Why Backlit (Contura V, Contura XIV) over non-backlit (Contura II, Contura III)?

Let’s just start off by saying there’s nothing wrong with printed rocker switches. We carry them; and we wouldn’t if they weren’t up to New Wire standards on giving our customers the best. BUT… if there’s a decision to be made between the two, we’re going backlit over non-backlit every time.

Why? It’s simple – Night readability.

Like we said, there’s no beef when it comes to Ink-Printed Contura IIs. They work great and are very readable in the daytime. But once the sun goes down, the printed switch function image in the window is washed out by the backlighting in the switch. And since the text label on the switch is printed as well, it’s also no longer visible after sunset. With Contura IIs, you’re depending on muscle memory or lighting components to guide you towards the right switch.

With our laser etched, backlit Contura V switches, the night readability is no longer an issue. The text and image etchings are, well… etched… which allows the lighting of the switch to shine through them. Since they’re engraved into the cover, you never have to worry about the labels wearing off over time or being flushed out by the backlighting.

Contura II (non-backlit) night readability

Contura V (backlit) night readability

“How are your backlit Contura V switches made?”

The process is simple, but the results are beautiful. We start with a blank Contura V actuator that’s made specifically for laser etching. From there, our etching and subassembly department use laser technology to precisely cut away the top layer, revealing the translucent base material for the light to shine through. Don’t be fooled though, these laser etched actuators are just as readable in the daytime!

“How does the backlighting actually work?”

Easy question with a (mostly) easy answer… All our illuminated (backlit) rocker switches have two lamps!

Most of the printed covers (Contura II) are placed on switch bodies that only have one lamp. That lamp is dependent, meaning it only comes on when the switch is in the ON position.

The single lamp works fine as indicator to the switch being on, but offers no backlighting capabilities to identify the switch when in the OFF position.

When using backlit switches (Contura V), the switch body will have two lamps; one dependent and one independent. The independent lamp is going to be the one that is your “backlight”, and is typically always going to be the lamp at the top. The dependent lamp on the bottom works as an indicator light, letting you know that the switch is in the ON position.

The independent (backlit) lamp is typically triggered by your navigation light switch. When the nav lights are engaged, the top lamp of each switch will light up, making night readability a BREEZE. Our illuminated rocker switches have an extra terminal in comparison to the switch bodies typically installed on panels with printed Contura II rockers. The extra terminal is what’s used to trigger the backlight.

“Can I only replace my covers to achieve night readability?”

Yes and no. You can easily replace just the covers to achieve much better readability at night, but the etching will only be visible when the switch is on. Like we said, most Contura II switches only feature the single dependent lamp. In order to have the full backlighting/night readability, you’ll probably need to replace the entire switch instead of just the switch cover.

  • If you’re wanting to shop just Contura V covers with no switch, click here.

  • If you’re wanting to spring for full backlighting capabilities, you can check out our Contura V switch cover combos here.

  • And, as always… New Wire Marine is the home for all of your boat’s electrical needs. You can find just about any switch wiring diagram you may need here.

Switching out the switch covers is one of the easiest and fastest upgrades you can give your boat, though! Check out this video on how to easily swap your covers using our actuator removal tool

Want to learn more on the differences between Contura II, Contura V, and Contura XIV? We’ve got you covered (no pun intended). Read more on those switch covers here