Install An Electric Hatch Lifter
By Cliff Steele
As my boating years advanced along with my age, I noticed that the 95-pound engine access hatch on my boat kept getting heavier and more awkward. Since I needed to lift the hatch to check storage batteries and engine oil, and to store extra ground tackle and other items, I decided to find a way to do this electrically with the flip of a switch. Here's how I installed my new lift.
Robbie Dickson, CEO of Firgelli Automations, where I bought my new lift, asked a few questions as to weight and lift height requirements and recommended a ram, two plated steel brackets, pins, and a spring-loaded rocker switch. The ram needs to be 12-volt, compact, extremely powerful, and have internal limit switches to prevent it from jamming. Make sure you buy a unit with internal switches that reverse the direction when it reaches the limit of its range.
The motor/ram assembly will be belowdecks so it should be well out of the elements, but an optional snug-fitting low-cost rubber boot is easily installed by just sliding it over the motor as shown (photo 1). Not a bad precaution, especially if you are boating in saltwater.
I purchased a single (auto centering off) pivot spring-loaded flat rocker switch, but any of the "bat handle" toggle-type switches similar to those shown would work (photo 2).
The brackets need to be positioned so the arm will rise high enough to lift the hatch to its fully open position, and the base is mounted securely on a structural surface that can take the weight of the arm and the hatch (photo 3). You may want to tape them down while checking that everything will work before fastening the two mounting brackets permanently.
When closed, the hatch will now be locked in the down position by the ram. A safety release backup is a must to get into the hatch in case of a power failure or broken ram. I installed a latch pin — a common tractor hitch hairpin — in the hatch end of the ram. A length of grass-cutting nylon line attached to the pin and fed up through an opening in the deck (a deck table mounting hole in this instance) allows me to pull out the pin and release the ram to gain entrance (photos 4 and 5).
The small sealed motor comes with two wire leads that need to be connected to the 12-volt positive and negative. The positive side must be routed through a circuit breaker or an in-line fuse (photo 6). Follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation — in my case, that meant soldering the connections. Cover the connections with heatshrink tubing to protect against moisture and vibration. Mount the close/open switch so you're able to reach it comfortably whether the hatch is open or closed. You can hook up more than one switch if desired
Cliff Steele has owned and trailered a series ofboats all over the lakes and rivers of the U.S. for more than 45 years.
— Published: June/July 2014
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