Guide to Marine Gauges

16th May 2022

Regardless of whether you are kitting out a new vessel, or restoring or updating an older boat, adding new marine gauges can really make a difference to the overall finish of the dashboard. They can add style and sophistication as well as providing all the functionality you need.

An integral component of any boat or vessel are the marine gauges which monitor vital data such as oil pressure, battery status, and speed. All of this data is displayed on a dial (analog) or a screen (digital) enabling you to have everything you need at your fingertips to ensure a safe and smooth sail.

There are a variety of gauges available for use within a marine vessel which include:

  • Depth Sounders
  • Ammeter gauges
  • Rudder Angle gauges
  • Fuel Level gauges
  • Hourmeter gauges
  • Multifunction gauges combining up to 10 of the most useful gauges
  • Oil Pressure gauges
  • Speedometer gauges
  • Turbo and Vacuum gauges
  • Tachometer gauges which can be programmed to work with both diesel or petrol engines
  • Trim Level gauges
  • Synchroniser gauges
  • Voltmeter gauges
  • Water Temperature gauges
  • Waste-Water Level gauges

However, the majority of vessels require a number of these gauges which can end up making for a cluttered dashboard. This in turn can make it difficult to read the data as you need it.

In this situation it is worth investing in a multi-functional or digital gauge panel which incorporates a number of gauges on a single display unit. However, regardless of whether you are looking for a more traditional feel upon your boat or you want to go high-tech digital there are a variety of gauges to choose from.

The first choice you need to make however is whether to go for an analog or digital gauge. Both have a place in the modern sailing and boating environment as both have a number of benefits.

Analog Gauges

Analog gauges are the traditional gauges which have moving parts and can be used to measure a wide variety of data. There are a number of benefits to using these over more modern digital gauges.

  • Power – Analog gauges do not need a power supply to work and can therefore still function in a power failure.
  • Change Easily Identified – As the changes being monitored are displayed on a dial it is easy to spot a change as the needle moves drawing attention.
  • Mature Technology – Analog dials have been around for a while and are well embedded into the industry meaning they are easy to operate and more importantly easy to repair as many technicians are familiar with the technology. Additionally, if the display of a digital gauge is faulty, all the data going through it will be rendered inaccessible, whereas each analog gauge is independent from another.
  • Easy to interpret – The data on an analog gauge can be easier to interpret than displays from a digital gauge. What you see is often what you get, and they are easy to read.

Although analog technology is an old one it is still evolving with some including LCD screens which show more details than just the main needle pointer.

Digital Marine Gauges

Many modern vessels are favouring digital gauges for ease of use and installation as well as matching the sleek, streamlined appearance of a contemporary boat. Digital marine gauges are an evolving technology with two different types:

  • 1) CANbus Gauges where the digital input works off a CANbus network.
  • 2) Marine Engine Monitors which are touch screen, plug and play engine monitors with pre-installed dial styles based on traditional analog style gauges which can be viewed on one display, or individually.

Regardless of which system you choose, there are a number of benefits to digital over analog which include:

  • Lighting – Digital gauges can be easier to read in both daylight and night-time. LED lighting counters the glare of the sun and back-lighting makes viewing in poor lighting easier.
  • Real-time data – Digital gauges are able to display more accurate real-time data on one display screen than an analog system. This makes analysing such information as engine output, fluid levels and speed so much more efficient and simple.
  • Precision – Digital gauges are much more precise with the data than analog gauges and can be utilised in more volatile environments such as those with high levels of vibration without impacting the readouts.
  • Customisable – Many digital gauges can be customised showing only the information you want in an easy-to-read display.
  • Less to go wrong – With fewer moving parts than an analog gauge, digital gauges have less that can go wrong with them meaning they are more reliable and will potentially last longer.
  • Higher quality – Although more expensive, many digital gauges are made of higher quality materials such as aluminium or stainless steel as well as scratch- and crack-resistant glass meaning they will potentially last longer through general wear and tear.
  • Compact – With analog gauges you may need more than one gauge to read certain characteristics, but the hardware is reduced with digital with all data being displayed on one screen, meaning the dashboard is less cluttered.

It’s important when choosing the right gauges that you ensure that they will be able to withstand a marine environment and being exposed to the elements. Good quality gauges should include IP67 protection ratings which will protect them from dust and immersion in water for depths of one metre for up to 30 minutes. Other protective things to look for include scratch-resistant covers and anti-fogging gauge bodies which will ensure the longevity of the equipment.

Custom Marine Gauges

Sometimes off-the-shelf marine gauges aren’t going to fit your needs perfectly which is why you have the option of customising. This means you can have the colour and finish you want but it also allows you to outline your specific needs and have a gauge produced which is tailored to you and your vessel perfectly.

The beauty of custom gauges is that you are also able to create ‘hybrid’ gauges in the case of a display having both analog and CAN inputs. This enables the gauge to receive data from the CANbus or the old analog sensors and senders. This is perfect if you have an old mechanical engine not capable of CANbus as it can still be configured to utilise a digital gauge.

Additionally, you are able to customise your gauges so they fit with the overall design and aesthetic of your vessel, meaning it will be exactly the way you want it with embossed bezels of metal, brushed aluminium or plastic, with back-lit or edge-lit displays, or painted with your logo.

Here at Veethree we are able to help with all your marine gauge requirements, whether that is analog, digital or custom. To tout more about our gauge products click here.