How did the lanyards measure up?
One of the primary frustrations with lanyard kill-switches is possibility of accidental engine cut-off. When the lanyard is attached to the pilot, the range of movement is limited to the length of the lanyard and the amount of force necessary to pull-off the kill-switch key. So this was the focus for our first round of testing. Once installation was complete we began recording measurements for the length of each lanyard when fully stretched, including the two universal kill-switch key sets.
Next we wanted to find out how much tension was required to pull each key off its kill-switch. We attached the end of the lanyard to a digital fish scale and recorded the weight displayed on the scale when pulling the lanyard key off the switch. We used a fish scale because it is something that many boaters can relate to. We repeated the pull-test from three different angles for each kill-switch – straight back, from the side, and down at a 45-degree angle. The results are displayed in the chart on the next page, along with the lengths of the lanyards.
Of the lanyard kill-switches that we tested, the Sierra required the most tension to engage the kill-switch. Of all the switches we tested, it registered the highest weights for each angle. So it would be the least likely to cause an accidental engine cut-off, but it was also the only kill-switch lanyard that didn’t fit with any of the keys on either of the two universal key sets. One of the universal key sets had a key that was the same shape as the Sierra but was incorrectly sized and wouldn’t fit. This makes replacing a lost lanyard a bit trickier. On the other hand, the Cole Hersee registered the lowest weights for each angle making it the most likely to cause an accidental engine shut-off. But that detail shouldn’t deter owners of smaller boats. The other kill-switches won’t allow the engine to be restarted without the key in place, but the Cole Hersee can be easily switched back to the “run” position without the key. This can be a great help if your helmsman goes overboard with the lanyard key attached. Unless you have a spare, you can’t restart the engine to go retrieve him.
When we were performing our pull-tests one of our lanyards went flying over the side of the boat and sank in the water. To remedy that problem we secured the rest with a line, loosely tied so not to affect the test results. We subsequently realized that only two of the six lanyards we tested had floats attached – the Sierra and the Kwik Tek for PWCs. So a floating keychain will make a good accessory for your lanyard as well.