April 8

Understanding Marine Electrics: Why You Shouldn’t Skimp on Marine Electrical Connectors and Terminals

Can you use cheaper crimp type terminals from your local auto parts store, or is it worth paying the premium prices for the Marine-grade ones? In this post we try to explain why it's important to invest in high quality materials and tools, and why cutting corners with the electrical connections of your boat is not worth the risk. In saltwater environments, corrosion can easily occur, leading to poor connections and potential safety hazards. 

Cheap vs. Quality Connectors

It can be tempting to save money by using cheaper connectors from auto parts stores or online retailers like Amazon. However, these cheaper options are often tin plated steel, which can corrode easily in a marine environment. Additionally, the sizing system for automotive conductors is often different from what's used on boats (at least in the U.S.), leading to ill-fitting connectors.

By comparison, quality marine connectors may seem expensive, but it's worth it in the long run. The base material, copper, is a better conductor than steel and does not rust. The terminal barrel will be welded shut as opposed to open. There will be small serrations inside the barrel for a better grip. Over time, these hard-to-see differences can make a big impact on the performance and safety of your boat's electrical system.

Importance of Good Tools

In addition to using quality connectors, it's important to have good tools for the job. You cannot consistently make good crimp connections with cheap, low-quality crimpers and other tools. You need to invest in decent tools or to borrow them from a friend. Good tools will ensure that your connections are properly made and sealed, reducing the risk of future problems.


Investing in quality materials and tools upfront will save you from future headaches and potential safety hazards. To learn more about making good connections and properly wiring your boat's electrical system, check out our Marine Electrics 101 course!

About the author 

Nigel Calder

Nigel is often referred to as THE guru when it comes to technical systems on boats.

He is a long-time member of the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) electrical Project Technical Committee (PTC) which writes the standards for recreational boat systems in the USA, and has also been involved in European standards development.

Nigel is best known for his Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual (now in its 4th edition), and his Marine Diesel Engines (in its 3rd edition), both considered the definitive English-language works in their field.

You may also like

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe and get exclusive posts and mini-courses!