Boat Lift Maintenance

Introduction: Boat Lift Maintenance

A boat lift will protect your vessel from water damage. It also makes departures and docking much more convenient, but only if the lift is operable. If you want your boat lift to continue working correctly, you need to perform regular maintenance. Observing proper maintenance will ensure your lift performs as expected for years to come.

Avoid damage to your lift and costly repairs through routine maintenance. Here are some simple maintenance steps you can take to save you time and money in the long run.

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Step 1: Maintaining Boat Lift Cables

Failure to maintain your boat lift cables properly may cause a catastrophic failure, resulting in damage to your boat, damage to your dock and lift, and/or severe injury. Never take chances over-extending the life of your cables.


Maintenance of boat lift cables is key if you want your boat lift to continue operating smoothly. Pay attention to issues that might reduce the level of performance of your boat lift. Damage is often due to:

  • Corrosion
  • Overloading
  • Improper drum winding
  • Misalignment
  • Cables without tension, or
  • Chafing


Rinsing your boat lift with freshwater after each use will help prevent corrosion. Don't leave your boat lift submerged in saltwater for long periods. Metal parts are susceptible to rusting or corrosion, and can dramatically reduce the lifespan of your lift cables.

Corrosion is a common problem in galvanized cables and often doesn't show external evidence until the layer that protects the galvanized cables wears through.


Consider lubricating your lift cables with a penetrating oil such as Lubriplate’s Chain and Cable Fluid Penetrating Oil. During normal operation, abrasive wear on the inside and outside of the cable occurs due to individual strands of the cable moving and rubbing against one another.

Penetrating cable and chain lubricants provide corrosion protection. They lubricate to the core of the cable in between strands, as well as the exterior surfaces. Lubrication also helps wash off the external surfaces to remove contaminants and dirt. Proper lubrication can significantly increase cable life.


Make it a habit to inspect your boat lift cables regularly for wear and tear, and to see if they are winding correctly. The cable is one of the vital parts of a boat lift . Minor signs of wear and tear are the prelude to more significant and costly damage.

Signs that you need to replace your cables include:

  • Broken strands
  • Kinks and abnormalities
  • Rust spots
  • Fraying


Contact a marine contractor for a professional opinion as soon as you notice any signs of wear. They will give you expert advice on whether to replace your cables or not. Replacement is the only solution to cables showing external evidence of rusting or corrosion.

Stainless steel cable manufacturers typically recommend replacement after two years of regular use, even if there are no visible signs of wear.

Consider routine cable replacement: Your cables don't have to show signs of wear and tear for you to consider replacing them. Replacing your cables after two years of use is the best practice to follow. Don't attempt to extend the life of your cables as it might cause boat damage or boat lift deterioration.

Step 2: Maintaining Boat Lift Beams

Make a habit of rinsing the lift beams with fresh water every time you use your lift. Rinsing gets rid of any salt and any potential barnacle growth, which cause the beams to weaken and corrode much faster. Keeping your lift beams out of the water as much as possible when not in use is the best way to reduce wear from electrolysis, salt water, and barnacle growth.

Step 3: Maintaining Boat Lift Bunks

Make sure to examine the wood for rotted, broken, or cracked areas. Also, regularly check for any tears or worn out areas of the carpet on bunks. If necessary, adjust the position of the bunk brackets, and make sure you tighten all hardware. Examine the bunk brackets for cracks and signs of wear. Carpeted wood bunks will need periodic replacing depending on the frequency of their use and exposure to water (especially salt water).

Step 4: Maintaining Boat Lift Gearbox and Drive Units

Try to do a monthly checkup of all gears, making sure they are well greased. Having a drive unit seize because there wasn’t enough grease is not worth overlooking this step. Remove the covers if you have a flat plat drive, and check to make sure that the belts are not loose, frayed, or broken. It is highly recommendable to have the belts replaced immediately if any of these signs are visible. Check the alignment of the belt and adjust if necessary.

Step 5: Maintaining Boat Lift Motors

Paying close attention to the capacitor cover, examine the motors for signs of rust. Look to see if the motor is retaining water in cases where the motors are not under a cover. Make sure the top-side drain holes are closed, and the bottom-side drain holes are open to keep out debris and allow proper drainage. High-quality motors typically last 7-10 years when under a cover.

Step 6: Maintaining Boat Lift Pulleys

Check your sheaves (pulleys) for sufficient greasing. Sheaves and bolts need to be greased every 4 to 6 months (depending on use). Otherwise, the friction between the sheaves and the sheave mounts will increase, causing them to squeak and eventually seize up. Be sure to check the nuts and bolts and make sure they are tight. One loose bolt could cause havoc.

Step 7: Maintaining the Drive Pipe Bearing Block

Once again, make sure to grease all of your grease points every 4 to 6 months, so your motors can operate optimally. If insufficiently lubricated, friction between the bearing and drive pipe will increase the potential for failure. Make sure all the nuts and bolts of bearing blocks bolted to the top beams are tight.

Step 8: Maintaining Wired Zincs

Confirm that the wired zincs of elevator style lifts are submerged at all times. Inspect the zincs and replace if they are more than 50% worn.

Step 9: Additional Boat Lift Maintenance Tips

Don't leave your lift idle: Not operating your lift during the offseason is one reason why it becomes dirty and stiff. Regular boatlift operation is a crucial part of the maintenance process. Running your lift even when it's not the boating season ensures that the moving parts work correctly. Cleaning and lubricating these parts are also vital.

Be aware of weight regulations: Everything has its limitations, your boat lift is no exception. Pay heed to the weight limit, making sure you don't exceed it. Check the regulation so you don't cause any unnecessary strain on the cables, which can break the strands.

The best advice is in the manual: A boatlift comes with a user manual for a good reason, and that is to ensure that you are correctly using and taking care of your lift. It's cheaper to maintain your boat lift than to do repairs every boating season or have to replace it.

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