My Boat Lift Won’t Go Down (FIXED)

Boat lifts are vital for boat owners to safeguard the vessel and maintain a safe docking place for boats. While these lifts are helpful, they also require proper understanding to troubleshoot whenever required. Among various problems faced by boat lift users, one of them is that the boat lift won’t go down. 

The boat lift won’t go down due to bad wiring or rusting in the winch cable affecting the ease of movement. WD 40 and a big hammer are required to sort out the stuck boat lift, but when these don’t work, you need to reach out to a professional. 

In this article, let’s look at possible reasons that boat lifts remain stuck in one place and quick solutions to lower the boat lift without a struggle. 

Reasons Boat Lift Won’t Go Down

The boat lift needs regular use and maintenance. If you’re using your boat occasionally, your boat lift is more likely to pose a problem with movement. It can also get rusty and needs a major repair if the boat lift is stationary for months or years. 

If you’re just starting your boat lift, you can experience problems related to noise, cables, and wiring. However, every instance has a specific root cause. Let’s look at major reasons for a boat lift to stay up and not go down. 

1: Corrosion

Most hobbyists use boat lifts only during the boating season. As a result of inactivity during other times, the winch cable gets corroded. The corrosion from the bottom portion of the lift can also extend to the bottom of the boat causing rust on the boat. 

Don’t worry! You can fix the rusty region with a hammer. Take a big hammer and tap on the stuck region. This can remove rust from the cables. Don’t have a hammer? You can try other cures like jumping, applying body weight, and jiggling the winch cable. 

You should check if this approach will work and if your boat is now going down. Otherwise, you should move on to the next solution.  

Note: When your boat lift is excessively corroded, you should engage a professional electrician to repair it properly. It’s better to not venture with removing rust from the wires. 

2: Electrical problem

Sometimes, the boat lift fails to function as expected due to electrical issues like under voltage and capacitor breakage. 

If your boat lift isn’t working, but the motor is functioning normally, there could be voltage drops. This is a common electrical problem, and you should check if the boat lift receives the required voltage level. Before you try fixing the boat lift motor, you should try fixing the voltage fluctuation. 

There can be times when the motor poses a problem. For instance, when you hear a buzzing sound from the motor, it’s more likely to stop the lift from going down or up. The perfect solution to fix the motor sound is to activate the fan with a stick, as this turns the motor on. (Depending on your type of motor)

Another common electrical problem is damage to the wiring. If you have a hydraulic vertical lift, using an electrical power source is the only option to get the lift working. If the wiring has breaks in the currency you need to fix them before using them further.

The final electrical problem is linked to circuits. When the boat lift is hanging at greater heights and not going down, there could be a circuit problem. You should check if the circuit is allowing current to flow to the boat lift’s motor.  

Solutions For A Boat Lift That Won’t Go Down

To ensure the smooth functioning of boat lifts, here are a few tips to follow:

1: Lubrication

When you own a boat lift, it’s essential to follow periodic maintenance. Unless you lubricate cables, there can be problems with the working mechanics of the boat lift. 

The advantage of lubricating the boat lift regularly is that you ensure continuous usage and fix wear and tear at an early stage. As a result, you can avoid last-minute hassles. 

2: Check the power supply

To avoid the boat lift from stopping at one place, you should check the power source and ensure that the voltage level is ideal. When the electrical system is overloaded, it can pose troubles in operating multiple lifts simultaneously. That’s when you should go for a circuit breaker. 

Keep a voltmeter and a circuit breaker handy. These devices help with ensuring a continuous supply of electrical power to your boat lift. 

3: Anti-rust elements

It’s not uncommon to miss a maintenance date and see that your boat lift getting rusty. It’s highly recommended to keep a can of WD40 handy. If you don’t have access to WD40, you can go for an anti-seize spray that can eliminate rust from the cable. 

Spraying the cable with WD40 will quickly remove rust and lubricate it to promote smooth operation. 

4: Electrical connection checkup

If none of the solutions mentioned above have helped your lift, the only solution left is to engage a professional electrician or a boat lift mechanic. The electrician can check the proper connection of the wires throughout the lift. Likewise, the boat lift mechanic can ensure proper links between wires and the vessel to ensure proper functioning. 

Sometimes, the boat lift motor can pose problems, or the electrical wiring can get damaged. In such instances, it’s ideal to engage a professional to fix the problem. This will avoid the repeated occurrence of electrical problems. 

A rare event that can stop your boat lift from going down is the frozen motor. 

  • Turn off the power supply to your motor. 
  • Disconnect cables attached to the motor. 
  • Slightly turn the shaft and identify the exact part that’s stuck. 
  • If the shaft moves, the motor isn’t frozen. Otherwise, the lack of movement implies the need to replace it immediately. 

The need to replace a boat lift motor is rare but it is possible. It depends on your degree of maintenance, quality of build, and other environmental factors. Age is also a huge factor in boat lift motors.

How To Reset A Boat Lift

To reset a boat lift, begin by disconnecting the boat lift from the power supply and changing the unit key. Based on the location of the boat lift, you can raise/lower the boat, and once it begins working, you can connect it again to a power source. 

Fixing a boat lift can be difficult but troubleshooting it whenever you experience a problem is important. When the boat lift fails to rise up or go down, and you’re left with no option to fix the problem, the only option is to reset the lift. 

Most boat lifts are provided with a remote to handle movements. Based on the generation of the program in the remote, you need to change the procedure to reset the boat lift. 

If you’re using a generation-one programmed remote, the steps are direct, and it’s easier to restore the functionality of the lift. However, it isn’t the same with older-generation remotes. 

For instance, if you have a generation-three programmed remote, you should ensure proper pairing between the remote and the unit. 

For proper support towards pairing both ends, watch the video below:

As soon as both ends are paired, you can disconnect the boat lift from a power source and then reset it by changing the unit key. 

With recently introduced remotes for boat lifts, resetting isn’t a troublesome task. With a long press of the light control button, the unit resets entirely and usually corrects the issue. 

How To Lower A Manual Boat Lift

Lowering a cantilever boat lift is more accessible as it relies on manual operations, while it’s slightly tougher with vertical lifts. Either way, it’s feasible to lower a manual boat lift. 

When there’s a problem with the electrical connection (under-voltage or capacitor fault), it’s probable that the boat lift motor gets stuck at one point and doesn’t go down. This is the perfect time to lower the lift tech motor, sort the problem, and then lower the boat lift with the boat on it. 

To lower a manual boat lift properly, follow the steps below:

  • Ensure that the lift stays in the upright position and the boat is above the lift. 
  • Look for the bobber on the key. 
  • Open the seal and take the tool from inside. 
  • Take a cordless drill and tighten the hook from the bobber underneath. 
  • Look for the cap below the cylinder of the motor. 
  • Take the cap off. 
  • Fit the cordless drill in the cap’s area and drill for a few seconds. 

The bottom part of the motor is now clear of corrosion and other problems that are potentially stopping the lift from going down should be visible.

Most boat owners hold a cordless drill in their storage area, and it’s easy to use the hook on the cap area to widen the space and allow the lift to move easily. 

Are you looking for a video tutorial to lower the manual boat lift? Here’s the solution:

Caution: Look for the model of your boat lift and read through the guide before you follow the process. Some models have different approaches to fixing the boat lift motor. 

FAQ – Section

Boat Lift Motor Stops 

When your boat lift is stuck because of the motor that’s halted, it implies an electrical problem. You need to confirm if it’s a voltage problem, a switch fault, or a capacitor problem by troubleshooting the motor. 

Here are a few methods to fix this problem:

  • Take a voltmeter and check if your boat lift is receiving 12V. If not, you need an electrician to fix voltage problems. 
  • If the voltage is normal, you should check the capacitor. When you move the motor by hand, the capacitor starts automatically and lets the motor run effectively. This approach works well for cantilevers and vertical lifts. 
  • Look for the noise when your boat lift motor is stopping at a position. In most cases, the motor stops with a screeching noise reminding you that it’s corroded and needs proper lubrication. 

When all of these approaches fail, the only solution to fix the boat lift motor is to reset it and then operate it with a remote. 

Hydraulic Boat Lift Won’t Go Up 

When the hydraulic boat lift refuses to go up, there are two possible reasons – over-tight screws and problems with the winch. You can loosen the screws a bit to let it go up or move as per your requirement. Fixing a winch needs the help of a professional. 

The bolt associated with the hydraulic boat lift gets tightened frequently, and this happens with regular use. As a result, the winch fails to move and remains stuck at a point. The perfect solution to address this issue is to loosen the bolt. 

When you loosen it, you can restart the motor to ensure it’s working fine. Otherwise, you need to loosen it further. You can confirm the working condition of your boat lift with the clicking sound from the winch. 

What if there’s a problem with the winch? Take a look at the clutch pads to detect any wear and tear in them. In this case, you need to open up the winch to detect corrosion. Remember to practice extreme caution when you attempt this practice. 

If you’re unsure about handling the winch and fixing the wheel by yourself, the ideal solution is to engage professional help. This will add ease to your job and determine the root cause of the problem. 

Final Thoughts

Boat lifts are meant to smooth out the movements of the boat and safeguard the vessel from rough bottoms or water currents. Unfortunately, some boat lifts pose problems with movement and remain at the same point. Whether the boat lift stays up or down, the solution is quite the same. 

When you feel that the problem is with your boat lift, you should also pay attention to the motor. Also, it’s highly recommended to perform a periodic checkup of the boat lift to avoid sudden malfunctioning. This can save you time, money, and effort. I hope this article helped Cheers!


Boatlifehq owner and author/editor of this article.

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