Use “Grabby's” five fast tuneup tips to keep your inboard churning and burning.
It's the peak of the season, and no doubt your inboard is laboring under long hours and the high number of pulls you're trying to squeeze into the dog days of summer. “That's good,” says Mark “Grabby” Grabowski, service technician for Liquid Sports Marine in Orlando, Florida. “Using your boat on a frequent basis is one of the best preventive maintenance things you can do. It's not the pros who use their boats every day that we see coming in with problems, it's the owner who lets the boat sit for periods of time.” Even with this bit of encouraging news, Grabby offers the following five suggestions to ensure that your ride remains dependable whether you're shortening the line or perfecting your inverts this summer.
1. Check the fluids/cooling system.
Obviously, check the oil and transmission fluid weekly, if not daily. Each manufacturer has its own recommendations, but we tell everyone to replace the oil every 50 hours, and the transmission fluid every 100 hours. If the boat's equipped with a closed cooling system, you should check the level of the coolant too.
Pull off the water hoses and look at the raw-water filter screen to see if it's clogged with weeds or debris that could cause the engine to heat up. Hydrilla, an aquatic plant found in almost every lake in the Southeast, is especially notorious for leaving its leaves in the strainer.
Since you're using your boat often in the summer, there's not much chance for the impeller to sit long enough to produce a “set,” in which the blades flatten out against the cam, but you still want to check it for wear. Just take a couple of screwdrivers and pop it out.
2. Get the wet out (check your bilge pump).
With people getting in and out of the boat constantly, and the intermittent dripping from the packing on the shaft, you're going to get water down around the engine. So you want to make sure the bilge pump is operating well. Run it when there's still water in the boat so you can see pumps it out the side. Some pumps have a lever on the side that lets you test the automatic flow switch. If the water gets too high in the boat, especially with V-drive boats that have engines that sit lower in the hull (and thus in the water), it could destroy the alternator and the starter, and eat away at the transmission shaft.
3. Monitor prop dings.
With increased hours on the water comes a better chance of thumping your prop against something that can ding it. Check the prop blades regularly – especially if you heard something unusual while you were out. With dings on the prop you could feel a little vibration at first, but it could develop into something worse over time, like a worn-out strut bushing.
4. Keep your gas dry.
If you live on a lake and you're using gas cans to fill up your boat, be careful about where you store them. Don't just leave them exposed to the elements where they can accumulate water or debris. The pickups for the gas tank reach all the way to the bottom of the boat, and since water is heavier than gas the first thing the engine will suck up is water, making it run lean and smoke or sputter. Just to be safe, use a fuel additive like Heet to remove any residual water from the tank.
5. Keep your eyes open.
Every week, take just a few minutes to pop the hatch and do a visual inspection. You don't have to be a mechanic to see a belt that's worn or a hose that's leaking or a wire that has come loose. If you catch something early on your own initiative, you'll save yourself a lot of money and a few days off the water.