August 1, 2022

By Ted Takasaki

The fishing is great, the weather is wonderful, and you're stuck on land by boat problems? That's not a pretty picture.

But three years since implementing their Urgent Care boat repair program, the folks at Minnesota's Crystal-Pierz Marine have some suggestions to keep your boat running smooth. They are simple, inexpensive tips that can save you big money in the long run.

In case you're unaware, Urgent Care is a plan to get you back on the water fast when things go wrong. As soon as you pull your disabled boat into a Crystal-Pierz shop, they guarantee that someone will look at the problem while you wait. This accomplishes several goals.

A Good Service Policy

First, many repairs are simple and can be done on the spot. Why should you have to park your boat on the lot for a week before someone even looks at it to find out what needs to be done. If it could have been repaired in a matter of minutes or hours, you've lost valuable fishing time.

For another, if the boat does require more extensive work, a technician quickly knows what parts will be needed. They are ordered right away rather than waiting a week for a diagnosis, getting the parts ordered, and another week for the parts to arrive.

The end result is that Crystal-Pierz's average turn-around time fell to one week compared to two to three weeks at other shops, according to Chad Boesin, parts and service manager at the Crystal-Pierz store in Brainerd.

In the process, Boesin and crew have seen a variety of problems that could have been avoided with some basic maintenance. Here are some examples:

** Many outboard problems start with bad gasoline. As fuel breaks down, it causes varnish build-up in the carburetor and could foul the jets. This is a problem that's especially common with some four-strokes, he said.

The surprise comes when you learn how fast that can happen.

Fuel starts to go bad within two weeks, Boesin said.

As a result, since 1997, Mercury Marine has recommended that boat owners add fuel stabilizer to the gasoline tank at all times, he said. It makes good sense to use fuel stabilizer since you know that a boat will be sitting more than running during the year.

Change The Impeller

** Change the water impeller every two years without fail. Depending on the motor, the part can range from less than $20 to $150 and labor is another $150. Compare that to the cost you'll face in the event the impeller fails. The motor's cooling system depends on the impeller to circulate water through the outboard. Without it, the motor burns up.

** For 4 strokes, change your gear oil every 100 hours or at the end of each boating season. Debris or metal grindings from the gear case can cause damage if you don't.

** Tune-ups should be done every 100 hours or at least once a year.

** Check your propeller. Fishing line inside the hub can break seals and allow water into the lower unit. And tighten the prop nuts the right torque is listed in your operator's manual.

** Crystal-Pierz sees many electric problems that can be repaired by simply tightening battery connections and removing corrosion. Loose connections can cause everything from an outboard, which refuses to start to a short in your fuse box. Check the connections. If the batteries are not maintenance-free, make sure they have water. Keep a good charge on the batteries.

** Pleasure boaters with inboard/outboard engines should grease u-joints, the all-important drive mechanism, every year.

Carry An Emergency Repair Kit

** Carry an emergency repair kit. Include jumper cables in it to connect the trolling battery to the starting battery if it should go dead. Carry a spare prop and a wrench. Mercury Marine also recommends a spare power trim relay, a small module that plugs into the rear of the powerhead. Carry a motor manual in a plastic bag, various tools, including a spark plug wrench, and spare plugs, fuses, and electrical tape.

** Don't overlook the trailer. A working boat doesn't do much good with a sidelined trailer. Wheel bearings should be repacked every year. The best time to do it is in the fall so bearings don't rust over the winter. But, if you haven't done it in a while, don't wait. You don't want to own one of those boats you see parked along the interstate.

** Check the tires. Even though you might not put many miles on them in a year, they are still subject to wear from weather and the sun.

** Take care of the finish on your boat. How long does it take to wipe a boat down after leaving the water? Use a good ultraviolet-resistant wax at least twice a year on fiberglass. A little care can increase the resale value.

Paying attention to these details now will help prevent you from needing Urgent Boat Care in the future.

Originally published August 1, 2005. Ted Takasaki has many fishing achievements, including in March, 2010, when he was named a "Legendary Angler" in the "Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame." He is president of Lindy Little Joe, Inc., in Brainerd, MN.

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