Make On Water Repairs Yourself

It’s an indisputable fact of life that things on a boat break—as the sun’s going down, and the crew is looking to you to heal your broken boat and get them back to shore safely.


  1. Become familiar with your boat’s propulsion system (outboard, stern drive engine/stern drive unit, inboard engine/inboard transmission) not only for the sake of gaining knowledge or conducting routine service, but so you can perform emergency on-water repairs if necessary.
  2. Invest in a service manual for your boat’s engine, as well as some of the excellent do-it-yourself materials (books, CDs, DVDs, on-line) available at your local marine dealer, library, or on the internet.
  3. Carry spare parts on your boat (and know how to install them). This can prevent an afternoon’s cruise from turning into an all-night misadventure. Exactly which spare parts really depends on what kind of engine your boat has, and where you’re planning to go boating.
  4. Write down your engine’s serial number before you go shopping for parts. On outboards, the serial number is usually on the clamp bracket (the part that holds the outboard on the boat); on inboards and stern drive boats, you can probably find the serial number on a decal located on top of the engine.
  5. Put together a tool kit that stays on the boat. (see 'Things You'll Need' for a minimum list)


  • Without knowing your situation, there's no itemized list of what spare parts you may need—however, these are some of the most common replacement parts:
    • belts—for the alternator, water pump, etc
    • hoses and hose clamps
    • spark plugs
    • fuel filter(s)
    • oil: two-stroke oil or four-stroke motor oil, depending on your engine
    • fuel line
    • transmission fluid—inboard boats
    • coolant
    • light bulbs (for each different light on your boat)
  • Remember that if your boat breaks down, you can’t walk home—so be prepared.

Things You'll Need

  • Vise-Grip® pliers
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Utility knife
  • Spark plug wrench
  • Propeller wrench (or a ratchet and socket that’ll fit the propeller nut)
  • Slot and Phillips screwdrivers
  • Watertight flashlight w/good batteries
  • Fuses (assorted)
  • Short length (a foot or two) of 14 gage/medium-sized insulated wire
  • Electrician’s tape
  • Duct tape
  • Tie straps

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