What’s Wrong with My Boat Lift Motor?
What’s more frustrating than your boat dangling in its lift because the boat lift motor stopped working? Boat lift motors can experience mechanical or electrical problems that keep you from getting your boat into the water.
Answering a few basic questions can help narrow down where to look for the problem. Pay attention to the following details:
● How long has the boat lift been in use?
● Will the motor start?
● If it won’t turn on, will the disconnected motor move manually?
● Is the unit making unusual noises?
● Does your motor stall when it clears the water?
● Does the lift function correctly, both lowering and raising the craft?
Why ask how long the lift has been in use? A mistake installing the electrical system may show up immediately. If the boat lift motor fails to start, you could be looking at problems with the power supply, a switch, or a bad start capacitor. If the motor will run if you move it by hand it’s likely the start capacitor. A screeching noise may indicate a lubrication problem, while a humming noise points to electrical problems. There are several reasons why the lift might stall when it clears the water. Your boat lift may be overloaded, a lack of grease may be making your lift bind, or it may have low voltage. If the lift operates in one direction but not the other it could be a corroded or loose connection on one side, improper wiring, or a bad switch.
CAUTION: Take all necessary safety precautions when inspecting and working on the boat lift system and motors. Hire a qualified marine technician or electrician when necessary. Use common sense and check the product information supplied by the manufacturer at purchase to prevent serious injury.
Mechanical problems impacting your boat lift motor include improper hoist installation, poor maintenance, and normal wear and tear.
Start looking for mechanical problems by inspecting the installation of the motor and the moving parts of the lift, particularly the hoist and flat plate. If that plate is improperly installed, it can flex
and dramatically wear the gears prematurely. This can place additional stress on the motor, lessening its years of service.
Review the maintenance instructions that came with your boat lift motor upon purchase. Does the drive require regular lubrication? Squealing noises could indicate that it’s time to apply grease.
Boat lift motors should provide many years of service, but exposure to the elements will eventually cause corrosion.
Many electrical issues can occur in your boat lift motor. In addition to corroding the mechanical parts, exposure to the elements can damage wiring and prevent your lift from getting enough power.
The power supply is the easiest place to start looking for why a motor doesn’t start at all. Again, start asking the obvious questions: Are the circuit breakers intact? Will the outlet power other devices? Can you tell whether the power is reaching the motor itself?
If the power source seems to be working, it’s time to contact a professional to check the wiring system.
A motor that starts but doesn’t move the system may have wiring, switch, or capacitor problems. A humming noise is a good indication that either the start capacitor or centrifugal switch is faulty. You can start with replacing the capacitor. Be sure to replace the capacitor with the same type used initially or with a higher voltage.
As with any electrical device, make sure your boat lift motor is not attached to a power source while working on it. If you are uncertain how to test or repair any part of it, contact a local marine contractor for help.
Worst Case Scenario
A frozen boat lift motor cannot be fixed. Test for a frozen motor by disconnecting the motor from the hoist and power supply and then attempting to turn the shaft. If it doesn’t move, you will need to replace the motor.
Your boat lift motor is the heart of the system. If the problem is beyond repair, a little prep work can make shopping for a new one easier. Check out Boat Lift Warehouse’s earlier article “How to Choose the Correct Type of Boat Lift Motor” for more detailed information on what you need.