Tips for Boat Engine Maintenance

When was the last time you brought your boat in for maintenance?  In-depth boat maintenance includes engine analysis.  However, maintenance is not guaranteed to necessitate a costly boat engine repair.  Get your boat engine tuned up at least once each year and you’ll venture out onto the water without worry. The following article includes tips on boat engine maintenance to which you'll definitely want to pay attention.

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Boat Maintenance You Can Do Before Embarking: Mind the Fuel

Aside from bringing your boat to a professional for annual service, there are a few things you can do on your own to keep your vessel in tip-top shape.  Double-check your fuel to ensure you have a sufficient amount of gasoline prior to embarking on a water adventure.  Don’t forget to take a quick look at the fuel tank vent to ensure it is open.

Check the Oil

If the engine has an oil tank, check its level.  The oil tank should be topped prior to departure.  Moreover, a boat engine that is not bolted for connection with the transom will require analysis prior to departure.  Double-check to verify that the mount screw clamps for the engine are tight and properly secured.

If you are like most boat owners, you probably haven’t taken a close look at your water intake in a while.  Do your due diligence, analyze the water intake pickup with regularity and you might find it has been compromised.  If there is any gunk or debris interfering with the water intake, clean it right away.

Don’t forget to take a look at the prop to see if there is any fishing line in the area of the hub.  If fishing line is wrapped in this important space, remove it.  It is also in your interest to see if there is any extra oil that has accumulated by the prop.  Though a minor amount of oil will accumulate, anything more is cause for concern.  Moreover, it is prudent to note any alterations in quantity of buildup as time progresses as even a slight increase is a clue that the seal of the lower unit is weakening.

Boat maintenance experts advise changing the vessel oil at least once each year or once every 100 hours out on the water.  Refreshing the oil extends the engine’s lifespan so don’t hesitate to change it a little bit earlier than the timeline advised by the manufacturer.  We would be remiss to gloss over the fact that boats with diesel engines require an oil change at a higher frequency.  If your boat has a diesel engine, be sure to change the oil after every 50 hours of operation.

Post-trip Boat Maintenance

You can also do a couple things after boating expeditions to keep your vessel operating like a well-oiled machine.  Take the little bit of time necessary to flush the engine after your boating adventures.  Flushing out the engine is necessary after both fresh water and saltwater expeditions.  Perform a thorough flush and you will eliminate pollutants, gravel, sand and other buildup.

When flushing your boat’s engine, give the water pump a once-over to ensure its water flow is efficient.  Move a finger through the water to gauge its temperature.  The water should be lukewarm but not hot.  Moreover, the flow should be consistent and strong.  Weak water flow indicates debris has been lodged within the outflow tube.  Turn off the engine and you will successfully prevent potential overheating along with costly damage.  If inserting a diminutive wire within the flow tube and jostling it around doesn’t improve the output, consider adding a new water pump.

Now that the engine has been flushed and the water pump has been checked, it is time to shift your attention to the fuel line.  Disconnect the fuel line so the boat motor can burn the carburetor fuel.  Once the engine is out of fuel, remove the key along with the battery switch.  The entirety of the flushing process will likely take less than 10 minutes.

Lubricate Your Boat

Wipe down the entirety of the boat.  Find a high-quality corrosion inhibitor spray and apply it to your vessel.  Comprehensively lubricate the entirety of all the boat’s moving parts ranging from the cables for throttling to the shift and more.  Moreover, boat owners should lubricate the engine tilt to boot.  It is also in your interest to lubricate the grease points for steering once per year or once every 100 hours.

Don’t forget to replace the boat’s cowling.  If you are storing the boat for the winter or have some time before the next expedition, use a plastic or canvas cover to safeguard the engine in the meantime.

Clean the Boat Exterior

The exterior of boats is commonly overlooked simply because vessels spend time in the water.  There is a common misconception that exposure to water automatically cleans boat exteriors.  In reality, boat exteriors require manual cleaning outside of saltwater and freshwater.  Invest the time and elbow grease necessary to clean your boat’s exterior and you’ll bring out its aesthetic beauty.

A clean boat exterior is also beneficial in the context of maintenance and longevity as it prevents the infiltration of invasive species.  The bottom line is you won’t know what type of invaders latched onto your boat unless you take a close look and proactively clean it.  Ideally, the boat exterior will be cleaned each time your take it out of the water, regardless of whether the water is fresh or salt-laden.

Cleaning the boat exterior also serves the purpose of safeguarding the boat structure, preserving the finish.  Even minimal exposure to the sea’s salt will catalyze erosion that leads to scratches and abrasions that cost a pretty penny to eliminate.  The icing on the cake is the fact that clean boat exteriors move through the water more efficiently than dirty boat exteriors.  A hull laden with dirt will hike gasoline costs by upwards of 25%.

When cleaning your boat exterior, use products proven to be safe.  Rinse off the boat with clean and fresh water to eliminate the salt.  Always clean your boat on land so cleaning products don’t end up tainting the water.

Boat Motor Maintenance: Prepare the Vessel for Winter

If you are like most boat owners, you boat seasonally, meaning your vessel remains in storage for part of the year.  Most boat owners hit the water in the spring, summer and fall while spending the winter on land.  If you live in an area where the temperatures dip down below the freezing mark in the winter, be mindful of how you store your boat to preserve its engine for posterity.

The inboard engine or sterndrive’s cooling system is to be flushed with high-quality antifreeze.  Such flushing removes fresh water from the vessel’s cooling system that would otherwise cause damage to the motor or possibly even freeze during the winter.  Moreover, boat owners with vessels that have closed cooling systems with antifreeze should also perform a flush to eliminate water within the heat exchanger and exhaust system.

When in Doubt, Ask the Professionals for Help

The boat maintenance described above requires practice, time, knowledge, patience and some expertise.  The DIY approach will only take your boat maintenance so far.  In particular, the flushing of a boat engine with closed cooling systems is an especially daunting challenge. There is no shame in asking for help from the experts.

Moreover, boat engine repair is a project best left to the pros. Some such professionals offer boat winterizing as a component of yearly maintenance service.  Lean on a professional with a proven track record of success performing boat motor maintenance at a marine service shop to embrace these challenges and you’ll return to the water in full confidence.

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