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Learn to do a few basic maintenance chores

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - | Jan 5, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

With an ever shrinking dollar, I’m a big fan of saving money. Learning to do a few basic maintenance chores will help keep money in your wallet and your boat out of the shop this winter. Keep in mind that if you need shop service during season, you may be looking at several weeks, possibly months, before there are any openings.

Pull that prop! With who knows what’s still in the water, one of the simplest chores is to remove your prop and inspect the shaft for fishing line. Lazy anglers discard braided line into the water that often ends up under your prop cutting into the seal in the lower unit housing, letting in water contaminating the oil, causing corrosion and eventually failure, expensive failure.

Remove most props with these simple steps. Bend the cotter pin straight and remove it freeing the Castle nut and washer that secures the prop to the shaft. Unscrew the nut, remove the prop, and inspect around the shaft seal. If satisfied, then add a little grease to the shaft, slide the prop back on and secure it.

If you find line, especially braided line, you may want to inspect the lower unit oil for water contamination. Crack open the lower unit drain plug and take a small sample. If the oil looks milky you have a problem and may need to have the seal replaced, the lower unit inspected and fresh oil installed.

If it’s time to change your lower unit oil anyway, it’s another easy to do maintenance chore that will help save you from expensive shop costs and boat downtime. Most outboards have an upper and lower drain plug. Open both and drain the (warm) oil completely. Lower unit oil refill bottles typically come with a pump hose, and fitting to refill the lower unit. Screw the hose to the lower drain opening and pump/fill from the bottom up till air is forced out the top opening and replaced by oil reaching the upper plug opening. Secure the upper plug then unscrew the bottom hose and screw in the plug. Wipe clean. Consult your manual for your motors lower unit capacity.

Keep a clean machine! You’re 25 miles off the coast with all the relatives aboard and now she won’t turn over? Wonder if all those mini-donut sized, green acid corrosion rings around your battery terminals have anything to do with it? When you finally get back in, clean everything up, wire brush all connections and terminal rings and inspect for a tight connection to each one’s wire. If questionable, cut, strip the wire, reconnect or replace. Reassemble everything, tighten, and then coat all terminal connections with dielectric grease to prevent future corrosion, charging issues and expensive shop time. While you’re already there, fill those batteries to the proper level with distilled water.

Just about half of all local shop time is devoted to ethanol fuel-related issues. If you can, always buy ethanol free fuel. If you can’t, always use a fuel conditioner, especially if you don’t use the boat on a regular basis. Boats sitting for long periods with tanks partially filled are asking for fuel contamination issues. Readers know I preach the benefits of changing out your fuel/water separating filter on a regular basis. Yamaha recommends replacing theirs every 50 hours of run time. Keeping your fuel conditioned and water separating filters changed is the easiest way to keep your boat out of the shop and money in your pocket.

Do you realize how much it costs to be rescued if you don’t have a tow insurance policy? Try the Coast Guard or expect to pay $500-$1,000 or much more depending on distance, boat size, weather conditions, groundings and usually long hours before they get there.

Save money and get a policy. A Sea Tow membership including boat trailer coverage is under 200 bucks a year and worth every penny.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or captgeorget3@aol.com.