Top Causes of Boat Fires

April 12, 2016

Fire is one of the leading causes of all boat losses in the U.S, according to a BoatUS Fire Facts report.

GEICO and BoatUS reveal the top six causes of boat fires and tips boat owners can follow to help protect their property.

  1. Be aware of off-the-boat fires – Believe it or not, more than a quarter of boat fires start when something is in close proximity to a boat goes up in flames. The fire could originate from another boat sitting close by, a fire in a storage facility or a fire at the marina. Although it’s difficult to detect when a fire may start, it’s every boat owner’s responsibility to prevent fires on board their vessel.
  2. Replace outdated engine wiring harnesses – For inboard boats 25 years or older, worn or damaged wiring harnesses cause a disproportionate number of fires. If you have a vintage boat with original equipment, you should consider replacing the harness. BoatUS recommends routinely inspecting your boat’s electrical system.
  3. Properly install battery cables – The faulty installation of battery cables is a common cause of boat fires. Reversing the positive and negative cables or misconnecting them in series is an all too common mistake that boat owners make. If you’re disconnecting your boat’s battery, photograph the original configuration and label the battery cables by marking the positive lug. Labeling the cables may prevent a fire and also protect your electronics from damage when it’s time to reconnect.
  4. Inspect AC electrical components – Modern conveniences like air conditioners, microwaves, refrigerators and other appliances make life aboard a boat more comfortable but also increase the risk of electrical overload and fire. Most AC electrical fires start near the boat’s shore power inlet. It’s wise to routinely inspect the boat’s shore power cord connector ends for signs of wear. If there’s any sign of overheating, especially for boats 10 years and older, replace the back of the boat’s shore power inlet where the ship’s wiring connects to the terminals. BoatUS recommends using only marine-grade power cords with proper adapters.
  5. Check for signs of engine overheating – Operating in mucky waters or grounding your boat can cause a cooling water intake blockage, leading to engine overheating and a possible fire. Exhaust fires can also be caused by a mangled pump impeller due to age or sediment in the water. Check the engine compartment after getting underway and replace your impeller every other year or if you ground your vessel.
  6. Inspect older outboard engine voltage regulators – On older outboard motors, one of the most common causes of a fire is a faulty voltage regulator. At 10 years of age, the failure rate on this important electrical component climbs significantly. After 15 years of age, replacing the voltage regulator may help prevent a fire.

Source: BoatUS/GEICO

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