Saturday, February 4, 2012

Boat Maintenance Part II

Verify their operation. Often! sure you hear the pump running. Better yet, install the drain plug, raise your bow up, and fill bilge with water. Manually test the bilge pump with the dash switch and be sure it pumps water. Verify that float switch cuts on as the water level rises, if it does not have it checked or replaced. Tech Notes: We have heard pumps run but not pump due to a spun impeller. The time to find out you bilge pump is inoperable is not when you need it the most.

We recommend that offshore fisherman carry a spare manual bilge pump and an electric pump with 10’ – 15’ of hose that is equipped with extra length wiring terminated to alligator clips. In an emergency, put the emergency pump in the bilge, hook up the clips to the battery and extend the hose over the side. A Jump Start box is also a great emergency piece of equipment to have offshore and it can power that emergency bilge pump.

You cannot believe how much we see the following scenario. A boat owner for years has used his boat only in the daytime hours and then the first time he needs his navigation lights they don’t work. They probably have not worked for years. Verify your navigation light operation every time you go out. You never know when your excursion may have you coming back after the sun sets. Running at night without lights is dangerous and illegal. Keep spare bulbs on board along with fuses. Common light failure problems revolve around switches, bulbs, corroded sockets and bad wiring connections.

It is a good idea to remove your prop at the beginning of each season and grease the prop shaft and reinstall it. When you have the prop off remove the forward thrust washer and check for any fishing line that may have been caught in the prop. Monofilament fishing line and especially the new braided lines are quite adept at cutting into your seal and allowing water into your lower unit gearcase. If you fish a lot, especially bottom fish I would check a lot more often. Before each trip instruct your fishing crew that you need to know any time they get their line caught in the props. Their honesty and quick disclosure can save you a lot of expense and aggravation in the future. Techs Notes: Carry extra cotter pins with you if you need to make an emergency prop removal to remove fishing line. Better yet carry a full set of prop hardware in case something goes overboard. Please do not drop the prop!

Gearcase lube should be changed every 100 hours or once a year whichever comes first. This is an easy do it yourself job and we have the items and advice you need to do this and save some money. Be sure to change out the gearcase washers every time you change your lube. Check regularly for water intrusion. Gearcase oil should be honey colored when fairly new and darken with age. Lube that is cream colored or rusty colored is contaminated with water. A silver color usually means internal metal damage. Both of these are a major cause for concern and should be immediately evaluated to determine the cause of the problem. Techs Notes: A quick way to check your gearcase level and its lubricity characteristic is to remove the top plug only and insert an extra long pipe cleaner down into the gearcase to pull a lube sample. Wrap one end on your finger so do not drop it.

We think that there are probably more boat trailers plying the roadways with brakes that are inoperable than those that are operable. This is a dangerous situation and you know what we mean if you have ever been pushed through a stoplight by a boat and trailer. The brakes on your tow vehicle are not built to stop larger boats. In Alabama trailer brakes are required on at least one axle for trailers with more than a 3000# rating. Many trailer owners have no clue as to whether their brakes are working or not. Many do not even know how to check the brake fluid level. Submerging brake components in saltwater on a regular basis creates a situation that demands more intense maintenance and more frequent operation.

Things have become somewhat easier over the past few years as most manufacturers are switching over to disc brake packages with non corrosive components. It is still not a perfect world though and you must check your brakes regularly. Start at the brake surge coupler at the front of the trailer and check the fluid level. The proper fluid is DOT-3 and the correct level is 3/8” below the top of the reservoir. If your check reveals a total lack of brake fluid you need to act immediately as the inside of the brake coupler will rust in the absence of brake fluid. If your inspection reveals no fluid and a rusty residue inside, your coupler has probably died an unnatural death and will need replacing. Fluid loss usually stems from leaks at the brake lines, connections, or the brake cylinders themselves. Actuator travel should also be verified. Your actuator operates like piston, when the tow vehicle slows the actuator moves forward and applies pressure to the brake fluid which causes the brakes to engage. If fluid is contaminated the entire brake system should be drained, flushed and bled.

Drum brakes - They should be checked on a yearly basis with the outer drum/hub removed and internal components checked for corrosion and parts degradation. It is also recommended that the brakes be adjusted every year. Corroded components should also be replaced. Tech Notes: Rather than spend a lot of money repairing drum brakes we feel your money would be better spent converting to disc brakes. They are lower maintenance and require no annual adjustment.

Disc Brakes - Check pads, rotors and master cylinder. Look for uneven wearing, scoring, cracking, warping or corrosion. Replace pads if less than 1/8” thick, new pads start out at 3/8” of thickness. Check reversing solenoid operation. The reversing solenoid is activated by your tow vehicles reverse light circuit and frees the brakes for reverse operation. Warped rotors are usually caused by improper backing with the reverse solenoid not properly engaged.

Tech Notes: To prolong the life of your brakes…after you back up your trailer to park ease forward about 2”. This will pull the actuator forward relieving the pressure on the brake components.

The number one cause of trailer breakdowns, especially in a saltwater environment. Bearings should be greased on a regular basis but repacked on an annual basis. Most of today’s trailers utilize two different types of bearing covers that allow for regular greasing, the posi-lube system or the Bearing Buddy system. Both systems allow grease to be added easily but are not to be mistaken as a replacement for an annual bearing repacking.

When repacking bearings, the wheels are removed, hub dis-assembled bearings, races and spindles inspected and cleaned. Seals are replaced as well as any corroded or pitted bearings and races at this time. You should always shake test your tires before each trip to see if you notice any sloppiness that may be the sign of early bearing failure. For the Do It Yourselfer, we keep a full line of trailer parts in our parts department.

We often get trailers in that have the lug nuts so rusty that they cannot be removed or the corrosion has altered their shape so that no wrench can remove them. What would this guy do on the side of a dark road at night? At this point they must be cut or burnt off, a rather expensive proposition. Techs Notes: We recommend that lug nuts be removed annually, greased and reinstalled with proper torque values.

Safe boating!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles: The Range Reviews: Sterling Knife Sharpeners


It seems that the Raschman has resurrected! I am looking forward to hearing his tales and outdoor adventures!
He has done a nice review here: The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles: The Range Reviews: Sterling Knife Sharpeners

Mike S

Friday, January 27, 2012

Boat Maintenance PT I

A Dirty Dozen for your Fishing Boat PT I

I have seen plenty of service and maintenance items that most of us might think aren’t really all that important.

We would, of course, be wrong. I have assembled a series of things that can sometimes be taken for granted and overlooked for annual service. We’re not talking about dings in the gel coat, torn upholstery, broken livewell pumps and stuff like that, we’re talking about things that have a tremendous potential impact on your safety, reliability, fuel-economy and trouble-free operation.

Let's call it the “Dirty Dozen” – and today, let me share a half-dozen with you.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind


If you do not have one, get one, NOW! Many boaters do not even know if they have one on their boat or not. Many dealers commit a monumental travesty to their customer by not recommending or installing them on delivered boats. Clean fuel is the lifeline of today’s technologically advanced outboard engines. Contaminated fuel is the number-one single service problem that we find in our shop. The sensors monitoring the fuel delivery system on your fuel-injected outboard go haywire when water gets introduced into the mix.

Many boat owners seem to have the belief that if a fuel/water separator filter is mounted on the boat that they are good to go and protected forever. Not true! These filters need to be serviced and inspected on a regular basis. They do filter water out of your fuel but they also capture it while doing so. Once that capture capacity is reached any additional separated water goes directly into your engine. At that point you no longer have any protection from water entering your fuel system.

We recommend that you replace these filter elements yearly or sooner, especially if the exterior of the element is rusty. It is an easy do It yourself Job. During the boating season, we recommend that the filter be inspected monthly, removed and the contents dumped into a quart Zip Loc freezer bag so that you can get a visual snapshot of your fuel condition. Turn the bag 45 degrees to form a corner. Any water will now be readily visible; you will see a clear line of separation between the two liquids as they separate due to their different viscosity. If there is no water or contaminants present, put the contents of the bag back into the filter element and screw it back on to the filter head assembly.

Just like an oil filter, a little oil should be applied on the rubber seal prior to re-installation. If the fuel sample is contaminated, dispose of the bad fuel and put fresh fuel into the filter before it is re-installed. When working on a fuel filter we recommend that you pre-run your engine prior to performing any work. By doing so you will be assured that your fuel delivery system is fully charged. A fully charged fuel system will allow the engine to run long enough after the canister element is replaced for the vacuum of the fuel pump to refill the canister element. Tech Notes: Please exercise caution and good sense when working with gasoline and dispose of it properly.

If you have one of the new style “clear bowl” filter elements manufactured by Racor you do not have to remove the filter element to inspect for water. Any water that this filter separates is instantly visible in the clear inspection bowl on the bottom of the filter. It has a handy twist drain on the bottom which allows for the water to be removed into a small jar or zip loc bag. These units cost a little more, but are well worth the cost as they are the “state of the art” in fuel filtration. They can be purchased as a kit that will retro fit most standard fuel filter head assemblies. This is money well spent because the consequences of not having a good quality filter are far outweighed by the benefits.

Flares – Be sure to check the expiration date, they only have about a 3 year service life. Even though your outdated flares may be in good working condition you will still get a citation from the Marine Patrol if they are expired. Replace with new ones but save the old ones in your emergency supplies kit. We hope you never need them but they have saved many lives. If you venture offshore be sure to get both handheld flares and aerial flares.

Fire Extinguisher – Check to be sure it is fully charged. If it is not it will not pass Marine Patrol inspection and you will get a ticket. Buy a new one before that happens because the ticket is a heck of a lot higher than the $15 to $20 you will spend at our ship’s store. If you are ever in the situation where you have to discharge one, you would pay many times that amount. It’s prompt use in an emergency situation can save you and your boat.

Water Pumps – Should be changed out at least every 2 years minimum. Yamaha now recommends changing them yearly and our recommendation is to do so if a lot of your boating involves running your engine in sand and muck. Impellers also develop a “set” over time and will not pump as much volume to the engine. A failed water pump is the #1 reason for a total stranding as documented by our service department.

Thermostats – Should be changed when you change out the water pump impeller. Today’s outboard engines are finely tuned machines and the temperature they operate at is critical for proper performance and reliability. In fact, some of Honda’s newer engines run at 3 different temperatures as part of their design. Marine thermostats are similar to what you find in automobiles with one exception; around here they run in saltwater and suffer the consequences of early deterioration and failure. This means they must be changed much more than those in your automobile.

The fact that today’s fuel injected outboards depend so much on a clean fuel supply for their proper operation is an issue not taken lightly by the engine manufacturers. Most manufactures provide additional protection to their engines within the design of their fuel delivery system. Most of these filters are not readily changeable and are buried deep in the bowels of the fuel system. There can be filters on both the low and high pressure sides and they can require some disassembly to access. A savvy do it yourselfer can perform most of these tasks but if you do not trust your skills take it to the dealer. We stock most of these filters and we will be glad to provide you with a parts breakdown to assist you in your efforts. Check your maintenance manual for the schedule for changing out these filters on your boat. If you run offshore a lot you should spend special attention to the maintenance of these filters, their failure can leave you stranded a long way from home.

We often find that these filters can become a cause of failure when engines start to get increased operating hours on them. Age in the field also has a lot to do with it. Typical failure is a collapse of the element as the filter media becomes so clogged that it can no longer pass fuel. They can fail prematurely if the onboard fuel/water separator filter system on the boat is neglected or non-existent. The engine mounted filters then do a job they were not designed for and this can lead to premature and often catastrophic failure. This is another reason that you MUST HAVE a good quality fuel/water separator system on your boat and it should be properly maintained. Are we sounding like a broken record here? Good!

Please pay special attention here as we consider this a safety issue. Have your hydraulic steering system bled and inspected yearly. Air is man’s best friend but a hydraulic steering system’s worst enemy. Air in a hydraulic steering system diminishes performance, response and can lead to a total loss of steering. Today’s hydraulic systems are very complex with a myriad of hoses connecting autopilot pumps, power steering pumps and even liquid tie bars. All of these create extra connections where leaks can occur that can lead to decreased steering performance.

Also pay attention to your steering cylinders that are mounted on your engines. Occasionally inspect the outer seals where the chrome steering bar exits the cylinder. If you notice fluid here you have a problem that must be addressed immediately. After a day on the water, be sure to clean these chrome rods with soapy water to remove any salt residue that might lead to pitting and premature failure of the seals. Make it part of your regular boat cleanup routine. You will want to carefully inspect the back of your steering helm for leaks, as well as all of the connector fittings.

A properly bled steering system is a tight steering system, when you push on your motor it should barely move, if it moves more than a little you are probably a candidate for a steering re-bleed. You can bleed your steering system yourself but we recommend that you bring it to a dealer who has a Power Purger which is a machine that pumps fluid into the system and removes air at the same time. A single station rig can be bled in less than half an hour. The addition of power steering pumps and autopilots on some boats require a more complex bleeding sequence and for these setups we only recommend the Power Purger system.

Water, water everywhere! Except in your batteries. What’s with that? The water level in your batteries must be checked on a regular basis. Check them even more often if you have them hooked up to any kind of automatic charging system. Regardless of what the charging system manufacturer advertises, check your water! Improper electrolyte levels are the #1 cause of early battery failure.

Battery connections on most marine batteries are usually made with the wing nuts. The problem with wing nuts is that most people think they are sufficiently tight when they cannot tighten them any further. That is when you get the pliers and tighten them yet again. If you can remove your battery wing nuts with your fingers, they are too loose. Plier Tight Please! You cannot believe how many boaters come in here thinking they need a starter when all we had to do was tighten the battery connections. Tech’s Note: If you remove your batteries be sure to bundle the wires together with a twist tie to be sure they go back on the same way and that polarity is verified before reattachment.

In our next Post: The Dirty Dozen, Part II.