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Trouble(shooting) at Sea

Trouble(shooting) at Sea

So you're out on the boat, and you're out deep. Nothing but sea in all directions. You've got your family and little else. You've left all your stress, all your worries, all your problems back on land, which is miles away.

Wait. What's that noise? Why does your motor sound like it has sleep apnea? Wait. Why are we stopped?

Even if you're fairly handy, a mechanical issue at sea is always pretty scary, pretty trying and, unfortunately, pretty likely. Before you signal for distress and make the Coast Guard come rescue you just because your float switch is facing the wrong way, do a little troubleshooting yourself. Here are five of the most likely problems.

  1. Your float switch is facing the wrong way. This is super common, which is why we used it as an example just there. If it's improperly installed and facing forward instead of aft, the bilge pump will run even when there's no water to bail.
  2. An air lock causes your impeller to fail. This can cause diesel engines to stall, even after just a short time in the water. Remove the zinc plug and add water to prime the pump, and then try the engine again.
  3. Your oil cooler has a leak. This is likely the case if you see oil on your expansion tank. Replace the oil bundles after you remove the oil cooler. Oil in the coolant equals stalled boat.
  4. You have a corroded battery terminal. This is probably the cause of your problem if the engine won't turn over even if the other electrical components are working.
  5. You have air in your steering fluid. If your steering is difficult and unresponsive, you'll likely need to bleed and replace the steering fluid, depending on your manufacturer's recommendations.

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  • Scott Reynolds