Shopping for equipment that will inevitably be exposed to the elements means there is more to keep in mind than power ratings and upgraded stereo functions. Manufacturers for UTV and powersport products will often promote their products as being weatherproof.
This weatherproof or resistant marketing doesn’t mean much unless it comes with a Marine Grade rating. Weatherproof labels indicate that the product has been coated in something, like an industrial Scotch Guard, that will repel moisture like rain, some snow, wind and light contact with other objects.
Waterproof is defined as something that prevents the intrusion of water and moisture. Like, weatherproof, waterproof items are also specially coated and designed to be “water tight.” These can typically be dunked or dropped into water up to a certain degree, like most smart phones, before they’ll take on moisture and malfunction.
Marine Grade equipment surpasses both of these ratings due to their IP, Ingress Protection or Internal Protection, mark. An IP Rating is determined by how well the technological enclosure . From 0 – 8, the IP rating signifies how effectively certain devices protect against external elements like dust, moisture, and dirt.
|Internal Protection Rating|
|0||No protection||No protection|
|1||Protected against solid objects over 50mm (touch by hands)||Protected against vertically falling drops of water|
|2||Protected against solid objects over 12mm fingers)||Protected against direct sprays up to 15° from vertical|
|3||Protected against solid objects over 2.5mm (tools and wires)||Protected against direct sprays up to 60° from vertical|
|4||Protected against solid objects over 1mm (tools, wires and small wires)||Protected against sprays from all directions. Limited ingress permitted.|
|5||Protected aganist dust. Limited ingress (no harmful deposit)||Protected against low-pressure jets of water from all directions. Limited ingress permitted.|
|6||Totally protected against dust||Protected against strong jets of water (for use on ship decks). Limited ingress permitted.|
|7||^||Protected against the effects of immersion at depth between 15cm and 1 meter. 30 minute test.|
|8||^||Protected against long periods of immersion. Depth (more than one meter) specified by manufacturer.|
In the Powersports industry – more than batteries are manufactured at marine grade. Audio equipment like amplifiers and speakers as well as lighting can be constructed to withstand harsh conditions at sea or on land. Marine products are sought after by outdoorsmen not only for the environmental hardiness, but also because this rating most often indicates higher quality units that will thrive past their warranty.
Companies such as JL Audio, Hertz, Clarion, Wet Sounds, Kicker, Rockford Fosgate and more produce speakers and subwoofers using materials that resist the destructive effects of ultraviolet energy from the sun. These speakers are typically built around a plastic basket rather than a metal one. They may also incorporate water drainage channels into the speaker grille that covers the front of the unit.
Marine Speakers are usually tested for prolonged UV and salt exposure. Speakers can be made out of a variety of materials from plastics, fabrics, rubbers and metals to produce different types of sounds. Marine equipment will utilize plastics and rubbers designed for the outdoors so they won’t fade or crack.
The ASTM-D4329 UV (Standard Practice for Fluorescent Ultraviolet Lamp Apparatus Exposure of Plastics) exposes products to extreme UV radiation. To pass, the materials can’t suffer from any degradation after 200 hours in the test chamber.
Internal circuitry for marine equipment is also conformal coated – a thin material made out of polymeric film which conforms to the contours of a printed circuit board to protect against moisture, dust, chemicals, and temperature extremes.
The coatings can be applied via brushing, spraying, dispensing and/or dip coating. Conformal coating can also be made out of acrylics, silicones, urethanes and parylene. Each has their own characteristics, making them preferred for certain environments and manufacturing scenarios.
Marine radios are a unit that has been modified with an upgraded display that’s easier to see in bright sunlight and a corrosion-resistant coating on the main circuit board. Some have remote controls and may include weatherband radio channels, multifunction displays from known GPS companies.
There are some marine head units that are only water-resistant. The front plate is designed to resist moisture and handle UV rays like marine speakers. However, the main chassis of these seteros may not be waterproof. This can be counteracted during installation by ensuring a proper seal. Marine monitors are typically required to have a standard IP6-8 rating to ensure safe and effective operation at all times.
While shopping for marine amplifiers – make sure the wiring entering and exiting the equipment is heat sink sealed in a plastic or rubber grommet. A removable panel should protect any controls on the amplifiers with foam or rubber gasket.
The great outdoors is harsh on speaker wire, power wire and interconnect cables – especially saltwater conditions. Some manufacturers sell tinned copper conductors so salt won’t cause the copper to corrode as quickly.