Installing New Electronics

Installing New Electronics

Replacing your console and bow mounted graphs with new units and transducers



It's happened to most of us. We go out and purchase the latest and greatest sonar units, then struggle for a day or two installing them in place of the older units. Eventually, we visit our local boat dealer and pay to have the units installed. But it doesn't need to be that complicated.
   Here, we illustrate the basic steps for installing new graphs in both the console and bow. A word of caution: If at any point you feel uncomfortable with the work, or encounter a problem you can't overcome, drop the project and take your boat to a qualified dealer. But for those adept at do-it-yourself projects, the process is fairly easy. Note: We've described only how to switch out your transducers and units. You may need to rewire battery circuits, or purchase new power adapters—readily available from your sonar manufacturer.
   The first step is to decide where you want the new graphs. The most common arrangement is to place one on the bow dash, with a transducer attached to the trolling motor. The other graph is usually located adjacent to the steering console.

Locate And Remove Existing Stern Transducer

If access to the mounting area is difficult, place a circle of cardboard over the mounting area. Apply epoxy inside the cardboard, then mount the transducer in the epoxy as described. After epoxy sets, cardboard can be cut out with a utility knife. Just be sure transducer is secure and epoxy is set.

In today's bass boats, most stern-mounted transducers are attached inside the hull-usually, beneath the rear hatch. First, empty the bilge completely, disconnect all batteries, then locate the rear transducer. You may need to remove a cover plate to actually reach the hull. Dry the area completely.
   Your transducer is most likely glued directly to the hull with epoxy. In most cases, a few gentle taps with a small hammer can dislodge it. If not, don't risk damaging the hull. Instead, cut the wires and leave the original transducer in place.
   Within this same area, select a clean, level spot to install the new transducer. Prep the mounting area by roughing with fine sandpaper or a Scotch-Brite pad. Set the transducer in the selected area to make sure it fits, then trace an outline on the hull for reference. Now, you're ready to glue the transducer to the hull.
   Epoxy creates a stable, efficient seal, and the transducer reads right through it, and the hull, provided there are no air pockets in the epoxy. First, mix your epoxy according to package instructions. Next, create a small pool of epoxy, extending slightly beyond your outline tracing. Place the transducer in the epoxy, and rock back and forth to remove all the air pockets.
   Be sure the transducer is level and in the proper position, then apply steady pressure until the epoxy sets.

Boat electronics

Open the rear hatch (left) then locate the transducer (right).

Run New Cable

After the stern transducer is mounted, you'll need to run the new wires up to the console. Your wires most likely snake back somewhere beneath the gunwhale. Locate both the entry and exit points of your existing transducer cable, then remove wire-mounting hardware from console if necessary. The challenge is to run the new wire along this same path. Use either an electrician's fish, or carpenter's tape, to run the wire path back to the transducer. Tape the new wires to your fish then pull them back through. Note: You may need to remove the previous transducer cable to ease the route back to stern.

Boat electronics

Remove any wire-exit hardware, then, with an electrician's fish or carpenter's tape (shown), run the wire path back to new transducer, affix wires with tape, then pull back through to console

Install Your New Mounts

Check your battery setup. Today, most manufacturers recommend a dedicated circuit for electronics, and even include a simple power panel with positive/negative hookups. Keeping electronics on their own, dedicated circuit minimizes interference.

Unless your new unit is compatible, you'll most likely need to remove your old screen mount. After removal, set the new screen mount on the dash and mark placements of mounting screws. Ensure new mounting holes are sufficient distance from the old ones, or cracking can occur.
   Set the screen mount aside, then drill pilot holes for mounting screws. Try to drill the largest pilot holes possible, making sure screws will still bite. Also, lightly round out the top of each pilot hole with a Phillips-head screwdriver—screw tapping can flake gel coat.
   Place the screen mount over pilot holes and affix with screws provided by manufacturer. If no screws were provided, be sure to use stainless steel hardware, and take care not to overtighten—hulls and gelcoats can be damaged from excessive torque. Also replace wire-exit cap, if used previously.

Boat electronics

Place new mount on dash and mark screw holes. Drill pilot holes, round out the tops with a Phillips-head screwdriver, then attach screen mount with stainless steel screws

Install Bow-Mounted Transducer And Graph

Boat electronics

Using a special-made hose clamp and mount cushion, like this set from Lowrance, secure transducer to the trolling motor

Next comes the crucial bow-mount graph. The goal is to affix the transducer to the base of the trolling motor. To minimize chances of damaging the transducer puck or cable, some anglers choose to have a certified technician run their transducer cable through the trolling motor shaft. Another option is Minn Kota's new Universal Sonar, available on select Genesis, Maxxum, AutoPilot and PowerDrive trolling motors. If you have Universal Sonar capability, you can plug a new graph cable right into your trolling motor. However, most common is the practice of running your transducer cable along your trolling motor shaft.
   First, remove the front bow panel that covers the wiring. Next, remove the existing transducer and wires from the trolling motor. Using a stainless steel transducer hose clamp (we chose one available from Lowrance), affix the transducer to the base of the trolling motor. Make sure the bottom of the transducer is level with the bottom of the trolling motor. Tighten clamp.

Run Your Wire

boat electronics

Use plastic cinch ties to run transducer cable up the motor shaft. At the shaft's midpoint, leave a loop's worth of cable, allowing the motor freedom to rotate 

Use plastic cinch ties to clamp the transducer cable to the trolling motor shaft. Place ties 6 to 8 inches apart. Pull clips tight, then cut ends flush—sharp, left-over plastic can slice fishing line like a knife. When you reach the collar, or midpoint, of the motor shaft, leave a loop's worth of cable. This allows the shaft to turn without damaging cable.
   When you reach the top of the motor, it's time for a decision. You can either: 1) Continue running the wire down the foot-pedal cable, or 2) Branch off from the motor and run the wire along the motor bracket. We chose the second method. Some brackets allow access to the area beneath, in which case you can hide the cable. Otherwise, use small metal braces and screws to run wire along the outside of the bracket. Very important: Be sure to leave enough slack in the transducer cable, a loop's worth or two, to allow for raising and lowering the motor.

Neatness Counts

Boat electronics

After running wire along motor bracket, create entry hole in bow panel. Secure wire to deck with clamp to avoid wire wear. Also, create an exit hole close to new mount

Run the length of the bracket, then run the wire underneath the bow panel. You may need to cut a small hole to accommodate the wire. Also, to prevent wire wear, secure the wire to the bow with a small bracket. Lastly, create an exit hole near the new mount for both the power and transducer cable. Tuck slack beneath and reattach the bow panel.
   The very last step is to attach your new screen bracket, just as you had done on the bow. That's it! Reattach your batteries, plug in your graphs and you're ready to fish!

Reprinted with permission from Bass West Magazine

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