Some boaters will spend two hours fixing a doodad they could have bought new for two bucks. Or they’ll waste time trying to fix something that just can’t be properly repaired. If you fit into this category, it’s time you learn when to cut your losses. If one of these five problems pops up on your boat, leave the tools in the shed and reach for your wallet instead.
1. Cracked or Leaky Fuel Lines
Fuel lines that are exposed to direct sunlight have a limited lifespan, and after five or six years, they crack or leak. Sure, it’s tempting to cut out the offending section and barb-and-clamp the line back together. But once one crack appears, more are sure to follow. Considering how dangerous a fuel leak can be, it’s not worth messing with. Buy a new hose. If you have an outboard, replace the entire assembly. Why fix one piece of it, when you know the rest is as aged as the section that went bad?
2. Sticky Thermostats
Thermostats are easy to identify, remove, and clean, so when they fail it’s common for boaters to pop them out and try fix to them. But once they fail, it’s likely they’ll fail again. Next time it might not be so easy to fix, which can be a real problem if you’re miles from the marina. Plus, thermostats have a limited lifetime and are cheap to replace. If you’ve already taken it out, just replace the entire unit.
3. Canvas Bimini Tops
Rips or bald spots will appear in a canvas after years of use, usually where a top support or strap attaches to it. You may be tempted to patch it…but that’s a terrible idea. No matter how hard you try, you’ll never get the color to match the original (even most professional canvas shops can’t get it perfect), and a patch is only a temporary fix at best. When one area wears through, you can bet others will soon follow. Plus, the weakened, aged material may not be strong enough to support the threading necessary to cover the problem spot. It’s time to toss the entire top and have a new one made.
4. Cracked T-Top Welds
When the welds crack on a T-top, it’s easy to have them rewelded, but you can be sure the welds will crack again soon. Cracks usually result from bad design or improper mounting, and you need to eliminate the root of the problem, not treat the symptom. Having a new top made specifically for your boat by an aluminum shop is the best bet. Check your boat to make sure the deck is level (a common reason tops start cracking is because the welds are stressed when the mounting bolts are cranked down) and that the high-stress areas are beefed up. In many cases a builder is more concerned with how a top looks than how it holds up, which can lead to struts or attachment points being sub-par. But a dedicated shop has a different goal: Installing a top that won’t break. What about the old top? Offer it to the welder for scrap. Maybe he’ll knock a few hundred dollars off the price of a new one.
5. Delaminated Stringers
Ouch — this one’s tough, but if you’re faced with delaminated stringers, you should get a new boat. No patchwork bond you make will be as strong as the original one between the stringers and hull — and that bond has already proved insufficient. Properly fixing it would mean your boat would be out of the water for a month, and the labor bill would be huge. Even then, there would be no guarantee the bond wouldn’t fail the first time you get on plane. It’s a classic case of throwing good money after bad. Time to hit the boat show.