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Replacing a Boat Lift Motor? Here are Some Tips!


Replacing a boat lift motor should be done by a professional only unless you are very experienced and know all the electrical code standards. There are also many things that could get your warranty voided, so read ALL the manufacturer’s instructions before getting started.

So your boat lift motor is giving your problems? It happens. The harsh marine environment is not very forgiving. Lots of dirt can accumulate as well. In this article, I will give you some tools (like installation guides from different manufacturers) and videos to assist you with boat lift motor replacement.

Here is some information for you on how to take down your boat lift motor safely and clean it up:

Installing a boat lift motor properly

If you just got a brand new motor, don’t forget that not all boat lift motors are waterproof and therefore need to be installed properly to avoid damages and voided warranties. Some boat motors have to be installed inside the boathouse, while others are capable to withstand rain and humidity issues.

How effectively your electrical equipment is sealed is measured in Ingress Protection Rating (or IP):

There are two parts to the rating. The first number is about how rugged the device is and the second number is how waterproof it is.

The first number of IP-rating means “intrusion protection” and the second number – “moisture protection”. The higher the numbers, the more protection you get (make sure your motor has a condensation drain hole as well).

If your motor has a high IP rating (of IP-55 and up, for example), then it could be installed directly outdoors with no extra protection. Anything less than that will require a cover from rain or any type of water jets.

IP or Ingress Protection rating

Here is the IP Rating breakdown:

1. Protection against solids or intrusion

This is the first number in the IP rating and the following is a chart of what size of the obstacle is being tested along with an example:

Object size Example
IP 00 No protection
IP 10 50mm Back of the hand
IP 20 12.5mm Fingers
IP 30 2.5mm Tools
IP 40 1mm Screws
IP 50 Dust Partially dust
IP 60 Dust No dust

2. Protection against liquids or moisture

This is the second number in the IP rating and again I am including a chart of what size of the obstacle is being tested along with an example:

Water Example
IP 00 No protection
IP 01 Dripping Condensation
IP 02 Dripping tilted 15° Water spray
IP 03 Spraying 60° Water spray
IP 04 Splashing Wild water spray
IP 05 Jets  (6.3mm) Low-pressure jets
IP 06 Jets  (12.5mm) High-pressure jets
IP 07 1m immersion Immersion up to 1m
IP 08 1m+ immersion Long periods of deep submersion

Rating example:

So, if you see something like this (picture above), rating IP68 would simply mean:

Completely protected against dust and can handle long periods of deep water submersion.


In order for capacitors not to get filled with water, they need to be on top of the motor. Wiring a motor with a capacitor down will highly likely void your warranty.

Boat lift switch

The boat lift switch should be mounted on all 4 bolts in the vertical position. The handle should be facing down. Never hang a switch from the boat hoist and make sure it is permanently mounted.

Here are some boat lift control diagrams (this is just an example, make sure you use diagrams supplied by your manufacturer):

GFCI plugs and outlets are there for your protection, so make sure to get one installed if you don’t have one already. If anything is wrong with electricity flowing in a circuit, it will do its job and interrupt the power before anyone gets an electrical shock.

Here is how you attach Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. Check the actual document in PDF for more details:

Wiring a boat motor is not a DIY project, but if you have the knowledge and skills, the following are some tools to help you out. Let’s start with using the correct electrical wire gauge:

** Very Important! Check the actual recommendations of the manufacturer and follow their wiring instructions for proper operation! If you do not, your warranty could be voided.

Boat Hoist USA gives you several examples of boat lift motor installations, like this one (Leeson motor example):

Image source here and if you need more details on the installation, you can check out their current guide. Here is a motor wiring example from them as well and more videos are available on different motors:

Here is an example of motor wiring to the pre-wired drum switch or wire harness (check the source for more info):

** Warning! When hooking up electrical equipment around water, make sure you NEVER touch plugs with wet hands. Don’t forget to disconnect the power source before installing.

Installation instructions

It is recommended to have the wiring done by a licensed electrician who is familiar with national (NEC) and local electrical codes if you want to pass the inspection. I found instructions for installing boat lift motors from the following companies (you may need to scroll down a document to find info on motors):

  1. Boat Lift US. Online manual in PDF.
  2. Shoreline Industries (Lift Mate). Here is their assembly and operating manual in PDF.
  3. Hi-Tide Boat Lifts. Here are some installation and owner manuals from this company (PDF).

** Important! Make sure to look for the original manufacturer’s instructions before using anything from the web.

Due to the highly corrosive nature of the marine environment, using UL/CSA Listed Marine wires is highly recommended.

Getting a new motor

If you decided to get a more powerful electric motor, that does not mean that you will be able to lift more than the gear plate (or GPA) rating of your lift. You can only lift as much as the structure itself allows regardless of the motor size.

Having said that, please pay attention to how your motor is sealed. Some motors come completely sealed and offer only 15 minutes of runtime at maximum capacity.

They are not vented at all and need to cool down between cycles (about 3-4 minutes.). The manufacturer can also void your warranty if you use an extension cord or a generator to power your motor.

Any kind of undervoltage or inconsistent voltage is not acceptable for your boat lift motor and it needs to be checked under load. If the voltage drop across L-1 and L-2 of each motor does not exceed 4%, then everything is OK.

When deciding for which type of boat lift motor to go for, consider quality first. UL, CE, or NEMA compliance is highly recommended.

Many boat lift motors have problems with undervoltage. Upon completing your installation, make sure that the boat can be lifted out of the water before letting your installer go.

If your motor dies on you due to low voltage, you may need to upgrade your electrical system from 115 VAC to 230 VAC. You can also notice undervoltage while keeping your voltmeter between the motor and its outlet while lifting the boat up.

If low voltage is detected, fix it! Your motor will suffer great damage if you will keep on trying to use your lift.

Replacing a boat lift motor is complicated, so do yourself a favor and contact a pro:

Attention! This article is for informational purposes ONLY and is NOT a replacement for professional advice! ALWAYS consult your local specialist for an appropriate solution to your problem. All statements, prices, contact information, recommendations, and reviews contained herein came from sources that we believe to be reliable, but the accuracy or completeness thereof is not guaranteed. Please contact the service provider for complete details and updates.

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