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Boat lift cables tangled


Cable Un-Spooling / Backlash

Here are some common causes of cable issues:

  • Lowering the Lift Too Far: If the lift is lowered too far so that the cradle rests on the bottom of the boat slip, it releases tension on the cables, causing them to un-spool or bird nest.

  • Raising the Lift Too Far: Conversely, raising the lift too high can cause the cables to overlap on the drive, leading to cable overlap and potential damage to the cable fibers.

  • Rough Water: Rough water conditions can also play a role in cable issues. In particular, wooden bunks may float when waves get under the cradle, creating slack in the cables. To prevent this, adding extra weight to keep the wooden bunks from floating can help.

  • Incorrect Rake: Rake refers to the angle at which the lift is set (forward or aft when looking at the lift depending on the boat's direction). Incorrect rake settings can cause either the front or rear of the boat to lift first, leading to cable un-spooling, overlap, and potential cable damage.


Understanding and addressing these factors can go a long way in maintaining the integrity of the cables and ensuring the safe operation of boat lifts. Regular inspection, maintenance, and proper adjustment of the lift are key steps in preventing cable issues and ensuring the longevity of the lift system.

Cable Chafe

"Chafe" refers to the fine broken strands on a cable that can cause cuts to your hands or catch your clothes when you run your hands along it. This type of chafe often occurs due to improper winding on the drum. Lowering a boatlift rack without any weight on it can lead to a "backlash," which might result in additional damage to the cables. In addition to this, internal cable abrasion occurs when cable strands rub against each other under load, leading to wear and reduced strength, while external abrasion happens when the cable bends around and rubs against adjacent cables.

Unlevel Boat Lift

Boat lifts, much like us, don't function well on uneven or excessively steep terrain. Just as it's uncomfortable for us to stand or move on such surfaces, it's equally uncomfortable for a boat lift to hold your boat at an angle. In short, the answer to the question "Does a boat lift need to be level?" is a resounding yes.

Ideally, your lift should be level within an inch or so. If the level is off by more than that—let's say it's six, seven, or eight inches off—this misalignment can lead to premature wear on your pulleys. The consequences range from costly repairs or replacements, taking up your time and money, to potentially causing damage to your boat lift, dock, or even your boat itself.

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