As a boat lift owner, you may be wondering if your boat lift needs maintenance and how proactive you need to be to keep yours in good shape. The short answer is yes, boat lifts do require occasional care. A boat lift helps protect your boat from corrosion and damage, so it’s vital to maintain the lift so it can function at its peak. Preventive maintenance will ensure your boat lift performs optimally, so you can relax and enjoy your time on the water.
How Long Do Boat Lifts Last?
Boat lifts are intended to last about the same length of time as your boat — or longer if you’re fortunate. With proper use and regular maintenance, it’s common for boat lifts to last up to 25 years. There are numerous factors that can affect the life span of your boat lift, and while some of them are out of your control, like severe weather and water conditions, keeping up with preventive maintenance is one of the best ways to ensure your boat lift lasts for years.
Importance of Boat Lift Maintenance
Much like a boat, your boat lift should be thought of and protected as an investment. Routine maintenance helps protect your boat lift from preventable premature damage and wear. It also helps prevent rust and corrosion, and it provides a chance to notice parts that may need to be repaired or replaced.
Most importantly, boat lift maintenance keeps your lift in optimal condition for protecting your boat. If your lift is rusting, broken or otherwise not operating correctly, then it’s not protecting your watercraft to the best of its ability. To take the best possible care of your boat, ensure you’re performing regular maintenance on your lift.
Reasons for Boat Lift Maintenance
You may not be able to mitigate every risk your lift might face, but routine maintenance can certainly help you avoid potential issues. Some common reasons boat lifts need maintenance include:
- Rust: Because they sit in the water, one of the biggest threats to a boat lift is rust. Metal is prone to rust in any wet and humid conditions. As a result, all metal parts of your boat lift are susceptible to rust, which will significantly shorten your lift’s life span if not managed.
- Worn cables: If you own a cable driven lift, the cables are prone to wear and require inspection and maintenance. Cables can fray, rust, kink or break, especially when they’re left in the water, the lift is overloaded or there’s a lack of tension.
- Water damage: In addition to causing rust, water can damage the beams, cradles and gearboxes of your lift. If water can get into the motor, gearboxes or under other covers, it can ruin the lift’s mechanical components.
- Sheave alignment: As your cables are pulled up and wound around the drum and spool, they can become unaligned. This causes them to wear unevenly or could create slack, leading to additional maintenance needs.
Keeping up with routine inspection and maintenance of your boat lift and knowing what to look for will help keep your boat lift running smoothly for years to come.
Boat Lift Maintenance Procedures
Most manufacturers have recommended procedures for boat lift maintenance, so it’s best to follow the maintenance checklist in your user’s manual if you have one. Otherwise, here are seven general boat lift maintenance tips to help you keep your lift in optimal condition.
1. Check the Weight Capacity
Boat lifts are designed to support a specific weight and hull shape. Check your lift’s weight capacity and avoid overloading it to prevent extensive damage. If necessary, have passengers wait to board the boat until it’s lowered out of the lift.
2. Clean and Rinse Lift Cables
If you own a cable driven lift, periodically clean and rinse your lift’s cables to prevent rust and corrosion. Algae and other dirt can also collect on your cables, so cleaning them ensures they’re free of debris.
3. Look for Signs of Rust
Because metal is prone to rust, it’s important to examine your lift for signs of corrosion. Minor rust can be ground off to limit the damage, therefore catching it early will minimize the rust from spreading.
4. Inspect the Bunk for Wear and Tear
The bunks of your boat lift will get worn down over time, so inspect the carpet for thin patches, which can create contact between the hull of the boat the raw wood. In addition, inspect the wood for damage or rot, which will cause weakening and breaking. Because of exposure to water, carpeted wood bunks need to be replaced when they start showing significant wear. Vinyl bunks are more durable than carpted/wood bunks and never require replacing. Consider upgrading your boat lift to aluminum/vinyl bunks for low maintenance and long lasting bunks.
5. Use Proper Storage During Off-Season Months
When storing your boat lift and docking system for the off-season, ensure you clean it first and cover it up to prevent exposure to snow and rain. Store the lift with the cradle or platform up. Remove the batteries and ensure the motor is kept covered and off the ground. Properly storing your boat lift ensures it will remain in good condition when you’re ready to use it next season.
6. Apply Oil to Cables
Because boat lift cables are typically made of steel, you’ll need to apply oil to them regularly to prevent rust. Be sure to use penetrating oil or cable fluid to ensure moisture won’t get trapped in the cable. Lubricating your cables also prevents the strands from rubbing against each other and wearing down.
7. Remove Cables From the Water
Though they are often coated in corrosion-resistant materials, it’s best to avoid leaving your lift cables in the water for long periods of time. Doing so prevents the cables from wearing out due to exposure to algae or other debris that can collect or grow on them. When it’s not in use, keep your lift raised out of the water.
Contact your local dealer or RGC Marine for Boat Lift Maintenance Advice
For first-time boat lift owners or those new to handling the task themselves, lift maintenance may seem like a big undertaking. Fortunately, RGC Authorized Dealers have the knowledge and experience to keep your lift running smooth. Our team at RGC Marine is here to help you locate your local dealer. With over 75 years of industry experience, we have the knowledge to help you maintain your investment.