
    4.3 Mercruiser w/Alpha I
    I am about to have this done right after the first of the month
    We are order the panel from FP Marine as well.
  8. Creekwood

    Creekwood Well-Known Member GOLD Sponsor

    Apr 26, 2009
    Oakville and Georgian Bay, Ontario
    '97 330 Sundancer, Raymarine C80 suite with radar, Mercury 310 Hypalon w/8hp Yammie 2stk
    2X 454 carbs w/ vDrives
    I did my two panels on my 330 a few years back. Two panels, 18 carling switches and a few gauges. I can't recall how long it took me to do it, but it was less than a full day. Its tedious work because there is a LOT of wiring and the harnesses have very little play in them (extra wire) so I had to have the new one above the old one and move one switch at a time as I moved across. I did not want to mess up the wiring by removing more than one at a time. If I tried to disconnect all of them and then replace them I would probably still be trying to sort out screwed up wiring.

    If I was to do it again, I would make my life a lot easier and do it in two steps.

    First I would disconnect and remove each switch one at a time, but immediately reconnect the switch to the wiring in back (without being in the new panel). After this step I would have all the switches connected, but no panel. And the old panel would be out of the way and gone.

    Then I would one by one, install the switches in the new panel and would have more room, and less risk of putting the wires on the wrong switch terminals. I think it would take less time overall with hindsight.

  9. Almightys

    Almightys Active Member GOLD Sponsor

    Jun 15, 2015
    Warren, MI
    1995 500 DA with diesel loving Detroit’s
    (SOLD)1992 Sundancer 330
    6v92 Detroit Diesel
    This make sense. I have a panel which is cracked up and the other faded
  10. midexp

    midexp Active Member

    Oct 5, 2016
    Harrison Township, Michigan Lake St.Clair
    1999 40' Sundancer
    454 merc
  11. midexp

    midexp Active Member

    Oct 5, 2016
    Harrison Township, Michigan Lake St.Clair
    1999 40' Sundancer
    454 merc
    Roller do you have pictures?
  12. Strecker25

    Strecker25 Well-Known Member SILVER Sponsor

    Nov 20, 2014
    Rochester, NY
    2002 410DA
    Caterpillar 350HP 3126
    That’s how I did my 290. Took tons of pictures before pulling apart too
  13. RollerCoastr

    RollerCoastr Well-Known Member

    Nov 15, 2007
    Cedar Point, OH / Miami, FL / MacRay Harbor, MI
    1997 400DA
    340HP 7.4 Mercruiser Bluewaters
    Garmin 741, 742, 8212, 24HD, Intellian I2
    1999 280BR
    Twin 250HP Merc 350 Alpha Ones
    I still have the gauge panel and some details to finish up, so I don't have any "after" pics yet... I'm looking forward to posting some though - it already looks so good.

    As I mentioned before, I was dreading this project. Several friends and neighbors suggested things like buying a wire labeling kit, taking lots of pictures, removing all the wires from one switch at a time and then placing them back on the switch and moving down the row until the old panel could be removed... It just sounded so daunting. Fortunately, I enlisted help from a friend with a better mind for this kind of stuff than I do. His suggestion: tin snips and a Sharpie.

    I started on the port side by cutting the old panel up from the bottom and down to the top of the center of each switch, freeing them from the panel.


    The wire bundle keeps all the switches upright and in order.

    When all the switches were free and the old panel resembled a deck of very ugly playing cards, the Sharpie came into play. Funny how the most simple solutions are so often the best! My friend put hash marks on the out-facing side of each wire. Top ones got "I", the second row "II" the third row "III".

    Then we used a set of curved needle-nose pliers to pull the terminals. I don't own curved needle nose pliers, but I will buy a pair before I touch wires on another Carling switch.

    As accessible as the switch row appears to be, it required just enough bending over to be worth a Tylenol or two for my 52-year old back. We took turns, replacing about 3-4 switches at a time. I owe my buddy a lot of beer at this point - if I did it alone it would've taken much longer and felt a lot worse.

    If I had to do it over, I'd use the same method, except for 2 things:

    I'd mark all the wires before starting to replace switches, not as we went. The not-quite-dry Sharpie ink sometimes smeared as I was handling the wires.

    I'd pull battery cables. I knew from past experience that the battery switches don't cut all power to the dash - the starters can crank with the batteries off for example. (that lesson may have resulted in some escaped pee in 2009, but don't tell anyone) I learned this time that leads to the blower switch also remain hot with the batteries off. Fortunately, after a startling spark, all I needed to do was reset the big blower breaker to be back in business. At another point we took a beer break and I turned the batteries back on to wash my hands. I forgot turn them back off once we went back, so I blew the fuse for the auto-pilot that time. Again, fortunately no long-term damage and no errant urine issues this time, but it would've taken much less time to yank the battery cables than it did to buy a replacement fuse.

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