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There’s no worse feeling than having something go wrong with your boat out on the water. It can take an awesome day and just turn it upside down. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Most problems can be solved with a bit of preventative maintenance and service from your local dealership. As boats get more advanced, how do you know what the warning signs are that your boat needs servicing? In this article, we’ll give you some basic warning signs to be wary of when out on the water. With any luck these will help keep your boat in the service bay when it needs to be and on the water with your family when it doesn’t.

Warning Sign #1

Check Engine light

A common warning sign in both the automotive and boating world is the check engine light. When this alarm is triggered, it warns that there is an issue that is impacting the engine in either a direct or indirect way. A common issue attributed with this warning is an engine overheat. The engine overheats due to something impeding the cooling system. This can be caused by a variety of different reasons but the most common in boating is that the sea strainer is clogged with debris, a worn or damaged water impeller, or cracked hoses. All of these issues can be serviced fairly quickly and can prevent engine damage, so make sure to let your dealer know when the check engine light has activated.

Warning Sign #2


Another very common warning sign that your boat is in need of some service is when you feel vibration coming off of your boat. Vibration is a sign that something is either out of alignment or has been damaged at some point. The most common vibration factors are a damaged propeller or with an inboard engine, damage to the strut underneath the boat. Both of these damaged or misaligned components can create unwanted vibration throughout the rest of the boat. Due to age and gradual wear and tear, older boats tend to have a bit of vibration that will occur over a long period of time. A good way to differentiate between whether your boat has damage or is just old is think about when your phone vibrates in your pocket. Any vibration that you feel should not be any stronger than when you feel your phone is vibrating in your pocket. Anything stronger than that needs to be serviced as soon as possible.

Warning Sign #3

Loss of Power

Our third warning sign is a loss of power in your engine. When underway, if you notice that your boat is not accelerating or just feels sluggish overall, then this means your engine might need some service work or a tune up. This also could be a sign that you may have an issue with your fuel pump or just have bad fuel in general. It’s best to keep an eye out for slow acceleration or an immediate drop in power as you accelerate.

Warning Sign #4

Washed Out Wakes

For those with towboats equipped with a surf system, a washed out or lackluster wake can be a sign that your boat needs service. Wake systems are complicated and things can go wrong occasionally. Some common signs that your wake system needs service are your trim tabs not deploying properly, ballast timers being off (ballast says it’s full but in reality, it’s not), or electronics not functioning properly. The majority of today’s towboats have electronic elements that communicate with each other and have software that needs to be updated, much like your computer at home. If you notice any of the above when out on the water than it might be time to schedule service with your local dealership.

Warning Sign #5

Steering Issues

Our final sign that your boat needs to be serviced is when you have difficulty steering. A very tight feeling steering wheel or heavy resistance while turning are signs that you may need to have a new steering cable installed or that you’ve damaged your rudder (as you turn the wheel, your rudder turns in order to help steer the boat). This goes hand in hand with warning sign number two, vibration. Many of these warning signs can occur at the same time which is why it’s important to keep an eye out for them.

Bonus Tip!

For those who tow their boats to different lakes or bodies of water, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs that your trailer may need service. Some quick warning signs are for trailers are:

Braking Lights aren’t working properly.
Wheels feel hot to touch while after towing (Breaks are worn, causing friction on the tires.)
Balled or cracked tires.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that a visual inspection before or after every ride is key. A visual inspection is anything you can see, hear, or feel that just doesn’t seem right or feels off. We hope that with these five warning signs you’ll be more prepared to keep your boat in the service bay when it needs to be and on the water with you and your family when you want it to be. If you have any more questions please reach out to your local Action Water Sports, we’re always happy to help.