9 Common Maintenance Mistakes

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By BoatTEST.com

Frustrating Fasteners.

We’ve all been there: you choose the correct socket, wrench, or screwdriver, apply pressure, and… snap! Off comes the head. Broken bolts and screws are a major hassle, not only because removing the bolt just became 10 times harder, but also because you now need a replacement. How can you prevent this problem?

For starters, don’t over-pressure the bolt or screw in the first place. A spritz of PB Blaster, WD-40, or a similar lubricant can work wonders. Spray it on liberally, then wait so the solvent has plenty of time to seep in.

Rusty bolts or fasteners can break and should be replaced.

Secondly, don’t let fasteners get corroded in the first place. Usually, a bolt that breaks is one that hasn’t been removed for years, while being subjected to lots of moisture and/or saltwater. As soon as you see one going bad, pull and replace it.

Finally, when a fastener’s sticky, moderate pressure and some lube doesn’t do the trick, and you’re at a loss, try applying some heat. A minute or two with a torch is often all it takes to get it moving again.

Hazy Gaze.

If you have any sort of clear plastic on your boat — and you almost surely do, either in the windshield, clear canvass curtains, or opening ports — you probably give it a regular cleaning, which can leech out over time. Yet they may still turn hazy, and eventually, it seems like you’re always looking through a thick fog.

Clear plastic on a boat, as in a windshield, can turn hazy and needs regular cleaning. – Tacoma World

The first reason this often happens is that people clean the clear plastic with a contaminated rag or cloth; all it takes is a tiny bit of grit to scratch the surface of the plastic. The second common reason is using the wrong cleaning products. Anything containing ammonia, including common window cleaners, will cause the clear plastic to haze up in a flash.

Wax On, Wax Off.

You say you waxed your boat every spring, yet the gel coat is still deteriorating at a rapid pace? While regular waxing is a must, if you don’t eliminate all oxidation first you merely lock it in, and things will only continue to get worse. When you first get ready to wax the hull sides inspect them closely for any chalky spots. If you find any, hit the hull with a good oxidation remover before beginning that wax job.

Before waxing a boat, remove the oxidation first.

Filter Faux Pas.

Fuel filters and water separators go bad with some regularity, whether your fuel becomes contaminated or not. So, every year or two, you need to swap them out. Wait for more than two, however, and the threads on fuel filter/water separators quite commonly become corroded. Then it becomes a struggle to remove it – and as you struggle, something might break. A simple solution: is to remove and replace it every spring, regardless of its condition.

Boat filters should be replaced every spring and not reused.

Filter Faux Pas II.

It’s tempting to remove a fuel/water separator, dump it, and then re-use it if it looks clean. There’s just one problem: the osmotic barrier only works one way, and if you dump water through in the wrong direction, the fuel/water separator no longer works properly. So never reuse, and always replace.

Frustrating Fuses.

Your boat has automotive-style fuses instead of breakers? You probably have perpetual problems with them. In an ideal world, you’d replace the system. In reality, you’d probably get by with a box of spare fuses and replace some now and again.

This may work for a while, but unfortunately, the market is flooded with cheap fuses mass-produced over-seas. Often, these have poor tolerances. If you have perpetual electrical gremlins, there’s a good chance you got a bad batch of fuses. The solution is simple: throw all those cheap fuses away and get a selection that’s of higher quality.


Some electrical problems can be due to lower quality fuses that have poor tolerances.

Clamp Conundrum.

They were getting hard to turn, so you lubed the clamps on your small outboard motor mount? Good move – but now they may vibrate loose more easily. Solve this issue by connecting the eyes in the two hand-screws of the clamps, with a zip-tie.

Dust Dilemma.

Regular lower unit oil changes are a must, and if you do this job regularly, you should have one of those handy little pumps that threads onto the neck of the oil bottle. There’s just one problem: between changes, the pick-up tube of the pump tends to collect dust and grime — which can contaminate the oil, the next time you start pumping. Prevent this problem by leaving the pump threaded onto the empty oil bottle, the next time you complete an oil change.

Bag of Tricks.

One of the most odious maintenance tasks we boat owners face is cleaning out the portable MSD (marine sanitation device). At least once each season you’ll need to remove it from the head compartment, get it to a toilet, and hold your nose while you evacuate the contents. But the seals on these things are rarely as effluent tight as we’d like, and it’s pretty common to have some of the contents leak out as you carry it to the bathroom.

Prevent this problem by taking large, heavy-duty lawn-and-leaf garbage bag, and placing it open-side-up on the deck as close to the head as possible. Then move the MSD onto it as carefully as possible, lift the edges of the bag up and around your portable potty, and carry it to the bathroom while it’s inside the bag.