Purpose Of Boat Kill Switch [Do You Need One]

Many boats, especially 26 foot long and after 2021, will come with a kill switch or sometimes called an engine cut-off switch.

Boat kill switches are not new, it’s been a thing for a long time, but it’s law, and now they want to push people to wear them for boats under 26 feet long.

In this post, I want to answer some of the common questions people have about boat kill switches.

The Purpose Of A Boat Kill Switch

The purpose of a kill switch is if the driver falls out of or too far from the helm, the engine shuts off.

For the kill switch to work, it needs to be attached to the driver. A lanyard is used with a clip on one side that connects to you or wraps around your wrist, the other end is connected to another clip made to connect to the boat. The part that connects to the boat can be pulled off if yanked, like falling off a boat, and that shuts the engine off.

The kill switch is even more important if you’re driving your boat alone, in case you fall off or slip while on your boat, the engine will shut off. With using a proper use of a safety lanyard, it can cut down on runaway boats.

Where Is The Boat Switch Located?

The boat switch is most often located near the throttle and gear selector.

It looks like a black plastic button that the lanyard button will slide over it and keep the button pressed in so the engine runs.

How To Use A Boat Kill Switch

One end of the boat kill switch lanyard connects to you, either on a life jacket or around your wrist. The other end of the lanyard connects to a plug on the boat that allow it to pop off if you get too far from it, that will shut the engine off.

The video below shows you how it works:

Is Falling Off A Boat Common?

Falling off a boat is not common, but things happen.

You hit a wave too hard it can toss you, maybe not out of the boat, but slide you the other side and can cause injury and the last thing you want is the boat to keep moving.

The bigger the boat, the less common to fall off as they can handle the bigger waves. This also means you need to use the safety switch on smaller boats, especially now since it’s becoming law for boats under 26 feet.

Do All Boats Have Kill Switches?

All boats made after 2021 and are 26 or fewer feet long need to have the kill switch from the factory. Not only have it, but also the driver must use them.

The good news is that a lot of the boats built in the last 30 years have kill switches already installed. The new law is to get people to actually use them.

You can also use wireless ECOS, which are wireless kill switches that detect when you fall in the water and shut the engine off. So if you don’t like the idea of a string lanyard attached to you, this will be a great option to use instead.

Do You Need To Wear The Kill Switch At All Times?

The kill switch to your boat must be attacked to your body when the boat is under way, above plane.

When docking or trolling, the kill switch lanyard does not need to be connected to you, but still a good habit to wear it when you can.

It’s been twice that I had someone panic while in a boat dock and one hit me and the other I missed. It was all because they panic and they both beached the boats and if they had the kill switch attached to themselves, the engines would have stopped when they were flung away. This was all at the docks, so I say wear kill switches all the time, but I can understand not wearing them when using your electric trolling motor.

Will A Boat Start With The Kill Switch Off?

The boat engine will not start if the kill switch is off.

It’s often one of the first things I check when someone says their boat will not start at all. The battery switch is the next thing I check as both are super common as people can go months without driving their boats and forget these simple things.

How Often To Replace Boat Lanyard?

The lanyard on your boat’s kill switch, the one that attaches to you, will dry out and crack over time.

The lanyard is made to stretch, but over time in the sun and salt water it wears the lanyard out. A worn out lanyard stretches too far and becomes about useless.

I see far too many people keep using the same old lanyard that is broken or falling apart.

You need to replace your boat’s kill switch lanyard every 3 years or when it starts to crack. These things are very affordable and easy to get; get a few and keep them in a sealed dark box, so you’ll be good for a long time.

Get a universal boat kill switch lanyard here. (Amazon Link Ad)

Does The Boat Kill Switch Stop Theft?

The kill switch on your boat is not designed to stop theft. The only purpose is to shut the engine off if you fall off with the lanyard properly attached.

Battery Switch Vs. Kill Switch?

The battery switch and kill switch are not the same thing.

The battery switch shuts the batteries off when you’re done driving or need to swap to another battery.

The kill switch is if you fall off, the engine shuts off if the lanyard is properly attached.