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What to look for when buying a boat


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Motor...good place to start. Before it is cranked up, check the oil in the lower unit. Pull the bottom screw out and see if any water seeps out. Is the oil greyish looking...that is ok - shows it has been run. If it seems to have clumps in it...emulsified with water...there is a leak somewhere. If it looks like it just came out of the bottle...good chance it did. Ask the owner when and why it was changed just to be sure. Also look at the bottom screw and see if there are any chunks of metal stuck to the magnet. Fine flakes are normal, chunks are not. Look at the prop shaft to see if there are any signs of oil leakage, indicating either prop shaft seals need replacing or carrier bearing has an issue. Not a bad idea to pull the prop off to do a visual on the shaft for any abnormal wear indications. Prop shaft splines should have a coating of grease on them to make prop removal easy.


Power trim unit...trim the motor out and see if it slowly leaks down (it should not). Also look at the trim cylinder for any signs of leakage. Check the trim pump for any signs of abnormal corrosion or anything that "just does not look right". When trimming the motor up, does it sound like there is a lot of air in the fluid making squishy sounds or does it sound good and solid. This would indicate a low fluid issue if it makes a funny noise.


Powerhead...remove the cowling and give the motor a good visual check. It should look decent...not show room condition but also not like it has never been maintained. Airbox should be on the front of the motor...if not there, that is a red flag. Next look at the spark plugs and boots to make sure they look good. Ask when the last time a compression test was done on the motor and what the readings were. There should be no more than a 10% variance between the highest and lowest cylinder readings. Ask what 2 cycle oil is used in the motor. Hopefully it is a name brand oil and even better if semi synthetic or full synthetic. These oils burn cleaner than straight normal oil and minimize carbon build up (carbon build up will cause serious motor issues). Ask if the owner did any kind of de-carbon process on the motor (OMC, Mercury, and Yamaha sell products to take care of this. Motors can be cleaned using Sea-foam, too, just as well as these other products at a significant cost savings).


Throttle and shift linkage...make sure these work fine with no binding or hard spots. Check to be sure the shift linkage is properly adjusted so the lower unit fully engages in reverse and not jumping in and out of gear. At the same time, be sure it shifts easily in both forward and reverse.


See if there is an external fuel / water separator.


Transom...first look are there any spider cracks in the corners of the wet well or in the transom cutout where it transitions from horizontal to vertical? Trim the motor up all the way, then have somebody (preferably someone with a little weight) pull down on the lower unit while you watch where the motor is bolted to the transom for any movement. Very little movement (less than a 1/4") is ok...anything more is suspect. From the picture, I don't think there are any issues with any of the bolts, scuppers, or fastener penetrations into the transom leaking water due to the lack of brown stains from water seepage.


Floor...look closely where there are any cracks and check for soft spots. Pay attention to where any fasteners go into the floor around the leaning post and console. If a small spot, no big deal; anything over 4-6 inches will need some attention in the near future.


T-top...inspect all welds for any cracks. If any are found, that is something that will need to be corrected as soon as possible or it will definitely get worse just trailering down the road.


Check the wiring behind the console. If neat and in order, that is a very good sign that the current owner does take care of his stuff. Same applies to the wiring and battery hookups in the battery boxes at the transom. Look for good, clean connections on the batteries and A-B-C switch (no corrosion should be present).


Steering...if it is hydraulic, crank the wheel from lock to lock and hold it against one side to see if it wants to "go soft". This would indicate possible trash in the check valve in the helm unit. Look at the steering cylinder on the motor. Is the piston rod shiny and smooth or rough and corroded? Look for any signs of seal leakage on the end caps of the cylinder.


Climb under the boat and look at the keel for any signs of big scrapes where gelcoat and/or fiberglass may have been damaged in the past and was properly repaired. Also look between the keel and chines for any cracks running the length of the hull, indicative of a broken stringer.


If you get to the point of a sea trial, motor should crank over easy. May be a little of a challenge to keep it running at first (typical of a carbed motor). Make sure the boat accelerates smoothly and the motor does not have any "flat spots" when accelerating. Check your maximum rpms. That motor should easily see 5,400 to 5,700 rpms. If it is running around or below 5,000 rpms, the engine has been running under a greater load than intended and this results in increased carbon build-up, potential pre-detonation, and increased wear on the motor. Cruise should be in the 4,200 rpm range and this will increase your range a lot. Average fuel burn for a carbed motor is approximately 1 gallon per 10 hp per hour. 200 hp motor at WOT should burn 20 gallons an hour.



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