I wrote this as a reply to a post about “Things Your Mechanic Wants You to Know,” but it was suggested that I break it out into its own post. So here you go!
I worked at a marina for years and all these points apply for marine techs, too, of course. Things like: we didn’t break it, we didn’t design it, and we don’t really want to run up your bill, but it happens sometimes. It’s even more true for boats than for cars, that people don’t understand how they work, so that just adds to the struggle. Reading that post, I thought of a few unique points for boats:
1. People think that because “it was working when I put it away,” it should still be working now, 6-8 months later. No, storing mechanical things is not a time-warp. Things stick, discharge, leak, rust, corrode, gum up, and the like. Just from sitting. I remember a brand-new boat, the guy bought it in October, used it maybe twice and stored it (we winterized it - see #3). In the spring he just launched it himself, “It’s new, it should run perfectly.” It didn’t. There was a little moisture in the distributor cap which corroded the contacts over the winter. Very easy fix, but it ran like CRAPOLA until we swapped out the cap and rotor.
2. A boat is expensive to maintain, compared to a car. That is not our fault. The guys who got especially irate, I’m guessing their wife/gf/so has already told them not to spend more money on the boat, because it’s a toy. We had waterfront real estate to pay for. And a $120k forklift. And all the other costs mentioned in the above post.
3. People didn’t understand the difference between “winterizing” and “spring make ready service.” See #1. We winterized your boat. In the fall. Now it’s been sitting for 8 months. It probably won’t magically start and work perfectly. I cannot tell you how many calls we got, every year, “Can you just drop my boat in? It shouldn’t need anything, you guys did all that in the fall.”
4. Boats are not cars. They do NOT have the same quality control. They do not make very many of your boat, compared to your car. The parts may not be available for your boat, especially if it’s a part that the actual boat manufacturer made, even though it’s “only” 10 years old. That’s ancient history for a boat manufacturer. The engines and accessories are much better in that respect, but parts that an actual boat company makes? Good luck beyond about 5-8 years.
5. (I’m sure this is true for cars too...) Your boat “just needs one little thing?” Great, we’ll get to it right after the 25 other boats that just need one little thing that came here before you. Your weekend/vacation is not more important than the other people who came before you. Great example: this one guy said, “I have grandkids coming this weekend, I NEED that swim platform tightened.” Do you live on an island? No. Then what do you mean by “need?” If it’s that simple, get a wrench, do it yourself. Or we’ll get to it next week.
6. When it comes to technology, boats are about 10 years behind cars, more in some cases. You can still buy engines with carburetors, for example. So, you think the auto shop can plug in a magical computer to diagnose your car? Yeah, that’s even less likely with the boat. And speaking of tools, we had to have about 5 different cables for our dedicated laptop, among several other electrical diagnostic tools, for the variety of standards that exist across manufacturers. There’s no OBDII for boats.
7. Related to the issues of the “ran when parked” phenomenon, sometimes mid-season people would say, “I’ve hardly used it” as if that’s a good thing. Actually, mechanical things do not like to sit (see #1). Especially a boat, sitting in a lake. The battery will discharge, moisture will corrode things, and the fuel can collect water (don’t get me started on ethanol... just.... don’t). Yeah, you haven’t used it in 6 weeks since we got it ready for you and now it’s not working right. That’s not our fault. Yes you still have to pay for us to get it working right. Again. Because we didn’t neglect your boat, you did.
If you haven’t read the car-specific points I linked to, please do. I’m just venting on the many things that would irk me every day at the marina... our techs were great and I do miss following their diagnostic trails, it was fascinating. But the perspective of someone who actually spends all day working on other people’s vehicles is pivotal in having a good experience bringing your own stuff to be worked on. Like anything else, there are two sides to every story.
Thanks for reading!