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Sometimes breakdowns can be prevented simply by checking your connections. A walk-around inspection before launching and after a trip can prevent problems down the road. After decades of running Skeeter Bass boats, I have found many areas to examine to head off trouble before it starts.
The trailer is a good place to start. A quick look at the wiring harness can reveal a few things. Is it loose? Just pushing the plug together might solve the problem of intermittent lighting or some lights not working at all. Next, is the connection complete? If water enters the plug, it can corrode the terminals. Clean these out with a small file or screwdriver to remove corrosion. I have been using Dielectric grease in this plug for a few years now. The connections are no longer corroding and my trailer lights work all of the time. Trailer hitches have a pin to prevent the hitch from opening. This pin can actually fall out! I replace my pin with a lock! This means it will not be an issue and prevents theft or mischief as well. Double check to insure this lock is in good working order. The bow strap is one that gets checked upon launching and upon retrieving the boat. If it is worn, replace it! Take note of the area holding the hook onto the strap. If it’s worn, replace the entire strap.
Checking trailer tires is also a good idea. A quick visual exam will alert you to possible low pressure…and looking at the tread to check for wear or for nails, screws or other objects embedded in the tire. I have opted for nitrogen in my tires for all of my vehicles including my trailer. This keeps the tire pressure constant and does not allow for build up of water in the tire. And it keeps the tires running cooler! Replace any missing tire valve caps to keep dirt and water out of the valve stems.
At the stern, check the boat straps, twice…once while preparing to launch and once when putting the boat back on the trailer. Mine are Boat Buckles and a quick feel of the bolts holding them on the trailer and the straps should do it. Checking the bolts that hold the Power Poles onto the brackets attached to the jack plate should be done visually and by hand. Visually the threads of the bolt should reach the end of the nut. By hand checking, a loose bolt can be identified to be tightened right away or after returning home. Any exposed nut can be checked visually and by hand. Motor mounts, hydraulic mounts, and prop nut should be looked at.
As for the prop, examine for any damage that might create vibration that would damage the bushings or prop shaft. Look for fishing line or other materials wrapped around the prop or between the prop and prop shaft. Looking into the prop vent will reveal foreign materials. The two trim poles need to be greased as well. Put grease on the tip of the poles and some on the surface they contact when engaged.
Next, a quick climb on board with a couple of screwdrivers to tighten any and all screws. This is usually done at home, but while wiping the boat down after a day on the water, a “look and feel” check-up might require action then and there. Examine the trolling motor for lose screws or fishing line in the prop.
Another potential trouble spot is the often-neglected battery area. My boats come with an on-board charger to charge my three DEKA AGM trolling motor batteries and cranking battery. The bilge area is always full of moisture! While AGMs are the most durable and longest lasting batteries on the market, the terminals, like all batteries, are magnets for corrosion. While checking them nearly daily, cleaning them is a 60-day ritual. Before you even attempt this, get a few photos of the wiring of each battery, just in case you forget what wire goes where! Then do one terminal at a time.
Remove the wires and keep them away from any contact with a battery or metal in the boat. Clean the battery posts, and clean the wire contacts. A wire brush and file work! Then replace them, adding a bit of dielectric grease! Perform this on each battery! While in the bilge area, check the operation of all pumps and look for any loose or broken wires. Are your bottles of fuel additives full? Check fluid in Power Pole pump reservoirs.
In the cockpit area, crawl under the dash and tighten all screws and nuts that secure instruments and electronics. Also check the connections on electronics to ensure contact. Check all electrical plug connections as well.
And finally, check out your safety equipment! Fire extinguisher fully charged? PFDs in working condition? First aid kit stocked? Throwable in good shape? Horn working? If so, enjoy your time on the water safe and, just as important…secure!