Product Safety

Marine Equipment For Your Boat

Revised by BoatUS editors in April 2012

In shopping for replacement parts for your boat's engine, you may discover an annoying price difference between "Marine" parts and common automotive parts. The difference is due to small but important modifications, which are not intended to keep you poor but rather to keep you healthy.

Starters, alternators, distributors, starter solenoids, and all the electrical motors should be ignition protected if they are intended for marine use. This means they are sealed to contain sparks, which are produced in normal use. Sparks under the hood of your car are not a hazard, since a constant draft prevents an accumulation of flammable vapors. In the confined spaces of your boat's bilge, however, one spark plus one small gasoline leak can mean disaster. Propane, CNG charging batteries, and even methane (holding tank) gas pose a potential for flammable gas leaks.

Some automotive carburetors and fuel pumps are designed to leak. They have vents, which emit small amounts of gasoline if a carburetor float chamber overflows or a fuel pump develops an internal leak. The gas drips harmlessly out of the car. On marine carburetors, these vents lead into the carburetor throat so that any overflow is consumed by the engine. Marine fuel pumps eliminate external leaks.

Shop the best price, but make sure the unit you buy is marked "Marine" or "Ignition Protected." Hazardous equipment is no bargain.

The following standards have made it a lot easier to buy safe marine equipment for your boat. By using any of these names, a manufacturer is stating that their products have either been produced following or been tested to meet these standards. Look for these in the descriptions of products in this catalog.

Underwriters Laboratory Listing

This is one of the most common Underwriter Laboratory's marks. If a product carries this mark, it means UL found that samples of this product met UL's safety requirements. These requirements are primarily based on UL's own published Standards for Safety. This type of mark is seen commonly on appliances and computer equipment, furnaces and heaters, fuses, electrical panelboards, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems, personal flotation devices like life jackets and life preservers, and thousands of other products.

The UL Marine mark appears on products which have been evaluated specifically for marine use. Products bearing this mark have been evaluated to UL's published Marine Safety Standards and other applicable standards and codes. These requirements address hazards that can occur as a result of exposure to harsh marine environments such as vibration, shock (impact), ignition protection, water ingress, and salt spray corrosion common on pleasure craft and boats. Examples of the type of equipment suitable for the UL Marine mark include alternators, battery chargers/power inverters, navigation lights, and fuel tanks, filters and pumps.

American Boat and Yacht Council

As a result of strong industry support, ABYC's voluntary standards program is a viable alternative to further development of mandatory government regulation of the marine industry. Companies use ABYC standards in all phases of development, production, and maintenance of boats and their accessories. ABYC standards and recommended practices are the basis for certification programs, marine surveys, inspections and military specifications (MILSPECS). Standards enable marine industry professionals to support decisions on design, construction, and installation of equipment. Uniform standards increase consumer confidence in product safety. In lawsuits involving product liability, ABYC standards are a reliable and authoritative reference for evaluation issues of design, construction, maintenance, and product performance. Standards and Recommended Practices for Small Craft is the product of a consensus of representatives of government, industry, and public sectors. The manual includes approximately 65 standards and technical information reports to the manufacturer, the consumer, and the general public in the design, construction, equipage, and maintenance of small craft.

National Fire Protection Association

For more than 100 years the NFPA has been developing and updating codes and standards concerning all areas of fire safety. An international, non-profit organization with more than 65,000 members from 70 nations, NFPA's mission is to reduce the burden of fire on the quality of life by advocating scientifically based consensus codes and standards, research, and education for fire and related safety issues. While the NFPA is involved with extensive fire research and produces numerous fire safety educational programs and materials, it's lifeblood is its codes and standards making system.

United States Coast Guard

The Federal statutes that authorize the U. S. Coast Guard to regulate the manufacture of recreational boats appear in Title 46, United States Code and the safety standards and regulations applicable to manufacturers of recreational boats and associated equipment are found in Titles 33 and 46, Code of Federal Regulations. These regulations govern the design and construction of recreational boats and include: manufacturer certification, identification of boats, display of capacity information, safe loading, safe powering, flotation, electrical systems, fuel systems, ventilation, start-in-gear protection, navigation lights, and backfire flame control.

Information courtesy of Seaworthy, a BoatUS Marine Insurance publication.


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