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Below you will find information on the various types of ignition switches used in marine electrical systems.  We do not claim to be experts in all fields.  We cannot promise to be correct on all issues, nor can we address the content of these pages.  (Please read our legal disclaimer page)  But, I hope you will find this page useful.  We want to thank the Marine Works, division if Sierra Marine for their technical assistance with this page.  Remember if you need technical assistance, we are only an email away.  We recommend that you get assistance from a trained individual, if you are not fluent with electrical systems.
TWO POSITION, ON - OFF:

This is a basic ON / OFF switch.  There is one version shown below.  Diagrams A shows the standard version.  This switch is used anywhere an on - off function is required.  For example: if you use a separate momentary pushbutton switch for your starter circuit.
THREE POSITION, ON - OFF - START:

This is the most common type of switch found.  It has two active positions, ON and START.  It is found in most inboard and inboard / outboard applications.  Its basic operation is to apply power to multiple circuits.  There are three versions shown below.  Diagrams L, M  and O show the standard switch in three layout versions.   This switch is used anywhere multiple on - off functions are required.  For example: most standard single key circuits.
FOUR POSITION, ON - OFF - START- ACCESSORY:

This type of switch is not very common in marine applications.  It has three active positions, ON,  START, and ACCESSORY.  It has been widely used by Mercruiser in some inboard / outboard applications.  Its basic operation is to apply power to multiple circuits.  There are two versions shown below.  Diagrams K and N show the standard switch in two layout versions.   This switch is used anywhere multiple on - off functions are required where an additional position is desired to run accessory equipment.  For example: boaters who listen to a radio for extended periods of time or those desiring a pure signal to their engine hour meter.
THREE & FOUR POSITION, ON - OFF - START & ACCESSORY (OUTBOARD):

This type of switch is common in older outboard engine applications.  It has two or three active positions, ON and START.  It has been used by many major outboard engine manufacturers.  Its basic operation is to apply power to multiple circuits, as well as provide a path to ground for voltages returning from a magneto circuit.  There are four versions shown below.  Diagram H shows the standard switch.  Diagrams E, F, and G show the switch with an accessory position version.   This switch is used anywhere multiple on - off functions are required where a magneto system is involved.
THREE & FOUR POSITION, ON - OFF - START & ACCESSORY WITH PUSH TO CHOKE (OUTBOARD):

This type of switch is common in newer outboard engine applications.  It has three or four active positions, ON, START and ACCESSORY, all with a separate CHOKE position .  It has been used by many major outboard engine manufacturers.  Its basic operation is to apply power to multiple circuits, as well as provide a path to ground for voltages returning from a magneto circuit.  The push to choke feature eliminates the need for a separate switch for this function. There are two versions shown below.  Diagram B shows the standard switch used in many OMC applications.  Diagram C shows the switch with an accessory position used in many Mercury applications.   This switch is used anywhere multiple on - off functions are required where a magneto system is involved.


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