Top 8 Reasons Why Your Boat Maybe Breaking Down and How You Can Help to Prevent It

Updated: Dec 3, 2018


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Lets envision that you have you your friends and your family, all out for a great weekend of boating. You have the sunscreen, the coolers and the beer! As you arrive to the perfect fishing spot, you decide to anchor down and catch that awarding fish you've been dreaming of! Disappointed that the monster is eluding you, you decide to try a new spot. As you proceed to crank your boat up, no start....... Now what do you do???


#1 - Is it sputtering or losing power? So your boat feels like its running out of power or losing strength. You've checked the fuel gauge, and you're not running out of fuel. The most likely cause could be a clogged fuel filter or filed plugs.

SOLUTION: Replace the in-line fuel filter. Of course you did bring a spare, didn't you? If not, take the in-line filter and try to manually release any debris that may be in it or accumulated water. If you're an I/O owner, please remember to vent the engine bay and clean up and spilled fuel.

PREVENTION: Of course like everything, it is possibly to buy bad parts. Make sure you have routine maintenance done to ensure update quality parts are installed. Also, remember with new ethanol gasoline it is possibly for "Father Time" to deteriorate your fuel system with water. With ethanol fuel, if leaving more than 3 months, considering filling your fuel tank completely full to prevent a hydroscopic reaction inside of the fuel tank. If you're pretty sure its not the gas, then check-in on your spark plugs to see if they are filed, or damaged in any way. It would also be a wise decision to keep spare plugs onboard as well as some hand tools to change them out.


#2 - The old broken belt nemesis!? So you're going on along, wind in your hair, the beauty of sun on your face and then you get annoying ringing and pinging sound out of the helm! Well thats just a buzz kill, ain't it? As annoying as it is, it is your boat telling you something is wrong! It may present itself as an overheating alarm, or a low voltage alarm. This must be dealt with immediately to prevent damage on your craft.

SOLUTION: Sure there is alot of info out there about how you can fashion a new belt from fishing line, shoestrings, or your wife's pantyhose!

PREVENTION: But it would be just as well advised to bring a spare belt with you. Most modern systems are five grove serpentine, so you would only need to carry one spare belt. Better yet, make sure you are part of a scheduled maintenance program to stop these scenarios from happening in the first place. Most of these systems only require a small hand tool set to change out.


#3 - As your cruising along and glance down, and look at your beautiful new gauges and notice the water temperature is overheating!! Slow the boat down and assess why, this is almost always due to a lack of water flow to your engine. Some have heat exchangers, like your car ,some pick up water directly from the source you're floating in.

SOLUTION: Stop! Trace the source of the flow issue. The most likely cause will be a physical obstruction, like a plastic bag, mud, or seaweed in the way of the intake grate. If you can get to the obstruction physically remove it. However, it is also possibly for you to have a failed waterpump, it is not practically to have it changed out in the middle of the water. For this you may want to keep some soft wire or some sort of flexible rod to snake out any clogs.

PREVENTION: The best prevention to this, however starts outside of the water with a quick walk around of your boat and a good maintenance plan to ensure the integrity of your waterpump. It is also to have a preventative maintenance plan in order to ensure any impending corrosion problems or internal clogging of the heat exchangers are caught before they can cause an issue.


#4 - *!%#! It won't start. Anyone who has ever tried to restart their boat to no avail, understands the pain thats about to ensue. However, most likely this is some kind of electrical issue. It could be simple as a corrosion issue with a battery or the battery itself having low voltage, or its simply an ignition circuit that has failed.

SOLUTION: A couple of simple things to check that the Coast Guard kill switch is in place correctly. As well as the shifter is in its neutral position. On older boats, make sure the ignition switch is not simple turning around in circles.

PREVENTION: I can not stress enough how important it is to periodically inspect and clean the wiring in your boat!! Also take note on how you are using your boat. A battery has a limited simply, and everything you do takes away from its storage capacity. (i.e. playing rock n roll for 5 hours might have a draining effect on your battery, also re-anchoring 5 times to find the perfect fishing spot with your windlass anchor may cause the same issue.) It maybe a good idea to have your battery integrity tested when you are performing your annual maintenance.


#5 - When your wife swears it just went dead! You have almost made it to the perfect spot and all of a sudden your boat decides it wants to stop before you get there. No rhyme or reason! This typically represents some kind of electrical malfunction. If you're lucky you could have accidentally pulled the kill switch or have a lose connection. Then again you could have tripped a breaker or blown a fuse.

SOLUTION: It is always best to start with the simplest possibilities. Check the kill switch. Check for any lose connections. Look at your fuse box, make sure there are no blown fuses. However, most of these situations turn out to be some sort of corrosion issues.

PREVENTION: When you first acquire your boat make sure you spend a little time on yourself. By that I mean the investment in learning the machine in which you're about to operate. Understand its ins and outs, and where everything goes. This way you can identify where wiring may most likely have issues.


#6 - It won't go in gear. Find yourself already to take off, you release the dock lines and push off the dock. You reach down to put 'er in gear and nothing happens. Doh! You're floating into the great beyond.

SOLUTION: Modern boats now have electronics to this feature. Please make sure you check the fuses for your e-link system. If you still have mechanical shift cables, it has either stuck in position or has become disconnected. If it is stuck, check the cable for corrosion and the possibility of cleaning. If it freely moves but does not engage, check either end of the cable to see if it properly connected. Of course it possible that there is an internal drive problem.

PREVENTION: The most likely cause of an internal drive problem, usually lead backs to a lack of fluid or lack of properly maintained unit. Make sure to keep you with your scheduled maintenance to prevent this. Always check the systems on your boat before departing for any signs of wear or fatigue.


#7 - It won't turn? As you go to make the turn back in the harbor and you realize your vessel is still going straight or the steering wheel all of a sudden will not turn.

SOLUTION: These are due to a few common issues, most likely is your steering system has sprung a leak and is low on hydraulic fluid. Or if you have the mechanical type steering, the internal cable has become jammed. In either case trace the line and figure out where your leak is coming from or what could possibly be in the way of the internal cable.

PREVENTION: Of course a routine inspection of your vessel will help to spot problems before they get too big. But it is always a good idea to check the system and it is working properly and greased sufficiently before you leave the dock. Carry some extra grease and couple extra quarts of hydraulic fluid.


#8 - The trim won't go up or down? So you go to take your boat out, as you attempt to take it off the trailer, you try to raise the motor and realize it will not move!

SOLUTION: The trim is electrical as well as hydraulic. The first thing to do would be check for fuses if it is not, it is some sort of hydraulic problem!

PREVENTION: Check the fluid and make sure they are at sufficient levels and you do not notice any water intrusions. Once again a routine maintenance will help prevent or detect this issue.


In summary, the prevention of ruining your day, enjoying the beautiful boat you worked so hard, or the time you were going to spend with your family, starts with YOU! Although the shiny gel coat and the beautiful stickers is the first thing you see and the thing 90% of boaters spend their time on, doesn't mean thats the only thing that needs your attention. Although the rocking sound system and beautiful gel coat is important at maintaining your investment, so are the internal workings of what makes your boat capable of putting the wind in your hair!! A little bit of the not so pretty prevention can go a very long way. However, we understand not everyone likes to these kind of things. We suggest that you get a hold of a trusted maritime representative to get advise or to simply get on a maintenance plan to ensure the longevity of your craft as well as happy boating for many seasons to come!



#top8 #boatingbreakdown #preventativemaintenance #happyboating #boatmechanic #theboatinglife


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