How we make Night Readable Rocker Switch Covers

Key: Subtractive vs. additive manufacturing


Your V-series contura switches probably look fine during the day (unless the ink has worn off).  They are legible, readable, probably even have an ISO symbol identifying the load.  But all too often that changes as the sun goes down (or before it comes up).  Inevitably, those early morning fishing trips, or evening cruises have you fumbling around in the dark or counting switches from memory.

“I think that red light is my spreader lights… or is my livewell running?”

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Here’s what you see now:

non-backlit rocker switches shown illuminated and un-readable on a switch panel

You end up with a bunch of lights staring at you, and no way to tell which switch is which.

Here’s why this happens, and why subtractive laser etchings solves it:

printed rocker switch


What you probably currently have are rocker switches that have printed ink onto the actuator (the cover part, you know it’s made to snap off right?).  Ink is an additive technology – just like a printer on a piece of paper – that ink is stamped or screened onto the switch cover.

It’s just ink applied to opaque plastic

It works fine when there is ambient lighting around, but in the end it is just ink being applied to an opaque plastic, and does not illuminate.  Even if the symbol is placed over a lens molded into the switch cover – the reality is – it’s thin white ink, and it will be washed out by the light generated when the switch illuminates.


Rocker Switch Pros uses an entirely different technology – a subtractive, rather than additive – approach.  The result is a truly spectacular and night readable backlighting effect.

We start with a blank Carling contura V actuator, manufactured specifically for this process.  It has a translucent white substrate core, covered with an opaque top coating.  We use an extremely accurate, computer controlled laser to etch that top opaque layer ONLY where we want symbols or text to show.

We etch away the opaque top layer

Whatever we laser etch onto (well, I guess it’s actually “off-of”) the switch, actually BECOMES the “lens”… it allows light from the rocker switch body to pass through the etched portion of the switch cover.

laser etched rocker switch cover
I’ve seen enough, let’s get these puppies!


The super cool thing is – it’s really, really easy to replace the actuators on Carling V-series switches.  The covers pop right off from the front of the panel with this actuator removal tool.

Up to 4.3 seconds for an actuator removal novice

There is no un-wiring and re-wiring, you don’t even have to crawl under your dash or inside your console.  No kidding, the actuators can be changed in about 1.7 seconds each (up to 4.3 seconds for an actuator removal novice).

Checkout the video to see how easy it is.


Okay you get it, whatever is laser etched will illuminate on the switch, is there a catch?  Well, kind of:  The switch actuator is just a piece of plastic.  It snaps onto the switch body, which contains not only the electromechanical parts that perform the current switches, but also – THE LIGHTS in the switch!  Etching something onto the switch actuator will not magically make it illuminate if there is not currently a light behind that portion of the actuator (ie, top or bottom of the rocker switch body).

Your new rocker cover will only illuminate where you currently have light shining on your old cover… most likely, where you have a red (or blue, or green, or white) lens.

rocker switch lights
Thanks switches arrived today. Installed them already. Great service.
Thank you. They look great. I can’t wait to order more.
Dave, I, IDAHO
Honestly, I don’t know what’s more impressive. A response from a small business after hours within an hour or the fact that my order has shipped already.
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rocker switch indicators and backlights


So you’re excited now, and are thinking, “man, I’d like all the switches to illuminate at the top, so I can read all the labels… then have a separate light at the bottom, that tells me when the switch is on.”

The good news is this can happen.  The possibly bad news is, if you don’t currently have two lights in your rocker switches (an independent light, and a dependent light), then you’ll have to replace your switch bodies too, to make this work.  Here’s the most common backlit switch.

Can have both a backlight and an indicator light

There’s an entire article about the difference between backlights and indicators here.  But, in short – if your rockers currently only light up when the switch is ON, swapping the actuator won’t change that.  It will still be a HUGE improvement because you can read the switches that are on… but it won’t make them all backlit (again, unless you change the switches out).


We’ve already established our laser etched contura V’s look great backlit.  The other advantage – in some cases an even greater advantage – to laser etching is it allows customization at low volumes.  Since we’re laser etching them anyway, we figured it’s a no-brainer to allow our customers some real flexibility with labeling options.

No minimum label customization

When we say low volume, we mean really low… as in one cover.  Rocker Switch Pros has built an online custom switch configurator, where you can choose your symbol, and type in your own text, for a truly unique – or maybe even funny – custom rocker switch.  More about our customization process here.

customizable switch
Satisfaction guaranteed


Now that you understand the advantages, you’re wondering if your rocker switches are compatible with our custom laser etched contura V rocker covers right?  They probably are.  If they are Carling V-Series they definitely are.  To figure that out, check on the side of the switch (yes, under the dash), it will have a 4-digit part number stamped on the side that starts with a “V”.  Something like: “V1D1”.  If so, they will fit.

You can also email us a photo of your switches, and we’ll tell you:

Here’s an image of all the interchangeable types of Contura actuator styles.  And if you’re still not sure, please feel free to order ONE sample.  If it does not fit, we’ll refund your cost (including shipping), and you’ll be out nothing, and can keep the actuator.  Read more on the Rocker Switch Pros satisfaction guarantee here.

interchangeable rocker switch actuators