How many times have we heard that a boat is " a hole in the water I pour money into"? It is true that purchase prices and repair prices can get pretty big, but compared to many other hobbies and sports it really is not so bad. In many cases the owner of the boat is his own worst enemy. Some of the blame for this rests on our shoulders, those of us in the industry. Sales people never talk about maintenance," this rig was made in heaven by angels and will never break down". Service people often don't explain why a repair was needed or how to prevent future problems. And the owner may often hide his ignorance due to embarrassment. This all leads to allot of preventable repairs and customers that quit boating all together.
We recently had a customer that paid almost $8000.00 to repair his boat and almost all of it was preventable. A late model stern drive with a "sundeck" hatch over the motor, the hatch is heavy so the customer almost never opens it. He brought it in because the alternator was not charging. We opened the hatch to find a huge rusted mess. Check of the oil showed no oil on the dipstick and motor frozen solid. We proceeded to pull the motor.The drive shaft from the out drive rusted into the engine coupler and that meant cutting the shaft and u-joints to remove drive, cutting the shaft between coupler and transom bearing, cutting off the motor mounts to remove the motor. We found the dip stick rusted off at the pan, pan rusted through,(dumping all the oil) timing case cover rusted through. Rust was so bad that all of the pulleys crumbled, crank shaft had to be cut to remove balancer and every bolt on the motor burned or drilled out.
After consulting with the owner we found that every time he put it in the water the auto bilge pump cycled off and on often and when he removed the drain plug on the trailer it would drain for 5 to 10 minutes.A sure indicator that there is a pretty big leak.
He had no clue that something was wrong, it had always done that. We found the transom seal and exhaust "y" leaking into the boat. Each time he ran the motor the bilge filled with water the flywheel and pulleys sprayed it everywhere and everything rusted out.What might have been a fairly minor leak repair turned into a major re-fit because of ignorance and neglect. Result this customer is selling his boat and will never buy another one, and we have lost another boater.
How do we prevent this? Educate yourselfs, after a repair make the shop explain what happened and why, could it have been prevented and how. You should should bring the boat in for regular service and inspection to catch problems and will prevent larger costs in the future. Boaters believe me hoses, belts, clamps, impellers, manifolds etc all wear out. You need to replace them before they cause larger problems.Repairs do not heal or go away by neglect, they only get more expensive. Having flown in many small planes I learned the value of a check list. all pilots do a pre-flight check, boaters should do the same. Before you leave the house:
batteries charged, terminals clean and tight Check all safety equipment
steering free and lubricated radio/cell phone
check oil in motor or supply tank trailer tires, bearings, lights, ty-downs
prop clean and undamaged Drain Plug!!
bilge pump working, all lights and accessories working
start motor inspect for leaks, bad hoses , belts
By doing this simple check you will have a more enjoyable day on the water and know if something on the boat needs attention before it gets expensive. Our shop would much rather see a customer a couple times per year and take care of normal maintenance over many years than get that one huge repair and never see that customer again. We try to educate them . And Mr. Customer please try to listen to us we are really trying to help, and if you do not know please ask .You purchased it to have fun and be enjoyable you owe it to yourself to learn how to take care of it and operate it responsibly.