While Boat ownership is a huge responsibility. Sure, we all love time spent on the water with our boats, but many of us fail to understand what it takes to keep a boat operating smoothly. Preventative maintenance, repairs and general upkeep are all necessary components to a great boat. As a result, boating can become an expensive hobby, as many boat owners pay professionals to complete all of these tasks. To help combat these expenses, you’re better off doing some things yourself.
DIY (do it yourself) can be a dangerous term, particularly in the boating world. There are countless horror stories out there involving stingy boat owners who refuse to pay a professional to perform routine maintenance or complete a repair. These people then try to do things themselves without the proper knowledge or preparation and end up digging themselves a deeper hole, both emotionally and financially. So, before we touch on this subject any further, we’ll say this: If you aren’t prepared to undergo a project on your own with the adequate materials and knowledge, don’t do it. Pay a professional.
Now that the aforementioned important disclaimer is out of the way, we’d like you to understand that if you’re willing to put the time and effort in, there are plenty of simple DIY projects you can complete on your own. Whether it’s routine preventative maintenance that can be dreadfully overpriced, quick repairs that shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg or just general TLC that your boat needs to run like new, it’s in your best interest as a boat owner to learn your way around these projects.
When it comes to maintenance, we urge you to only take on small projects, especially if you’re new to it, before biting off more than you can chew. A botched maintenance project on your vessel or engine can not only leave you in a worse position than you were in when you started, but it can also present further ramifications like voided warranties and tanking resale values. Again, don’t start a project unless you’ve got the whole thing planned out from start to finish and you have everything you need.
One such maintenance project is an outboard oil change. This simple, yet incredibly important task is a walk in the park for a trained professional but can be difficult for a first-timer. This doesn’t mean you should be discouraged from trying to save a little bit of money and taking it on yourself, it just means you need to dedicate the time and effort necessary to do it right. We also recommend finding someone who’s done it before to walk you through the process and supervise the project. But, once you look into it and do your homework, you’ll realize that all you need is a few inexpensive materials and willingness to follow the process step by step. Most outboard manufacturers even offer kits specific to their engines that include almost everything you need to get the job done. If you run into any snags, don’t be afraid to contact the manufacturer or a mechanic to finish the job. It’s not worth causing more damage because you’re not willing to swallow your pride.
Another simple project that presents itself frequently is a minor outboard propeller repair. Remember, when we say minor, we mean minor. This means quick filing, fixing a ding or simply determining what the problem is. However, though these are considered minor, they can affect performance. If you look closely at your propellers or run your finger along the edge of the blade, you might determine that some or all of the blades have saw-toothed edges. This is called a burr, and you can easily file it down yourself with a mill bastard file, available at your local hardware store. Working from the back of the blade toward the edge, hold the file at a steep angle to smooth the edge while removing as little material as possible.
So far, we’ve given you examples of DIY projects you can complete with regard to maintenance and repairs, but what about general upkeep? This is perhaps the most important and underestimated aspect of boat ownership. To be clear, this goes beyond simply giving your vessel a rinse every time you use it, because that’s just not enough. Proper upkeep involves eliminating your entire vessel of corrosive salt residue, making sure small components like hatch hinges, gauges, electronics and more are clean, protecting your wiring and batteries, and more. These are not things you need to pay a professional to do, but they do need to be done. Something as simple as a corroded fuse can prevent your boat from starting up. Many boaters would simply panic and call a professional in this situation, whose mere consultation to identify the issue could cost quite a bit. A prepared boater, though, will keep spare fuses on board and quickly identify the issue, taking a minute to replace the fuse and getting on with their day.
This concept of upkeep also applies to boat detailing. Remember, cleaning your boat is different from detailing it. Boaters should clean their vessels routinely and after every use. Detailing doesn’t need to be done as frequently, but it is important. Professional boat detailing can be very expensive, as it’s a labor-intensive process. However, for those who are willing to put in the work and have the time, DIY boat detailing is a good way to save money and keep your boat looking and running like new.