Answers to Your Boat Questions

a boat on the water
Q. I just enjoyed my first weekend with a pre-owned boat I purchased. The boat is an 18-foot Glastron, with a 140 hp Johnson outboard. Overall, I thought the first trip was successful. When I pulled the boat out of the water onto the trailer, I was a bit surprised at the amount of water that drained when I pulled the drain plug. Is it normal to have a lot water drain when this plug is pulled? Water continuously poured out of the plug opening for about 60 seconds. The boat seemed to perform well during operation. There is also a switch on the driver controls to turn on a bilge pump. Should I occasionally run this pump?


Your boat should not "leak" any water. You will get some water inside when swimmers or skiers climb in and drip water inside, but you should not be taking on any water through the hull. The next time you put the boat in the water, look for where the water may be coming in. I have often seen leaks in the transom around where the motor mounts.

Boats always get water in them from some source. I have experience with boats from 63 ft twin diesel powered monsters to my little canoe. Good detective work on your part! Make sure your bilge pump has an automatic float switch installed directly to your battery so that it comes on when you are not paying attention. You will always get water in the boat from swimmers, splashing, dripping PFD's, etc., but definitely keep a sharp eye out for missing O rings and boots. A boat has no brakes but the water and as you have found out, when you slow down to a stop, your wake catches up with you and slosh water up the transom. Definitely replace or reseal the boot that is missing. Seal it with a good quality marine grade sealant, not with household caulk.

Q. On my way home today from the lake, the trailer for our 18' boat sprung a "leak" in the wheel bearing. There is grease thrown over every inch of the wheel hub, which leads me to believe that the bearings have blown, but I'm not sure. Of course, the easiest thing to do is to repair it while the boat is in the water. I am not at all comfortable towing the boat and trailer anywhere until this is fixed. I have never fixed one of these before, but I desperately want to figure everything out on it, especially since this is only the second time we had the boat out since we bought it. I will continue to do some research, but if there are some simple instructions out there to get this fixed, please advise.

A. Servicing wheel bearings is a simple job if you have mechanical experience. What you need to do is jack up the trailer and safely block it to be able to remove both wheels. It's best to do one side at a time. Remove the dust cap from the hub, remove the cotter pin and then unscrew the nut that holds the hub onto the axle. You then need to remove the hub, making sure you do not drop the outer bearing in the dirt. Then you will need to drive out the seal to be able to remove the inner bearing. With clean rags, wipe all of the grease off everything. The bearings would likely need replacing but at this stage; you can examine them for signs of overheating, which would show up as discoloration and/or a burnt smell to the grease. You will need to replace the seal, as this is where the grease likely came out, and if you are going to replace the bearings, you will need to drive the bearing races out of the hub.

Q. I have a 1995 Johnson 25hp electric start model #j25steeor and I can't get the lower off. I took the four bolts and back nut off. When you pull down on the lower it just pulls into reverse. I need to replace my impeller. I have put them into other motors and they just came on off. Please help!

A. The lower end casing should have a removable rubber cap about two thirds of the way up above the prop housing. Remove that flat rubber cap. Inside the housing should be the connecting link between the shifter and the gearbox.

Note the positioning depths of the connection links between the shifters upper rod and the gearboxes lower rod. Mark the spot with a magic marker. Then loosen the holding screws of the connecting links. The lower unit should then slide down. Minor prying may be needed but do not force (by using any pry bars) the two sections apart.

Q. I have a Johnson 40 HP Super Sea Horse I just bought. The engine label says to use SAE 30 motor oil mixed in the gas. Does this mean I can use plain 30 wt oil like I put in a car, or do I have to use outboard motor oil?

A. You can use that oil. It is C $2.69 a liter here. I found 2-cycle oil at $4.10 for 500 ml at NAPA, whereas Esso sold 1 liter at that price. Since the price of fuel is today C $.939 per liter (times 4.5 for a gallon), marine recreation is not cheap! You may get 5 miles per gallon from that motor.

Q. I have a 1990 Glasstream 18' open bow boat and it steers very hard. It has a single cable rack and pinion system. I know that I can replace with another one of the same type, but I see in catalogs there is a rotary type that is supposed to be much better. Can you tell me if the rotary type will interchange with the rack and pinion type?

A. You can purchase a steering kit from most marine dealers. They come with cable and helm. You might have to modify the hole that the helm fits into.

Q. I am redoing the vinyl on my boat. I need to separate the throttle lever from the mechanism on the other side of the sideboard. This is so I can re-vinyl that part of the boat. I have a 1987 Regal 233xl. I removed four screws already. Four other very large Philips screws seem to be holding the whole thing together. Any suggestions?

A. It sounds like by the description, that you're working with a merc control box (flush mount). First remove the throttle/shift handle; there will be an Allen screw at the very bottom of handle. Once the handle is removed, remove the four screws and voila! You may have some trim wire and/or safety switch to disconnect as well.

Q. I can start my boat with the ignition key but I cannot turn the motor off. What could be the problem? The starter is going to be starting a 40hp two-stroke outboard motor.

A. It's probably the ignition switch. If you can get to the switch, check for continuity between the two "M" terminals on the back of the switch. With a key in run position and not in continuity put the key in off position, continuity.

Q. I have a boat with 80 horse outboard mercury. The boat and motor are from the late 70s. Despite the boat's age, I have had zero problems with the motor over the last 17 years. When the boat was put away for the winter, the shift lever was in the forward position. When the boat was taken out of storage this weekend, I could barely get the shifter into the neutral position and could not pull it back into reverse. When I tried to start the motor the propeller would turn. Any ideas?

A. Take off the cowling, and remove the shift linkage from the power head. Try moving the shift lever by hand, and then try the remote. This will tell you where the problem is. My guess would be the cable, which is not to hard to replace. Besides, it's probably time to. You might also want to check the reverse lock. A rod comes from the lower unit that has two hooks on it. It is supposed to lock the motor to the tilt pin when the motor is shifted into neutral or reverse. Sometimes they corrode and stick.

Q. My dad and I are trying to fix up his boat. The vinyl top was rolled up for about eight years and is stiff. Is there any way to make the vinyl more pliable or is it a loss?

A. Just from experience and the information you've provided, I would recommend using the old vinyl top only as a pattern for a new one. These materials from just a few years ago are so incredibly inferior to today's technology, it's not worth trying to keep. These days the materials are manufactured with new plasticizers and UV protectants that weren't even invented a few years ago. You can try to soften it to unroll by spraying warm/hot tap water. Make sure that if you use a garden hose that you do not turn off the nozzle while the hose is hot. Home garden hoses cannot take the heat and will burst under pressure.

Q. I have a small craft that was left in the water. It was removed and it's covered with barnacles. The main part of the barnacles was scraped off. All that remains is a thin layer of barnacle skins. It's a fiberglass boat. I was considering using some kind of acid to make getting this off easier. Can anyone tell me what might remove it short of scraping and damaging the gel coat?

A. Go for the scraping and then some sanding. Don't worry about the gel coat. When you're done, give it two coats of a good bottom paint. Check on the paint you use - some bottom paints have to go into the water right away. You don't get blisters on the boat when it's in the water. They come from an osmosis build up in the lay up of the glass when the boat is made. Some get it and some don't.

Q. I've got some oil stains on the exterior vinyl cushions - I've tried 409 and even bleach white but nothing seems to work. How can I clean them?

A. Use some gas, it will take care of the oil. You will have to use vinyl conditioner to seal it.

Q. I have a Bayliner 1987, 2.3 Volvo Penta AQ131A and Volvo 275 stern drive. Recently the boat had a lot of work done. When I got the boat, it was idling very high. I took it to the shop last Monday and just got it back yesterday. The mechanic fixed my idle timing, checked my fluids and cooling system. He put the boat in gear and he said it was fine. It ran perfect. I went to the lake today for the first time, and it floats, first good news. It took me a few minutes to get it running, and it sounded good. I put the boat in reverse, and I got this huge jerk and the engine cut out. I put the boat in forward - big jerk and engine cut out. One of the times trying to put in it reverse it jerked pretty hard and worked for a few minutes. Put it in forward, jerked, and cut off. The last time I put it in forward and it cut off, I went to turn the engine over again with no luck. I swam over to the dock with a rope and pull the boat to dock, and then put the thing on the trailer. The mechanic said it ran in gear fine and said it was good. I don't understand what this problem could be.

A. You will have to take the plugs out of the engine and turn the engine over to blow the water out of the cylinders. If you are going forward and crank it into reverse real fast, it will suck water into the engine.

Q. This is a stupid question. My boat says 8 people or 2000 pounds. Does that mean I can have 10 people in boat if I don't go over the 2000 pounds?

A. I think technically 8 is your limit, probably based on safe seating. They can't be all 300 pounders, based on not sinking. Having said that, I know I'm not alone in exceeding the number limit on my boat with a bunch of kids. I'm sure that would be grounds for a ticket if stopped. More importantly, use reason to insure safety.

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