How Do Boat Lifts Work? Easy Beginner’s Guide (With Pictures)

In Boating by Morten Storgaard

If you are new to the boating “club”, you have probably heard a lot of jargon pertaining to boats. Today I thought I would take a closer look at boat lifts.

You certainly need one – that much is obvious – but what is its function and how does it work?

How do the boat lifts work?
Boat lifts are used to launch the boat in and out of the water. Boat lifts generally work with either a hydraulic lifting system or a motorized system. They m
ake it convenient to get the boat in and out of the water.

Here’s exactly how you operate a boat lift.

Now that you know what the function of a boat lift is, would you like to learn how to use it properly?

Tip
There are several types of boat lifts on the market. If you are new to boat lifts you should definitely check our article here about the 4 boat lift systems boaters should know about).

most of them work in the same way and these tips should cover very general operations. It is always a good idea to speak to the manufacturer or installer about the correct operations of the type of boat lift you have.

I have featured a step by step guide for using a boat lift below.

4 Types Of Boat Lifts

Before we start, you should know that there are several types of boat lifts.

Here are some of the most-used designs:

We have written a separate article about the types of boat lifts you need to know about.

It’s a great place to start before we dive into how to operate the boat lift.

How to Use a Boat Lift | Step by Step Guide (for First Time Users)

If you don’t already own a boat lift or if you have never used one before, you might be a little concerned about how things will go.

Is lifting and lowering a boat tricky or dangerous?

Using a boat lift is probably a lot less complicated than it seems in your head. The best thing that you can do is be prepared and have some background knowledge of what to do.

Do you want to have a bit of insight into how to use a boat lift, before you are faced with the task?

Familiarize yourself with our top tips (steps) below.

Step 1: Lowering the boat into the water with a boat lift.

You can use a boat lift to get your vessel onto the water safely and conveniently.

A boat lift eliminates the hassle of having to ask family and friends to help you with boat launching. When you invest in a boat lift, they will thank you for it! Lowering the boat into the water is fairly simple. The boat lift motor has a power switch on it, which you can use to lower the vessel.

Turn on the switch and keep a close eye on the progress of the boat. It is important to keep a close eye on the boat and to do this extremely slowly.

You can turn off the switch once the boat touches the water and begins to float on its own.

If your lift happens to be supported by cables, you will notice that the cables become slack – when this happens, it is safe to turn the lift motor off.

Your boat is now “launched” – all you need to do is turn it on and drive away from the dock.

Step 2: Driving the boat safely off the boat lift.

Once the boat is floating on the water, you simply need to get it away from the dock where you can drive it safely or bob about to your heart’s content.

Driving the boat off the lift must be done with safety in mind.

It is important to have a second set of hands and eyes available to help, so partner with someone to do this. One person needs to be on the boat and act as the driver.

The second person needs to stay near the lift, to operate the motor function and ensure that the boat is able to move off safely. First, make sure that the lift is completely lowered and the boat is indeed floating on its own.

If the boat is still above the water and resting on the lift, you could have an unpleasant experience. If all looks clear, you can turn the boat on and drive it off the lift and away from the dock.

Make sure that there are no obstacles in the way or head in your direction.

Step 3: Repositioning the boat on the boat lift, when in the water.

When you are finished on the water and want to return to the dock, the boat lift becomes most useful.

Leaving your boat in the water could lead to corrosion and algae growth – both of which are problems that are costly and time-consuming to rectify.

For this very reason, you will want to lift your boat out of the water.

The first step is to ensure that you lower the boat lift back into the water to prepare it for raising the vessel.

If your lift is secured with cables, the cables will become slack, indicating that the lift base is lowered enough to safely lift your boat. If you don’t have tell-tale cables, you can lower the lift until the lift reaches the bottom. Once the lift is lowered, switch off the motor.

Now turn the boat on and drive it onto the lift.

It is important to do this slowly and to guide the vessel into the right position by using the lift poles. If you still have your second set of eyes and hands (your helper) available, make use of them. This person can watch that the boat is positioned correctly.

Once the boat is in position, turn off the motor immediately.

Now you can raise the boat out of the water by following the step below.

Step 4: Raising the boat out of the water.

To avoid corrosion, algae growth, and potential in-water damage, it is best to raise your boat out of the water as soon as possible.

Raising the boat should be done with care – and of course, as slowly as possible.

Using the lift motor switch, power up the lift motor and begin to raise the lift upwards.

Make sure that you stop when it is safe for the boat driver and any passengers to get off the boat. You can raise it significantly high without worrying too much about stability.

Be cautious to make sure that the boat doesn’t hit the roof of the dock.

Step 5: Protecting the lift when not in use.

The boat lift is considered “in use” when there is a boat on it or it is serving a boat several times during the same day.

When the boat is in the water or in storage, the lift is not in use and is susceptible to damage. As a result, it is important to ensure that preventative measures are taken against boat lift exposure damage.

During the times when the boat lift is out of use, you need to make sure that it is not submerged or even touching the surface of the water.

To do this, simply turn on the boat lift motor and use the switch to lift the unit above the water’s surface. By doing this, you can ensure that other boater owners don’t use your boat lift when you are not around.

It and will also eliminate the risk of unnecessary corrosion and algae growth on the lift itself.

Why You Should Use a Boat Lift

Water sports enthusiasts and boat owners are always looking for the most effective and convenient way to maintain and protect their boats.

Boats are certainly not cheap and so protecting your investment should be paramount. This is the number 1 reason why you need to use a boat lift.

While you won’t be able to magically get rid of all your boat maintenance requirements and chores, you can use a boat lift to your advantage to minimize them. When using a boat lift, you can protect your boat from damage that could otherwise occur in the water.

When it comes to cleaning the hull, the task is a made a great deal easier when the boat isn’t partially submerged (thanks to a boat lift).

The expected maintenance tasks are also kept to a minimum as algae won’t be able to grow on the boat and the boat components won’t start to corrode prematurely due to long-term exposure to the water.

Last Words

Those who have a boat lift tend to save both time and money on boat maintenance and repairs – that’s an undeniable fact. In addition to this, when you use a boat lift, it is quite easy to keep the boat in a pristine condition.

This makes it possible to lengthen the life span of the boat (ensuring a great return on investment).

Those on board the boat can also get in and out with greater ease when there is a boat lift available to lift and lower the boat as required.

Boat lifts have undoubtedly made boating a more convenient and enjoyable experience for many people. If you’re new to the world of boating, a boat lift is a must! Use the tips above to operate your boat lift safely!