There's nothing like a weekend on the boat - you know that! But, you may also know, there's nothing like a weekend on the boat when something goes wrong. Whether it's through a lack of preventative maintenance, a wrong turn or simply bad luck, when you encounter mechanical or electrical problems on the water you feel stranded and alone - literally! The good news is that with just a little bit of planning, you can be prepared for the eventual mishap. Bring along a few of the spare parts listed below, build a spare parts kit, and in a lot of cases you'll be able to get yourself out of a bad situation and save yourself LOTS of money.
- Spare filters
To many, this may sound obvious. However, we've heard it more times than we can count: a fun boating weekend is planned, the engine is filled with fuel, and then when it's on the water, the engine feels as though it's losing strength. The engine sputters and stalls. Before you know it, your day of skiing and fishing is nothing but a struggle. To borrow the old adage from the automotive world - it's either fuel or fire (see #2!). It's entirely possible to fill up your boat with a bad batch of fuel. It's also possible for old fuel that sits in the fuel system to cause carbon deposits and buildup in the combustion chamber. Ethanol-blended fuels can quickly block the fuel filters quickly and require servicing. Start with replacing the fuel filters, check your fuel lines and make sure to clear any debris in the lines. Hopefully, this corrects the problem. And remember to use a fuel stabilizer every time you fill up!
- Spark plugs
Like we said in #1, either fuel or fire. In the case of lack of fire, fouled spark plugs can cause problems starting the engine or cause the engine to run rough. Always keep a spare set of spark plugs on hand - they're typically an easy repair to start troubleshooting. You should check the plug for signs of wear - a shiny coating on the tip or the ground electrode could indicate a too-rich fuel mixture or ignition problems. A blackened or charred appearance might be signs of bad spark plug wires, a stuck-open thermostat causing an engine to run cold or leaking injectors causing over-fueling. Replacing spark plugs will help improve the situation, but when plugs show signs of damage, that can be indication of larger problems that deserve the attention of a knowledgeable mechanic.
- Spare propeller
Oops, you didn't know that rock was there. It's one of the most commonly damaged parts of the boat, as you could imagine. The propeller takes a beating - it gets chipped, hit, knocked, bent and abused, and yet it still keeps turning and pushing the boat forward. But, a damaged propeller is going to affect the boat's overall performance dramatically. If it takes a hard enough hit, you might be in need of a tow. Carrying a spare propeller and hardware to replace it with can be a life saver, even if replacing one while it's in the water can be challenging. Remember, these items don't float! We especially recommend using an interchangeable hub design propeller on stern drives and outboards to save money. Having the right tools help, too; there are specially-designed prop wrenches that can save you a ton of time (some of these do float!).
- A starter battery
Batteries might seem like an expensive item to keep a spare of, but compared to the cost of a tow and the frustration of being stranded on the water, the cost is worth it. Not to mention, a spare starter battery doesn't have to typically cost the same as your normal starter or house batteries; it just needs to be powerful enough to get you back to shore. Battery power is a VERY common cause of so many issues on a boat. As technology continues to develop and boats get more and more sophisticated, more demand is being put on the battery bank. And sure, you can keep boating without your mega-speakers, but losing your engine starting battery is a problem you'll want to have an answer for.
- Spare impellers
Let's hope you are checking the impeller on your engine's raw water pump regularly. If these rubber blades are swelling, cracking or tearing apart inside the water pump, you run the risk of overheating the engine and causing serious damage. If this kind of failure happens while you're on the water, it's probably too late for a quick and cheap preventative fix. But, keep spare impellers onboard your boat, check the pumps regularly before you get on the water, and if you do see any signs that the impeller is damaged, you can replace it easily without postponing your boating plans. Like many other items on this list, the right tool helps, too. Impeller pullers for many different styles of pumps and impellers are available and can make removal a much simpler task.
We hope you never run into boat trouble on the water. But if and when you do, being prepared will avoid a lot of headaches and get you back to the fun stuff much faster. And as one final tip, we strongly recommend regular preventative maintenance from an experienced marine mechanic to keep your boat in proper working order. Making the investment in preventative maintenance is the number one way to keep you having fun on the water while the other boat owners are still at the dock trying to figure out their problems. Take care of your boat!
For more information about any of the above, or to get insight from our knowledgeable and experienced technical staff about your boat troubles, give Marine Parts Source a call at (866)388-0390.