before you make that journey

before you make that journey

some useful maintenance tips from RCR

River Canal Rescue managing director, Stephanie Horton, says the inland waterways this summer will, predictably, be busy with owners keen to blow the lockdown cobwebs from themselves and their boats.

This, coupled with a focus on ‘staycations’ this year, means business is booming for hire companies and marinas/brokerages who report increased interest from hirers and first-time buyers keen to spend some cash.

With so many new and existing boaters on the waterways, RCR says there’s likely to be a 25% increase in call-outs over the peak season and in response, the firm has employed additional engineers to meet demand.

Stephanie comments: “While we’re always on hand to support the waterway community, many call-outs can be prevented by undertaking some simple maintenance checks prior to your journey, having some toolbox essentials onboard and knowing what to do if an issue arises."

Maintenance tips 

  • Check you have enough fuel to complete your journey and inspect all fuel lines and shut-off valves for leaks.
  • Where possible obtain a sample of your fuel, check it smells like diesel and is clear and not cloudy – if it’s cloudy or smells of ‘paint thinners’ this indicates contamination which needs to be dealt with before you go anywhere.
  • Drain off any water from pre-filter housings or the agglomerator.
  • Check batteries are charging correctly and that the charge rate from the alternator to the batteries is as it should be.
  • Check the morse control is working correctly and the throttle and gears are selecting smoothly. Stiffness indicates the cable may be due for renewal or has rusted due to disuse.
  • Switch isolators from one position to another to clean contacts.
  • Check the condition of the stern gland, ensure there’s plenty of grease supplied to it and that the prop shaft is turning freely.
  • Check the engine oil and gearbox oil levels and top up if needs be.
  • Check the condition of the fan belt. If it’s worn get it replaced.
  • Check all coolant hoses for leaks and wear and tear. Replace if required. For raw water-cooling engines, check the seacock, impeller and filter and all pipe work for leaks.
  • Check the condition of the engine mounts, and look at the engine mount bracket for signs of cracks or breaks. If they are worn replace them or if the bolts seem loose, tighten before cruising again (but only adjust the top bolt).
  • Check all coupling bolts and connections are tight.
  • Check the air filter and if dirty, replace or clean as needed.
  • Check the weed hatch seals are intact and that the weed hatch is secured

Tool Box Essentials 

  • A multi-meter (battery tester)
  • PTFE tape (for dealing with unexpected domestic leaks)
  • Adjustable spanners
  • A flat head and multi-faceted Phillips screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • A hammer
  • Spare lengths of electrical wire/ insulation tape
  • A socket set

And don’t forget the spares, such as; morse cables for steering, throttle and gear selection, fan belt, impeller, spark plugs, fuel filter, bulbs, bolts and fuses, plus a supply of oil and ‘stop leak’ or putty for those unexpected hull breaches.

Before you make that emergency call 

Below are some common scenarios which may resolve the problem:

  • If you’re losing propulsion and the propeller is slow-moving, put the engine in reverse.   The prop may be covered in weed or leaves and this can help release it.
  • If the engine cuts out when in gear, check the propeller for obstruction.
  • If the engine cuts out when revved, check the air filter - it may be blocked with dust (you can remove and run without it in an emergency).   Alternatively check for blocked fuel filters (Vetus has a small fuel pump filter that is usually overlooked).
  • Is the engine overheating?   It could be an air lock in the cooling system.   Resolve it by unscrewing the bolt sitting on top of the water tank - this will release the air.
  • If the boat won’t go into gear, check the cable is moving the selector arm on the gearbox, if it is then the cable is fine.   Check the oil in the gearbox.
  • Engine won’t turn off?   Know where the manual stop button or lever is situated, usually on the right hand side of the engine.
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About River Canal Rescue

River Canal Rescue offers 24/7 marine breakdown assistance and recovery across the UK's inland waterway system. It also undertakes engine servicing and inspections, offers additional services (from plumbing and domestic electrical work to hull repairs, engine refits and insurance work), devised the world's first environmentally-friendly filter 'Bilgeaway' and has an online chandlery.