Are You Really Saving with DIY Boat Repairs?

Are You Really Saving with DIY Boat Repairs?

Posted by Craig Zola on Feb 4, 2019 2:30:00 PM

Worker fixing a boat

There’s so many expenses to consider when buying a new boat. Naturally you’ll factor in the up-front cost of the boat as well as storage and accessory costs. It’s equally important to factor in the cost of repairs and maintenance on your boat as well.

Routine costs include regular engine maintenance, oil changes, cleanings, and hull maintenance. It’s typically recommended to budget 10 percent of the boat’s value annually for maintenance.

Many of these maintenance tasks have simple do-it-yourself solutions that you can perform to extend the life of the boat. Even when you perform the maintenance routine yourself, keep in mind that costs will still add up. Often, the additional up-front cost of premium boat materials pays for itself in lowered maintenance costs.

Common Boat Maintenance Issues

As a boat owner, there are a few common issues that you may be able to fix yourself. A knowledge of how to diagnose the symptoms can save you time and money. New boats require a lower annual maintenance budget than a used boat, at least for the first few years of ownership.

There are many different electrical issues your boat can face. From faulty wiring connections to battery problems, electrical issues can lead to major problems, including onboard fires.

If your boat has problems with steering, it’s likely due to low hydraulic fluid. This is usually a quick fix you can take care of on your own.

When your boat is taking on unchecked water, is performing heavier than usual, and the bilge pump is being overworked, it could be due to an issue in the engine’s cooling and exhaust system. If a hose has burst, you’ll need to have it replaced immediately. There are some short-term fixes you can apply yourself, but it’s inevitable that the hose will need to be replaced.

If the boat’s ride has suddenly become less-smooth, the unwanted vibrations could be due to damaged propeller blades. Depending on the level of damage to the blades, you can decide whether to replace them or repair them.

Simple DIY Boat Fixes

Many of the typical maintenance costs associated with boat ownership can be lessened by doing it yourself. Exercise due diligence in researching everything needed to complete these simple boat fixes and ensure you don’t create larger – and largely unforeseen – problems down the road.

One task you can do yourself is painting the hull of your boat, which is something that most boats need every year. It’s important to have a strong understanding of the hull painting process. A poor paint job will be quickly destroyed by the rigors of daily exposure to sun and water. Not only does an improper hull paint look bad and discolor the hull, it can lead to weakening of the hull. Knowing how to properly paint your boat’s hull will save money, look great, and extend your boat’s lifespan.

First prepare the hull with industrial solvent so the paint can stick to the surface. Next, make repairs to abrasions or holes in the hull with epoxy and sand the entire surface. Before applying the paint, you should evenly roll primer over the hull’s surface. After all these steps are completed, you can paint the hull.

Repairing damaged fiberglass is a fact of life for boat owners. You can save hundreds of dollars by making your own fiberglass boat repairs. Of course, you’ll need to have some of the prerequisite tools needed for the prep work. If you don’t have a heat gun and a rotary tool or high-speed die grinder, it may be best to take the boat into a shop. To repair fiberglass, use the heat gun on a low setting to remove decals and other exterior decorations. Use the die grinder or rotary tool to cut a shallow groove around the gouge in the fiberglass, taking care to eliminate sharp edges. Then use powdered fiberglass with gel coat and gel coat reducer to fill in the groove and smooth it out.

Complicated Solutions that Require a Professional

If your boat is having trouble shifting or won’t even get out of neutral, you’ve got transmission issues. While experienced boat owners may be able to diagnose and repair a transmission issue, this is the sort of repair you’re better off leaving to a professional.

If you’re experiencing propeller issues and decide that the prop needs to be repaired, take the damaged component into the shop. Not just any mechanic can properly repair a propeller. Look for a well-recommended shop that specializes in propeller repair. You can use the National Marine Propeller Association as a research in finding a qualified technician in your area.

Conclusion: Preventative Care Drives Down Maintenance Costs

Just like your own body, taking preventative measures is the best way to lower your boat’s annual maintenance costs. Instead of saving money up front on inexpensive materials or deferring maintenance until a small problem becomes major, use quality materials on your boat, budget for routine repairs, and keep your boat looking and functioning better for longer.

Clear boat windows are another area which require a substantial amount of your time and if not cared for properly, money. Washing your windows after every trip and regularly polishing and treating them with the right window cleaner should be a regular routine. Buy windows made from a material like Strataglass. It’s more durable and UV resistant than other materials and is a great way save money on small but frequent maintenance costs.

One way to keep the boat in good condition while it’s not in use or during the off-season is a high-quality boat cover. Investing in a cover made from synthetic material like vinyl and polyester compounds gives your boat protection from the elements. 

Want to take a deeper dive into boat maintenance? Read our new guide, 5 Boat Saving Lessons to Extend the Life of your Yacht

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