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How to Bypass a Kill Switch on a Boat (Quick & Simple)

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

how to bypass a kill switch on a boat

Recently, a new law has been regulated to reduce accidents, involving runaway boats and sudden turns. The regulation requires personal craft owners to apply a cut-off switch, also known as a kill switch for the engine.

Therefore, understanding the way to bypass a kill switch on a boat is essential, since it is also demanded by the US Coast Guard in their new set of rules.

In this article, I will show you useful guidelines on how to bypass a kill switch on a boat to lower the dangers threatening you and your vessel while commuting and other knowledge about types of kill switches that can be applied to your boat.

To sum up, there are three main reasons why you should use a kill switch for your craft

  • Harmful objects
  • Human mistakes
  • Big waves

There are also tricks to practice bypassing kill switches, which help you handle different vessel engine cut-off switches. Therefore, stay tuned!

What is a Sill Switch


According to the regulation, boats shorter than 26 feet long must have propellers that can push 116 pounds. It should also include an engine cut-off switch. Still vessels that do not fit into the above mentioned size categories require a kill switch.

It is crucial to know that the kill switch is classified as a watercraft safety item and is not ridiculously overpriced. The outboard motor is used to install this component in small boats. So, what else should boaters notice about kill switches? Continue reading to find out!

1. A Kill Switch’s Functions

Although some refer to a kill switch as the kill cord, the proper name is a cut-off switch. Its main function is to cut off the engine in the boat’s outboard motor or stern drive if the driver loses control of the craft.

A precise kill cord for the engine is an on/off switch that accomplishes the electric circuit of a motor. The engine quits operating after it is switched off. It is connected digitally or physically to the sailor.

When the helmsman is removed from command of the boat, his connection to the kill switch is broken. The switch turns off automatically, causing the engine to shut down.

The propeller and the vessel will also stop working. Thus, bypassing the kill switch is not necessary. Even if you do not even intend to, it can happen.

2. Different types of kill switches

Kill switches, often known as craft cut-off switches, can be anchored or electronic, with pricing and mobility variations. The tethered version includes the push and pull switch, which is fastened by a collar or clip.

The clip is usually linked to a cable or lanyard worn by the helmsman. These two items may pull the clip out of the switch as the helmsman departs from it, resulting in the switch being turned off.

The electronic kill cord is activated by a tiny transponder contained in a fob or tag dressed by the sailor. If the transducer and the transponder are both near to it, the switch stays active.

The transponder will not communicate unless the helmsman stands close enough to the cut-off switch. If the distance between the boat owner and a kill cord is too far, the device will be switched off at that point.

There is no exact answer to the question of which kind of kill switches are the best. It mostly depends on users.

If boaters are clumsy people, tether kill cords may not be the perfect choice as these switches have to be attached physically, and they may unintentionally activate them and shut down the motor.

In contrast, with those who prefer electronic cut-off switches, you will not need to worry about accidentally turning off the boat motor while moving, as this kind of switch can be handled by someone else when the helmsman is not available. Hence, it is more expensive than the other type.

Reasons to Install a Kill Switch


Aside from the fact that The US Coast Guard has imposed a law on installing a kill switch for any boat shorter than 26 feet, this feature is a must-have accessory, according to experienced boaters. These are some reasons why you should use a kill cord for your vessel.

1. Harmful objects

Boulders, logs, and gravel bars might well be obscured by high, muddy water. The boat and the commander may be separated if they encounter these obstructions suddenly.

A vessel’s engine turn-off switch prevents the motor from continuing to operate, allowing the boat to stay at least in the area where it is stuck.

2. Humans mistakest

Hidden dangers or unanticipated waves might eject boat passengers if a boat is driven at excessively high speeds, such as when trying to flee an unpredicted storm.

Tournament bass fishermen may sprint to critical areas at 70 mph, but they understand the value of a craft’s motor kill switch and when to slow down.

3. Big waves

Big waves are more likely to occur in big water. The weather may change unexpectedly quickly, even with constant forecast monitoring. A severe thunderstorm might produce rolling, erratic waves that attempt to hurl everything and anyone off the boat.

Beyond the law, applying a kill switch for your boat is essential as it guarantees safety for you as well as passengers on board. Then, how to bypass the kill switch properly? Continue reading to find out!

Tricks to Deal with Tethered Switches

The tethered kill cord is preferred by most sailors since it is less expensive. In addition, it performs as excellent as it is expected. According to the criteria, it’s appropriate for small vessels with a helm that is not within a cabin. It also applies to boats that travel faster than their displacement speed.

On a boat, there are two easy ways to bypass kill switches. All you have to do now is twist and pull the wires. What will occur if you do so? The engine shuts down because the keyed-to-start button is no longer connected.

If you choose to include a lanyard to the tethered switch, put it or cord it on your wrist or any parts of your body that is convenient. A clip will link the switch’s other end with the boat’s circuit.

To keep the boat running smoothly, this one-of-a-kind clip should be kept linked to the switch. The engine will cease operating if this tethered system is removed from the vessel.

Here are some tips for you to practice with tethered kill cords:

  • Use a suitable clip when you implement this kill switch. Don’t forget to double-check compatibility while replacing lanyards.
  • Having an additional lanyard clip is a necessary preparation. On the market, you may discover trustworthy ones.
  • Installing a kill cord to manual override is another possibility. These are quite useful in an emergency. You can still get the switch if you remove the helmsman.
  • It’s also a good idea to connect a floating key to the lanyard. Even if you drop it in the water by mistake, you won’t be stuck with this extra item. Because it is inexpensive, it is a viable option.


Bypassing a kill switch on a boat is an essential step and should not be overlooked by boaters to maintain the safety of their vessel. By following these instructions, you can easily bypass your kill cord precisely using these helpful tricks and not worry about your boat running away madly. Still, my best advice is to choose a suitable kill switch with lanyard for your boat like this Sea Dog Kill Switch.

Did you enjoy the article on how to bypass a kill switch on a boat? Do you want to add anything else? Please let me know and leave a comment below.

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