7 Essential Tips For Maintaining the Bilge Pump on Your Boat

Whats the best way to keep boat bilge clean

In 2017, Americans spent a collective $39 billion on their boats and associated expenses. Though owning a boat is a huge investment, the best way to lower your costs every month is to stay on top of regular maintenance.

As a responsible owner, you know that taking care of the boat’s exterior and finish is key in keeping your boat water-worthy for decades to come. But how much attention do you pay to your bilge pump maintenance?

This humble device keeps your engine area dry every time you’re on the water. Though it’s a vital component of every modern boat, it’s easy to overlook routine maintenance tasks.

Here are a few important bilge pump maintenance steps and bilge cleaning tips to follow every time you take your boat on the water.

1. Test the Pump Often

The last thing you want to do is get out on the water only to discover that your bilge pump isn’t working. Every time you take your boat out, take the time to check the pump and make sure it’s working.

You can do this both on and off the water. If the bilge is dry, pour a few gallons inside and run the pump.

When the pump is working, the water should drain quickly. If it’s not working, the water will collect in the bilge and won’t move. If the pump isn’t working, you’ll need to get it fixed before you can take your boat out safely. If the pump is working, monitor the flow rate as closely as you can.

You’ll know what looks normal and what’s a surefire sign that the bilge pump needs regular maintenance. If it’s slowing down or not running the way you know it should, you’ll need to get it repaired as soon as possible. The sooner you do, the cheaper the repairs will be.

2. Invest in Bilge Cleaner

The water that comes into the bilge is often full of debris, dirt, algae, and grime. Though the bilge is capable of pumping those contaminants out, doing so can take a toll on the components.

If left unaddressed all that buildup can cause your pump to fail prematurely.

The best thing you can do for your automatic bilge pump is to invest in a dedicated cleaner. For best results, buy a purpose-built bilge cleaner to power through the gunk like our Better Boat Bilge Cleaner.  This is a concentrated formula that works while you are out on the boat.  

If you don't have one on hand, use a biodegradable boat soap to get rid of buildup. Just make sure to rinse the soap off thoroughly before you hit the water.

Inspect the compartment around the bilge and remove any debris that you find by hand. Wash the exterior of the pump at least once a month. This way, you’ll be able to monitor its condition at a glance and identify engine oil drips quickly.

3. Examine the Bilge Pump Wiring for Damage

If your boat relies on a manual bilge pump, you won’t have to worry about wires or electricity. However, if you’re like most modern boat owners, your bilge operates automatically.

This means it receives power from the boat’s battery or motor. The power gets sent through a series of wires attached directly to the pump.

When those wires are in good shape, the pump can work well. However, if they’re damaged, you’ll start to have issues. The easiest way to prevent those issues is to inspect the wiring for damage before every trip.

Make sure the connections are still tight and check the cable housing for any tears or rips. If you notice any damage, make a bilge pump maintenance plan to repair the wiring as soon as you can. Running the pump with exposed wires is possible, but it does increase your risk of pump failure when you need it most.

4. Check and Replace the Fuses

Every automatic pump has a system of fuses that help control the flow of electricity to the motor of the pump itself. This ensures that the system works when you flip the switch. However, those fuses can blow or get damaged over time.

Before every outing, take the time to inspect the fuses. If they’ve blown, replace them. You should be able to find replacement fuses at your local marina or hardware store.

Pay attention to how often you’re replacing the fuses. If you’re having to replace them after every couple of outings, you may need to get your bilge repaired by a professional.

5. Keep the Screen Clean

Modern bilge pumps have screens in place to keep debris in the water from floating back inside the compartment. This reduces the risk of jams and breakdowns.

Though the screens are easy to keep clean, they’re often neglected by even the most dedicated and diligent boat owners.

Before you leave the marina, inspect the screen. If you notice debris or trash sitting against it, clean it off before you set sail.

6. Watch for Damage to the Outlet Hose

All the water in your bilge has to drain out somewhere. In most systems, it flows through an outlet hose and back into the body of water you’re on.

Though the hoses are durable, the material will break down over time.

Check the hoses for tears, rips, or other damage before every trip. If you notice even a small tear, replace the hose with a new one immediately. This will keep the pump working properly and ensures that the water goes where it’s meant to go.

7. Add Drip Pans for the Engine

Engine oil has a bad habit of leaking and dripping out of the engine throughout the boating season. It’s a part of life, but all that oil can create a serious buildup of grime and gunk on the pump and its housing.

Though you can always clean those leaks and drips up, it’s easier to protect your bilge pump in the first place. Add drip pans or pads beneath the engine to shield the pump and other components from the oil.

Follow These Bilge Pump Maintenance Tips Now

Keeping your bilge pump in good shape is one of the best ways to keep your boat in good condition. Follow these key bilge pump maintenance and cleaning tips and your bilge pump will work every time you hit the water.

Remember that bilge pump maintenance is just one part of every boat owner’s maintenance schedule. You also need to keep your craft’s exterior in good shape.

Check out our selection of high-quality cleaners and accessories to help you keep your boat looking like-new for years to come.

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