How Long Will a Boat Lift Last?

Your boat is a BIG investment. You want to protect it for years to come. It only makes sense that your boat lift system should last at least as long as your boat. If your boat lift is well-built and maintained, it can last 25 years or more. In general, a boat lift will last much longer if you take care of it. 

Look at these areas as part of a regular boat lift maintenance schedule.


Weight Warnings

A properly sized boat lift will handle the weight of your boat plus the equipment you put in it. PWS will assist in selecting the proper size and type of boat lift for your hull and shoreline conditions. 

The average boat up to 20′ will weigh in the 4 – 6,000 lb range. This includes the fuel, water, gas, motor(s). Don’t forget your passengers – including your friend – Big Bubba.

Don’t let people get in or out of the boat while it’s on the lift to avoid straining the system. When you’re not using your boat, remove the drain plug at the back of the boat. Rainwater can’t collect and add extra weight (roughly 8 lbs/gallon) if you do. Don’t forget to replace it before you go out again.


Lift Cables and Pulleys

Lubricate your cables with penetrating oil instead of grease. Replace any cables with rust spots, broken strands, fraying, or kinks. Grease the lift pulleys if required. Be sure to check the nuts and bolts to ensure tightness. 

image of Boatlift Cable backlash

                  Boatlift cable backlash

Check your winch drum as the cable is winding onto it to avoid slack, misalignment, and uneven wear. Never allow your lift cables to go slack. A slack line will result in damage to the system. It’s like a backlash on a fishing pole, only with a rigid steel cable. It can be challenging to unravel. 

Never use a screwdriver or hit the cable with a hammer in an attempt to release the line. You’re almost guaranteed to cause severe damage.


Motors, Gearboxes, and Drive Units

If your boat lift has a motor, examine it for signs of rust or water retention. Ensure that any holes on the top of the motor or winch are closed. 

The bottom holes must be open for proper drainage. 

Inspect your gearbox and drive units regularly. Check for appropriate alignment, damaged cables, and areas that need lubrication.


Lift beams

Inspect your bunk carpeting for wear and tear and any wood underneath the carpet for cracks and rot. Lift beams should be kept out of the water when not in use. Better yet, get an aluminum/vinyl set and never have to replace the carpeting again. 

Keep your hardware tightened, and be sure that the bunks line up correctly with your boat hull. 



If you’re storing your lift in the off-season, remove the battery if you have a power hoist. Store it on a small piece of wood. Store your lift with the cradle or platform to the top.

Your boat lift protects your boat, so it’s essential to keep it in good condition. 

Proper care and maintenance can help you avoid costly damage. Your dock and accessories need to be inspected for damage, also. Check your manufacturer’s guidelines for more specific care instructions. 



It’s up to you to stay within the manufacturer’s specifications. Staying within those specs is crucial. 

Even lifting a boat with the wrong hull design can cause damage. Never add more weight to your boat while it’s on the lift. 

Entering or exiting a boat while it’s on a boatlift can be very dangerous. Ensure you have proper weight distribution when lifting. 



Cables are usually made of stainless steel and need lubrication. Regularly apply penetrating oil or chain and cable fluid to reduce abrasion. 

Make sure not to use grease on the cables. Grease traps moisture inside the cable strands. However, boat lift motor components and pulleys usually require grease. 

Since you’re lubricating your lift, check for damaged cables that need to be repaired, replaced, or tightened.


Water-Related Damage

Boat docks and lifts are still susceptible to water-related damage. Lift beams and bunks can be damaged by a boat coming in “hot.” When docking, check your speed, so you are not going faster than you are willing to hit the dock.

Keep your lift out of the water as much as possible. Small amounts of rust can be ground off and touched up. 

Never place a plastic bag or cover over the winch and/or motors in the winter. Condensation will form inside and cause excessive damage.



Uneven wear can shorten cable lifespan, so keep an eye on the cable alignment. Make sheave alignment part of your regular inspections. Keep an eye on the winder, drum, and spool. 

If you notice a backlashed cable, slack, or other boat lift problems- STOP.  Don’t go any further. Adjust the cables immediately. If you’re not sure of the alignment, contact the professionals at PWS

Reminder – Use leather gloves to protect your hands when handling the cables.



Even off-season storage can contribute to how long your boat lift lasts. Store your boat lift with the platform up. 

If you have a power hoist, remove the battery and store it inside on a small piece of wood. 


Signs of Lift Damage

Once the flood or storm has died down, clear any debris off of your dock and lift. Look for bent or twisted beams, damaged drives, or broken bunks on your lift. Look for bent or damaged bolts and loose fasteners. 

Check the lift cables for kinks, abrasions, frays, or breaks. Do not operate your lift until those cables are repaired or replaced. 

If your boat lift shifted during the storm, realign it and make it square with the dock. When there are high waves, make sure the boat is still in the correct position.

Consult your installation manual or PWS for more information about adjustments. Even if everything looks good, make sure that you perform a test run of your lift. Check for any problems before you get back to boating. 

At times large objects, like logs or other debris, strike your boatlift during the night or when you are away. Always look for damage if there was a storm.


ShoreMaster Boat Lift Systems

ShoreMaster boat lifts are made with premium components. They make the best equipment to protect your boat.


In summary

Invest in the best boat lift brand to protect your boat – ShoreMaster


Where can you find Pier & Waterfront Solutions?

Pier & Waterfront Solutions, 7325 St. Hwy 57, is located 3 miles south of Sturgeon Bay. Go 1 mile PAST the intersection with County MM (heading north). Look on the right at the intersection of  Idlewild Road and Hwy 57.


PWS is

Pier & Waterfront Solutions remains “open” year-round.


The Covid-19 virus is waning thanks to the population getting vaccinations.  We hope that the remaining people will get the vaccine to help stop the spread of this deadly virus. We will continue to conduct as much business as possible by email, text, or phone to do our part to keep people safe.

Site visits continue as usual. When making in-person contacts, we follow “social distancing” guidelines when possible by doing any face-to-face contact outdoors.


PWS display yard – OPEN 24-7


               Red Tag

PWS‘s display area is always open for you to examine at your leisure. All displays available for sale have a numbered, red tag on them. Want more information on something you saw in our yard? Please reference that number when you inquire.

PWS provides estimates by email to make the process faster, safer, and paperless.


Call, message, or email Jerry with any questions.

Jerry Englebert

Contact  Jerry at 920-493-4404 for more information or use this link.