Kill Cord

The kill cord is a red lanyard which has a quick-release fitting at one end and a clip at the other end. When used correctly, the quick-release fitting is attached at the console and the other end with the clip attached to the helmsman. The kill cord is normally attached around the driver’s knee and clipped back onto itself.

A kill cord is coiled in its design to allow the driver natural movement when helming a boat. Should the driver move away from, or be thrown overboard, the kill cord will detach from the console and the engine will stop. The kill cord should always be worn by the driver whenever the engine is running! Should you for any reason not wish to attach the kill cord around your leg, attach it securely to your personal buoyancy aid. In either case it should not foul the steering or gear controls and become a safety risk itself.

The kill cord should always be clipped back onto itself. It should not be clipped onto any item of clothing or attached to any other location where the clip would release from the helmsman rather than detach from the console/control box, as the console end must detach for the kill cord to stop the boat.

It is tempting to use a kill cord that is longer than the item provided by the manufacturer of the engine or boat, allowing you a little more movement, but this could result in the kill cord not doing its job when you really need it. If you need to leave the command position, or you are changing helmsman, you should ALWAYS turn off the engine. The engine should only be re-started when the kill cord has been secured to the new helmsman.

  • Check the kill cord’s condition
  • Check your kill cord works at the start of each day or session by starting the engine and pulling the kill cord to makes sure it stops the engine.

Monitor the kill cord & lanyard for signs of wear

Kill cords should be protected from the elements. Over time extremes of temperature and UV light will harm the lanyard. Kill cords may become stretched or brittle if stored open to the elements. Monitor the kill cord for signs of wear, rust and reduced elasticity, replace as a recommendation once a year to be safe.
When replacing kill cords, purchase a good quality lanyard with a strengthening cord through the middle.

Summary of the RYA advice and recommendations:

  • The RYA recommends that the kill cord be attached around your leg. It should not foul the steering or gear controls.
  • The RYA does not recommend extending the length of the kill cord provided by the manufacturer of the engine.
  • Always check your kill cord works at the start of each day or session and check it regularly for signs of wear.
  • When replacing kill cords, purchase a good quality lanyard with a strengthening cord through the middle.
  • Do not leave kill cords out in the elements. Extremes of temperature and UV light will harm the lanyard in the long term.
  • If your lanyard has a fabric outer sheath, but has lost its spiral tension, it is advisable to replace it as it is possible that the inner strengthening cord may be damaged. 
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