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Old 08-04-2015, 01:20 AM   #1
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Default My boat failure resume: Lessons I've learned

My family has had boats since I could walk. I've owned 3 boats and 3 jet skis. That doesn't count family boats growing up.



Through all of that, you'd think I would have learned it all. That's wrong. To this very day, I'm learning valuable (translation, expensive) lessons about boats; more particularly engines and drives.



I'm going to start listing off stupid mistakes I've made, and the lessons learned. I hope that someone else may stumble upon these lessons, and avoid making them for themselves.



Please feel free to add your mistake/lesson story. It only ads to the value of this thread.



Mine will be stream of consciousness, not chronological order.





- 1972 Mercruiser 115hp outboard. Ran great for 20 years (still one of my all time favorite engines) then one day seized and blew a hole through the side of the block. Bought a whole replacement outboard. Blew after 5 hours. Lesson... Didn't check or change the fuel. I had mis-mixed the 2stroke oil, halving it.



- Dad's failure... Okay, I contributed. 1984 bayliner, mercruiser 350..I assume alpha drive. At 6 years old, I stepped on a clam on the beach and sliced my foot wide open (Warm Creek Bay, Lake Powell). Quick first aid to stem the blood flow, and dad starts up and punches the throttle to get us back to town for stitches.... With the outdrive full up. Ujoint snaps. Called for a tow. Ended up being 8 hours to get me to the ER for stitches, and unknown repair costs. Lesson: Do not operate with drive up.



- Figured out I could submarine my 1986 Kawasaki JS 300. Dove too deep one time. Came up without my ski. Saw bubbles coming to the surface, stuck my head under and could hear it running. Turns out you can't dive 18 feet down with your life vest on. Ditched it, and got down there, and tried to lift the sunk but still running ski off the bottom... Rather than hitting the off switch. Summary, recovered the ski eventually, with a hydrolocked and blown motor.
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Old 08-04-2015, 01:37 AM   #2
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- 1972 Merc mentioned before. All of a sudden, would idle no problem, but would only run for a few moments above idle. Chased everything I could think of. Turns out, there was a pin hole leak in the fuel line. Could flow fuel at idle, but the higher suction above idle drew air in through the leak and starved the engine.



- 1987 Mercruiser 350, Alpha drive. She leaked. Bilge pump kept up, running ever 5 min or so. I'd always had outboards, so just figured there was a crack or a leak somewhere. Didn't think much of it. In my youthful bravado, I had batteries and a bilge pump. Turns out, it was a drive bellows leak. I decided to address the leak when my drive started clunking and there was a sparkly oil film on the water when I stopped. That film was drive lube and metal shavings. New drive plus bellows job. Le sigh.
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Old 08-04-2015, 01:55 AM   #3
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- 1987 merc 350. Running nicely at full throttle, 5000 rpm, 52 mph, grin ear to ear. Engine suddenly stops. Cranks fine, no spark. Finally lift engine cover and discover distributor cap split in two. Tow home, get a new cap. 2 weeks later, 53 mph (hehe). Engine stops suddenly. Cap is split in 2 again. Tow home... Again (thank you Tow Boat US... Best money I've ever spent). While installing a 3rd new cap, I notice the inside of the distributor is filled with oil. Finally figured out that the distributor bushings had worn, and the shaft was wobbling, letting the rotor hit the cap, and wrecking the seal. Solution: New distributor. Hit 54 mph. :-)
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Old 08-04-2015, 02:20 AM   #4
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- Ex brother-in-law was mounting a fire extinguisher in my boat. He went ahead and screwed it to the side of the cockpit area with nice stainless screws. Climbs out of the boat and realized that the side of the cockpit was also the hull... Never properly fixed that one, just cut off the protruding screws and globbed some marine-Tex over the nubs. Gotta love old crappy boats!
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Old 08-04-2015, 02:42 AM   #5
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1999 3000 scr, twin Merc 5.0L. Could barely hold it on a plane, even at full throttle. I knew I had bottom growth. My dumb ass decided that I could push through it and scrape it off with speed. Blown head gasket.

Lesson: When your temp gauge drops suddenly to zero, and the motor dies, DO NOT TRY to restart. Check your oil. If the level has raised even slightly, pull plugs, drain oil, refill and do compression check.



Actually, deeper lesson, if your motor makes and funny noises and won't crank right, or runs funny, stop and check your oil. Pay very close attention to oil level rises. That is generally a clear indication of water in there, even if you can't see water or muck on the dipstick.
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Old 08-04-2015, 03:00 AM   #6
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- Mercruiser 350. The year isn't relevant, but it was my 1987. Was making milkshake much through the breathers. No water in the oil, no leaks, couldn't figure it out. My 70 year old grease monkey neighbor asks, over plenty of adult beverages.... What's your running engine temp? Hits me, I'd never seen the temp gauge move. He suggest I check my thermostat. It was so stuck and rusted in I had to hammer it out.



Lesson, the engine was running too cold to boil off water and combustion components, which were collecting with oil blow by in the breather making milkshake.



If your engine is running cold, check your thermostat.
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Old 08-04-2015, 03:05 AM   #7
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I bet your learning days are far from over.
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Old 08-04-2015, 03:21 AM   #8
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I just accidentally deleted a very interesting discussion on valve springs.. Come on Mike, tell so.e lessons!!!
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Old 08-04-2015, 03:27 PM   #9
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Lesson learned - Do not let Kevlar7r on my boat
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Old 08-04-2015, 03:32 PM   #10
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Lol, I figure I am going to know everything there is to know about boats one day... Probably drop dead the next day....
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Old 08-04-2015, 04:45 PM   #11
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Here my experience.

My first boat was a 1977 Sea Ray 220 SRV powered by a Mercruiser 888 (Ford 302 connected to a Type 1 I/O). I was the third owner and to me this boat never seemed to have the power it should. One thing I noticed that whenever I accelerated they was a shutter from the back of the boat but was not sure why. When I had to replace the blower I had trouble mounting the new one as the screws did not see to bite into the transom which is when I noticed the inner glass mat was springy in areas. Anyhow I ran the boat for another 5 years until the engine was overheating all the time even thought I replace the impeller each year. Removing the heads showed the water jackets totally filled with scale which it scraped out and used a magnet to remove as much as I could; this got me another 2 years but was always on edge as the temp would go up and down. Finally I decided to pull the engine and build a new one, upon tear down I found the bottom end of the engine to be bent as I had to beat the main and rod caps off with a hammer. Laying them on a flat surface on their mating faces they rocked and could see large gaps. This led me to understand why the engine was lacking in power and also part of the overheating. Then I recalled that two previous owners did a lot of water sports with this boat and obviously the 302ís bottom end was not up to all that load. With the engine out I examined the transom and found it to be totally rotten from top to bottom and nearly all the way across, ok now I understand the shuttering I felt and realized how lucky I was it never blew out on me. This is when I learned how to remove a gas tank from a boat as the landfill stated it had to be removed to scrap it.
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Old 08-04-2015, 04:45 PM   #12
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Second boat was a 1993 Sea Ray 200 bow rider that I boat with a dead cylinder in a 4.3, turns out the exhaust was bad and she sucked in sea water. Pulling the head revealed a tuliped valve the top of the piston eaten away so I bought a brand new log block and installed a full closed cooling system. I got in the habit of running the boat at home before trailering it to ensure it ran which was never a problem and so that it be warm so I did not have to spend time at the ramp and could just launch and go. Well one time I connect the hose to the muffs got in the boat and fiddled around then started her up as I watched the temp gauge come up it was fine and did not get hot but I then realized I never turned the hose on, melted the impeller and exhaust bellows. The following year after the second time using her the engine hydrolocked, pulled the spark plugs and antifreeze came out. Overheating had caused the manifold to riser gaskets to fail, replaced them and all was good.
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Old 08-04-2015, 04:46 PM   #13
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Third and current boat is a 1997 Maxum 2400 SCR when I boat the boat the volt meter at the helm would bounce all over so I replaced the alternator thinking the regulator was bad, turned out to be corrosion on the battery cables. Last year in the fall the boat kept stalling when cold even though the temp gauge had moved up over 100 F also noticed a rich smell of unburnt gas, turns the choke was not working due to the wire for the element came off the alternator.
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Old 08-04-2015, 04:47 PM   #14
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Then there is my friends boating experience who had never been around boats but his second wife grew up boating and they bought a 1986 24 foot Formula from her father, now her parents were mainly sail boat people who had this boat for quick short trips. I volunteered to go out with him and bring my IR temp gun to check things out and had asked him to find out when the impeller was last changed and if the exhaust was ever inspected/replaced. The day we were to go out the weather was calling for 70% rain and he lived an hour away so I decided to postpone for a week, as it turns out the weather was great so he went for a ride with a neighbor. Come the following Monday he contacts me and asking what was that list of things I suggested he look into, well to find out the boat was running fine but started losing power and then died turning back to look at the engine he saw billowing smoke. Bad impeller, clogged risers led to melted exhaust hoses and lower shift cable jacket, most of season one lost while waiting for repairs. Season two second trip engine dies and mechanic says its toast with water in the oil, most of season two lost. Season three mechanic says metal filling in the gear lube, new I/O. Season four 4th of July boat dies, ignition module, which was an aftermarket distributor. He hemmed and hauled because the manufacture was out of business and was get high quotes for a new distributor and lost at least a month before having a Serra drop in replacement installed. Season five plagued with shift interrupt and just plain dying out, tow boat US was his friend. Carb rebuilding was in order. Season six started with a new starter as the boat was lift kept and drain plug in, melted snow and rain drowned the starter. Continued to fight shift interrupt issues. Finally this year had the mechanic replace all the cables which fix the shift interrupt issue the boat is running better than it ever has, gas tank is leaking. Last week I help him dig all the foam out and free the tank, the story continues.
BTY I believe the loss of the engine and dead ignition module were all casualties of the overheating which is way I stress changing the impeller and using a IR temp gun to get reading of all engine systems on a new to you boat as well as yearly.
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Old 08-05-2015, 02:11 PM   #15
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Retained an anchor on the bow pulpit with a chain hook. Watched the anchor fall off at 24kts. Now I use a locking tensioner and a secondary leash tied to a cleat.

Had a overheat alarm go off while running at 23 kts. Shut the engine off at 18 kts and hydrolocked the engine as a result. Needed to get towed back in. Should have left the engine running and slowed down, then gone into neutral. The overheat was the result of barnacle growth on the pickups. I could have limped at idle back to the dock had I known better.
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Old 08-05-2015, 02:34 PM   #16
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Ouch! That last one is a great lesson shrew! We lost 2 engines at the same time on a houseboat that way (none of my family was on it at the time).



To expand on that failure, for the benefit of others reading, the reason his engine hydrolocked was because of the engine shutting off while still moving.



When you slow down suddenly, your wake catches up to you and runs in to the back of the boat. We've all seen this where the wake washes up over the swim platform. This wake is also pushing in against the exhaust. If the engine is running, the exhaust gas pressure keeps this water from coming up the exhaust. With the engine off, this water comes right up the exhaust, fills the manifolds, and then the engine.



Now, there are little plastic flappers in the exhaust, but they are plastic. Water can break them and push past them. And that's assuming they are intact in the first place.



Lesson, don't slow down fast with the engine off.



I've picked up a habit that when I come off plane, right before that wake catches up, I give a little more throttle and push forward so that wake doesn't slam into the boat.
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Old 08-05-2015, 04:08 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevlar7r View Post
Ouch! That last one is a great lesson shrew! We lost 2 engines at the same time on a houseboat that way (none of my family was on it at the time).



To expand on that failure, for the benefit of others reading, the reason his engine hydrolocked was because of the engine shutting off while still moving.



When you slow down suddenly, your wake catches up to you and runs in to the back of the boat. We've all seen this where the wake washes up over the swim platform. This wake is also pushing in against the exhaust. If the engine is running, the exhaust gas pressure keeps this water from coming up the exhaust. With the engine off, this water comes right up the exhaust, fills the manifolds, and then the engine.



Now, there are little plastic flappers in the exhaust, but they are plastic. Water can break them and push past them. And that's assuming they are intact in the first place.



Lesson, don't slow down fast with the engine off.



I've picked up a habit that when I come off plane, right before that wake catches up, I give a little more throttle and push forward so that wake doesn't slam into the boat.

This can happen with the engine running as well, if you chop the throttle back to quickly. At idle the exhaust pressure is low compared to higher rpm. Throw in bad flappers and the probability increases.
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Old 08-06-2015, 01:02 AM   #18
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Another one I've sorta mentioned, but not formulated into a lesson, if the boat won't crank, or cranks slow, before you check battery or cables, check oil looking for an increase in the oil level. This means water in the engine. Trying to start will only do more damage at that point. Find the water source first.
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Old 08-24-2015, 07:30 PM   #19
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Ran my Sea Doo's to Catalina Island (approx. 28 miles off shore)
Got to the island with my 1 gallon spare gas in the forward compartment and decided to put it in the tank before I got into the harbor. Don't want to risk any fuel spills in the harbor.
It was rocky and I was tired, so I opened up the cap and poured it in. It immediately started overflowing ??? Wait, what? How could I have gotten 28 miles on less then a tank of gas??
I didn't. I poured it in the oil filler. 400.00 to pump and change on the island while I napped on the beach.
Great ride home.
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Old 08-25-2015, 03:45 PM   #20
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Wow, sea doo's to Catalina! That must be quite a ride! I've only been there once, and by ferry. Wanted to take my boat there, but now live in Florida.



Jet ski lessons... Hmm, how about the time I was spraying a buoy for fun on lake Powell, and turned a little too late, slid backwards into the buoy. It bent the steering cable so I only go slightly to the right, or right turn. Took a long time to limp back to the houseboat making long right loops.
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