How to check the boat and its engine before going out to sea

With the arrival of good weather, the desire to go boating more often increases and we like to take every opportunity to lose ourselves in magnificent places where we can disconnect and recharge our batteries.


However, before setting sail, it is important to check that both the boat and the equipment are in perfect condition to ensure a smooth and safe voyage.


If you want to know which parts of the boat or engine to check before sailing, read the tips below.





General check of the boat's hull


First of all, it is essential to carry out a visual inspection around the boat to identify any damage it may have suffered in our absence if it has been on a mooring, or during transport, if it has traveled on a trailer.

If it has traveled on a trailer, we must make sure that the drain plug is in place and securely fastened.


Next, we will also inspect the boat's waterline, checking that the boat is not more submerged than usual. This would mean that it is overloaded, perhaps because it has taken on water or because we have added too much ballast.

While inspecting the waterline, we must also check that there is no heeling to either side.


In addition, we have to make sure that all parts of the boat such as the anchor, windlass, cleats, radar deflector, railings, windshield wiper, fenders, mooring, and towing lines, and navigation and anchor lights are in perfect condition for optimal use.


Finally, to avoid unforeseen problems with the authorities, we must also check that the boat's registration is in perfect condition and complies with the regulatory measures, without forgetting the flag, which is also mandatory.



Engine check prior to start-up


After the general check of the boat, we focus on the engine: a fundamental part of our boat, where optimal performance relies on good maintenance.


For this purpose, we check the following parts of the marine engine:



Fuel system


First, we must check that there are no leaks in the fuel, supply, and return lines. Over time, cracks may appear, especially at the end and beginning of each section, and it is essential to replace worn parts to avoid unpleasant surprises.


Then, we drain the pre-filter to remove any water or possible impurities that the fuel may contain. In boats that are not used regularly, a kind of gelatin may appear in the fuel. This is generated by bacteria born in contact with water, which is sometimes produced by condensation in the tanks.

If during the inspection, we find the presence of this gelatinous substance, we must remove it until we are totally sure that the circuit is completely clean.


After that, check that the fuel filter is in perfect condition. Any drop of water that may have accidentally entered, since water has a higher density than the fuel, will be deposited at the bottom of the filter. This may cause rust and deterioration, which can lead to a leak.

For this reason, it is extremely important that this filter is in perfect condition, without any sign of corrosion.


Finally, we must check the quality of the fuel, which is also likely to degrade over time. It must have a homogeneous appearance both in color and texture. If we detect a bad fuel odor, this is an indication that it is in bad condition.



Cooling system


We start by checking all the refrigeration lines, especially the inlets and outlets of the refrigeration pipes, as these are always the critical points where we can find corrosion at the junctions or cracks in the pipes. As always, any of the components mentioned above should be replaced if they are in poor condition.


Remember that our delivery service for accessories and spare parts is very fast and you can place your order at any authorized Solé point of sale.


The cooler is a delicate part as there are exhaust gases, saltwater, and freshwater present at the same time and different materials with different electrical potentials.

We must observe the coolant level according to the user's manual, and pay special attention to the corrosion that may appear in the inlet and outlet areas.


As for the freshwater pump, although it does not require specific maintenance, it is advisable to check for leaks.


In addition, when checking the saltwater pump, we should ensure that it looks good on the outside and that there are no leaks.

It is possible that sometimes small leaks may occur that are not detectable with the engine stopped, but will probably leave some trace as a small trail of whitish color produced by the salt.


It is also important that the belt that rotates the freshwater pump is in good condition and with the necessary tension so that it does not slip. 


Regarding the saltwater filter, we will make sure that it is completely clean.


Finally, the water inlet that feeds the saltwater circuit, also known as the bottom tap, must be in good condition, with no apparent corrosion. Check that the handle opens and closes smoothly.



Lubrication system


As we know, it is essential to maintain optimum lubrication in both the engine and transmission, as well as in the generator set. This is essential for the longest possible service life and satisfactory performance, without friction or risk of major failures. If you want to know what type of oil to use in your engine or gearbox, you can read this post we published some time ago. 


Once this is clear, we check that there are no oil leaks in the periphery of the engine, paying special attention to the most critical points, which are the plugs, seals, and gaskets.


We also check that the oil filter is well fixed and with no apparent leaks where it sits with the engine block or oil cooler.

If the engine also contains a remote filter, the inlet, and return lines, and the engine block adapter base must be inspected.


In addition, the crankcase should be visually inspected to confirm that it is in perfect condition.


Some engines also have an oil cooler, which is usually made of aluminum and can also deteriorate over time, causing oil leaks. Do not wait until it is too late and replace components when they show signs of deterioration.



Exhaust system


The exhaust elbow is the part that suffers the most thermally because it is the point where water is injected to cool the exhaust gases. There are also dry exhausts, usually intended for professional use, which would not be affected by this, as is the case with the wet exhaust.


Continuing with the wet exhaust, attention must be paid to this critical point on the elbow where corrosion and carbon can accumulate. Normally, this elbow is painted in the same blue color as the motor. If a change in shade from blue to brown is detected, we can intuit that this component lacks cooling, and we will have to remedy this to avoid possible problems.


Next, we pay attention to the exhaust hoses, which must be in good condition, with no cracks or cuts from rubbing that may have occurred against the case or shaft.


We also check the water box or silencer, which may have been damaged if at some point there have been excess temperatures in the gas outlet.


Finally, we check that the gas and water outlet is also clear. If the installation is equipped with a transom exhaust check valve, it could become clogged if there is no clear outlet. In general, it is important to check all the elements of the exhaust line that the engine has and review them for signs of deterioration.

Electrical system


The wiring and electrical connections must be visually checked and we must make sure that they are securely fastened and that there are no cracks or cuts in the cables.


Secondly, we pay attention to the battery, which must be in perfect condition for charging and use.


Both water level and charge are very important factors to consider, and we should never go boating with a battery that is not in optimal condition.


Likewise, the terminals must also be perfectly fixed and free of corrosion. A greenish color, usually around the positive terminal, can cause a bad contact due to sulphation.


In addition, we will check the good condition of all fuses and relays, observing that they are not melted or sulfated by corrosion. In this case, they must be replaced.


In conclusion, it should be noted that battery disconnectors and separators can also cause electrical faults, so it is important that all terminals and connections are clean and well preserved.



Propulsion system


As we have seen previously, the oil level of the gearbox must be checked and the gears must be smoothly engaged. Always consult the manufacturer's manual to confirm optimum levels to avoid friction and misuse.


If there is an oil cooler, check that it is in good condition and that there are no leaks.


In addition, the inverter and shaft stuffings must be perfectly joined and bolted together. We can use elastic couplings between both platens that help to correct small misalignments and facilitate their performance.


In addition, it is also essential that the shaft and horn are in perfect condition. The shaft is the fundamental part that transmits the power from the engine to the propeller, and the horn is the accessory that guarantees the water tightness of the shaft and the hull of the boat.


We cannot forget the silent blocks or feet, which must be checked to ensure that they fulfill their function of supporting the engine and reducing vibrations.


Finally, we check the propeller, if we have access to see it. It is essential that it shows no signs of corrosion or cavitation and no bent blades, that it is securely fastened, and that it is free of plastic or ropes.


In the propulsion accessories section, you will find a wide variety of accessories such as anodes or line cutters, which will help prevent damage and extend the life of your propeller. 


And that is that for the steps to check your boat and engine prior to start-up. Read on to see what to do once the engine is started!



Marine engine check during start-up


Before starting the engine, and especially if it has been stopped in cold weather, we recommend performing the preheating following the instructions we shared in this post


Once we have taken this into account, it is time to turn the ignition key. This is when we should hear an acoustic alarm that will stop sounding when the engine reaches the operating oil pressure (oil pressure alarm) and the alternator starts to charge (battery alarm), or when the oil pressure and battery alarms are no longer active.


Simultaneously, the electric fuel pump will start and, if we have the engine compartment open, we will hear a small buzzing sound.


When the key is turned to the START position, the engine will start to rotate until it starts without the need to give gas.


In the image, you can see the explanation of each of the positions: ON, Preheating, and START.


This information is also perfectly detailed in the engine manual.




Simultaneously, the fuel electric pump will start and if we have the engine span open, we will hear a small hum.

By activating the key towards the Start position, the engine will begin to turn, until it starts without the need to give gas.

Once the engine stabilizes, we can give a little gas at idle (no gear) and immediately after check that water comes out of the exhaust outlet. If this is not the case, we must quickly stop the engine and look for the reason why no water is coming out of the exhaust. Fixing this will prevent major problems.


Additionally, if the boat is securely moored, we can do a small test to verify that the gears enter smoothly. Making a small touch will be enough.


In addition, it is highly recommended to let the engine reach its optimum operating temperature before going out to sea, ensuring that we will have a trip without surprises. Once again, we emphasize the importance of preheating the engine as a key factor for its correct lubrication and proper operation.


Finally, we carry out a last quick visual inspection with the engine stopped to make sure everything is correct, and... let's go boating!


Remember that proper maintenance of your marine engine is essential to extend its service life and ensure safety on board.

Always enjoy safe navigation and, when in doubt, consult the user’s manual or a qualified and authorized professional.