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Tips & Advice

Boat Maintenance

Checks to keep your boat operating smoothly

Much like a car engine your boat engine needs general maintenance to make sure that everything is in working order. Below you will find some checks that are recommended by our engineers.

If you would like information on anything mentioned below or would like the advice of an RCR engineer please do not hesitate to contact us on 01785 785680.

  • Change or clean the air/oil/fuel filters regularly – some common causes of breakdowns that RCR engineers attend.
  • Before setting off cruising, check that all moving parts i.e. cables, are fully greased.
  • Check that all bolts and connections are tight.
  • Check that the batteries are charging correctly. Last year RCR attended 423 battery related breakdowns.
  • Check that the morse control is working correctly and that the throttle and gears are working.
  • Check that you have enough fuel to complete your journey.
  • When the engine is warm check that the oil pressure and coolant temperature are as it should be.
  • Check the condition of stern gland and there is plenty of grease supplied to it.
  • Make sure that the prop shaft is turning freely.
  • Check that the charge rate from the alternator to the batteries is as it should be.
  • Check the engine oil and gearbox oil levels and top up if need be.
  • Check the condition of the fan belt. If it is worn get it replaced.
  • Check all coolant hoses for leaks and wear and tear. Replace if required.
  • For raw water-cooling engines, check the seacock and all pipe work for leaks.
  • Check all fuel lines and shut off valves for leaks.
  • When starting the engine make sure that the charge light is off and that the alternator is charging.
  • Check the conditions of the engine mounts. After a years cruising they have had a lot to cope with. If they are worn replace them or if the bolts seem loose, tighten them before cruising again.
  • When leaving the boat for the winter, make sure to use anti-freeze.
  • Also to stop condensation within the engine, sure fuel treatment. The fuel treatment that RCR recommends is Marine 16 and it can be used in any engine. This can be purchased for £30 from the RCR webshop.

The freezing temperatures in December and January may be gone, but should not be forgotten as they can result in split or fractured pipes. Whist seeming basic, the effects of a split or fractured pipe can be catastrophic on a boat leading to complete or partial flooding over a gradual period. If the pipe in question relates to a cold or hot water system on the boat the consequences will not be as severe as a raw freshwater cooling system with metal pies. A split and flooding here will almost certainly lead to sinking if not spotted and may not be covered by insurers as not all cover frost damage, or gradual incursion of water. If covered insurance polices normally insist that machinery is winterised according to manufacturers recommendations if not available then the advice of a qualified engineer should be sought, but to take no precautions is just asking for trouble.

Just like cars any closed loop cooling system needs to have antifreeze added and replaced (per manufacturers guidelines) Not only will this minimise the risk of splits or fractures associated with freezing water, but it will also improve the cooling efficiency of the engine and minimise corrosion risk to the engine.

Where raw water (drawn from the river) cooling systems are in place these should be properly drained down by briefly running the engine when out of the water to ensure the system is empty what do you do if left afloat? RCR recommends that the quickest and simplest solution is to shut off the inlet valve (seacock) and then drain as much water from the system as possible, where there is not a drain plug available, disconnect a hose drain the water from the system and leave disconnected, although this will not empty the system completely it will allow for expansion should the water freeze and therefore reduce the risk of ruptured pipes. If there are any tight bends which are accessible it is also worth insulating as this is where fluid will collect even after draining. you will need to reconnect any pipes and refill the system and open the seacock once you are ready to start cruising again).

For heating systems and fresh water tanks these should be drained and where possible taps left in an open position to allow for expansion if any water is still in the system.

Ensure that the engine and its controls are clearly marked if the engine is winterised or seacock’s closed.

If such precautions have not already been taken then they should be implemented ASAP to reduce the risk of expensive repair costs and possible sinking. Prior to cruising, or if you want to check system owners should run their engines up to running temperature if a gauge is available onboard or run for approx 1/2 hr to get the system up to running temperature and then check every inch of the cooling system for leaks or escaping steam and have a qualified engineer attend immediately should one be found.