May 2006

At Your Service

Q And A Time

By Rick Feldmann

Haleís Marine Services

Q: You recommended an impeller change or sea-water pump rebuild. Why is that necessary, and when?

A: When any boat comes to us for service, asking when the sea-water pump was rebuilt last is a standard question, as is the question "When did you run the engine last?"

The rule-of-thumb we present is to have the pump rebuilt/impeller replaced every two years here, based on the "average" use of a boat in this area. That small rubber impeller in the sea-water pump is the aortic valve of your engineís cooling system.

It is a suction pump, which pulls water from the lake, to then be circulated through your engine to keep it cool. Should it fail, your engine has no "radiator reserve," as your car or truck does, to keep the engine from overheating. The lake is your radiator.

If an engine hasnít been started and run in a number of months, the impeller blades may have taken a "set" inside the cramped housing and wonít flex back to create the proper suction.

The blades may even stick to the housing, and rip off in many pieces, which may travel into other areas and clog the "arteries" of the cooling system.

Should that occur, any shop will have to search for the missing pieces to insure no clog has occurred.

Q: My boat will only move at a slow speed ó -if I throttle-up, the engine speeds up, but Iím not moving any faster.

A: If you have an older small outboard motor, you may need a new shear pin, which keeps your propeller firmly attached to the prop-shaft. Larger outboard, or inboard/outdrive may be a "spun hub," which means the rubber or plastic hub inside the center of the prop is damaged and is slipping, similar to a bad clutch in a car.

In the case of an inboard/outdrive, itís also possible that the engine coupler has failed and is slipping like a clutch. If the coupler has failed, the engine will have to be removed from the boat in order to change it.

In either case, if you have a spare propeller, install it and see if that corrects the trouble. If thatís the fix, you only need a "re-hub" of the prop (unless the prop has been "whacked," and the blades look more like a tulip than a propeller).

Q: I want to go faster ó what can I do?

A: What is "faster?" ó Wide-open or quicker to get on plane?

Everything is a trade for something else ó simplest "gear change" is to switch pitch of your prop.

Not good enough? Get a different boat: Boat-hull designers spend hours figuring what their hull, with a particular engine package, is capable of.

A 20-foot hull, with a 3-litre motor wonít be as "fast" ó no matter what ó as the same hull powered by a 4.3-litre, or a 5.7 fuel-injected motor.

Forget that speedometer ó whatís your "enjoyment factor" with what you have?

If you have a "Volkswagen" and the guy in the next slip has a "Ferrari"ó so what? You can use your boat a lot more than he can use his, based on gas at maybe $3.60 per gallon, and fuel consumption head-to-head.

After all, you bought your boat to have some fun!

Q: I keep my boat at my house. What can I do to make sure itís going to be reliable when I want to use it?

A: First, remove the bilge drain plug, so any rain (like we get rain in the desert here!) doesnít fill the boat with water, even if you have it covered.

If it is a 2-stroke outboard motor for power, disconnect the fuel line at the motor, and run the carburetors to empty or run the motor on "earmuffs" every couple of weeks at the longest.

If you have an inboard/outdrive, store your boat with the drive down, as far as it will go, to relieve pressure on the rubber bellows. Stick a piece of plywood or a chunk of 2 by 4 under the skeg to keep it off the concrete or rock or whatever.

Keep a trickle-charger for your battery/batteries ó attached, maybe on a timer ó watch the fluid level in the battery, use "good water" to top off.

Always use a fuel-stabilizer in your gas-tank ó helps keep our high-priced gasoline "fresh" when not being used. Donít spend bucks on super-premium gas; thatís not what your motor was set up for, in most cases.

Do have us do an annual ó that is, yearly preventive-maintenance service on your boat. Itís sort of an "insurance policy" versus "emergency room" charges.

Q: Why would you provide these "tips" to me? You run a repair shop that takes advantage of broken stuff to stay in business, right?

A: We will see more than our share of blown-up, busted-up, trashed units every season. We donít want yours to fall into that category.

Every time a customer picks up his boat, itís a parting that includes, "Hope-not-to-see-you-soon, but-youíre-always-welcome-to-drop-by-and-say-hi"attitude.