If you laid up your craft at the end of last year, we thought it timely to of­fer a few re­minders of jobs to do to help you get set for trou­ble-free boat­ing this year

Canal Boat - - This Month -

Ad­vice and handy hints on what to check to get your boat ready to set sail af­ter a win­ter lay-off


Modern high-tech en­gines need far less tin­ker­ing with but boats with older en­gines of­ten need a lit­tle reg­u­lar TLC. All en­gines need oil and fil­ter changes car­ried out to the man­u­fac­turer’s hours or us­age rec­om­men­da­tions; if you don’t do many hours cruis­ing, make the changes at least once a year.

Gen­tly warm the oil with a short run-up as it makes it eas­ier to pump out. If you haven’t changed the oil for some time, or if you have of­ten run it off-load to charge the bat­ter­ies, think about us­ing a flush­ing oil to re­move sludge that might have formed in the sump. There are two main types of fil­ter, ‘spin-off’ on newer en­gines, and ‘bowl’ fil­ters (gen­er­ally on older en­gines) con­tain­ing a throw­away el­e­ment. Re­new the car­tridge or el­e­ment.

Pa­per fil­ters are quick and easy to re­place; there’s usu­ally just one nut or clips that se­cure the ‘lid’, and the pa­per el­e­ment sim­ply needs lift­ing out and re­plac­ing. Mesh fil­ters need their wire or plas­tic foam re­mov­ing, wash­ing out in white spirit or paraf­fin, dry­ing and then coat­ing with a thin film of en­gine oil to trap the dust be­fore re­fit­ting.

When re­plac­ing fuel fil­ters check for any signs of diesel bug (slime, jelly or cloudy fuel). If you think you have diesel bug, use one of the ‘bug killer’ flu­ids in your fuel tank. Fol­low the fuel line back to the tank and drain any wa­ter traps. You will need to bleed the fuel sys­tem after­wards. If you left the

fuel tank mostly empty dur­ing the win­ter, add a fuel con­di­tioner when you fill up be­cause con­den­sa­tion can build up a wa­ter layer in­side which helps diesel bug to breed.

If you didn’t grease the en­gine and gear­box con­trol be­fore lay­ing up the boat, give them a light grease now (or a squirt with WD40 or sim­i­lar) and work the ca­bles to get them lubri­cated. It’s tempt­ing to want to get go­ing but do give the en­gine a clean be­fore­hand; it doesn’t take long and will help you to spot any leaks or prob­lems be­fore they be­come se­ri­ous: use wash­ing-up liq­uid or de­greaser and plenty of wa­ter. Place a clean new bilge blan­ket un­der the en­gine.

Check the cool­ing sys­tem hoses for per­ish­ing or crack­ing (squeeze them and if they feel too hard or soft or ‘crunch’, re­new them); check the clips for tight­ness and the con­di­tion of the filler cap, es­pe­cially the rub­ber seal – don’t for­get to close the drain tap if you drained the block for the win­ter.

Check the an­tifreeze with a tester: even though win­ter’s com­ing to an end, it con­tains anti- cor­ro­sion in­hibitors and should be used year-round; it should be changed roughly every two years. Bleed the skin tank if there is a bleed screw fit­ted. If your en­gine is raw wa­ter-cooled, check the sea­cock and pipework for leaks and clear the mud box.

Vi­bra­tions are one of the main ques­tions we deal with at Canal Boat and it of­ten comes down to the en­gine mounts, so check the rub­bers for per­ish­ing, the en­gine for any move­ment and that the nuts are tight.

Ex­haust leaks can be dan­ger­ous as well as un­pleas­ant. On a dry ex­haust look at the lag­ging for black dust, which in­di­cates a leak; check wet ex­hausts for wa­ter leaks.

Electrics are the other bug­bear of boat­ing; damp and electrics never sit well to­gether. So clean the bat­tery ter­mi­nals and posts to bright metal and dress them with petroleum jelly. Check the bat­ter­ies’ elec­trolyte lev­els and top up as re­quired with dis­tilled or dem­iner­alised wa­ter to 3mm above the plates that you can see, or the level in­di­cated on the bat­tery case or by a marker in the top­ping-up hole. Any bat­tery that needs one or more cells topped-up fre­quently is ei­ther be­ing over­charged or is faulty. Test the cells with a hy­drom­e­ter with a num­bered

scale (on a non-sealed bat­tery) and volt­meter.

Check the al­ter­na­tor belts for wear and cracks and that they are tight­ened cor­rectly; in­spect all wiring in­su­la­tion for dam­age and chaf­ing. Check that ter­mi­nal con­nec­tions are clean and tight.

Tighten and, if nec­es­sary, repack the stern gland; you can do this your­self, but seek pro­fes­sional help if you are un­sure. Grease the rud­der tube nip­ple if there is one. If you can reach through the weed hatch, check the prop for any­thing that might be wrapped around it and for play or tight­ness. Grease the weed hatch bolts threads and check the seal. Don’t for­get to check that the bilge pump is work­ing.


Check for signs of mould or con­den­sa­tion dam­age. Check care­fully around the win­dows for signs of leaks; if it looks as if a win­dow is leak­ing you’ll need to ei­ther re­seal it (which might mean re­mov­ing it and re­plac­ing the seal) or re­plac­ing if the frame has gone or is dis­torted.

Check that the basins’ and shower/ bath taps are closed, re­fit any drain plugs, re­fill and flush the sys­tem with a ster­il­is­ing so­lu­tion. Bleed cen­tral heat­ing ra­di­a­tors and add ex­tra so­lu­tion to pump-out hold­ing tanks. Clean kitchen work­tops with mild dis­in­fec­tant cleaner.

Check that the bilges are clean and dry; if there is a fair amount of wa­ter slosh­ing around you might well have a leak ei­ther from the do­mes­tic pipework or through the bath­room floor.

Ad­vice on gas is sim­ple - if in doubt, get the sys­tem checked by a qual­i­fied en­gi­neer.


Wash and wax the paint­work; if you have an ex­pen­sive or dec­o­ra­tive paint scheme it re­ally is worth the ef­fort, and touch up any dam­age.

Cratch cov­ers can be cleaned with a mild de­ter­gent made for the job (not wash­ing-up liq­uid) and treat them with a proper pre­server. Check the con­di­tion of the ropes, par­tic­u­larly splices and eyes for signs of wear or fray­ing; con­sider giv­ing them a good wash at home by plac­ing them in old pil­low­cases and wash­ing with a non-bi­o­log­i­cal de­ter­gent on the low­est set­ting. This can re­move grit that short­ens their life and re­duces paint­work dam­age. Lu­bri­cate all ex­te­rior locks, hinges, catches and run­ners.

And fi­nally, have fun on the wa­ter­ways.

In­spect al­ter­na­tor belts for con­di­tion and tight­ness

Check weed­hatch seal

Skin tank show­ing bleed point

Check the stern gland bolts for tight­ness

Check bat­tery ter­mi­nals and top up fluid

Check fuel fil­ters and drain any wa­ter traps

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