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VOL. 10 NO. 4
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6 causes of boat fires

Prevent fires by checking these trouble spots

6 causes of boat fires

Fire ranks number five among all boat losses, according to the BoatUS Marine Insurance Program claims files. Prevent fire aboard your boat by learning from what they reveal about the top six causes of boat fires:

  1. Off-the-boat sources
    A quarter of the time, a BoatUS member’s boat burns when something else goes up in flames—the boat next to theirs, the marina, their garage or even a neighbor’s house. It’s every boater’s responsibility to prevent fires, but when all else fails, having a good boat insurance policy is key.
  2. Engine electrical
    For boats older than 25 years, old wiring harnesses take a disproportionate chunk of the blame. A good electrical technician can put one together for you as most boats of this age have relatively simple electrical systems.
  3. Other DC electrical
    The most common cause of battery-related fires is faulty installation—reversing the positive and negative cables or misconnecting them in series (when they should be in parallel). So take a picture. Label the cables. Use red fingernail polish to mark the positive lug. Do everything to hook it up right the first time.
  4. AC electrical
    Most AC electrical fires start between the shore power pedestal and the boat’s shore power inlet. Inspect the shore power cord routinely (connector ends especially) and, for boats older than 10 years, inspect or replace the boat’s shore power inlet.
  5. Other engine
    Fire can start when an engine overheats due to a blocked raw-water intake or mangled impeller; the latter can result from a grounding or running in mucky waters. Be sure to check the engine compartment after getting underway and replace the impeller every other year.
  6. Batteries
    On older outboards, the most common cause of fires by far is the voltage regulator. At 10 years of age, failure rates on these important electrical components begin to climb. Once a regulator hits 15 years old, it’s time to replace it.

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