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!

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