Understanding Waterproof Ratings for Marine and Boating Electronics

gps tracker, Understanding Waterproof Ratings for Marine and Boating Electronics

Waterproof ratings are crucial for determining the survivability and effectiveness of electronics in different environments, from daily consumer use to specialized settings like automobiles and marine applications like GPS trackers for boats. 


In this discussion, we delve deeper into the IP (Ingress Protection) rating system, focusing particularly on IP67 and IP68, and expanding our understanding to include IP69 and IP69K ratings. We will also explore how environmental factors like temperature fluctuations and chemical exposure can degrade these ratings over time.

IP Ratings Explained

The IP rating system is an international standard used to specify the effectiveness of electrical enclosures against intrusion from foreign bodies and moisture. Each rating consists of two digits: the first indicates protection against solid objects, and the second against liquids.

IP67 and IP68: Common Standards for Consumer and Industrial Electronics

IP67 devices are dust-tight but can only withstand temporary immersion in water: up to 1 meter deep for approximately 30 minutes. This makes IP67 suitable for automotive electronics, which occasionally may encounter dust, mud, and water spray.

IP68 rated devices provide a higher level of protection, being dust-tight and capable of withstanding continuous immersion in water beyond 1 meter, under conditions specified by the manufacturer. This rating is preferred for high-end electronics and critical applications such as marine and boating electronics.

IP69 and IP69K: The Highest Levels of Water Resistance

IP69 and IP69K ratings are often overlooked but are critical for certain high-demand applications. These ratings indicate that the device can handle high-pressure and high-temperature water jets. IP69 is typically sufficient for environments where equipment must be sanitized using strict cleansing processes, such as in food processing or pharmaceutical manufacturing. IP69K, initially developed for road vehicles that require regular intensive cleaning, extends this protection by specifying resistance to steam-jet cleaning, making it ideal for industries that not only face water exposure but also encounter high pressure and temperatures in their cleaning processes.

Longevity of IP Ratings: The Impact of Environmental Factors

While IP ratings provide a benchmark for initial product capabilities, they do not guarantee this level of protection indefinitely. Over time, exposure to various environmental factors can degrade these protections:

Temperature Fluctuations

Frequent changes from hot to cold can significantly affect the materials used in seals and enclosures. Materials like rubber and certain plastics may expand and contract, losing their elasticity and thus their ability to maintain a tight seal. This is particularly relevant in marine settings where electronics are exposed to the harsh temperature variations of open water environments.

Saltwater and Chemical Exposure

Saltwater and various chemicals pose a severe threat to waterproof seals. Salt can corrode and crystallize, compromising rubber seal integrity. Chemicals, especially those used in industrial processes or found in polluted water bodies, can degrade the chemical composition of sealing compounds. Over time, these factors can reduce the effectiveness of the original IP rating, making devices more susceptible to water ingress.



Why High IP Ratings are Essential for Boating GPS Trackers

Even though marine electronics may not face prolonged deep-water immersion, the environment in which they operate demands a high degree of water resistance. Here’s why a good IP rating is crucial:

  1. Sudden and Accidental Immersion: Boating electronics, such as GPS devices, radios, and other navigation aids, while not typically submerged, can be accidentally splashed or dipped due to waves, weather conditions, or unexpected incidents. A high IP rating ensures that these accidental immersions do not disrupt the operation of the equipment.

  2. Exposure to Harsh Conditions: Marine environments are uniquely harsh, featuring not just water but salt, which is highly corrosive. Electronics need to withstand this constant barrage, which can accelerate wear and degradation of less protected devices.

  3. Degradation Over Time: IP ratings may degrade due to exposure to temperature fluctuations, UV light, salt, and other chemicals. Seals can weaken, and enclosures can become less resistant to water ingress. High initial IP ratings provide a buffer that extends the lifespan of the electronics against gradual degradation.

The Risks of Relying on Free Replacements

Some manufacturers might offer free replacements for defective devices, which can be appealing. However, relying on such warranties has significant pitfalls:

  1. Time to Discovery: It may take a significant amount of time before a defect becomes apparent. During this period, the boat may operate under unsafe conditions, which poses risks to both equipment and personnel.

  2. Labor and Downtime: The process of replacing a defective device can be labor-intensive and time-consuming. It involves uninstalling the defective unit, communicating with the vendor for a replacement, and installing the new device. For operations like boat rentals during the peak season, there may not even be time to perform these tasks until the season ends.

  3. Operational Impact: Every moment a boat is out of operation for maintenance, it’s not generating revenue or serving customers, which can have a substantial financial impact, especially during high seasons.


For marine and boating electronics, choosing the right IP rating is more than a matter of measuring depth and duration of water exposure; it also involves considering the longevity and reliability of these protections under real-world environmental conditions. While IP67 may suffice for general automotive applications, IP68 provides the necessary robustness for most marine applications, with IP69 and IP69K offering even greater protections for specific high-demand environments.

Understanding the nuances of each rating and the impact of environmental degradation on these protections is crucial. It ensures that the electronics not only meet the initial requirements but also continue to perform over time in challenging conditions. Moreover, being cautious about the terms of replacement offers and considering the operational implications of equipment failure are essential for maintaining safety and efficiency. This knowledge empowers consumers and industries to make informed decisions about their equipment, prioritizing both performance and durability.GPS