Installing an amp on a boat: running power and ground wires
It's simple — just run the wires to the battery
In brief: If you're thinking about revamping your boat's stereo system, you already know that wiring is a big part of the job. This article takes a quick look at some of the basic things you'll need to know, like how to run power and ground wires.
Boats are not the same as cars
"Where the heck do I ground this thing?" I can neither confirm nor deny that I said something to that effect the first time I installed an amplifier on a boat.
You see, I was used to installing amps in cars, and when you do that, you run power wire directly to the car battery, then secure the ground wire to bare metal somewhere on the vehicle's chassis. But on a vessel made primarily of fiberglass and wood, this just isn't an option.
The ground wire goes to the battery
Luckily, the solution is simple: you run both wires directly to the battery. Well, to the secondary battery, that is. All boats will have a primary battery for ignition and critical electronics, and a second battery for everything else that needs power. "Everything else" includes your stereo system.
As with automotive applications, you connect the power wire directly to the positive battery terminal, and include a fuse and fuse holder no more than 12" from the battery. But unlike a car, instead of hunting for a factory bolt that touches bare chassis metal, you simply run the ground wire along the same path and attach it directly to the negative battery terminal. Finish the signal and speaker wiring, mount the amp, and you're ready to rock.
Use marine-rated wiring
Speaking of wiring, make sure you choose wiring that's made for life on the water. Marine-rated wiring is an essential part of any boat's stereo system, because if you don't use the right stuff, all your awesome new audio equipment will turn into ballast before you know it.
Have more questions? We have answers!
If you're on the fence about whether or not your boat needs an amplifier, check out our Marine Amplifier Buying Guide to learn more. If you're new to the idea that your boat can have a great-sounding stereo system or aren't even sure what your options are, take a look at our library of marine audio articles.
Once you're ready to start shopping, our friendly Advisors can help you decide what you need to build the best possible stereo system for your boat. There’s even a team of Crutchfield marine advisors who specialize in helping boat owners build awesome audio systems.
And remember, when you buy your gear from Crutchfield, you get free lifetime tech support. Our Virginia-based tech experts are here seven days a week, so if you hit a snag during your installation, don't hesitate to contact us.