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Author Topic:   Direct Sunlight Heating Of Electronics
jjandpop posted 08-11-2007 07:13 AM ET (US)   Profile for jjandpop   Send Email to jjandpop  
[This article was move to the SMALL BOAT ELECTRICAL discussion from another discussion area. The SMALL BOAT ELECTRICAL discussion focuses on topics such as this, the operation of electronics on small boats--jimh.]

I purchased a Lowrance LMS-334c iGPS a little over a year ago and probably used it 10 times, The last trip we took was to Steinhatchie, Florida. The LMS-334c iGPS worked very well the first day and then began to loose data the second and on the third day the sonar just disappeared. Key functions did nothing.

I called Lowrance and asked for a RA number so that I could return the LMS-334c iGPS for repair. The LMS-334c iGPS was now a few months out of warranty. Lowrance required a credit card number before they would issue an RA number. I returned the LMS-334c iGPS to them but it took more than two weeks to get the repair done. Lowrance claim that they will have it on its way back to you in three days.

The package that was returned contained a different LMS-334c iGPS because Lowrance were very backed up and it was easier to just send another unit. The good news is that there was no cost and Lowrance extended to warranty for another 60 days.

Lowrance included a warning in the box with the LMS-334c iGPS was shipped in that said to keep the LMS-334c iGPS out of direct sun and never to leave in a closed vehicle. The warning was that the LMS-334c iGPS will suffer damage if it gets above 150° F.

I installed the LMS-334c iGPS on the boat yesterday with the intention of making a white plastic cover to protect it from direct sunlight. While making measurements I left the unit in the sun for about 10 minutes. It absorbed so much heat in that time that I could not pick it up. The cover is finished and I will test the idea again today. I will also check the heat with an IR thermometer.

[Seeks reports of] similar results with electronics mounted on their console.

jimh posted 08-11-2007 08:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The liquid crystal display (LCD) on my Standard Horizon chart plotter and GPS receiver will become very warm and its operation will degrade to the point of being unusable if it is left in direct sunlight for more than a few minutes. The liquid crystal display (LCD) will become very dark and can no longer be read. This is very common in LCD technology. However, I have never seen this happen with my Lowrance SONAR unit, an older X-87 device. My electronics are mounted at the helm console and in most cases are shaded from direct sunlight by the canvas flying top.

All of my electronic instruments (made by three difference manufacturers, Lowrance, Standard-Horizon, and Navman) were furnished with white flexible plastic or vinyl covers which will protect the units from damage when in direct sunlight.

The inferences I make from you narrative are:

--Lowrance customer service is excellent, and they provided you with a free replacement unit even though your Lowrance product was out of warranty;

--the Lowrance LMS-334c iGPS appears to be somewhat sensitive to heating by direct sunlight, perhaps more so than other units.

Usually Lowrance provides a white plastic or vinyl cover for their units as part of the standard equipment. According to

on page 40 a white plastic cover is mentioned as being supplied. Of course, this is only useful when you don't need to use the device.

Since you mention that the problem occurred while in Florida, perhaps the sunlight is more intense at that latitude than it is for me. Most of my boating is done at latitudes above 45° north, and a bit of heating from the sun is often a welcomed addition to the weather.

jjandpop posted 08-11-2007 09:14 AM ET (US)     Profile for jjandpop  Send Email to jjandpop     
All true, The problem is that the unit sits on top of the console where there is direct sunlight. The top of the unit is dark plastic that absorbs a lot of heat. I'm glad you mentioned the cover because it disappeared off the boat on our first outing, I'll contact Lowrance and try to purchase another.

I fabricated a white plastic hat for the unit and I believe it will help control the heat some. We do have sun top.

Thanks for yoour comments and the manual.


jimh posted 08-11-2007 09:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
If the whole device is absorbing heat, not just the LCD, another option might be to repaint it with a light color. Also, the angle of the face of the display to the sunlight is a factor in the heating. If you have the device mounted so that the sunlight hits the display at 90-degrees, you get the most heating.

Perhaps other owners of this generation of Lowrance chart plotter and SONAR can comment. It seems like it is particularly sensitive to heating. Maybe they made the plastic housing too dark.

Jefecinco posted 08-11-2007 07:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
Intersting thread.

I have a Lowrance LCX-111CHD in the Mobile Bay area and it gets plenty hot here. I also keep my boat covered with a dark blue sharkskin cover and the temps under the cover in the PM sunlight is unbearable.

Thus far I've had no issues with the screen on my unit. At times if I am looking at the screen in direct sunlight at just the wrong angle the screen appears to black out.

This GPS replaced a smaller non-color unit which never had any viewing issues until it went Tango Uniform last year.

Neither of the units had any warning about exceeding 150 degrees. At least none that I have seen. A warning could be buried in the owner's manual but I missed it if so.


jjandpop posted 08-12-2007 05:52 AM ET (US)     Profile for jjandpop  Send Email to jjandpop     
The warning came with the returned unit. I never saw it in the manual. Painting the case of the unit might be a good idea, but somehow I can't get myself to mess up a GPS that way. I'll try the top hat idea and see if it works. If it works, I'll send pictures.

We will be gathering with other BW owners on the St John's river on the 24th and that should offer a good opportunity for a test.


swist posted 08-12-2007 07:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for swist  Send Email to swist     
Not just heat but cold too...

I have owned several Garmin GPSmap models, and they do warn that the unit (particularly the LCD screen) is sensitive to temperature extremes.

I do believe them since I'm pretty sure that very low storage temps outside in Maine during the Winter (maybe -10F) killed the display on my GPSmap 276. I normally take the electronics inside for the Winter but for various reasons forgot about it.

bkloss posted 08-12-2007 12:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for bkloss  Send Email to bkloss     
I have the LCX 113d and have spent a lot of time out on the Colorado River in direct sunlight at 120 degrees and have not had any issues with my Lowrance unit. The white cover that is provided has a warning that states that it is not to be used to cover the unit when trailering or at high speeds as it will come off. Unfortunately that is when I want to cover the unit and when I had my Garmin, that cover was more of a hard foam plastic that would not fly off at high speeds. Poor design by Lowrance for the cover issue but I am extremely pleased with the other aspects of my Lowrance.

Off topic but it's a whole different situation with the smartcraft gauges in direct sunlight at 120 degrees - the LCD display is non existant with that heat.


Jefecinco posted 08-12-2007 06:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     

A bungee cord works well.


bkloss posted 08-13-2007 11:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for bkloss  Send Email to bkloss     
Bungee cord would be great but I flush mounted my unit so I don't have a big lip to work with. I will have to check if the really small bungee cord with small hooks would work. I can only imagine the cost to get a replacement cover from Lowrance....



jjandpop posted 08-14-2007 05:40 AM ET (US)     Profile for jjandpop  Send Email to jjandpop     
Just purchased the cover for the 334 at the local Lowrance dealer and the cost was $16.95 + tax.


contender posted 08-14-2007 10:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for contender  Send Email to contender     
To hot in south florida, I have my electronics on plugs so I can remove them and place them in the a/c, Also do not have to worry about getting them rip off, On the boat My electronics are set back in a box to give them some shade from the sun, they do not get wet also makes it easier to read in the sunlight...good luck
davej14 posted 08-14-2007 11:48 AM ET (US)     Profile for davej14  Send Email to davej14     
Electronic components are available in three standard temperature ranges:

Consumer: 0 to 70 deg C (32 to 158 deg F)
Industrial: -40 to 85 deg C (-40 to 185 deg F)
Military: -55 to 125 deg C (-67 to 257 deg F)

Industrial (and automotive) LCD displays are often rated at -30 to 85 deg C. They will appear dimmer as the fluid temperature increases but this effect is reversible. At cold temperatures, however, precipitates can form in the fluid and this is not reversible.

Most marine instruments should be using industrial grade components but it would not be surprising to find some manufacturers taking shortcuts and using consumer grade components to save cost.

Since marine instruments above deck are necessarily sealed, the internal temperature of the box will not only be heated by external influences but also by power dissipated withing the enclosure, including the LCD backlight. It is not hard to imagine LCD temperatures over 185 deg F when operating in direct sunlight. Exceeding the maximum operating or storage temperature of the display can lead to other types of failure such as a deterioration of the electrical interface or adhesives, never a good thing.

jimh posted 08-14-2007 01:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
A typical (and very expensive) color chart plotter specifies the storage temperature range to be -4°F to +158°F. A long cold spell in a harsh winter might get below this range, or a long day in the sun in the tropics might get above it.

If you live in either a very hot region or a very cold region, during the summer or winter the temperature range may exceed the operating temperature range of the devices. Boaters in northern Minnesota, for example, might routinely have winter temperatures which are lower than those permitted by the liquid crystal display devices on some electronics. Or boaters in tropical regions who store their boats outside in direct sunlight may experience high temperatures which exceed the range of some electronics.

These climate influence might affect the decision of flush mounting marine electronics versus mounting them on a bracket. If the device is flush mounted it will likely not be removed very easily or very often, and when the boat is in storage the devices will be left aboard. Many electronic devices now have displays which cannot tolerate extreme heat or extreme cold.

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