One third of skippers have experienced kill cord or kill switch failure, according to the results of a recent survey. The survey also showed that closer inspection of the emergency engine cut-outs is needed to reduce the likelihood of failure.
The majority of respondents stated that they had never experienced a kill cord or kill switch failure, however a third described experiencing a failure of either the kill cord, kill switch or both, with problems occurring across the board in terms of engine size (sub-4hp to 150+hp) and with 73% of problems reportedly occurring in engines aged 2-10 years.
The survey conducted by the Royal Yachting Association revealed that problems were most likely experienced when trying to stop the engine (66%) as opposed to the engine not starting. More positively, it was found that 30% of the failures occurred when the kill cord or switch was being tested.
The reasons given for kill cord failure demonstrate a need for closer inspections to identify weakening of this vital piece of equipment. Kill cords failed because they came apart as a result of rusty metal components; they had no inner cord and snapped; they lost elasticity and stretched, or the outer cord perished leaving the inner core exposed.
There were also problems with non OEM (original equipment manufacturer) cords which are often easily available and cheaper than OEM kill cords. Problems associated with these were that the attachment jammed in the switch as it was too tight fitting, or that they were too loose in the switch mechanism and therefore did not reliably pull the mechanism apart enough to activate it.
Operator error was also a factor, namely that the kill cord was not properly attached, slipped off the wrist or pulled out the kill switch when pull-starting.
The survey also revealed that whilst over 65% of respondents kept the kill cord ashore or in a locker on the boat, almost 30% of respondents indicated leaving the kill cord attached to the kill switch when not in use. This could potentially lead to a number of issues, such as UV and salt degradation or potentially fatiguing the kill switch spring mechanism possibly reducing its effectiveness.
Over half of respondents relied on local dealers to service their engines, while just under 75% of engine users were undertaking periodic maintenance checks. However, there were a small number of powerboat instructors, safety boat crew and recreational powerboaters who were either undertaking no checks, or were unsure whether any were being done.