The strain experienced by your boat's engine during its normal sailing activities creates a pleasant rocking motion on your decking. It feels good to see the prow cut through the waves, but what's taking place below the waterline might dull that happy feeling. Down there, the gliding motion is taking its toll on the boat engine. You need to bring it in for a service, but how do you know when the time is right?
While it's true your boat doesn't accumulate miles like your car does, that engine is cycling and rotating its shaft, so mechanical work is taking place. A typical gasoline boat engine, as one example of this operational principle, should head to the maintenance shop for an overhaul when it's been in the water for 1,500 hours. A diesel engine runs longer before it requires maintenance, perhaps as long as 5,000 hours. Of course, we're assuming the engines are encountering the same marine conditions.
Freshwater boating sends the craft sailing over a calm lake. Out at sea, corrosive saltwater works its way into plastic and metal assemblies. These two locales affect boat engines differently. Obviously, you're looking at a shorter period between scheduled maintenance checks when the hull is skimming the open waters, and that's because the briny liquid is a corrosion catalyst. Additionally, the dry salt crystals get into moving parts and choke the engine cylinders. Then there's the aquatic ecosystem to contend with, which is when bits of netting and seaweed wrap themselves around the impeller. The engine may bravely continue, but there could be damage, an overload event that needs to be addressed at the servicing facility.
Some problems force the schedule to contract. If there's water on the spark plugs, your engine is sputtering, then a head gasket leak may be the culprit. Fuel line leaks and propeller damage are also problems, so turn the craft around and head into your berth. Other likely issues that force you back to the service yard early include coolant pump problems and strange engine alarm indicators, which is something you'll recognise from driving an old car, one that requires some tender loving care from time-to-time.
Incidentally, the maintenance and repair period can be controlled by somewhat if you practice a few basic habits while you're on your weekend break. Think about taking a drive down to the harbour every few weeks. When there, start the boat motor, let it idle for ten minutes, and open the throttle a little. By letting your engine stretch itself a little in this manner, you stop the engine and its associated components from seizing, and you sidestep the service a little longer.
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