Marine Fabrics

Are You Really Saving with DIY Boat Repairs?

Keeping your boat running smoothly between professional service stops takes some DIY maintenance knowledge, but some repairs are always better left to the professionals. Let’s take a look at which repairs you can take on yourself.


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

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

Many of these maintenance tasks have simple do-it-yourself solutions that you can perform to extend the boat's life. Even when you complete the maintenance routine yourself, keep in mind that costs will still increase. The additional up-front cost of premium boat materials often 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. Knowing how to diagnose the symptoms can save you time and money. New boats require a lower annual maintenance budget than used ones, 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 significant 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 independently.

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 bursts, you’ll need to replace it immediately. You can apply some short-term fixes yourself, but the hose will inevitably need to be replaced.

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

Simple DIY Boat Fixes

Many 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 more significant – and largely unforeseen – problems down the road.

One task you can do yourself is painting your boat's hull, which most boats need every year. It’s essential to have a strong understanding of the hull painting process. The rigors of daily exposure to sun and water will quickly destroy a poor paint job. Not only does an improper hull paint look bad and discolor the hull, but it can also lead to a weakening of the hull. Knowing how to paint your boat’s hull properly 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 color, 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 fiberglass boat repairs. Of course, you’ll need some prerequisite tools for the prep work. If you don’t have a heat gun, rotary tool, or high-speed die grinder, it may be best to take the boat to a shop. To repair fiberglass, use the low-heating gun 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 a gel coat and gel coat reducer to fill 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 adequately repair a propeller. Look for a well-recommended shop that specializes in propeller repair. You can use the National Marine Propeller Association to research a qualified technician in your area.

Conclusion: Preventative Care Drives Down Maintenance Costs

Like your body, taking preventative measures is the best way to lower your boat’s annual maintenance costs. Instead of saving money upfront 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 that requires much of your time and money if not cared for properly. Washing your windows after every trip and regularly polishing and treating them with the right window cleaner should be routine. Buy windows made from a material like Strataglass. It’s more durable and UV-resistant than other materials and is a great way to save money on small but frequent maintenance costs.

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




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